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It wasn't until Illustrator CS4 that you were able to create transparent gradients. However there is a way to create them with any version of CS. By using blends, you can create a variety of radial and linear gradients, just as you can in CS4+.
- A Linear Gradient is when one color morphs to another, in one line.
- A Radial Gradient is when one color morphs to another in all directions, in a circular fashion.
- A Transparent Gradient morphs from a solid color fading to nothing. In terms of Opacity from 100% to 0% opacity.
Part 1: Linear Gradients
Using the Line Segment Tool (Backslash), draw a vertical line with a stroke color and leave the fill null. In this case I'm going to use black. Set the Stroke Weight to 2pt. Copy (Control + C) and Paste (Control + V) the line so it's parallel to the original line.
With both lines selected, go to Object > Blend > Make.
Then drill down into the Blend group and select one of the lines. Change the transparency of this line to 0% Opacity.
Select the whole blend group and go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and change it to Specific Distance and the value as 0.1mm, then click on OK.
There we have your transparent linear gradient. I have put a pink shape behind the blend to show you the transparency:
Part 2: Variable Transparency
Sometimes when you create a gradient, you want the color to be more intense at one end of the gradient. Using the above blend process, this is how you could achieve this.
Drill down into your blend group and select the line which has 100% Opacity.
Copy (Control + C) and Paste in Front (Control + F) this line, then move it between the two other lines.
By changing the Opacity of this line between 100% and 0% will give a change in the flow of the line. I've changed the line in the example below to 30%.
Part 3: Radial Gradients
With the fill color set to black and the stroke to null, using the Ellipse Tool (L), hold down Shift + Alt and draw a small circle on your canvas.
Copy (Control + C) and Paste in Behind (Control + B) the circle. Using the Free Transform Tool (E), hold Shift + Alt and drag the corner out evenly, to make the new circle larger than the original. My example before is on Preview Mode to show you.
Select both circles and go to Object > Blend > Make. Drill down into the blend group and select the largest circle. Change the Opacity of this to 0%.
Select the entire blend and go to Object > Blend > Blend Options. Change the type to Specific Distance and the value to 0.1mm and click on OK.
This is your final radial gradient with the pink stripe behind to show you the transparencies.
Part 4: Variable Transparency
Sometimes when you create a gradient, you want the color to be more intense in the center of the gradient. Using the above blend process, this is how you could achieve this.
Drill down into your blend group and select the smaller circle.
Copy (Control + C) and Paste in Behind (Control + B) the circle, then using the Free Transform Tool (E), hold down Shift + Alt and drag a corner out to increase the size.
By changing the Opacity of this line between 100% and 0% will give a change in the flow of the radial gradient. I've changed the line in the example below to 30%.
In the example below, I've went through the linear gradient process and used 5 lines: Pink 0%, Yellow 100%, Blue 0%, Yellow 100% and Pink 0%.
The benefits of using blends over gradients are that you can make shapes beyond radial and linear. The below transparent gradients I created using the Zig Zag effect on a lines and going through the linear gradient process. The other I used the Rectangle Tool (M) and followed the Radial gradient process.
By playing around with shapes, color and transparencies, you can create a variety of transparent gradients without the need of upgrading your Illustrator to CS4+.