Illustrator Tutorial - Gradients

An alternative way of coloring an object with a solid fill, is choosing a gradient. A gradient fill consists of more than a single color. It takes a minimum of two colors gradually blending from one to the other.

Star by using your Rectangle Tool and drawing a simple rectangle in a new Illustrator document.  Make sure your Gradient palette is visible (WINDOW...Gradient).

With the rectangle still selected, click on the small icon on the top left corner of the panel (highlighted in red, above) in order to fill the shape with a gradient fill. The Gradient Fill Box displays the current gradient colors and type. By default, the panel includes a start and end color box. Notice that the first time you will click on this icon, the default white to black gradient fill will be applied to your selection.

In the Type textbox and the Angle boxes, there are two types of Gradients - Linear and Radial.

Linear Gradient

In a linear gradient the blending of one color to the other takes place along a straight line from one side of the object to the other. .

In the next image, we have changed the angle of gradient to 45°.
Changing the Angle:  This can be done by either entering a value manually in the 'Angle' window or by selecting the Gradient Tool and, in the gradient preview window of the Gradient palette, clicking and dragging.

Radial Gradient

In a Radial Gradient, color blending starts from the center of the shape and is completed outwards.

Let's look more in depth at the Gradient palette:

The two 'houses' below the gradient bar are called 'stops'.  Their colour represents the colours which will appear in the gradient (above we have white and black).  The centre 'diamond' (circled in red) is the Midpoint of the gradient.  In the left-hand image above, it is at 50°, or exactly halfway between to white and black stops.

This 'mid-point' can be changed by either 'picking up' the diamond with your cursor and dragging left or right along the gradient bar, by entering a value manually in the 'Location' window or by clicking the arrow next to the Location window mand using the slider - as in the right-hand image above.

Changing/deleting the Colour 'stops:
You must always have at least two 'stops' beneath your gradient bar. To change/add a colour stop, make sure your Swatches palette is visible (
WINDOW...Swatches) and drag a suitably-coloured swatch over an existing stop or double-click on a stop.
Double-clicking a stop brings up the Color Picker:
Here, you can enter a value manually or use the sliders.  The example to the left is a CMYK colour model.  To change this, go to the tiny drop-down arrow (circled in red) and select a colour model.
To discard a colour stop, simply 'pick it up' with your cursor and drag downwards and off the gradient bar.
Saving Gradients: You may have gone to a lot of trouble creating a gradient and will possibly use it again in the future. Either 'pick up' the small icon in the Gradient palette and 'drop' it onto your Swatches palette, or simply click the 'New Swatch' icon at the bottom of the Swatches palette.  In both cases you will be asked to name your new gradient and it will be there in your Swatches palette to use in future artwork!
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