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the gradient in each of my shapes are gone when I unite them. the combined compound shape just turns into one solid color. for example,

before unite

before unite

after unite

enter image description here

i have searched the internet, and found no answer to my problem. perhaps i did not type in the keywords exactly. please help!

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When you Unite multiple shapes they become one shape. All the individual fills are ignored and a single fill is applied to the united object.

That gradient you have can't be accomplished on a single shape as a fill, other than using a gradient mesh. But when using the Unite command, meshes aren't generated for you.

A better option may be using a stroke with a gradient applied to the stroke.

enter image description here

You could then choose Object > Expand Appearance on the stroke and a shape with a mesh will be generated.

enter image description here

Be aware though, a mesh shape is not as easily handled (altered, edited) as a standard shape in many cases. It's often easier to just leave it as a stroke.

(this was all done in CS6 as well)

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