What is it about gradients that was bothering you? I don't tend to use them much, so I might not be able to help, but I sometimes use them on background textures I create. There are a lot of really incredible tutorials in the art section over on BF. If what you are using is very like photoshop they might still help.
You made a bangel avatar! I guess I need to get my head out of my butt and make a Spuffy one!