How to create a gradient in illustrator

Tip by bikegypsy on March 25, 2018

Gradients are particularly useful when creating special and unique patches of multiple colors in Illustrator. Gradients are used to depict skies, bodies of water, skin tones, metal surfaces or any item that has a range of colors on one particular surface.


For the purpose of this exercise, we will create a gradient which goes from yellow, to light blue, to pink. Gradients are created using sliders in the Gradient panel that allow to control how and where the colors mix.

1. In your Illustrator document, you will need the Gradient and Color panels in order to proceed.

2. Go to the Window tab at the top of your screen and scroll down to Gradient and click to open the panel.

3. You will do the same thing for the Color panel.

4. Now you should have these panels below.

5. Click anywhere on the gradient band in the Gradient panel in order to activate the gradient. Before proceeding, we will examine the Gradient panel in order to understand how it works.

6. The central elements in the Gradient panel are the gradient band (where the gradient is displayed) and a series of sliders. The sliders at the bottom of the gradient band are associated with one particular color. These can move along the band in order to dictate where the color will begin to mix with an other. A gradient can therefore be comprised of a gradient section and a solid section. There are also small sliders on top of the gradient band. This is the mixing slider and you can move it as well in order to dictate where the 2 colors will mix. Two colors in a gradient means one mixing slider, 3 colors means 2 mixing sliders, 4 colors would require 3, etc.

7. We’re now ready to create our yellow-blue-pink gradient.

8. The Gradient panel normally opens with a white to black gradient. You should therefore have 2 main color sliders at the beginning. In order to create a gradient, you will have to manipulate your colors via sliders. Since we will have 3 different  colors in our gradient, we will need a third slider that we will add later.

9. Click on the left slider and then go the color panel in order to choose the first color, which is yellow. You can either use the color picker at the bottom of the panel or simply use the sliders in the Color panel.

10. Now click on the right slider, which will control the pink. Proceed in a similar way in regards to the Color panel.

11. We will now add the third slider in the Gradient panel. To do this, you need to click immediately below the gradient band where you want to put the new slider. Upon clicking, the new slider will appear. By default, all new sliders appear void of any color. To add the color blue to it, simply pick it in the Color panel like you did for the yellow and the pink.

12. In your gradient band, you now have 3 sliders associated with a color, as well as 2 mixing sliders.

13.You have now created your gradient and are ready to apply it to a shape.

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