How to Make a Custom Gradient in GIMP

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The free image editor GIMP has a powerful gradient editor among its many features. The tool gives users the power to produce custom gradients.

If you've ever looked at GIMP's gradient editor, you probably wouldn't describe it as very intuitive. This may explain why many users make do with the preset gradients that come with the image editor. But it's very easy to begin building your own when you understand the simple concept of how the gradient editor works.

The following few steps explain how to produce a simple gradient that blends from red to green to blue. You can use the same techniques to build more complex gradients with many more colors.

Open the GIMP Gradient Editor

Go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Gradients to open the Gradients dialog. Here you'll see the full list of gradients that come pre-installed in GIMP. Right-click anywhere in the list and select New Gradient to open the Gradient Editor and make one of your own.

The Gradient Editor in GIMP

The Gradient Editor displays a simple gradient when it's first opened, blending from black to white. Below this preview, you'll see a black triangle at each edge that represents the position of the two colors used. In between is a white triangle that marks the midpoint of the blend between the two colors. Moving this to the left or right will make the change from one color to the other more rapid.

At the top of the Gradient Editor is a field where you can name your gradients so you can find them more easily later.

Add First Two Colors to the Gradient

Adding the first two colors to the gradient is quite straightforward. You may be slightly surprised that we're adding red and blue first even though the color red will be blending with green in the final gradient.

Right-click anywhere in the gradient preview window and select Left Endpoint's Color. Select a shade of red and click OK in the dialog that opens, then right-click in the preview again and select Right Endpoint's Color. Now select a shade of blue and click OK. The preview will show a simple gradient from red to blue.

Split the Gradient Into Two Segments

The key to producing gradients with more than two colors is to split the initial gradient into two or more segments. Each one of these can then be treated as a separate gradient in its own right and have a different color applied to its endpoints.

Right-click on the preview and select Split Segment at Midpoint. You'll see a black triangle in the center of the bar below the preview, and there are now two white midpoint triangles on either side of the new central marker. If you click the bar to the left of the center triangle, that part of the bar is highlighted blue. This indicates that this is the active segment. Any edits you make will only apply to this segment if you right click now.

Edit the Two Segments

When the gradient is split into two segments, it's a simple matter to change the right endpoint color of the left segment and the left endpoint color of the right segment to complete a gradient from red to green to blue. Click the left segment so it's highlighted blue, then right click and select Right Endpoint's Color. Now select a shade of green from the dialog and click OK. Click the right segment and right click to select Left Endpoint's Color. Pick the same shade of green from the dialog and click OK. You'll now have a completed gradient.

You can split one of the segments and introduce another color. Keep repeating this step until you've produced an even more complex gradient.

Using Your New Gradient

You can apply your gradient to documents using the Blend tool. Go to File > New to open a blank document. The size isn't important – this is just a test. Now select the Blend tool from the Tools dialog and make sure your newly-created gradient is selected in the Gradients dialog. Click on the left of the document and move the cursor to the right while holding the mouse button down. Release the mouse button. The document should now be filled with your gradient.