A gradient-based optimization method for producing a contoured beam by using a single-fed reflector antenna is presented. First, a quick and accurate pattern approximation formula based on physical optics (PO) is adopted to calculate the gradients of the directivity with respect to reflectoros nodal displacements. Because the approximation formula is a linear function of nodal displacements, the gradient can be easily derived. Then, the method of the steepest descent is adopted, and an optimization iteration procedure is proposed. The iteration procedure includes two loops: an inner loop and an outer loop. In the inner loop, the gradient and pattern are calculated by matrix operation, which is very fast by using the pre-calculated data in the outer loop. In the outer loop, the ideal terms used in the inner loop to calculate the gradient and pattern are updated, and the real pattern is calculated by the PO method. Due to the high approximation accuracy, when the outer loop is performed once, the inner loop can be performed many times, which will save much time because the integration is replaced by matrix operation. In the end, a contoured beam covering the continental United States (CONUS) is designed, and simulation results show the effectiveness of the proposed algorithm.