Affinity Designer Tool Tips | Transparency & Fill

Hello and welcome to another installment of Affinity Designer Tool Tips! In this lesson, we’re going to focus on two tools that work very similarly to one another, the Transparency & Fill tools.

While they work similarly, the resulting outcomes are different, however they can easily be used in conjunction with one another to achieve some really cool gradient effects.

I’ll be using the iPad version of the app for this tutorial, however, if you’re following along on the desktop version, the overall process is the same. Let’s get started!

Where Are the Transparency & Fill Tools?

The Transparency and Fill tools are located on the default tool bar on both the iPad and desktop versions of the app. On the iPad, the Fill Tool is represented by a gradient square with a path running through it, and the Transparency tool looks like a wineglass. (can you already guess what both tools are handy for?)

(A quick note: On the desktop version of Designer, the Transparency Tool is still represented by a wine glass, however the Fill tool’s icon looks like a rainbow colored wheel with a path running through it)

What is the Difference Between the Fill & Transparency Tools?

Both tools involve gradients to achieve some, or all, of their effects, and can be used on either text or shapes. However, the Transparency Tool creates a transparent gradient with no color shifting, while the Fill Tool fills an object with either a solid, texture or color gradient.

Let’s start with a closer look at the Transparency Tool…


The Transparency Tool

The Transparency Tool sets a transparent gradient on a path between two or more stops with gamma sliders (that look like tiny lines) in between the stops, allowing further tuning. Unlike a traditional gradient, these stops will always be black and white, with white being transparent areas and black being opaque.

Like other tools in Designer, it has it’s own contextual menu at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to fine tune your settings, including choosing the type of transparency.

Types of Transparency

Linear Gradient

Your transparency will fall on a path between two stops and form a straight transparency. The line can be rotated, reversed and the gradient itself can be increased or decreased by dragging the stops and the gamma slider in the middle, but it will always be a straight line.

Elliptical Gradient

The Elliptical Gradient gives you three stops and two paths to work with and creates a circular transparency, perfect for making something like a bubble. You will either have two black (opaque) and one white (transparent) stop, or the opposite, if you reverse the direction of the transparency. (more on that in a bit…)

Radial Gradient

The Radial Gradient works similarly to the Linear type, however the difference is the gradient itself is curved. Your path will always be on a single, straight line, and can be rotated, reversed, dragged in and out, etc, however it will form a very distinct, curved gradient. Truthfully, I don’t see much difference between the Elliptical and Radial gradients other than the lack of second path.

Conical Gradient

This is the most complex of the four types of transparency. It provide you with four stops, three black and one white, which doesn’t change, even if you reverse the direction of the transparency. It also provide two gamma sliders on the circular path to intensify or reduce the amount of transparency.

This type of transparency creates a cone shaped gradient where the transparency provides the depth of the cone. In essence, the transparency created by the white stop provides a highlight that, in contrast to the opaque areas, provides a conical effect.

Rotate, Reverse & Aspect

Rotate does exactly what it sounds like, it rotates your handles. You can also manually rotate them, however this rotates them at precisely 45 degree angles.

Reverse will reverse the direction of your transparency and, in the case of every type except for Conical, will reverse the stops on your shape. (i.e. black stops become white, and white become black, thus reversing the look of the transparency)

Aspect is set to on by default and locks the handles on the path so that if you move one in or out, the other moves in tandem with it. If you turn aspect off, however, you can move one or the other and get entirely different shapes.

The Transparency Tool is pretty straightforward, with very little in the way of settings, however it’s a powerful tool in creating glass, bubbles, or other transparent objects. 

In the video tutorial at the end of this lesson, I’ll apply the basics we learned here and show you how to use them in a practical application.

But first, let’s take a quick look at the Fill Tool.

The Fill Tool

The Fill Tool fills shapes or text with a solid, texture or a gradient, which is what it does best. Gradients can be added to vector, pixel and adjustment layers, as well as layer masks with the Fill Tool. 

For the most part, the Fill Tool works very similarly to the Transparency Tool, specifically in the types of fills you can add, with some additions, which we’ll take a look at in a moment. Just as the Transparency Tool has handles and gamma sliders to make adjustments, so does the Fill tool and the amount you get to work with are the same.

Let’s take a look at the Fill Tool’s contextual menu…

The Contextual Menu


The first two icons in the menu are Context. You can add a fill to the stroke only, the fill only, or both and these icons will allow you to choose which one you adjust.

Type of Fill | Bitmap

As mentioned earlier, several of the fill types are the same as the Transparency Tool: Solid, Linear, Elliptical, Radial and Conical. There is one addition with the Fill Tool and that is Bitmap. This allows you to fill an object with a bitmap image such as texture, or a pattern, and can be adjusted using the two handles that appear when you add a bitmap fill.

When you select Bitmap, it will immediately take you to your folders so you can find and place an image. Just a note, you can only pull an image from your files (both in the Cloud and on your machine) however you cannot add a bitmap fill using the Stock Studio or an image in a separate layer.

With a Bitmap fill, you will be given two handles and three stopping points with no gamma sliders. If you drag the handles out, the bitmap image will become larger and, drag inwards, it will become smaller.

Rotate, Reverse, Aspect & Delete

The first three, Rotate, Reverse and Aspect work exactly the same as the Transparency Tool. The only additional here is that there is also a Delete function which deletes your shape in it’s entirety.

Selecting Colors

When using the non-Bitmap types, you can select the colors in your fills by tapping on the stops at the ends of the handles and choosing your color in the Color Studio. You can also adjust the noise and opacity levels using the sliders under the Color Wheel.

Let's Put These Two to Work!

Come join me in the YouTube tutorial below where I will walk you through how to create a glowing lightbulb using a combination of both the Transparency and Fill Tools, as well as non-destructive edits and effects! 

Want to Learn More?

I have an entire class, dedicated to the Transparency Tool on my Skillshare channel, where I’ll show you how to create a Phases of the Moon illustration using the various types in the transparency tool. In addition to learning more about the tool, I’ll also show you how to make a realistic looking, textural moon and Earth illustration. Come join me in class here.

If you’re new to Skillshare, you’ll receive the first month at no cost to check out unlimited classes from me, as well as thousands of other amazing teachers.

Thanks So Much For Joining Me!

That’s a wrap on this latest edition of “Affinity Designer | Tool Tips!” I hope, between this post, and the YouTube tutorial, you are ready to incorporate both of these tools in to your regular creative practice in the app. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below, or on the YouTube tutorial. 

If you have a particular tool you would like to know more about, let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, Happy Creating!

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