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Probably one of the most difficult aspects of working with gradients is that inside of Illustrator, we're often used to working and focusing our attention on the artwork that appears on the artboard itself. However, when you start working with gradients, you'll find that you're focusing your attention on the Gradient panel, and you're kind of going back and forth by what you see as you make edits to the gradient on your shape, but at the same time your eyes are focused on working inside of the Gradient panel. Well, back in Illustrator CS4, Adobe added a great way to actually work with and modify gradients directly on your artboard.
We can do so using this new Gradient Annotator. Let's take a look at how it works. We'll start with a Linear Gradient here at the top of the screen. I'm going to click on this object right now, and I'm going to switch to my Gradient tool that appears inside of the Tools panel. The keyboard shortcut is the G key. Notice that when I do so, this line now appears through the center of my object. I have a circle all the way on the left, and I have a little square all the way on the right. As I move my mouse over the object, I can start to see that it expands, and it shows me a version of that gradient.
Notice over here, it starts a black. In fact, there's a little triangle underneath over here. This is actually the Color Stop, the same Color Stop that appears at the bottom of my Gradient panel, right here. Likewise, when I move my mouse over to this side, I see the white gradient stop. If I want to make adjustments to my gradient, I can use these Color Stops in the same way that I was working inside of the Gradient panel. So if I click on this and I adjust it, notice here I'm actually making changes to my gradient in context directly on my object.
This little icon right here is actually my Midpoint Indicator, where I can control exactly how that gradient behaves and switches from one color to the next. If I want to add additional colors, I can simply move my cursor directly beneath the slider and click to add now a new color stop. And again, just like in the Gradient panel, if I double-click on that Color Stop, I can choose between Swatches or my Color panel to change the color at that color stop. Notice I can also numerically change its Location or its Opacity value.
Now there are some other functions as well. For example, this circle indicates where the gradient begins. If I click on it and move it, I can choose to have the gradient start right about over here. That means that I'll have black all the way up to this point, and then here on my gradient kicks in. Notice, by the way, the gradient continues out over here. My gradient would normally end with white, but I don't even see that in my object. That's because I've changed the alignment of the gradient. You see the gradient doesn't need to begin and end inside the object. I can have just a small portion of the gradient visible within my overall object.
I'm going to move this circle back over here to show you that I can actually start the black outside of the object. So by the time the gradient starts, it won't be nearly as dark. And I can also move my cursor all the way to the right over here, and in this case here, actually it shortened the length of the gradient. Finally, if I move my cursor just outside this icon, I see it changes to a Rotate icon, which will allow me to adjust the angle of the gradient. Notice now the gradient travels diagonally and not perfectly straight across the object.
This annotation capability is especially helpful when working with Radial Gradients. So I'm going to hold down my Command key or Ctrl key to temporarily access my Selection tool, and I'll click on this circle right here, which is filled with a Radial Gradient. Notice now I see the circles here that indicate where my gradient begins and ends. Notice I have Color Stops here, and if I double-click on them, I could change their colors as I was doing before. However, because this is a Radial Gradient, I do have a few more options available to me.
Let's zoom in just a little bit closer. I'm going to press Command+ Spacebar and zoom in on this area here. And you'll notice that a dotted line appears around the outside here, because I can rotate my gradient. But I can also click on the big circle here and reposition where the center of my gradient is. By moving the center over here to the upper-right, I give the illusion of some kind of 3D appearance using that gradient. I'm going to press Undo for a second here to move it back, because you can also see that there is a black circle that appears here at the top. By clicking and dragging on this, I can change the Aspect Ratio of that Radial Gradient.
So when you're working with gradients inside of Illustrator, and you want to work in context directly on your artwork itself, switch to the Gradient tool and you'll have a much easier time modifying your gradients.
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