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I'm new to illustrator and graphic design, and attempting to learn my way around gradients by recreating some designs. I'm trying to replicate this effect like the one in the image below, and I feel like I've gotten 80% of the way there, but it feels as though something is missing. For example I understand how to create the fading effect from top to bottom, but how can you achieve the opacity on the sides? Also, in the second object, there's a second color inside the gradient that I've found impossible to replicate. Looking for some insight, and thanks in advance. enter image description here

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I don't see any "second color" you elude to. I think it's just a visual anomaly due to the line spacing and surrounding elements (perhaps some artifacts in the jpg.)

I also don't think there are any gradients on the lines. I think they are merely a solid color fill and an opacity mask is actually doing all the "fading".


Opacity Mask

The short answer....

A detailed explanation can be found in Illustrator's help files here: https://helpx.adobe.com/in/illustrator/how-to/illustrator-opacity-masks-transparency.html


The longer, perhaps more specific, answer...

Create a shape on top of your artwork which encompasses what you want to be visible. Fill that shape with the Registration swatch.

Important Note because this shape will be a mask, using the Registration swatch is preferred so the shape will mask all colors 100%. Normally one would never use the Registration swatch for any artwork to be reproduced. Simply put, Registration only because if usage as described here, otherwise never use the Registration swatch. Using the Black swatch, although it looks the same, can fail to hide 100% of all colors on a mask.

Create "soft" edges on that top shape. how you create soft edges is up to you. It can be done with gradients, gradient meshes, an embedded raster image, or a filter. The shape needs to "blend" between the Registration color and either white or transparency.

Select the art and the top shape and on the Transparency Panel click Make Mask.
Tick Invert Mask if necessary, and/or untick Clip if necessary.

The top shape should now be a mask on the base artwork.

Visual representation which may be easier to follow....

enter image description here


What often throws users off here is further editing. The Transparency Panel has 2 little thumbnail images on it... you must click the mask thumbnail to edit the actual mask shape or object. Then you must click the art thumbnail on the panel to edit anything which is not the mask.

Above, I clicked the mask thumbnail, then increased the Feather amount. Then I clicked the artwork thumbnail to continue drawing anything else.

If you fail to click the artwork thumbnail, and continue drawing other, even unrelated, objects, those new object will be part of the mask (and often not directly visible which can really confuse users).


Using things like a Gradient Mesh for the mask shape will offer much more control than simple effects, such as Feather, offer.

enter image description here


And using raster images will work as well...

enter image description here

Be aware though, raster images are raster and will be bound by all the traditional restraints raster images come with. Using a raster image on a mask doesn't change its nature. Its no different than using a raster image in the artwork - scaling/distorting rasters in Illustrator, even if they are on an Opacity mask, can lead to "broken pixels".


Like all masks, 100% black (or Registration) will hide portions of the artwork and 100% white will show portions of the artwork. Ticking the Invert Mask option on the Transparency Panel reverses these.

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  • Hi Scott. Thanks for the step by step tutorial. Out of curiosity, if I wanted to go on and print the artwork made using this technique, will using the registration swatch cause issues down the line? I know printing is a whole other beast, but given your disclaimer in the beginning, I was wondering if you had experience there.
    – Kmo
    Mar 16 at 23:34
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    Hi @Kmo -- Because the Registration swatch is only used for the mask it's doesn't actually print at all. Only what's visible on the artboard actually gets printed. This technique is absolutely fine for print work. I do it all the time. You're wise to be aware of using the Registration swatch. That's why I've included warnings in the answer. Registration is fine for a mask but never okay in actual artwork.
    – Scott
    Mar 16 at 23:41
  • You can test the difference by merely using the Black swatch. Often what you'll see is very slight colors still showing through the mask. Sort of detailed here: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/131911/… here: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/64083/… and here graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/117691/…
    – Scott
    Mar 16 at 23:47
  • Scott,- As an aside, could I ask you about the viability of using gradients (like the one in the image and the one you showed me how to make) in printing? I've heard that gradients are difficult to get right, especially for packaging printing.
    – Kmo
    Mar 16 at 23:48
  • @Kmo it really depends upon the colors, the gradient span, the gradient steps, the reproduction method, etc. There's no inherent issue with gradients. But long gradients with only minute color changes can create "banding" (where you see actual steps in the gradient). There's not a lot one can do in illustrator about banding other than reducing the length of the gradient. In Photoshop, one can add dithering or noise to help reduce banding.
    – Scott
    Mar 16 at 23:52

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