About gradients

A gradient is a graduated blend between two or more colors or between two tints of the same color. The output device you use affects how gradients color separate.

Gradients can include Paper, process colors, spot colors, or mixed ink colors using any color mode. Gradients are defined by a series of color stops in the gradient bar. A stop is the point at which a gradient changes from one color to the next, and is identified by a color square under the gradient bar. By default, a gradient starts with two colors and a midpoint at 50%.

Note:

When you create a gradient using colors of different modes and then print or color separate the gradient, all colors are converted to CMYK process colors. Because of the color mode change, colors may shift. For best results, specify gradients using CMYK colors.

Create a gradient swatch

You can create, name, and edit gradients using the same Swatches panel you use to work with solid colors and tints. You can also create unnamed gradients using the Gradient panel.

  1. Choose New Gradient Swatch in the Swatches panel menu.
  2. For Swatch Name, type a name for the gradient.
  3. For Type, choose Linear or Radial.
  4. Select the first color stop in the gradient.
    Create a gradient swatch
    First color stop

  5. For Stop Color, do one of the following:
    • To choose a color that’s already in the Swatches panel, choose Swatches, and select a color from the list.

    • To mix a new unnamed color for the gradient, choose a color mode, and enter color values or drag the sliders.

      Tip: By default, the first stop of the gradient is set to white. To make it transparent, apply the Paper swatch.

  6. To change the last color in the gradient, select the last color stop, and repeat step 5.
  7. To adjust the position of gradient colors, do one of the following:
    • Drag the color stops located under the bar.

    • Select a color stop under the bar, and enter a Location value to set the position of that color. This position represents the percentage of distance between the previous color and the next color.

  8. To adjust the midpoint between two gradient colors (the point at which the colors are at 50%), do one of the following:
    • Drag the diamond icon located above the bar.

    • Select the diamond icon above the bar, and enter a Location value to set the position of that color. This position represents the percentage of distance between the previous color and the next color.

  9. Click OK or Add. The gradient is stored in the Swatches panel with its name.

Apply an unnamed gradient using the Gradient panel

Although the Swatches panel is the recommended panel for creating and storing gradients, you can also work with gradients by using the Gradient panel (Window > Color > Gradient), with which you may be familiar if you also use Adobe Illustrator. You can add the current gradient to the Swatches panel at any time. The Gradient panel is useful for creating an unnamed gradient that won’t be used often.

Gradient panel
Gradient panel

A. Gradient fill B. Gradient type menu C. Reverse button D. Starting color stop E. Midpoint F. Ending color stop 

Note:

If you select an object that currently uses a named gradient, editing the gradient by using the Gradient panel will change the color of that object only. To edit every instance of a named gradient, double-click its swatch in the Swatches panel.

  1. Select the object or objects you want to change.
  2. Click the Fill or Stroke box in the Swatches panel or the Toolbox. (If the Gradient Fill box is not visible, choose Show Options in the Gradient panel menu.)
  3. To open the Gradient panel, choose Window > Color > Gradient, or double-click the Gradient tool  in the Toolbox.
  4. To define the starting color of a gradient, click the leftmost color stop below the gradient bar, and then do one of the following:
    • Drag a swatch from the Swatches panel and drop it on the color stop.

    • Alt‑click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) a color swatch in the Swatches panel.

    • In the Color panel, create a color using the sliders or the color bar.

  5. To define the ending color of the gradient, click the rightmost color stop below the gradient bar. Then choose the color you like, as described in the previous step.
  6. Select either Linear or Radial in the Type menu, and adjust color and midpoint positions as explained in Create a gradient swatch.
  7. To adjust the gradient angle, type a value for Angle.

Modify gradients

You can modify gradients by adding colors to create multicolor gradients, and by adjusting color 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.

Note:

You can modify gradients pasted from Adobe Illustrator, provided that the gradient was pasted using AICB (Adobe Illustrator Clipboard) format. (See Pasting Illustrator graphics into InDesign.) To select the gradient, use the Direct Selection tool.

Note:

If you edit a color swatch, any gradient stops that use that swatch will update accordingly, changing the gradient.

Add intermediate colors to a gradient

  1. Double-click a gradient swatch in the Swatches panel, or display the Gradient panel.
  2. Click anywhere below the gradient bar to define a new color stop. The new color stop is automatically defined by the color values at that position along the existing gradient.
  3. Adjust the new color stop.

    Note:

    You can also drag a swatch from the Swatches panel onto the gradient bar in the Gradient panel to define a new color stop.

Remove an intermediate color from a gradient

  • Select the intermediate color stop, and drag it to the edge of the panel.

Reverse a gradient’s color progression

  1. Activate a gradient.
  2. In the Gradient panel, click the Reverse button .

Adjust a gradient with the Gradient tools

Once you have filled an object with a gradient, you can modify the gradient by using the Gradient Swatch tool  or the Gradient Feather tool  to “repaint” the fill by dragging along an imaginary line. The Gradient tools let you change the direction of a gradient, change its beginning point and endpoint, and apply a gradient across multiple objects. The Gradient Feather tool lets you soften the gradient in the direction in which you drag.

  1. In the Swatches panel or Toolbox, select the Fill box or the Stroke box, depending on where the original gradient was applied.
  2. Select the Gradient Swatch or Gradient Feather tool, and position it at the place where you want to define the beginning point of the gradient. Drag across the object in the direction you want the gradient to be applied. Hold down Shift to constrain the tool to multiples of 45°.

    Dragging the Gradient Feather tool across the gradient progressively softens the colors in the gradient within the area you drag.

  3. Release the mouse button at the place where you want to define the endpoint of the gradient.

Apply a gradient across multiple objects

  1. Make sure that all selected objects already use a gradient.
  2. In the Toolbox, select the Fill box or the Stroke box.
  3. Select the Gradient tool , and position it where you want to define the beginning point of the gradient. Drag across the object in the direction you want the gradient to be applied. Hold down Shift to constrain the tool to multiples of 45°.
  4. Release the mouse button at the place where you want to define the endpoint of the gradient.
Apply a gradient across multiple objects
Default gradient fill (left) and gradient applied across objects (right)

Note:

If a compound path with a gradient is selected, you can edit the gradient across all of its subpaths by using the Gradient panel alone, without having to use the Gradient tool.

Apply gradients to text

Within a single text frame, you can create multiple ranges of gradient text alongside default black text and color text.

A gradient’s endpoints are always anchored in relation to the bounding box of the gradient’s path or text frame. Individual text characters display the part of the gradient over which they are positioned. If you resize the text frame or make other changes that cause text characters to reflow, the characters are redistributed across the gradient, and the colors of individual characters change accordingly.

Working with gradient-filled text characters
Working with gradient-filled text characters

A. Underlying gradient fill B. Text characters with gradient applied C. Text added, and text shifting position relative to gradient fill 

If you want to adjust a gradient so that its complete color range spans a specific range of text characters, you have two options:

  • Use the Gradient tool to reset the gradient’s endpoints, so that they span only the characters you selected when you applied the gradient.

  • Select the text and convert it to outlines (editable paths), and then apply a gradient to the resulting outlines. This is the best option for a short run of display type in its own text frame. The gradient will be permanently anchored to the outlines, not the text frame, and the outlines will continue to flow with the rest of the text. However, the outlines will function as a single inline graphic within the text frame, so you won’t be able to edit the text. Also, typographic options will no longer apply; for example, text converted to outlines will not hyphenate.

Applying gradients to text
By default, type that shifts position will change relative to its gradient (left); when type is converted to outlines, an applied gradient moves with the type (right).

For information on converting text outlines to paths, see Create paths from text outlines.

Multiple gradients in a single text frame

Within a single text frame, you can select different ranges of text and apply a unique gradient to each range. Each gradient is added to the text frame and tracked separately with the characters you selected when you applied each gradient. However, the endpoints of the gradient are still anchored to the text frame’s bounding box, not to individual ranges of text.

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