Master colour gradients in CorelDRAW

Illustrator Andrew Archer shows you how it’s done.


Graphic design software


Melbourne-based artist Andrew Archer, who has been an illustrator and art director for more than a decade, is best known for his signature “hallucinogenic” colour schemes, which you can see in his work for Nike, Audi, GQ, The New York Times and other brands and publications.

Here, Archer offers a detailed peak at how CorelDRAW helps him push the colours of a dramatic illustration to the limit.

Trace it out

I started with a scanned sketch that I traced over, alternating between the LiveSketch and Pen tools to recreate the line work. I especially like LiveSketch. It’s a fluid, organic mode that feels almost like hands-on drawing. But it also has a predictive element that corrects and smooths your work – it magically makes a line straight or a circle perfectly round.

Make the gradient

Next, I started to build up the artwork.

The Eyedropper is great for testing colour combinations and applying palettes throughout an artwork. But using it to find the perfect gradient can give your work a more dramatic feel.

Adding that gradient is easy with CorelDRAW’s Interactive Fill tool. It can stretch the gradient or make one colour go farther into another. And changes are reflected in real time. It’s probably the best gradient tool I’ve used.

Fill it in

Here I filled in some areas with a random colour to create a mask, which will make it easier to differentiate among the sections. Then I applied a custom colour palette, using the Smart Fill tool, to define the areas of water that are hitting the rocks. What’s great about Smart Fill is that it can figure out where the colour should be, even if an area isn’t perfectly enclosed.

A cool feature here is that each line you draw is saved separately in the Layers panel, making it easy to select an entire section of the illustration and move it or recreate it elsewhere.

Push your gradients

Here I applied gradients within individual shapes. But instead of using the default gradient, I built a custom one made of a few colours from my palette to get a better effect on the waves. Then I enabled the Interactive Fill tool (by pressing “G”) to bend the shape of the gradient.

This is another place where the real-time nature of the gradient tool is a game changer, saving you lots of time relative to apps where you need to create a gradient, test it out, then adjust and repeat.

Copy a look

The Attributes Eyedropper makes it easy to maintain a consistent look by letting you copy not just colour but also size, thickness, effects and more. It’s also great if you’ve got something that you want to replicate elsewhere.

Here I sampled the attributes of the background gradient and applied them to various faces of the geometric rocks. I then used the Interactive Fill tool again to tweak that gradient.

The tool is so fun to use that I wound up using more gradients in the illustration than I’d planned.


    Graphic design software