I'm trying to create smooth color shifts with the gradient tool. When I add my colors to the gradient tool I get washed out gray looking colors between my pure colors on the gradient annotator. With only 2 colors it is managable but with several colors (think Instagram logo colors) it looks terrible. I get a bulls-eye looking gradient with the pure colors being "saturated color" and the intermediate areas going "washed out"
I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.
The issue requires an in-depth understanding of colors and what can cause banding, especially in the printing industry. This article will be a good starting point to understand why you are experiencing this issue so that you can tweak your gradient and/or choose more complimentary colors.
If the article @meganchi sited doesn't help, then please let us know what color mode you are using, what output and a screenshot so that we can further help you.
Here is a gradient of three RBG reds. The gray bands transition between the colors.
This is very likely caused by using color swatches or a gradient swatch that originated from an older version of Illustrator or by an incompatible color model of any sort.
If you re-make the individual color swatches according tho their RGB or CMYK values & redo the gradient with the new swatches you will probably not see the grey banding.
Here is a a radial gradient made with three shades of red (RGB mix). The center is the lightest the outer is the darkest. The gray bands are the transition colors. I want the gray areas to be blended to the colors used.
I actually just had this very problem and realized that the issue was that I was trying to create gradients with spot colors instead of process colors. If one of your colors has the dot on the bottom right double click it and change the Color Type field to Process Color rather than Spot Color.