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How to Control Gradient Mesh in Adobe Illustrator

posted by: Iaroslav Lazunov, in Illustrator Tips / Techniques/ Comments: 1

I met a lot of graphic designers who avoid working with a gradient mesh by a reason of the complexity of controlling the object. I also met real fans of gradient meshes that create real photorealistic artworks with their help. Even though they accept that this process is very time consuming, which is unsuitable for commercial projects. Despite this, gradient mesh can become an integral part in daily workflow of the graphic designer, as with its help we can reproduce the light distribution over the surface of a complex shape.

Therefore, in today’s tutorial we will take a look at the basics of working with gradient meshes, which will help you to master this complex and very temperamental tool.

In order to evaluate the capabilities of this feature let’s look at the portrait of Jack Nicholson by Dion Aoki, which was created only with the help of gradient meshes.

No, this is not a photograph. To confirm my words, I want to show you how the same portrait looks like in the Outline Preview mode. Yes, it is an entirely vector artwork.

Now let’s go into the technical details.

Create Gradient Mesh

I know three ways to create a gradient mesh of the existing vector objects. Let’s create a rectangle with a solid fill.

Go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh…, now we have the ability to specify the amount of rows and columns in the dialog box.

As you can see, this dialog box includes other options that I, however, never use. If you use this method to create a gradient mesh, you get cells of the same size, at least when you’re dealing with a rectangle. You can create mesh points and mesh lines with the help of the Mesh Tool (U). To do so, simply click with the tool at the place where you want to create the first mesh point.

The rectangle has become a gradient mesh now and you can add new mesh lines, where it is needed.

Using this method, you get a lot of freedom in creating the desired mesh, although you will be required accuracy in work. In order not to create unnecessary points and lines you have to just click on the existing lines.

You can read full version of this tutorial on

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