Unfortunately, Illustrator is one of the software that usually causes you to spend a decent amount of time doing trial and error to figure out why something is happening. Due to a large number of settings, options, and moving parts in the software, many things can be wrong at the same time, and most recently, something is causing an issue with the gradient appearance.
When your gradient in Illustrator looks choppy, most of the time it is a color management issue, an issue with using the gradient tool instead of gradient mesh, or due to the screen you are using combined with your graphics card. Usually, you can reset certain settings or use different tools to adjust and fix the choppy issue.
Now, you can always choose to not fix it for a mockup or a rough draft, but eventually, you are going to want your file to look professional and well done. A gradient that looks choppy does not fit into that category, so you may start doing some research as early as possible on how to fix it.
How To Fix The Choppy Gradient
If you have a gradient that looks choppy or like it has lines and spots with missing colors you are going to need to fix it. While you may think it’ll look okay in the finished product, you will actually be able to see it and when it is printed out it’ll be more noticeable. What other people will see is an issue with the pixels or a bad printing job.
While you will know it was a bit out of your control, certain things can look unprofessional and not well done to others who are unaware of the Illustrator issue.
Fixing The Color Management Issue
While color management is a combination of settings through your graphics card, screens resolution, and even your printing ability, there are a few ways to fix it. This can tell you if it is an illustrator issue or an issue with your monitor, graphics card, or printer.
You can change the settings on your monitor to adjust resolution or color hues and this may give you a smoother-looking gradient, however, when your print it out, it may still look the same. In this case, try changing the orientation of how it prints out and see if that helps. If it is printing horizontal with the printer strokes then you have a chance of creating lines across the image.
However, if you turn the image landscape so it goes against the strokes of the printer you are more likely to have smoother lines and color distinction.
(Source: Graphic Design, Adobe Community)
Using Gradient Mesh Instead Of Gradient Tool
Most people who are trying to create a gradient prefer to use gradient mesh instead of the gradient tool. The gradient mesh allows for a better mix and combination of color pixels for less of a choppy gradient.
The gradient mesh applies a grid to the gradient that will follow the contour of the image and you can apply different colors to each grid point that than feather into each other flawlessly. This can help stop the choppiness of certain gradient problems.
While this is a workaround to a problem, it can be a tad difficult for some people to grasp gradient mesh over the gradient tool. You can find the gradient mesh option in Illustrator CS5, CS6, and CC, once you choose the object go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh.
(Source: Webucator, Adobe Community)
If all other options fail, you always have the option to contact customer service through Illustrator. They have email and phone options to contact for support, and you can also join the conversation on their forum that will allow you to get other experiences from customers who have had the same issue.
No matter the problem, chances are someone else has had that same problem and together you can both find a solution.
Once you figure out how to manage Illustrator and all its ins and outs, you can then start to create amazing images and mockups. However, unfortunately, once you figure out how to use it, you will have to continue learning even more.
Illustrator has a few cons that create problems you have to figure out yourself through trial and error. You may have to do some research to fix things like a choppy gradient, but once you fix it, you’ll be ready when you encounter something else.