Use gradient fills to apply a graduated blend of colors as you would apply any other color. Creating a gradient fill is a good way to create a smooth color gradation across one or more objects. You can save a gradient as a swatch to make it easy to apply the gradient to multiple objects.

You can use the Gradient panel (Window > Gradient) or the Gradient tool to apply, create, and modify gradients.

Gradient colors in Illustrator are defined by a series of stops along the gradient slider. A stop marks the point at which a gradient changes from one color to the next, and is identified by a square below the gradient slider. The squares display the color currently assigned to each gradient stop. With a radial gradient, the leftmost gradient stop defines the center point’s color fill, which radiates outward to the color of the rightmost gradient stop.

Using the options in the Gradient panel or with the Gradient tool, you can specify the number and location of stops, the angle in which the colors display, the aspect ratio of an elliptical gradient, and the opacity of each color.

Note:

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.

Gradient panel overview

In the Gradient panel, the Gradient Fill box displays the current gradient colors and gradient type. When you click the Gradient Fill box, the selected object is filled with the gradient. Directly to the right of this box is the Gradient menu that lists all the default and saved gradients from which you can choose. At the bottom of the list is a Save Gradient button that you can click to save the current gradient settings as a swatch.

By default, the panel includes a start and end color box, but you can add more color boxes by clicking anywhere along the gradient slider. Double-clicking a gradient stop opens the gradient stop color panel where you can choose a color from the Color panel or Swatches panel.

It’s helpful to show all options when working with the panel (choose Show Options from the panel menu).

gradient-panel-800400
Gradient panel

A. Gradient Fill box B. Gradient menu C. Fill Gradient D. Stroke Gradient E. Reverse Gradient F. Midpoints G. Gradient stop H. Opacity I. Location J. Panel menu K. Stroke Gradient Type L. Angle M. Aspect Ratio N. Delete Stop 

Gradient tool overview

You can use the Gradient tool to add or edit gradients. When you click the Gradient tool in an unselected, non-gradient filled object it fills the object with the last used gradient. The Gradient tool also provides most of the same features as the Gradient panel. When you select a gradient filled object and select the Gradient tool, a gradient annotator appears in the object. You can use the gradient annotator to modify the angle, location, and spread of a linear gradient or the focal point, origin, and spread of a radial gradient. If you position the pointer directly over the gradient annotator, it becomes a slider (same as in the Gradient panel) with gradient stops and location indicators. You can click the gradient annotator to add new gradient stops, double-click individual gradient stops to specify new colors and opacity settings, or drag gradient stops to new locations.

When you position the pointer over the gradient annotator and the rotation cursor appears you can drag to reposition the angle of the gradient. Dragging the circular end of the gradient slider repositions the origin of the gradient, and dragging the arrow end increases or decreases the range of the gradient.

To hide or show the gradient annotator, choose View > Hide Gradient Annotator or View > Show Gradient Annotator.

gradient-tool
Gradient tool

A. Gradient annotator B. Midpoint C. Gradient stop 

Apply gradients

Apply a gradient using the Gradient tool

  1. Select the Gradient tool () from the Tools panel.

  2. With the Gradient tool selected, click the object to which you want to apply a gradient.

  3. To define the color of a gradient, double-click the gradient stop below the gradient bar. Then, drag a swatch from the Swatches panel and drop it on the gradient stop.

  4. To adjust the midpoint between two gradient colors (the point at which the colors are at 50%), drag the square icon located above the bar.

  5. To change the origin of the gradient, position the Gradient tool at the beginning of the gradient annotator in the object and drag it to the desired location. For details, see Change gradient direction, radius, or origin.

  6. Click the New Swatch button in the Swatches panel to save the new or modified gradient as a swatch. Or, drag the gradient from the Tools panel to the Swatches panel.

Apply a gradient using the Gradient panel

  1. Select the object to which you want to apply a gradient.

  2. To open the Gradient panel, choose Window > Gradient.

    If you've applied a preset or a previously saved gradient to the selected object, you can open Gradient panel using the Properties panel. Simply click the Fill Color box and then, click Gradient Options.

    open-gradient-panel-using-the-properties-panel
  3. Click the triangle next to the sample to pick a preset gradient fill.

  4. In the Gradient panel, select an option from the Type menu to determine how the starting point and ending point affect gradient appearance.

    Linear Gradient

    Shades from the starting point to the ending point in a straight line.

    Radial Gradient

    Shades from the starting point to the ending point in a circular pattern.

  5. To create an elliptical gradient, specify an Aspect Ratio value other than 100% in the Gradient panel after choosing Radial from the Type menu.

  6. To adjust the gradient angle, type a value for Angle.

  7. To define the color of a gradient, do one of the following to change the color of the gradient stop below the gradient bar:

    • Drag a color from the Color panel or the Swatches panel onto the gradient stop.
    • Specify the color in the panel that appears. You can change the panel that appears by clicking the Color or Swatches icon along the left. Click outside the panel to accept the selection.

    For details, see Modify gradients.

  8. Click the New Swatch button in the Swatches panel to save the new or modified gradient as a swatch. Or, drag the gradient from the Gradient panel or Tools panel to the Swatches panel.

Apply an existing gradient to an object

Select an object and do one of the following:

  • To apply the last used gradient, click the Gradient box () in the Tools panel or the Gradient Fill box in the Gradient panel.
  • To apply the last used gradient to an unselected object that currently does not contain a gradient, click the object with the Gradient tool.
  • To apply a preset or previously saved gradient, choose a gradient from the Gradient menu in the Gradient panel or click a gradient swatch in the Swatches panel.

Tip: To display only gradients in the Swatches panel, click the Show Swatch Kinds button () and choose Show Gradient Swatches.

Apply a gradient across multiple objects

  1. Fill all the objects with a gradient.

  2. Select all of the objects that you want filled.

  3. Using the Gradient tool, do one of the following:

    • To create a gradient with one gradient slider, click the artboard where you want the gradient to start, and drag to where you want the gradient to end.
    • To create a gradient with a gradient slider for every selected object, click in the artboard where you want the gradient to start, and Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (macOS) to where you want the gradient to end. You can then adjust the different gradient sliders for the different objects. (Multiple gradient sliders are only created for simple paths.)

Modify gradients

You can modify gradients by adding colors to create multicolor gradients, and by adjusting gradient stops and midpoints. It’s a good idea to fill an object with the gradient you plan to adjust, so that you can preview the effect on the object while you adjust the gradient.

Modify the colors in a gradient

  1. Do one of the following:

    • To modify a gradient without filling an object with it, deselect all objects and double-click the Gradient tool or click the gradient box at the bottom of the Tools panel.
    • To modify an object’s gradient, select the object, and open the Gradient panel.
    • To modify a preset gradient, select a gradient from the Gradient menu in the Gradient panel. Or, click a gradient swatch in the Swatches panel, and then open the Gradient panel.
  2. To change the color of a stop, do any of the following:

    • Double-click a gradient stop (in either the Gradient panel or the selected object), and specify a new color in the panel that appears. You can change the panel that appears by clicking the Color or Swatches icon along the left. Click outside the panel to accept the selection.
    • Drag a color from the Color panel or the Swatches panel onto the gradient stop.

    Note:

    If you create a gradient between spot colors, you must deselect Convert To Process in the Separation Setup dialog box to print the gradient in individual spot color separations.

  3. To add intermediate colors to a gradient, drag a color from the Swatches panel or the Color panel onto the gradient slider in the Gradient panel. Or, click anywhere below the gradient slider, and then select a color as you would for the starting or ending color.

  4. To delete an intermediate color, drag the square off the gradient slider or select it and click the Delete button () in the Gradient panel.

  5. To adjust the location of colors in the gradient, do any of the following:

    • To adjust the midpoints of the gradient’s gradient stops (the point at which two gradient stops are 50%), drag a diamond icon located above the slider or select the icon and enter a value from 0 through 100 in the Location box.
    • To adjust the endpoints of the gradient stops, drag the leftmost or rightmost gradient stop below the gradient slider.
    • To reverse the colors in the gradient, click Reverse Gradient () in the Gradient panel.
  6. To change the opacity of a gradient color, click a gradient stop in the Gradient panel, and specify a value in the Opacity box. When a gradient stop has an Opacity value less than 100%, the stop appears with , and the color appears checkered in the gradient slider.

Change gradient direction, radius, or origin

Once you have filled an object with a gradient, you can use the Gradient tool and the gradient annotator (slider) inside the object to modify the gradient by drawing a new fill path. This tool lets you change the direction of a gradient, the origin, and the beginning point and endpoint of a gradient.

  1. Select the gradient-filled object.

  2. Select the Gradient tool  and do any of the following:

    • To change the direction of a linear gradient, click where you want the gradient to start and drag in the direction you want it to appear. Or, position the Gradient tool on the gradient annotator in the object, and when the cursor changes to the rotation icon (), drag to set the angle of the gradient.

    Note: You can also change the direction by setting a new value in the Angle box in the Gradient panel.To change the radius of a radial or elliptical gradient, position the Gradient tool on the arrow of gradient annotator in the object and drag to set the radius.

    • To change the origin of the gradient, position the Gradient tool at the beginning of the gradient annotator in the object and drag it to the desired location.
    • To change the radius and angle at the same time, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (macOS) the endpoint, and drag to the new location.

    Note: If the gradient annotator (gradient slider) does not appear when you position the Gradient tool in an object that has a gradient, choose View > Show Gradient Annotator.

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