Who has the best Gradient Tool – Photoshop, Illustrator or Flash?

Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash is the creative software I used most of the time, and they helped me to illustrate out many ideas. Gradient tool is the tool that I frequently used on them. Although they are from the same company (Flash originated from Macromedia anyway), each of their gradient tool is differently presented. So, in this post I want to compare them, which has better system and which one needs improvement. The “best” I mentioned here combines user friendliness, customization options and adjusting flexibility.

Actually this post is inspired by Bittbox’s “Illustrator Quick Tip: Faster Gradient-Color Adjustments” post. I have the same feeling as him, to be honest I also want to complain about the Illustrator’s gradient tool. But before that, please take a look on Photoshop’s Gradient Tool first.

Adobe Photoshop

I am very familiar with the Photoshop’s gradient tool, maybe is the most friendly among them. To use gradient, there is to option which is using the Gradient Tool or Gradient Overlay in layer blending. When gradient tool is selected, the gradient toolbar appeared like the picture above. The arrangement is clean and easy to understand. Many options to customize your gradient outcome.

Plus, to pick the color stops, you can either use eyedropper, or double click the color stops to toggle the color picker to choose. To add more stops, just click on the below of the gradient bar, and drag it away to remove it. Plus the gradient supports alpha channel and the midpoint of between two stops can be adjust too. You can do a gradient by dragging a line on the canvas. But the gradient applied cannot be adjusted anymore. But you can always undo and re-apply again.

While in Gradient Overlay, gradient can be adjusted easily, with a list of option showed. Actually you can drag the gradient to reposition the gradient too. The tool is almost perfect but not the Scale option, because it allow to scale no more than 150%. This is particularly no good when applying radial gradient on long rectangular shape. Why don’t just make it 1000%? Plus, I do hope that a gradient reset tool to restore to the original version if I screw up to gradient option šŸ˜› .

The Good:

  • Easy to understand interface.
  • A variety of options available.
  • You can either use eyedropper or toggle the color picker to make your color.
  • Supports transparency.

The Bad:

  • Scale option can go up to 150% only. 1000% would be good šŸ˜›
  • No restore to default button if gradient customization screw up.

Adobe Illustrator

Yes, I have a lot of things to talk about the Adobe Illustrator’s gradient tool, basically I listed it up on the picture above. Do you have the same feeling as me? The tools has not changed since version 9, or 10, even though new features is regularly added to the newer version. But after working on Illustrator’s gradient tool for some time, actually the gradient color can be applied in a variety of method shown on the picture below.

There is three method, first by selecting the color stop, second is to drag and drop, and the third is to use eyedropper tool. I write this up just to inform anyone who doesn’t aware of this. But the no good thing is, the color stops can’t be double clicked to toggle the color pickle tool. And another thing, what’s is reason of separating the gradient tool from color tool so far away?

The Good:

  • Gradient is adjustable after applying it.
  • 3 of ways to apply and customize the gradient bar.

The Bad:

  • Always start with greyscale.
  • Color stops can’t be double clicked to toggle the color picker tool.
  • Color palette and gradient palette separated too far.
  • Transparency not supported. But you can use “Opacity Masking” option to achieve it.
  • Sometimes may lead people to frustration.
  • Not easy to master in short time.

Macromedia Flash

I really like how the they put color and gradient tool together in one palette (it should be like this). Basically to work with it is almost similar to Illustrator but easier and convenient, maybe because Flash is made for web and not print. Illustrator should really learn from this. I remember the gradient tool in previous Flash is badly done but they improved a lot.

Another big thing I like about Flash is the Gradient Transform Tool, the best among these three program. Basically, you can customize your gradient by, reposition it, resize, rotate and alter the shape (if you are using radial gradient). How cool!

The Good:

  • Smarter than Illustrator.
  • Gradient Transform Tool rules.
  • Transparency is supported too.
  • Color stops can be double clicked to toggle color picker tool.
  • Able to preview gradient.

The Bad:

  • Can’t think of any right now.


In my conclusion, if you want me to choose which has the best gradient tool, I will say Flash is the best, and Photoshop’s is the most friendly while Illustrator’s need some improvement. In the end, all of them serves their purposes which is good!

But this is all my opinion, you can have your own perspective which is different than mine. Perhaps you can state your comment below, whether is your point of view or tips that I did not mentioned above. Your comment is welcomed and needed!

Note: I’m using CS2 for Photoshop and Illustrator, and Flash 8 for the comparision. I think CS3 is more or less the same right? And the icons used are from Deviant Art. šŸ˜›

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