Updated: Sep 26, 2020
Let's say I've got some black text. I want to keep it editable and fill it with a simple, white-to-black gradient. If I make sure I’ve got the ‘fill’ icon selected, and click on the gradient I want in the Swatches window, then according to the fill icon (at the bottom of the toolbox) the text is now filled with a gradient. But it’s not. It’s still just black. So, how do you do it?
It’s weird. It probably helps if you say a few magic sounding words as you do this, because it’s...well, weird.
First, open the Appearance window. Then, while the text is selected with the Selection tool, press the 'forward slash’ key. The text vanishes.
Then press ‘command’ or ‘control' (depending on if you're on a Mac or a PC) and 'forward slash’. The text reappears.
Then press the full stop. And the text is filled with the gradient.
Then go and pour yourself a drink.
Because, you're done. Your text is now filled with a gradient. And, it's still editable. And, you have NO idea what happened.
If you’re interested to know, check out the Appearance window at each stage of the process. What you’ve done is (1) remove the original fill, and (2) replaced it with another...and then (3) replaced that fill with a gradient. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just select the text and choose a gradient, and you’re done? Like you can in InDesign? Yes. But no. This is Illustrator, and it’s got, well, one or two legacy problems. And this is one of them.