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Gradient Effects and Text in Word - in depth

Adding color gradient effects to your text, shapes and borders is a good way to give it a bit more zing to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or other Office docs. The gradient feature is quite sophisticated, with a wide range of options and adjustments available but not obvious.

To add a gradient effect to text, select the text, then on the Font group of the Home tab, click the arrow next to the font color button. At the bottom of the dropdown, select Gradient.

The same Gradient options are available in many other Word and Office objects like borders and shapes.

A few preset gradients will appear in the dropdown, but to access the full range of options, click More Gradients at the bottom.

This will open the Format Text Effects sidebar on the right-hand side of your screen. Under Text Fill, select Gradient Fill to show the options available.

Preset Gradients

A good place to start is to select one of the preset gradients provided.

This gives you five basic gradient patterns in different colors:

  • Light gradient
  • Top spotlight
  • Medium gradient
  • Bottom spotlight
  • Radial gradient

The light and medium gradients are just a simple linear gradient from lighter to darker. The spotlight gradients radiate out from a single point at the top or bottom of the area, and the radial gradient is as if the spotlight were in the middle of the area.

Custom Controls

Don’t be overwhelmed by the large number of controls after the presets. They fall into basically two groups, separated by the Gradient Stops slider.

Above the slider –  settings apply to the whole of the gradient.

Below the slider  – setting for each individual stop on the gradient slider.

Whole Gradient Settings


There are four types of gradients to choose from:

It can be a bit hard to distinguish clearly what the different types are when applied to text, so we have applied them to a plain rectangular box below so we can see what’s happening,

  • Linear is a simple fade from one color to the other.
  • Radial is like a spotlight radiating out from a single point.
  • Rectangular is similar to radial, except the light is radiating out from a rectangular area, not a round area like a spotlight.
  • Path radiates out from a rectangle in the middle.

And here are the four types applied to text:

Direction and Angle

For linear, radial and rectangular types, you can choose the direction that you want the gradient to run. You can choose directions from the top, bottom, sides and corners, or for radial and rectangular, from the center as well.

You can also fine tune the direction to intermediate points by using the Angle spinner or typing in a number.

Direction settings do not apply to the Path type, as it is simply radiating out from the center.

Gradient Slider and Stops

The Gradient Stops slider allows you to both control the rate of fade of the gradient, and to add in as many colors as you want.  There’s a lot going on with the slider. It’s more powerful than a normal slider.

Here’s the Gradient Stops to the max, a rainbow effect we described in Rainbow gradient or effect in Office, Word or PowerPoint.

You can add extra stops by clicking the Add Gradient Stops button, or just by clicking on the spot on the slider where you want to insert the stop.   That adds a ‘stop’ or arrowed tag along the Gradient Slider.

Remove stops by clicking on the stop and clicking the Remove Gradient Stop button.

To change the balance of colors along the gradient, move the stops to the left and right.

Compare these two yellow-purple gradients with the stops moved to different points along the slider:

Per Stop Settings

All of the settings below the slider apply to the individual stops.  Click on a stop before changing the settings.


You can put as many colors as you like into a gradient by adding stops, then clicking on each one and selecting a different color. For example, I can create some rainbow text by adding stops to make six in total, then clicking on each stop and selecting a different color for each one.


Instead of dragging the stops into place, you can use the Position setting to fine tune the positioning. If we want our rainbow colors to be evenly spaced we can use the spinner or type in the numbers so that the stops are at 20%, 40%, 60% and 80%.


The transparency setting allows you to fade out the text at any of the stops along the way. We can either drag the slider, use the spinner, or type in a number. In the example below I have made the green stop 100% transparent, so you can see that the portion of the text that is fully green has faded out to white in the middle of the word.


Like transparency, the brightness setting can be adjusted by the dragging the slider, using the spinner or typing in a number, and it applies to each individual stop. Numbers can be positive or negative, from -100% to +100%. If you go too far to the left or right, the color will turn to black or white. Below we can see the difference between -50% and +50% on the green stop.


The gradient effect is a very powerful feature, but there are a few things to note about it.

  • There is no Undo function when you are adjusting your settings. Undo will just reset the text back to what it was before you started working on the gradient. If you are working on complicated settings and don’t like what your latest adjustment has done, you just have to remember where you were and change it back manually.
  • When you set a gradient, the next time you open Format Text Effects it will default to whatever your last used settings were. The easiest way to reset it to something more neutral is to select one of the Presets and go from there.
  • While there is no way to save the settings you have created, you can copy them to another piece of text using the Format Painter.

Rainbow gradient or effect in Office, Word or PowerPoint

Gradient and Rainbow Picture Borders in Word and PowerPoint

Two ways to add Gradient or Rainbow text or background effects in Word

Framing pictures, graphics, logos in Word and PowerPoint

Format Painter with Shapes and gradients

Apply the same picture format to many images in Word or PowerPoint

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