Gradient methods and their value in single-objective, real-valued optimization are well-established. As such, they play a key role in tackling real-world, hard optimization problems such as deformable image registration (DIR). A key question is to which extent gradient techniques can also play a role in a multi-objective approach to DIR. We therefore aim to exploit gradient information within an evolutionary-algorithm-based multi-objective optimization framework for DIR. Although an analytical description of the multi-objective gradient (the set of all Pareto-optimal improving directions) is available, it is nontrivial how to best choose the most appropriate direction per solution because these directions are not necessarily uniformly distributed in objective space. To address this, we employ a Monte-Carlo method to obtain a discrete, spatially-uniformly distributed approximation of the set of Pareto-optimal improving directions. We then apply a diversification technique in which each solution is associated with a unique direction from this set based on its multi- as well as single-objective rank. To assess its utility, we compare a state-of-the-art multi-objective evolutionary algorithm with three different hybrid versions thereof on several benchmark problems and two medical DIR problems. Results show that the diversification strategy successfully leads to unbiased improvement, helping an adaptive hybrid scheme solve all problems, but the evolutionary algorithm remains the most powerful optimization method, providing the best balance between proximity and diversity.