Creating a gradient opacity mask in Illustrator


Illustrator has great control over gradients and blends but if you want to fade the gradient from color to transparency you have to use Opacity Mask.

The use of opacity masks in Illustrator is not as straightforward as in Photoshop but is just as powerful once you get to know how to use them.

Here is something to get you started.



Select the object you want to make transparent. Create a rectangle and fill it with black and white gradient. 

(The gradient you use as a mask doesn´t have to be black and white, you can use any color you like).

Make sure the gradient is in front of the object you are working on. And Select both objects.


Now open the Transparency panel and choose “Make Opacity Mask”


The lighter color of the gradient makes the object transparent and dark makes it opaque.

gm_04If you click on the gradient icon in the Transparency panel, you can play around with the gradient on the artboard, changing the direction and position of the gradient.


Clicking back on the object icon takes you back to the object where you can change it´s color and apply effects.

You can even fill it with a gradient.


gm_06This technique is very useful when you are creating Highlights or shadows.




56 Responses to “Creating a gradient opacity mask in Illustrator”

  1. tzimi Says:

    thanks so much,

  2. Matthew Says:

    I tried a different way – your way made more sense and and is very “do-able” thank you


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  4. StasS Says:

    I am having a small problem with this –
    Because my background is black, it creates a certain ‘fade to white’.
    IMHO it only makes the perfect white transparent, and the grey’s become only half transparent.
    Have you stumbled upon this problem?

  5. Chad Bruce Says:

    This was exactly the solution I was seeking! The Illustrator CS3 book I was using mentioned nothing of the “Make Opacity Mask” option tucked away in the drop-down menu of the transparency panel.

  6. A town with a lighthouse, from an isomorphic perspective Says:

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  7. Eswar Says:

    Thanks for your tips.. so useful… and now I know how to add transparent gradient.. thanks again exprm..

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  17. Quinton Wilkerson Says:

    The portion of the faded image (text in this case) that should be faded out is still visible…why? I followed the instructions to the letter.

  18. Gunni Says:

    Try clicking the “Invert Mask” in the Transparency window

  19. cuejay Says:

    Tried invert already… Didn’t work. Thanks for the reply though!
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    Hello, Great Post! I was a corel draw user, and now already moved to adobe illustrator, but I am still learning. This guide help me to understand more about Transparency in adobe illustrator. Thank you very much 🙂

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