gradient on text in illustrator

Mastering Gradient Text in Illustrator: A Step-by-Step Guide

Daniel Scott

@dan

Hi, everyone!

In this post we’ll dive into the colorful world of gradients and learn how they can be applied to your text for additional depth and visual appeal. Many top brands use gradient fills and strokes on typography to emphasize brand identity with unique visual styles. Improve your skill set with these techniques and you’ll be well on your way to applying gradient to text in illustrator. step through the front door to the world of awesome designers!

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Applying gradients to a text in Illustrator is easy, but there are some tips and tricks to catch along the way, so keep on reading, fire up your laptops, and let’s go!

Using gradients in design and typography

Gradients are gradual color blends --  a smooth transition of one color to another. We can apply gradients to shapes, images, and text. We can make them subtle by using  monochromatic hues, like different shades of blue, or we can go 80’s crazy by blending highly contrasting colors.

two examples of monochromatic and colorful gradients in adobe illustrator

Gradients can be subtle, to express depth and movement, or colorful for a sense of happiness and vitality.

Gradients are much more than a simple aesthetic decision. Gradients can direct attention, add depth or vibrance to a composition, enhance readability (if used wisely), set design hierarchy, and establish solid brand identity.

Mastering gradients takes practice and persistence, but doing so is a powerful design resource.

Applying Gradients to Text in Illustrator  

Let’s dive into gradients and typography in Illustrator! We will do it step-by-step so you don’t miss anything! Ready?

1.      Type and style your text

To better understand how gradients affect typography, pick a heavy font and large size for extra impact. Go for a bold headline look!

text element filled with black color in adobe illustrator

To add visual impact to your text, pick strong fonts so all color transitions are visible and legibility is clear.

2.      Access the Appearance Panel

Applying a gradient to text should be the easiest right? As we do in shapes, we’d select the text layer, go to Fill, and apply a gradient. But no, we can’t do it from the Fill option for two reasons:

When it comes to styling, editable text elements are treated differently from vector shapes.

The Fill option is limited to solid colors when working with editable text.

gradient fill not reflected on text element in adobe illustrator

Picking gradient fill directly from the Fill option doesn’t work for editable text elements.

The right way to apply gradients to editable text is using the Appearance Panel. There are three ways to access it:

Click Window on your top menu bar and select Appearance.

Use the shortcut keys Shift+F6.

Click on Open the Appearance panel, the three dots you can see in Appearance from the Properties panel on the right of your workspace.

accessing the appearance panel from the top menu bar in adobe illustrator

Access the Appearance Panel from the top menu bar, inside the Window drop down list.

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Once you’re finished with this post, check out this cool article on Gradients and how we can apply them to multiple design elements. 

 

3.      Apply Gradient to Text

Let’s have a look at the options available in the Appearance Panel. With our text selected, we can see there is a hierarchy: Type on top and Characters below.

Characters can be styled using the Fill option, defining a color for each individual letter we’ve typed, but only with a solid fill, as we already know.

To apply a gradient, we will edit Type, the parent level. This will tell Illustrator that we want to fill the text element, as a whole, with a gradient.

Type option on the appearance panel in adobe illustrator

Choose the Type option from the Appearance Panel to edit the text element as a whole.

Let’s click on Type and then, right at the bottom of the Appearance Panel, click on the Add New Fill button.

add new fill button on the appearance panel in adobe illustrator

Click on the Add New Fill button to edit the text element with a new gradient.

Next, we click on the Fill option and select the gradient swatch from the Swatches Panel. And there we have it! Our text element is now displaying a cool gradient color flow!

fill option highlighted from the appearance panel in adobe illustrator

Inside the Fill Option of the Appearance Panel, pick gradient to apply a default back to white fill.

4.      Editing the Gradient Style

Now we click on the Gradient tool button on the left toolbar to edit our gradient. Let’s bring some vibrance and energy to our text. All we need to do is click and drag the gradient line from the origin point we’re aiming for and set its length and direction.

setting gradient line over text element in adobe illustrator

With the Gradient tool active, click and drag over the text element to change your gradient’s length and direction.

After setting length and direction, we’ll add color! Let’s double-click the first color stop and pick our gradient’s first color. We can use the Color and Swatches panels or the Color Picker to do it. Choose what feels best for you.

picking gradient hue from the color panel in adobe illustrator

Add a new color to each color stop to make your text gradient powerful.

Next, we click on the second color stop and choose the color that will blend with the first. We can also set how colors blend by adjusting the sliders on top of the gradient bar.

picking gradient second hue from the color panel in adobe illustrator

Pick a fill for the second color stop and preview how both colors blend.

For smoother transitions or contrasting effects, we can add extra color stops by clicking right below the gradient bar, when a “+” sign shows next to the cursor.

Make the necessary adjustments until you feel that your gradient’s direction,  length, and color transitions are perfect!

Pro Tip: We can create new gradient styles over any vector shape and save them as new swatches on our Swatches panel. Later, we can use those swatches to apply gradients to our text elements with a single click. Brilliant!

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Need inspiration for your next typography projects? Check out these typography blogs and gallery suggestions and challenge your creativity and design skills!

5.      Editing a Gradient Filled Text Element

The first cool thing about what we’re learning in this blog post is that we can edit our text after applying a Gradient to it. Some of you may have created outlines to fill text with gradients, but that won’t allow for editing the content afterwards. For that you would have to start from zero or smash a lot of Undo’s.

The second cool thing is the way the gradient fill automatically adjusts to our new text! If we add extra lines of content, the gradient bar will change its length according to what we’re typing.

gradient line over text element in adobe illustrator

If you add additional content to your text element, the gradient line will stretch to fit your new layout.

If we delete some of the content, we can see that the gradient bar adapts its length to the new format. Incredible!

adjusted gradient line over text element in adobe illustrator

If you remove content, the gradient line will now shrink to keep the color transition aligned with the new layout.

And there we have it!

Now that you know what gradients are and how to apply them to editable text using the Appearance Panel, you can expand your creative minds, start designing powerful typography elements, and upgrade your portfolio to Hero level!

 

What 's Next?

To go deeper with Illustrator, join BYOL and you will gain access to my Illustrator Essentials and Advanced courses as well as my 30+ additional courses on Figma, PhotoshopLightroom, Premiere Pro, Webflow, and more. As a BYOL member you will also enjoy personalized support, earn certificates, and tackle exciting community challenges. Get started here. 

See you in class! – Dan

Ready for more? Become a BYOL member!

Explore 30+ Essentials and Advanced courses in Figma, Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, Webflow, and more. Enjoy personalized support, earn certificates, connect with other creators and tackle exciting community challenges.

START YOUR LEARNING JOURNEY
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Unlimited access to ALL content

Instant access to all of our courses and exclusive content while you're a member.

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Ask us anything! Our amazing Teaching Assistants are here to support you

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Certificates of achievement!

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