To add a sense of plasticity and dynamism to an otherwise flat illustration we often add a gradient blend of two or more colours in Adobe Illustrator.
To test the various options available to us when working with gradients w e first set up a new document, say an A4 page with a Landscape orientation.
Next, create a few objects using the standard shape creation tools. Initially, we simply use the default black stroke and white fill colours at the bottom of the toolbox on the left-hand side of the Illustrator interface. For instance, we could use the Rectangle, Ellipse and Star tools to create some randomly sized shapes on the artboard.
To apply a gradient to any of these shapes make sure it's first selected with the Selection tool (the black arrow). Then ensure that the Fill icon is overlapping the Stroke icon at the bottom of the tool box. Next, open the Gradient panel on the right-hand side of your workspace. If this is not visible go to the Window drop-down menu at the top of the Illustrator interface, and choose Color and Gradient. Sometimes the panel is minimized, in which case go to the Gradient panel Options button at the top right of the panel, and select Show Options. A black to white gradient slider becomes visible at this point.
Initially, we simply click on this black and white gradient slider to see our selected shape fill with the default black and white gradient fill colours. This is also described as a Linear type gradient in the panel - we can change this to a Radial gradient whereupon the fill colours will change to a spot of colour.
Open the Swatches panel in order to change these default colours. We can now replace the black and white colour stops in a couple of ways. First, we can drag colours down from the Swatches panel onto the Gradient panel slider, and new colour stops are created. Or we may select the triangle at the top of the colour stop and click in the Colour panel's spectrum. If the full spectrum is not visible, go to the Colour panel's options fly-out list and choose RGB from the options presented. If we double-click on a colour stop the Colour Picker opens where we may enter colours in a variety of ways, either numerically or simply by adjusting the colour slider and click inside the colour field.
To delete the original black and white stops we can either simply pull them downwards, or select and right-click to choose Delete. Or we can select the colour stop and click on the small trash bin at the bottom right of the panel. It's possible to add or subtract as many colours as desired in this manner.
Note that it's also possible to adjust the mid-tone stop which determines how much each colour contributes to the blend. To adjust further the appearance of the blend we can select the Gradient tool from the toolbox to click and drag across the shape. If we drag a small amount we get a small transition of colour; if we drag a larger amount we achieve a gentler transition of colour.
In addition, you can add a gradient blend to strokes - this feature was added in Illustrator version CS5.
This gradient may be saved for future use by going to the Swatch panel options and saving as a Gradient Swatch. This is also saved in the new Libraries panel function, and can be loaded into future documents.
Tom Gillan has been training Adobe Illustrator to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. You can learn more about Adobe Illustrator Courses at Design Workshop Sydney.