Making Fun Festive Bubbles with Transparent Gradients

These festive bubbles are super fun and really easy to create. Overlapping objects with semi-transparent gradient styles make great backgrounds for text and stand-out graphics. For users who want to advance their skills, this tutorial is packed with tips for quickly creating new objects, picking colors, and editing styles.

Tutorial Details

Program: Artboard 1.9+ graphic design app for Mac OS X

Difficulty: Beginner
Topics Covered: Style Inspector
 – gradient fill
Estimated Completion Time: 20-30 minutes


Advanced users with  shared styles enabled use ‘Clone’ in the Style Inspector when editing styles.

Step 1


In step 1 & 2 we draw our basic shapes and define the styles that we will use in our final graphic.

Choose the Oval tool from the tools palette, hold the SHIFT-key to maintain the aspect ratio, and draw three small circles. Select the first circle using the Select tool. In the Format Bar, uncheck the box to remove the stroke, then click onto the Fill color-well to edit the shape’s fill color. In the Colors panel, click the Sliders icon in the toolbar and choose CMYK Sliders from the drop-down list. Use the sliders to set your colors, here we use 100% magenta, and move the Opacity slider to 60%. Repeat for the cyan and yellow circles.

Prefer doing things hands-on? Give it a try…

Step 2


Next, draw a new circle to add your first gradient. With the circle still selected, open the Style Inspector. In the Style Inspector, click onto “fill” and “stroke” in the style components list and click the “-” button to remove them. Click the “+” and choose “Gradient Fill” from the style component drop-down list.

  • Color pick up

Click the Colors panel’s “magnifying glass tool” then click onto an object to pick up its color.

  • Quick-copy objects

With the Select tool active, hold the Alt/Option-key and drag an object to make a quick-copy.

Click onto the first color-well in the gradient slider. Choose yellow with 60% opacity for the first color. To use the colors from the shapes you drew in Step 1, use the Colors panel’s “magnifying glass tool” to pick up the yellow circle’s color. Repeat for the second color in the gradient slider – magenta with 60% opacity. Rotate the gradient angle to 45-degrees and click the box to make the “Angle relative to object”.

Quick-copy your gradient circle and edit the second gradient. In the Style Inspector, click onto the Gradient Fill style component to edit. Click the second color-well in the gradient slider to change the color from magenta to cyan (use the Colors panel magnifying glass tool again to quickly pick your color). Repeat this technique for the third gradient circle with cyan and magenta.

Step 3


In this step, we begin making our festive bubble graphic by making quick-copies of the circles you’ve drawn. You will use several overlapping circles of differing size.
With the Select tool active, hold the Alt/Option-key and drag several of each of the six circles you made in steps 1 & 2. Change their sizes and rotate the gradient circles to add a bit of randomness.

Use the solid colored circles for small touches of bolder color. Remember, you are layering colors that have 60% opacity – the different colors will combine for great effect. Experiment with layering the gradient circles, moving them from front to back to see how it changes the appearance of the colors.

Step 4


Optionally, draw a shape to temporarily provide you with a template to lay out your pattern. Add a drawing layer under your main drawing layer and draw the shape of your template – ours is an s-shaped swoosh. On your main drawing layer, arrange your circles into a pattern to fit the shape. Later you can hide the layer containing your template.

We used circles in this tutorial. You can just as easily apply this technique to other shapes, and save your styles in the User Library as desired for future use.

Final Image


Overlapping semi-transparent shapes make fun and festive backgrounds. Gradients add to this effect by providing a great palette for mixing colors. Here we’ve added a background to frame the finished graphic. Have you used similar effects in your own drawings? We’d love to see your creations.


Love Using Artboard’s Smooth Gradients

Fill any shape with smooth multiple-color blends called gradients. A simple gradient is usually made of two colors fading into each other, but there can be more advanced gradients consisting of many colors, including linear and radial gradients. Find out how to love working with gradients, from Artboard’s preloaded styles to creating your very own.

Tutorial Details

Program : Artboard 1.1+ for Mac OSX
Difficulty: Beginner
Topics Covered: Style Inspector – Gradient Fill
Estimated Completion Time: 15-20 minutes

ATTENTION: As of Artboard 1.7, “shared” styles are no longer part of the default workflow, therefore, references to “New” and “Clone” in this tutorial are no longer current. As of Artboard 1.7, the “New” button in the Format Bar and Style Inspector becomes the “Reset” button. See the Users Guide for more information about shared styles.

Step 1

Create a new drawing at your preferred size in Artboard. From the Styles & Clip Art palette, click onto the Library icon and choose “Backgrounds & Fancy Fills > Gradients” category from the drop-down list. There are 36 pre-loaded gradient styles in the Mapdiva Library.

Step 2

Click onto the first gradient “Evening Sky”. Use the Regular Polygon [g] tool to draw a star. It is drawn using the “Evening Sky” gradient fill.

Step 3

Next, find the “Full Spectrum Rainbow Gradient” style in the Styles & Clip Art palette (HINT: you can start typing the style name in the search bar and it will search the currently active category for a match). Note how when you choose a different style, the Tools palette Preview changes with it – that’s how to tell which style is currently active. Draw another star. Notice that this new gradient is made up of several colors, where the first star’s gradient was a blend of two colors. Let’s look at these in the Style Inspector.

Step 4

With the second (rainbow) star still selected, open the Style Inspector – Expert pane (EDIT: As of Artboard 1.3 the “Simple” and “Expert” buttons have been removed from the Style Inspector (it edits all expert styles by default).). Here we can look at the nuts and bolts of the style. Click the “Clone” button to work with a copy of the style, then click onto “Gradient Fill” in the Style Components list. We can see that the gradient is comprised of six different colors along a linear gradient.

Step 5

The big circle in the gradient-well has an handle you can turn to rotate the angle of the gradient. Go ahead and give it a try. If you hold the SHIFT-key down while you rotate the knob it will move in 15-degree increments. Notice how as you rotate the knob the angle changes, both in the style and in the star object that has the style applied. Remember, you’re working with a clone (copy) of the style so you aren’t changing the original.

Step 6

Let’s draw another shape. Use the Rectangle [r] tool to draw a square (HINT: hold the SHIFT-key while drawing to maintain the aspect ratio and draw a perfect square). The same style is still active and is used with your square. In the Style Inspector – Expert pane, click “Clone” again to work with another copy, and click back onto the Gradient Fill style component to edit its properties. You see the six color-stops along the gradient bar. To remove a color, click on the color-stop and drag it off the gradient bar. Alternatively, click the color-stop then click the little “-” at the left end of the gradient bar. Do this for all the middle colors. You should end up with a gradient with light blue on the left and dark blue on the right.

Step 7

Let’s explore radial gradients. Click onto the “Radial” button. The perspective of the gradient changes. However, in this example we want the middle to be lighter than the edges. Drag the color-stops in the gradient bar to reverse their positions. We also want the center of the gradient to be positioned a bit high to the right. Grab the inner circle (the one with the light blue knob) in the gradient-well and move it slightly up and to the right. Cool! You’ve just created a great radial gradient that looks like light is coming in from above. Applied to a circle it would look like a ball with a bit of depth.

Step 8

Now that you’re familiar with applying gradients from the Mapdiva library, and with creating your own, let’s experiment! Click “New” in the Style Inspector to create a new style from scratch. Choose a drawing tool and draw a shape. I’ve drawn a very quick heart using the Freehand Line [f] tool. In the Style Inspector, click the “+” button and add a gradient fill style component. Click a color-stop along the gradient bar to open the Colors palette and change colors. Click the little “+” on the left side of the gradient bar to add color-stops. Artboard stands apart with its expert stacked styles – here I’ve added a thick Rough Stroke on top of my gradient for added visual weight and a comic effect.

*Note, transparencies within a gradient are not recommended due to a known issue with the external PDF generator used in printing and exporting graphics. EDIT: as of Artboard 1.5, transparencies within gradients are fully supported.

Final Image

Have fun creating your own gradient styles. What would it look like if you moved the gradient-stops closer together? How would a gradient help you add depth to your graphics? Here we’ve added a background in the same gradient style as the foreground shapes… bask in the gradient love!