Learn how to create gradients of different types in Illustrator.
A gradient is a graduated blend of two or more colors or tints of the same color. You can use gradients to create color blends, add volume to vector objects, and add a light and shadow effect to your artwork. In Illustrator, you can create, apply, and modify a gradient using the Gradient panel, the Gradient tool, or the Control panel.
In Illustrator, you can create the following three types of gradients:
Note: A color stop is a point on the Gradient Annotator (for linear and radial) or on the object (for freeform) that controls the color of the gradient. You can change the color of the color stops to set a gradient
A. Linear gradient B. Radial gradient C. Freeform gradient (Points)
Linear and Radial gradients can be applied on the fill and the stroke of an object. The Freeform gradient can be applied only on the fill of an object.
You can create or modify a gradient using the Gradient tool or the Gradient panel. Use the Gradient tool when you want to create or modify gradients directly in the artwork and view the modifications in real time.
To open the Gradient tool, click Gradient Tool in the toolbox.
To open the Gradient panel, do one of the following:
The Gradient panel is displayed on the canvas.
A. Active or previously used gradient B. Drop-down list for existing gradients C. Fill color D. Stroke color E. Reverse Gradient F. Gradient Annotator G. Color stop H. Mid point I. Color Picker J. Show or hide options K. Gradient types L. Stroke types M. Angle N. Aspect Ratio O. Delete Stop P. Opacity Q. Location R. Fill or stroke (with color) S. Color Stop T. Spread U. Freeform gradient V. Freeform gradient modes
The Gradient tool and the Gradient panel have many options common between them. However, there are some tasks that you can perform only with the tool or the panel. Using the Gradient tool and the panel, you can specify multiple color stops, their location, and spread. You can also specify the angle at which colors display, the aspect ratio of an elliptical gradient, and the opacity of each color.
You can enable the Real-Time Drawing and Editing feature to enhance the live appearance of objects when you work on them. To enable this feature:
[Windows] Choose Edit > Preferences > Performance > Real-Time Drawing and Editing.
[macOS] Choose Illustrator > Preferences > Performance > Real-Time Drawing and Editing.
For the linear and radial gradient types, when you click the Gradient tool in the toolbar, Gradient Annotator appears in the object. Gradient Annotator is a slider that shows a starting point, an end point, a midpoint, and two color stops for the starting and end points.
A. Gradient Annotator B. Dotted ring C. Point to change aspect ratio D. Rotation cursor E. Point to resize radial gradient F. End point (arrow point) G. Color stop H. Mid point I. Selected color stop J. Origin point
You can use Gradient Annotator to modify the angle, location, and spread of a linear gradient; and the focal point, origin, and spread of a radial gradient. Once the gradient annotator appears in the object, you can either use the Gradient panel or Gradient Annotator to add new color stops, specify new colors for individual color stops, change opacity settings, and drag color stops to new locations.
To hide or show the gradient annotator, choose View > Hide Gradient Annotator or View > Show Gradient Annotator.
In linear and radial gradient annotators, dragging the circular end (starting point) of the gradient slider repositions the origin of the gradient and dragging the arrow end (end point) increases or decreases the range of the gradient. If you place the pointer over the end point, a rotation cursor appears that you can use to change the angle of the gradient.
Note: Freeform gradient lets you place color stops anywhere in the object. Therefore, Freeform gradient does not require a Gradient Annotator.
When you click the Gradient tool to apply a gradient for the first time, the White, Black gradient is applied by default. If you had applied the gradient previously, the last used gradient is applied on the object by default.
Illustrator also provides a predefined set of gradients that you can set using the Gradient panel or the Swatches panel. In addition, you can create a gradient and save it in the Swatches panel for future use. To apply a predefined or a saved gradient from the Gradient panel:
To apply a predefined gradient from the swatch library:
To create a linear gradient, do one of the following:
To create or apply a radial gradient, do one of the following:
To create and apply a freeform gradient, do one of the following:
After you click Freeform gradient, the following two options are available:
To copy a freeform gradient from one object to another, use the Color Picker tool in the toolbar.
Do the following to create, modify, and delete the freeform gradient for the point mode:
You can set the spread of a color stop in the points freeform gradient. Spread is the circular area around the color stop in which a gradient is to be applied. To set the spread of a color stop, select the color stop and do one of the following:
By default the spread of color stops is 0%.
Spread is supported only for the point mode.
To add color stops for the freeform gradient for line mode, do one of the following:
You can create multiple individual line segments in an object. To create a new line segment:
Note: You can also drag the line segments and join them together if you want.
To delete the selected color stops:
To change the position of color stops:
When you apply a gradient, the default experience is applied on the selected object. To disable this feature, you can deselect the Enable Content Aware Defaults option in the Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > General (Mac OS) menu. This option is disabled for the Windows 32-bit machine.
You can modify the color, origin, opacity, location, and angle of a gradient from the Gradient tool, Gradient panel, Control panel, and Properties panel.
To directly enter into the gradient editing mode from the Gradient panel, select the object and click the Edit Gradient button. You can then edit the options, such as color stops, color, angle, opacity, location, aspect ratio, etc.
A. Shades of the same color B. Two different colors C. Modified angle D. Resized annotator E. Changed location
A. Two different colors B. Changed origin within the dotted ring C. Changed location of Gradient Annotator D. Changed aspect ratio E. Changed mid-point location
After a gradient is applied, you can add various color stops on the Gradient Annotator.
To add color stops:
A color stop is added at the point you click.
To delete a color stop, select the color stop and do one of the following:
To select multiple color stops, press the Shift key and click the color stops.
To clear all the selected color stops, press the Escape key.
Note: When you select a color stop for gradient, the Control panel and the toolbar show options for modifying color stops. In addition, the color options are displayed on the Color tab to the right.
To change the color of a color stop, do one of the following:
A. Color stop B. Spread C. Opacity D. Color E. Swatches F. Color Picker G. Swatch colors
The starting point of Gradient Annotator is called origin.
Note: Gradient Annotator cannot be resized with the starting point (origin).
To change the location of color stops and their midpoints:
By changing the midpoint, you can adjust the color division between the two color stops.
To change the angle of the gradient:
To change the opacity of the color stop, click a color stop and do one of the following:
When a color stop has an opacity value less than 100%, the color appears in the checkered form in the Gradient annotator.
To reverse the colors in the gradient, click Reverse Gradient in the Gradient panel.
To save the new or modified gradient as a swatch in the current file, do one of the following:
To use the gradients for future sessions, save the gradients in the Creative Cloud library.
To apply a gradient on stroke of the object, select the object and do the following:
To apply a linear or a radial gradient for multiple objects, do the following:
Using the Gradient tool, do one of the following:
If you want to create a single, multicolored object on which colors can flow in different directions use a mesh object. For details, see Meshes.