Adobe InDesign CC Gradient Basics

Create and apply gradients that enhance the design of your document

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A gradient is a blend of two or more colors or of two tints of the same color. Well-chosen gradients add depth and dimension to your layouts, but using too many gradients can cause confusion for the viewer. You can apply gradients to fills and strokes in Adobe InDesign CC using the Gradient tool and the Gradient panel. The tools that Adobe InDesign CC gives the operator also include the Swatches panel.  

The default gradient in InDesign is black to white, but many other gradients are possible.

These instructions work for Adobe InDesign CC.

Create a Gradient Swatch With the Swatches Panel

Gradient options in InDesign

Adobe recommends creating new gradients using the Swatches panel, where you can create a new gradient, name it and edit it. Later, you'll apply your new gradient with the Gradient tool.

Press F5 to open the Swatches panel if it's not already open. Ensure you're in the Gradient Swatches view by clicking the selector at the bottom of the panel — the one that looks like a tiny Connect 4 grid.

You'll see all the gradient swatches currently associated with the document. In many cases, the list will be empty, unless you've imported a document that includes swatches as part of its underlying style settings. To add a new gradient swatch, click the New Swatch icon at the bottom of the panel — the one that looks like a tiny Post-It note.

InDesign gradient options

In the Gradient Options box, give your swatch a name and pick a type. Your options are linear (the gradient progresses in a straight line) and radial (the gradient is shaped like a circle with a dot in the center). The bottom of the box shows a gradient ramp. This ramp is significant — it offers three sliders. The top slider, shaped like a diamond, balances the start and stop tint of the gradient, in effect serving as a brake or an accelerator for how fast the gradient transitions.

The two square sliders control the stop color. Click either of these square sliders to activate the Stop Color section of the Gradient Options box. When it's activated, you're free to pick the stop color by using the drop-down to select from CMYK, Lab, RGB, or existing swatches. In CMYK mode, for example, you can independently configure the cyan, yellow, magenta, and black values of the stop color (great for four-process printing!).

Click the other square to set the other stop value. Your gradient will then blend between the two, based on the inflection point you set with the diamond-shape slider.

Use the Gradient Tool to Apply a Gradient

InDesign text with gradient

Now that you have created a gradient, apply it by selecting an object in the document, clicking the Gradient tool in the Toolbox and then clicking and dragging across the object — from top to bottom or side to side or in whichever direction you want the gradient to go.

The Gradient tool applies whichever type of gradient is selected in the Gradient panel.

You can reverse a gradient by clicking on the item which has the gradient and then clicking on Reverse in the Gradient panel.