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How to draw a color wheel in illustrator? I am thinking of creating many small arcs with gradient and all hue colors. Any ideas?

enter image description here

15

One way would be to apply a linear gradient on the stroke. Create a circle, and stroke it with a gradient pattern. Make sure the gradient has the stops like in the table and picture below. The gradient might not look as smooth in the transitions, but that's all that comes to mind.

+------------+---------------+----------+
| Color Stop |      RGB      | Location |
|------------+---------------+----------|
|      1     | (255, 0, 255) |    0.00% |
|      2     | (0, 0, 255)   |   16.67% |
|      3     | (0, 255, 255) |   33.33% |
|      4     | (0, 255, 0)   |   50.00% |
|      5     | (255, 255, 0) |   66.65% |
|      6     | (255, 0, 0)   |   83.33% |
|      7     | (255, 0, 255) |  100.00% |
+---------------------------------------+

Circle Stroked With Gradient

Gradient Options & Color Stops

Final Result

1
  • Nice solution Raffi! You could also skip entering those table values by going to Swatches > control icon > Open Swatch Library > Gradients > Spectrums > and choosing 'Spectrum' from the set that loads. – saskiel Apr 18 '19 at 22:10
-1

I don't have Illustrator, but this is the general technique I can do in GIMP. The same technique should be applicable to Illustrator:

  1. Start with black background
  2. In gradient editor, create a custom gradient that consists of three equal-sized segments. The first third is solid foreground color, the second third is linear gradient from foreground to background color, and the last third is solid background color (see Appendix below for what it should look like).
  3. Select Gradient Tool
  4. Select Conical (Symmetric) gradient
  5. Select Addition blending mode
  6. Draw three gradients, in three directions (0deg, 120deg, 240deg), with three different foreground colors (e.g. #ff0000, #00ff00, #0000ff) to black background color.

Result

enter image description here

Alternatively, when you inverse all the colors and gradients, and then use Multiply blending mode, you would get the exact same result as what you would get with Addition:

  1. Start with white background
  2. Create a gradient just like in the Addition mode, but swap the foreground and background color. Create a custom gradient that consists of three equal-sized segments. The first third is solid background color, the second third is linear gradient from background to foreground color, and the last third is solid background color (see Appendix 2 below for what it should look like).
  3. Select Gradient Tool
  4. Select Conical (Symmetric) gradient
  5. Select Multiply blending mode
  6. Draw three gradients, in three directions (0deg, 120deg, 240deg), with three different inverse foreground colors (e.g. #00ffff, #ff00ff, #ffff00) to white background color.

Result

enter image description here

Why does this work?

If you use the color picker around the color wheel, one thing you'll notice is how the RGB color changes as you move your picker around the color wheel. First you start with pure red (#ff0000), then as you rotate, you'll notice how green linearly increases until you get yellow (#ffff00), then you rotate further and red linearly decreases until you get pure green (#00ff00). From here the same thing happen with green and blue, blue linearly increases until cyan (#00ffff), followed by green linearly decreasing until you're left with pure blue (#0000ff). And then again with blue and red, red linearly increases until magenta (#ff00ff), followed by blue linearly decreasing until we wrap back around at pure red (#ff0000).

Essentially, what we are creating with our conical gradient is adding the primary colors (Red, Green, Blue) onto a black (#000000) background:

enter image description here

The "addition" blending mode mathematically adds the colors to the layer below it (or in case of gradient tool, to the existing image). This means that if the layer below it has the color #112233 and the color you want to "Add" is #010203, the new color would be #112233 + #010203 = #122436.

Adding the three conical gradients together into a black background, we get the color wheel that we expected.

While the Addition technique works by adding colors to the black (#000000) canvas, like making a clay statue. The Multiply technique works by essentially carving out unwanted colors (the inverse colors) from white (#ffffff), like a sculptor. They both produces the exact same result through very different ways.

Appendix

This is what the gradient editor should look like in Addition technique:

enter image description here

Appendix 2

This is what the gradient editor should look like in Inverse and Multiply technique:

enter image description here

4
  • (a) The question is about Illustrator, which is a very different program from GIMP. And (b) …what? Why wouldn't you juts select the pre-defined "full saturation spectrum" gradient and use a conical gradient there? – wchargin Jul 10 '16 at 16:01
  • 1
    @wchargin: because I want to explain how color wheels work. Yes, I could have done it using the full saturation spectrum to get the regular color wheel in GIMP, but if you want to replicate the effect using non-standard base colors, then using predefined "full saturation spectrum" would not have help you do that. In any case, I do not know whether or not there is an equivalent to "full color spectrum" predefined gradient in Illustrator. The technique I described could work on almost any non-basic image editing program. – Lie Ryan Jul 10 '16 at 16:13
  • 2
    But there's your problem—Illustrator is not an image editing program. – wchargin Jul 10 '16 at 16:29
  • 1
    @wchargin: Illustrator has gradients, layers, and layer blending modes. Those are sufficient to apply the general idea here. – Lie Ryan Jul 10 '16 at 16:35

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