Gradients are transitions between various colors, and they’re an essential part of graphic design and digital art in general. In this tutorial we’ll be going over everything you need to know to make gradients in Inkscape; including linear, radial, mesh, and conical gradients.
In short, there’s two different tools we’ll be working with to make gradients in Inkscape — the Gradients Tool and the Mesh Tool. We’ll also be using the Fill & Stroke menu to edit the gradients further and apply color.
The tool you should use will depend entirely on the type of gradient you’d like to make. Let’s get started!
Types Of Gradients
In Inkscape there are four different types of gradients you can work with:
- Linear gradients: these are transitions between colors that follow a straight (or “linear”) path.
- Radial gradients: these gradients force the colors to follow a circular path.
- Mesh gradients: mesh gradients are when the colors are applied to a grid.
- Conical gradients: a gradient type where colors follow a partially circular path.
Here’s a depiction of the four different types of gradients to better illustrator how they work:
In this lesson we’ll be going over how to work with each of the four in Inkscape.
Make Gradients In Inkscape
The following video tutorial will briefly walk you through the process of working with all of the different gradient types in Inkscape:
Continue on for a brief written overview of the lesson.
Table of Contents
In this first part of the lesson we will be going over how to make linear gradients in Inkscape. These are the most common types of gradients you’ll likely be working with.
To make a linear gradient, select the object you’d like to apply it to and open the Fill & Stroke menu by pressing Control + Shift + F on your keyboard, or by navigating to:
Object > Fill & Stroke
The Fill & Stroke menu should populate as a dockable menu on the right-hand side of your screen.
Select the Fill tab towards the top of the menu, and look for the button that reads “Linear Gradient” if you hover your cursor over it:
Clicking on that button will turn your object into a gradient fill where the left side of the gradient is the original color and the right side is transparent. Everything in-between is a transition between those two fills:
Now let’s edit this gradient further by grabbing the Gradient Tool from the toolbox on the left-hand side of your screen, or by pressing G on your keyboard.
With the Gradient Tool, click on either of the nodes on the left and right sides of the gradient path to select it. Once selected, you can change its color as you would any other object. Then, you can select the other node and change its color as well:
If you’d like to add more colors to your gradient, you can double-click the path with the Gradient Tool to add a new node and change its color the same as you did previously:
Finally, you can use the Gradient Tool to click and drag the end nodes around the canvas to move your gradient:
You can also slide the nodes between the end nodes back and forth to change the positions of the colors in the gradient.
Let’s go over the second-most common type of gradient you’ll be working with — radial.
Radial gradients function in Inkscape the same way that linear gradient do. The only difference is that the colors follow a circular path instead of a straight path.
To make radial gradients in Inkscape, follow the same process for creating linear gradients:
- Select your object and open the Fill & Stroke menu
- Select the Fill tab and click on the button that reads “Radial Gradient” when you hover your cursor over it
- Grab the Gradients Tool and click on each node of the gradient to change its color individually
The option for radial gradients is located just to the right of the linear gradient option:
Your radial gradient will follow a circular path. The node in the center represents the first color in the gradient, and the two nodes on the outer edges both represent the last color in the gradient:
Although they make look like separate nodes, they’re both linked and perform the same functions.
Using the Gradient Tool, as we did for our linear gradient, will allow you to do the following:
- Add more colors to the gradient by double-clicking the path
- Move the position of the gradient on the canvas by clicking and dragging the center node
- Change the radius of the gradient by clicking and dragging one of the nodes on the outer edges
Unlike linear and radial gradients, the colors of a mesh gradient are placed on a grid rather than a path.
Having the ability to create mesh gradients is a relatively new feature in Inkscape, and it doesn’t quite follow the same processes we previously used.
To make a mesh gradient in Inkscape, select your object and grab the Meshes Tool from the toolbox:
In the tool settings menu bar at the top of your screen you will see some options for the mesh gradient you’re about to create. We need to apply these options before creating the gradient. They are as follows:
- Select the Mesh box to make a mesh gradient instead of a conical gradient
- Select the Fill box to apply the gradient to the object’s fill and not its stroke
- Rows and Columns dictates how big the grid for your gradient will be
For this demonstration we will be using 2 rows and 2 columns, which should generate four boxes within our grid. If you want to use a larger grid with more colors then you will need more rows and columns.
Once your tool options are set, click and drag across your object with the Meshes Tool to apply your gradient:
You can now click on each of the nodes in the grid individually to change the gradient colors:
You can also click and drag any of the nodes in the grid to change its position in the gradient.
Much like radial gradients, conical gradients follow a circular path. The primary difference though is that the path they follow is partial, meaning you can have multiple different colors following the same circular path; unlike radial gradients, which force each path to only have one color.
The process for creating conical gradients in Inkscape is similar to the steps we followed for making mesh gradients:
- Select your object and grab the Meshes Tool
- In the tool settings menu towards the top of your screen, select the Conical option rather than the Mesh option
- Determine how many Rows and Columns you’d like your circular/conical grid to have
For this demonstration I will be creating a conical gradient with 3 rows and 3 columns.
With your options set, click and drag across your object to create a conical gradient:
As we did in previous steps, you can simply click on any of the nodes in the conical grid to select it and change its color:
You can also move the nodes individually by clicking and dragging them across your canvas.
As you can probably see by now, the process used to make gradients in Inkscape varies based on the type of gradients you’d like to create. The classic Gradient Tool is used for making linear and radial gradients, whereas the newer Meshes Tool is used for creating more advanced style of gradients, such as mesh and conical gradients.
One distinct advantage Inkscape has over other vector design applications is how easy they make it to work with gradients. Other applications, such as Illustrator, make the process convoluted by not allowing you to move your gradient around the canvas as freely as you can in Inkscape. The process for selecting colors is different too, which complicates things more.
This is something I pointed out in my article comparing Inkscape vs Illustrator — an area where Inkscape clearly wins.
If you have any questions or need clarification on any of the steps taken in this lesson, simply leave a comment below.
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