1. Design & Illustration
  2. Tools & Tips

Quick Tip: Applying a Gradient Outline and Perspective Shadow to Live Text in Illustrator


In this tutorial you will learn how to apply gradients to text. Adobe Illustrator, by default, doesn't allow the use of gradients on text. But there is a simple trick to do it. One half of the final result is inspired by merchandise items and a book of the a "Poplife" exhibition I visited some time ago. The second half shows a simple shadow effect. Let's get started!

Step 1

Simply type your text on the canvas. I've used "Arial Rounded MT Bold" in 120pt size with centered text align. You can use any font you like, however I would recommend using a bold or black font weight. Depending on the font, regular or medium weights may work well too. Gradients and "outlines" on lighter or more condensed fonts can easily look distorted.

Step 2

In the tools panel, delete all fills and strokes from your text. If you turn on View > Pathview (Command + Y) you can still see what you wrote.

Step 3

Open the Appearance Panel and add a new fill.

Step 4

You can now apply a gradient to the fill of the letter. Either select a gradient from the swatch panel or select "Linear" in the Gradient Panel to add the gradient fill.

Step 5

Change the colors to a bright Blue and Pink, almost Cyan and Magenta. The Purple will be made from these two colors blending.

Step 6

Now we want the gradient to be an outline. To achieve this we will first have to duplicate our fill in the Appearance Panel.

Step 7

Select the lower fill from the Appearance Panel and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path and create an offset of 4px.

Step 8

In the Appearance Panel you can now add a solid color to the top fill. In the example I used an almost black fill (R: 35 / G: 31 / B: 32).

Step 9

For the final result we will simply add a solid (R: 255 / G: 179 / B: 232) color as background. A very easy way to apply a gradient outline to text.

Step 10

Using what you just learned you can create a lot more effects. For example you could create a shadow for the text. For this effect we will start out with one solid fill and a simple black to white gradient applied to the lowest fill. Set the gradient fill to multiply.

Step 11

For the perspective we will use an effect: Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Free Distort. Move the upper corners in an appropriate position for you. In this case the light source would be centered in front of the letters.

Step 12

The shadows should be not as high as the "standing" letters. So we will apply another effect: Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform and change the vertical height of the fill to 50%.

Note: It is important to set the Reference Point of the effect to the bottom!

Step 13

If you want the "shadow" to be shorter, you can change the position of white in the gradient to a location below 100%.

Here's the result. Within only a few steps you created a text with a gradient shadow.


This was just two ways that the Appearance Panel can create great looking effects for editable text. Play around with some of the other settings in the panel and see what you can come up with! I hope you've enjoyed this tut.

Looking for something to help kick start your next project?

Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.