K09 Tip: Multi-color gradients

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Keynote has had gradients from day one, but they’ve always been linear only and limited to two colors. Finally with the release of Keynote 09 (it only took 5 versions!) they’ve added multi-color gradients and even a radial option.

The bad news is, the option is only available for shape fills (for now at least). To access it, click on a shape and change the Fill to Advanced Gradient Fill. You’ll see a new gradient tool similar to more advanced design apps where you can add any number of colors to the gradient, and change where the center of each color shift happens. Here’s what it looks like (we’ve cropped the palette, so don’t freak on us):

advanced gradient

At this point you can click in the empty area below the sample gradient and it will add a new color well. You can also drag the little nib above the gradient to change the center break point between colors. This gives you a huge amount of control over your gradients. Here we’ve chosen a radial gradient, changed the colors to a series of red and white, added a middle color to the gradient and changed the angle to 270°.

radial gradient

and here’s our shape:

gradient1

You can see that while it’s selected we get a little line with blue dots at each end. Grabbing the and moving each dot changed where that end of the gradient lands, and how much of it is shown. In our example, dragging the upper dot will move the white highlight around and the closer it gets to the lower dot, the less you’ll see if the white (the red starts to take over). Dragging the bottom one will move the red end of the gradient around, and as it gets closer to the upper dot, you’ll see more white and less red.

The really cool trick though, is to shift-drag the whole line around. This lets you adjust where the gradient sits inside the shape, without changing the actual settings of the gradient. Here we’ve moved the whole gradient to the center of the object, without messing with the angle or relationship between the two blue dots.

gradient2And here’s the original shape with both blue dots moved around to give us a bit more of a globe feel:

gradient3As you can see, between the Fill Inspector and the little gradient control bar on the shape, you can make some pretty complex gradients for your shapes.

Now if Apple would just open it up to slide backgrounds, tables and chart fills, we’d really have something going.