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How to Create a Pride Rainbow Gradient Overlay in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

What an eventful month June 2015 has been. Not only is June seen as LGBTQI pride month (although this varies around the globe), but marriage equality has finally come to the USA!

To celebrate, I'm overjoyed to share with you how to create your own pride rainbow gradient in Adobe Illustrator and how to apply it over one of your illustrations, so you can show your pride and support for the LGBTQI community!

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So let's open up Illustrator and begin.

1. How to Add the Colors to Your Swatches Panel

The pride rainbow is made up of six colors, each color representing a different meaning. The six colors are and represent:

  • Red: Life
  • Orange: Healing
  • Yellow: Sunlight
  • Green: Nature
  • Blue: Serenity
  • Violet: Spirit

You can read up on the history of the pride flag on Wikipedia—it's rather interesting.

Step 1

The first thing you need to do is to add your six colors to your Swatches panel, so they can eventually be added to a gradient.

If you're using a new default CMYK document, you'll have a collection of six colors already in the folder "Brights" which you can use. Alternatively, you can access this palette by going into the drill-down menu in the Swatches panel and going to Open Swatch Library > Default Swatches > Print.

While you're there, you can access one of the many rainbow gradients in Illustrator by going into the same menu, Open Swatch Library > Gradients > Spectrums.

The Print and Spectrums Swatch library

Step 2

Click on one of the spectrum gradients to add it to your Swatches panel. Then in the Print swatch library, click on the folder icon for the "Brights" palette and this will add all six colours to your Swatches panel.

Adding the Brights to the Swatches panel

2. How to Modify a Spectrum Gradient

Step 1

Draw a Rectangle (M) and click on a spectrum gradient. This will automatically fill the shape with a rainbow. However, as pretty as this is, it's not the right combination of colors, so we're going to modify this.

Go into the Gradient panel and you'll see that the gradient is made up of six colors, the perfect number we need for our pride rainbow.

Filling a rectangle with a spectrum gradient

Step 2

To change the colors, drag and drop each color from the "Brights" palette onto the gradient sliders. 

Modified spectrum gradient

Step 3

Once you're done, you can drag the fill in the Swatches panel which has your new gradient in it, and drop it into the Swatches panel to save your rainbow gradient.

You can rename the gradient by double-clicking on it and entering a new name in the pop-up window.

Rename the gradient

3. How to Apply the Gradient to the Artwork

Step 1

Now that you have your gradient, you can apply it to your artwork however you wish. You can change the direction of the gradient by using the Gradient Tool (G).

Using the Gradient Tool

Step 2

Let me show you a couple of examples of how to apply the gradient. The first is using a linear gradient over a recent portrait tutorial: creating a Summer portrait from stock.

I hid the gradient in the very background, behind the hair, and then created a new layer on top of the portrait. I filled it with our pride rainbow gradient and used the Gradient Tool (G) to create a diagonal gradient overlapping the skin. I then set the Blending Mode to Color in the Transparency panel.

Linear gradient

Step 3

The next example is a radial gradient. I've used it on one of the end results of my Advanced Vector Portraits course. 

Using the same method as before, I've overlaid our pride rainbow gradient over the top of the portrait. This time I've changed the Type to Radial. I've kept the Blending Mode as Color for this one, and moved the gradient around with the Gradient Tool (G).

Radial gradient

Now Celebrate LGBTQI Pride!

Now you can add your support and pride to your own illustrations using this very technique! Feel free to share your own pride illustrations in the comments.

Pride rainbow illustration

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