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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
Let's take a moment to talk about Fills inside of Illustrator. Now we've already had some experience in applying the first type of Fill, a solid color. We know there are three kinds of solid colors that we can apply inside of Illustrator, something called the Process Color, a Global Process Color or a Spot Color. Let's now take a look at the second kind of Fill that you can apply inside of Illustrator, something called a Gradient. A Gradient is a single swatch that's made up of multiple solid colors.
The most common use is when you want to blend one color smoothly into another color. For example, at the top of this document right here I have this rectangle. It starts out with black on the left and then slowly fades to white on the right side. We call this a Gradient Fill. We can control gradients through the Gradient panel, which appears right here, and the first thing to know about Gradients is that for Illustrator there are two basic kinds. A Linear Gradient travels in a straight line. It goes from one color all the way to another color.
The other type of Gradient, which you can see right over here, is something called a Radial Gradient. In fact, these flowers over here have Radial Gradients applied to them, where the first color starts in the center of the object and then radiates outwards towards a second color. I'll select this object here at the top. We'll just deal with some black and white colors right now to get a better understanding of how gradients work, and then we'll move on to more complex areas where we can start to add multiple colors to our Gradients.
So let's take a look at the Gradient panel itself. Notice, at the top here, I have the ability to choose between a Radial or a Linear Gradient. To start with, we'll deal specifically with Linear Gradients. I have the ability to change the angle of that line. You see right now the gradient starts here and travels directly here, but if I wanted to, I could change the angle so the gradient starts at the bottom and then travels upwards. So I'll type in, for example, 90 degrees here, hit the Tab key to accept that value, and you can see now the black is at the bottom of the shape and then goes to white at the top of the shape.
You can change it to any value you want, anywhere from 0 to 360, and if you want it to travel in the opposite direction, you could also just type in -90, and it will flip that gradient upside down. But for now I'm going to leave the angle set to zero, so we could better understand how the colors actually blend between each other. This icon right over here allows you to flip the colors. You see right now in the Gradient, I am starting with one color here and finishing with another color here. If I click on this button, it completely reverses it. It takes whatever color was here and moves it here and whatever color was here and moves it here.
I'm going to switch it back to the way it was before. And let's take a look at this slider itself. We call this the Gradient slider. It's basically an indicator of what my gradient is going to look like. Underneath the slider, in this example, are two little boxes, and we call these Colors Stops. This first Color Stop is colored black. This one over here is colored white. These Color Stops determine what colors appear inside of my gradient. I can click and drag on these colors stops and noticed that right now a Location value becomes active that tells me exactly where that Gradient Stop is on the Gradient slider.
You can also see that because my object has been selected here, I'm also modifying the way the Gradient appears inside of this object. All this means right now is that the gradient goes from black to white over here, and then at this point to the end of the object, it just is completely white. I'm going to move this slider to all the way back where it was, because as you can see, when I move this slider, this little diamond shape in the top always appears in the middle. This is what we call our Midpoint Indicator. It tells us the exact point of my gradient where one color meets the other color.
It's exactly the middle where I basically have 50% of each value. I can modify that. For example, if I really wanted this Gradient to be much lighter, I want it to start out really strong in the dark side but then slowly, slowly fade out towards white, I could move this Midpoint Indicator to the left and notice that right now, it's kind of heavier over here on this side, but then it takes a lot longer to fade to white all the way on this side here. Notice that right now, it's selected, so I could use that same Location value to reset it back exactly to 50%.
Now, one of the things that you can also do with Gradient Stops or Colors Stops inside of Illustrator is when you click on them to select them, you could set their Opacity value. This is the color itself inside of the gradient. So if I wanted to partially see through that part of the gradient, I can adjust its Opacity level just for this Color Stop. Finally, if I want to save this Gradient, I could take his icon right here and click and drag it into my Swatches panel to save it as a Gradient. I can double-click on it to give it a name, call it mynewgradient.
And you notice that over here on the pop -up list it shows me all the gradients that I currently have saved in my file, and the one that I just saved right now, mynewgradient, is here, which I can easily apply to new objects. Now in this example right here, we've been working with a gradient that starts from black and goes to white, very simple, very basic. But of course, you can change the colors, and you can add additional colors as well. Let's say, for example, I wanted this gradient to go from blue to red. Well, there are several ways to do that. One way is to come to the Swatches panel.
Take the color that you want to use, in this case here, CMYK blue, and click and drag it directly onto a Color Stop. That changes that Color Stop's color and uses the swatch that you specified. As an example, if I would have a swatch that's currently set right now for a Global Process Color or a Spot Color, I would be able to add the color to the gradient in this way. Another way to add colors to gradients is to actually double-click on the Color Stop itself. This brings up the Color panel, where I could actually change some of the sliders here and adjust the values, or I can click on this icon right here to change to Swatches and choose the color that I'm looking for.
Once I'm done, I'll just click off of it, and now I've made a change to that Gradient. If I want to add additional colors to my Gradient, all I need to do is just click in any blank area here underneath the Gradient slider. Doing so now adds a new Color Stop, which I can now double-click on, change its color, and now I have a gradient that contains multiple colors. Each pair of Color Stops has its own Midpoint Indicator, so I can make adjustments any way that I want inside of the gradient.
Remember though, if I want to reuse this gradients for other objects, I probably should save it as a Swatch, and I can do that easily by just taking the icon and dragging it into the Swatches panel. In fact, one of the benefits of using Global Process Colors is that if I use a Global Process Color inside of a Gradient, by modifying the Global Process Swatch itself, my gradient automatically updates as well. So we know how Linear Gradients work. Let's take a quick look at how Radial Gradients work. If I click on this shape right here, I can see that right now I have a Radial Gradient applied to that object.
It starts with one color over here and ends with this color here, and you can see the Midpoint Indicator is skewed slightly here towards the right. Basically, Radial Gradients work in the same way, with one exception. There's now a setting here that's available, which allows me to stretch, or change the Aspect Ratio of that circle. I don't mean this shape itself that I've applied the gradient to. I mean the way in which the gradient itself radiates out from the center. For example, right now it's set to 100%, but if I change this to a really small value, like maybe 20%, you can see that the gradient kind of has an oval type of appearance rather than a perfect circle appearance.
So when working with Radial Gradients, I can also control this basic shape in the gradient itself. I'm going to return it back here to 100%, the way that it was before, and that's a quick understanding of what the Linear and Radial Gradients can do inside of Illustrator.
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