I can't be sure this is what you are after, but if you create a gradient movieclip (msk) with the intention to use it as a mask (it needs sufficient non-gradient area to cover the whole image when its done), and havethe image as a movieclip (mc), and use some tweening approach to gradually move the mask over the image, then the following AS3 code would cover making the mask cause the image to gradually appear from one end to the other...
msk.cacheAsBitmap = true;
mc.cacheAsBitmap = true;
mc.mask = msk;
Edit: The gradient end of the mask needs to go from full color to alpha = 0
Will this work if I do not have a solid background though?
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I'm not sure what you mean, but it won't take long for you to try it and find out. A mask simply shows what's under it, so if what's under it has no background it won't matter.