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In Illustrator CC 2018, I can't find a way to apply a gradient to individual letters of a text. I know that I can apply the gradient to the whole text by adding a new fill to the text object. But selecting individual letters with the text tool and selecting the gradient swatch for the fill, or using the gradient panel, doesn't change anything.

In fact, when removing the fill of the text object beforehand, and then selecting a gradient swatch for an individual letter, that letter gets colored in black again, regardless of the gradient swatch used. Why is that?

It must be possible to add a gradient fill to individual letters without converting the text to shapes. Other sources mention to apply Effect>Path>Outline Object to the text object, and then selecting individual letters for the gradient, this doesn't work for me either. Any ideas?

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You can't. At least not as one single text object.

If you want separate gradients on separate glyphs, you either need separate text objects or to create outlines of the text and then fill the individual (expanded) shapes. Gradients which span/cover all the glyphs within a text object are absolutely possible, but not for singular glyphs.

Text objects will not allow gradients on individual glyphs within the text object. And to the best of my knowledge, there's no effect which will circumvent the need to expand (create outlines) of the text.

That post at the Adobe forums is largely incorrect in my experience. It certainly fails to work on my systems. Mr. Katz knows his AI kung fu, and I value his knowledge. However, reading that thread at Adobe (Dec 28, 2010 by the way)....His answer appears to only work for Illustrator CS4... Users are clearly reporting that it fails in CS2, CS3, CS6..... So, perhaps it was a fluke which only worked in CS4. CS4 was full of many irregularities.

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If it's a title or simple word's text, a possible workaround is making a group of shapes with the gradients and using the text as a mask.

  • Edit the mask to change the text
  • Unlink the mask to change the gradient shapes position.
  • Change each gradient selecting each shape with the Group Selection Tool
  • Once done, link the mask to move or transform the title

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