Part 4: Text and Gradients

In this fourth part of our Illustrator guide, we talk about text. We also touch on gradients as well.

In the previous part of our guide, we talked about how you can master the pen tool. That part also discussed layers. In this part of our tutorial, we discuss how you can add text to your canvas. After that, we discuss how you can add a gradient.

Adding Text

Now, the easiest way to apply text is to simply use the text tool. In a new project, simply click on the Text Tool:

Next, we want to left click and drag to create a box:

After that, let go and type your text:

Now, the text is a little small. So, we can increase the font size with the pull down menu (right highlighted option in screen shot). Additionally, we can change the font type (left highlighted option) by selecting something in the dropdown menu. To change the font, highlight all the text (CTRL + A for “Select” All” works as well).

Note that we can also align the text to centre if we want (as highlighted above).

Adding Text on a Path

Of course, something like simply adding text is probably far too easy. We want to do something fancy with that text. So, let’s delete the text and do something better! First, we are going to use a pen tool to create a curvy line (remembering to remove fill):

Next, we want to left click and hold down on the Text Tool button. This will open up a little sub-menu. In fact, many tools have neat little sub menu’s for you to poke around in. In this case, we are going to select the Type on a Path Tool.

With that tool selected, we want to click on the left hand part of the path. A cursor will appear and we can start typing:

You can, of course, play around with different text tools. The point is that you can always view sub-menus for more options within the buttons. A second point is that there are multiple ways you can add text to the canvas.


Gradients allow you to take something and have a gradual transition from one colour to the next. They can make something look sleek and cool looking. They can also make something look tacky. So, be careful with out how use them. First off, we want to add a gradient. To do this, we first need to decide what we want to add a gradient to. A great idea is the fill of a box. So, let’s go ahead and do that. In this case, I’m going to make a box with rounded corners:

Next, I’m going to make my box on the canvas:

Next, I’m going to make sure the fill is selected (left hand item highlighted). If you aren’t sure, just click on the top box. Then, I’m going to look at the right hand side of the screen and look for my Gradient tab (right hand item highlighted in screenshot).

In that tab, you’re going to see a black box. When you click on it, it will activate the gradient feature. Now, it’s neat seeing the left to right gradient, but what if I want to make it go vertically?

For that, I can click on the angle (highlighted). You can either use a slider with the dropdown arrow or type in an angle. We can either go positive or negative. In my case, I typed in negative 90 degrees. Already, it looks much more interesting.

The next step is to add some colour to that. Simply click on the box in the gradient line you want to change the colour on:

When you double-click on a box (in my case, I double-clicked on the left box), you’ll notice that your swatches pop-up menu appears. This enables you to select from a number of different colours. Really, you can make any colour you want, but we’re going to keep things simple and click on a colour. I’ll choose red:

That looks pretty reasonable. Of course, you actually have much more control over your gradients than just angle and colour. If you noticed, there is a little diamond thing on the gradient slider. Click and drag it left and right. You’ll see that you can control the amount either side has:

Now, let’s say we want to create a button. We want to give it a nice little shadow as if there is something you can put your finger in to. Believe it or not, that is a very simply thing you can accomplish. Simply select your rounded corner object. Next, copy it (CTRL + C). After that, paste it (CTRL + P) – anywhere will do. Then, click and drag it so that second copy is directly over top of the first one. After that, click on the top handle and hold down shift. Drag your mouse down a little so you can scale the size of it down. Then, use your up arrow to move it up (alternatively, you can click and drag. Hold down shift to lock your angle while moving up, though!).

With the smaller square centred, go back over to your gradient angle and type in 90 degrees (if you have a positive value, type in the negative instead. My end result looks something like this:

Kinda neat, eh? All that’s left is to add some text and I have myself a neat looking button!

Advanced Gradients

There is one more thing you can do with gradients. You are not locked into just two colours. First, lets just make a square. Next, we are going to activate our gradient.

You’ll notice I highlighted the bottom middle part of the slider. If you hover your mouse over that area, you’ll see that a small “+” appears next to the cursor. Click and you’ll create a new colour box on the slider.

At first, it’ll appear that nothing has changed. However, a lot has changed with your control. Not only do you now have a second colour box to work with, but you also have diamonds over the space between each box. This allows you greater control over your gradient. You can move the middle colour boxes and control how much each side has between each. I’m going to create 4 boxes and have them alternate between black and white:

You’ll notice that I’ve also resized the box. The added effect of multiple colour boxes and alternating colour makes the box look much more busy. Since I kept it black and white and resized the box to something thin, I give this object a more reflective and metal look to it. You can obviously mess with the colours further, but if you have it on a more complex object, it actually looks pretty clean. In fact, it’s this exact technique I used to make the microphone image for out podcast. It’s a small effect, but very effective.

There are, of course, other presets you can mess around with. There’s a radial gradient you can toy around with. This preset makes it look like there is a spotlight being shone onto a black background for instance.

Ultimately, you have a bunch of options to work with. Just know that gradients can make something look tacky. So remember to use them wisely so they don’t look too Windows 95-ish.

That’s it! Now you know about text and gradients!

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