Adding Gradients to Illustrations in Adobe Illustrator

Below is a tutorial I’ve written for adding gradients to a cartoon character in Adobe Illustrator.

I start with a flat color drawing in Illustrator. If you’d like to see the techniques for creating a cartoon like this in Illustrator, feel free to check out my cartoon tutorial to see how I create the lines and shadows.

Next, I start adding gradients. For the glass on the cockpit, I use a radial gradient with a variety of blues. I use the the Gradient Tool on the toolbar to get the light colors on the top and the darker colors on the bottom.

If you’re not use to using the gradient tool, I’d recommend playing around with it. To use the Gradient tool, select it and click the area where you want your gradient to start. Without releasing, pull the gradient in the direction you want it, then release when you get to the point you want the gradient to end.

Next, I add another radial gradient to the alien’s face. This gradient is a green color. You can add different colors to your gradient palette by dragging them in from the color palette. I like to keep the two palettes attached together for that reason.

If you’d like a little gradient theory, feel free to check out my 4 step gradient tutorial.

Now, I want to add a gradient to the highlight on the glass. This time, I’m going to use a linear gradient. You can create a new gradient or you can modify the original cockpit gradient. If your going to modify the existing gradient, select the highlight shape and use the Eyedropper tool and click on the cockpit shape. This adds that color to your highlight shape. Since I don’t want the highlight shape as dark, I want to remove the darkest color. To remove a color from the gradient palette, simply drag it off the palette.

I add another linear gradient to the highlight on the face.

Next, I add a radial gradient to the inside of the cockpit. For this one, I’ll need to add a slightly darker color to the bottom of the gradient. Another way to add a color to a gradient is to duplicate an existing color. To duplicate a color, click on the color in the gradient palette you want to duplicate and hold down the OPTION key and drag it to another spot on the gradient palette. With your new duplicate swatch, you can tweak the color in the color palette.

I create another radial gradient for the alien body.

Finally, I add gradients to the ship.

Here is what the illustration looks like when I’m complete.

This post was written on Content copyright 2008 Cory Thoman.

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  1. mannda

    Thank you SOO much for this tutorial , its helping ALOT in my new graphic design project. But can u explain how we edit the size of the radial gradient? the size of the circle. Would be best if u could reply me by mail. Thanks loads =)

  2. Cory

    You can change the gradient by using the Gradient tool on the toolbar. It’s the one that looks like a gradated rectangle.

    To use it, select the object with the gradient fill and click drag the the start and stop points for the gradient. It’s kind of like drawing a line in the direction that you want the gradient to got in. The longer the line the more gradual the gradient will be.

  3. 08/12/18

    First of all congratulation for such a great site. I learned a lot reading article here today. I will make sure i visit this site once a day so i can learn more.

  4. 10/11/07

    adboe illustrator is feature packed and i love all of its great features .

  5. 12/02/06

    I used to be suggested this web site by means of my cousin. I’m not positive whether or not this post is written by way of him as nobody else recognize such particular approximately my problem. You’re amazing! Thank you!

  6. N8

    Once again another fantastic tutorial. I am definitely going to be exploring more gradients.

  7. 12/09/11

    I have been learning AI for the pass months with great success. However, I do lack the usage of gradients tool. I find it confusing at times to use with many color stops at one time.

  8. 13/03/23

    I think, today I’ve learned an excellent thing and I hope it increases my skills. thanks.