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Adobe Illustrator CC - Advanced Training

How to make gradients bend in Adobe Illustrator CC using Gradient Mesh

Daniel Walter Scott

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Hey there, in this video we're going to look at something called a Gradient Mesh. What that allows us to do is do Gradients that don't kind of follow the straight line, like a Linear Gradient, or a round Radial Gradient. We're going to do things like this, where it kind of loops around, then there's different consistencies, and things going on. Even this kind of weird blurry thing at the top here. Plus we're going to add this Film Grain. It has nothing to do with anything other than I tried to make it look a little nicer by adding Film Grain. All right, let's go do that now in Adobe Illustrator. 

First up, open up 'Gradient' from your 'Exercise Files'. We're going to look at the easy ways and the hard ways. I'm going to grab my 'Rectangle Tool', just draw a rectangle out here. Dealing with simple shapes like this, ellipses and rectangles is super easy. Gradient Mesh is awesome. What we're going to do is, there's two ways of adding a Mesh. You can go to 'Object', and go down to 'Create Gradient Mesh'. Decide how many rows and columns. I guess the more rows and columns you have the better control you have, but the harder it is to make it look, maybe smooth. So more detail, but lesser smooth. Let's go with that, and we've got our Gradient Mesh. 

The other way to do it is, I'm going to grab the 'Rectangle Tool', draw something, something similar. There's a way of doing using the tool, over here there's a specific Gradient Mesh Tool. This way you can just click in specific parts, it's up to you what you want to do. Once you've got your Gradient Mesh though, the technique is the same. You want to work with your White Arrow, and let's say we're going to select all these guys around the outside, so I'm selecting these guys, I'm going to hold 'Shift', and grab the ones at the bottom as well. So I've just got all these top Anchor Points selected and the bottom ones. I'm going to open up 'Properties', go to 'Fill' and I'm going to go to 'Swatches', and if you're using my files, I've got some pre-made ones for us. I'm going to click on you guys. 

You can see what it does, it kind of adds our Gradients. Now, nothing very exciting yet has happened, right? because you're like, "I could have done that with just a regular Gradient." I'm going to grab all these guys in the middle here, and make them green. Still, you could have done this. Where it gets different is, if I click on one of these guys, maybe that one, maybe that one, I'm going to go into here, and say, I want you to be pink. That's where it gets a bit different, right? You can actually map out Gradients. In my case, we'll make them look terrible. 

Let's have a look at what else you can do, you can move these guys. See this guy here, I can move him maybe down to this corner. You can see, this is really kind of interesting Air Brush Style effects. You can move him around. All these guys have handles, you can see, I can adjust this guy. He doesn't have a color, just give him a color. I'll give him black. You can start kind of bending these things around and start the sorting. Now that's not a very good example, because I'm just randomly doing a shape but it gives you kind of a look at how easy it is when the shape is simple. Let's look at doing something with our whale. 

Now the same thing, right? What I'm going to do is, I'm going to duplicate. You're going to go up there, exciting as you are. 'Shift O' brings up my Artboard Tool. Holding down the 'Alt' key on a PC, 'Option' key on a Mac, I'm going to have another option here. I'm going to zoom in. Now, if I select the body of this whale, try to do a Gradient Mesh, it's painful. Just happens when you do really complex shapes like this. I say that, just because, like, it's just honest. I try and use the Gradient Tool, I kind of click there. It's kind of following it, right? It's kind of put in this line, and went around the eye, which is not really what I wanted, but it's okay. It's kind of done some stuff around here. Up here, it's gone really weird. Just what happens with a complex shape. 

I can say I want to have a couple of points following along here because this is kind of what I want to do. I want to make kind of a Gradient that follows this line. The problem with that though is all that kind of complexity. I'll hold 'Shift' and grab you. Every time you do one of that crossover it creates another joining path, and gets a little confusing about where you are actually going. I'm holding 'Shift' with my Direct Selection Tool. Now I'm going to, say that color there, it's kind of working. The more you add, the harder it becomes. So what I tend to do-- you can mess around with that, it's fine. Use a Gradient Tool. 

What I tend to do is, I'm going to duplicate this first Artboard. So 'Shift O' on my keyboard. Holding down the 'Alt' key on a PC, 'Option' key on a Mac to make a duplicate. What I want to do is, instead of trying to turn this into a Mesh, I'm just going to use a simple shape. I'll use Ellipse, just because. It has, I guess, quite an elliptical shape. Use that, or a rectangle something super simple that matches what you're doing. Make sure it covers the whole thing. Actually what I'll do - I'll delete that. - is I want it on its own layer, because I want to use this guy on top. This is going to be my whale. I'm going to have another layer that I want just underneath it. And you are going to be my Gradient. 

A little trick is, let's actually grab my Ellipse Tool on a Gradient layer, I'm going to draw that big guy. So he's just underneath. Now what I'd like to do is be able to see through this whale. I could go to my Outline Mode, which is 'Command Y' on a Mac, or 'Control Y' on a PC. Actually what I want to do is, there's a little trick with the whale. I'm going to lock him so he doesn't move, but also, if I hold 'Command', and click him, just turns into Outlines. You can turn it off by 'Command' clicking as well. 

So I'm working on a Gradient layer and I can kind of see the outlines of these. Why do I do this? It's because when I start using the Gradient Tool - just grab him here. When I say Gradient Tool, I mean Gradient Mesh Tool. - is when I start kind of clicking, say in here more consistent lines appear. Let's say I've got this one and I grab my Direct Selection Tool, and I can start bending this around to kind of fit the forms and the shapes of what I need. And what I might do is, bring him around. My Ellipse is maybe a bit big for what I need, but you're getting the idea, right? And if you need more points, I'm going to surely but slowly, remember, the least amount of points becomes a lot easier. I'm going to follow that line along, add another one. 'White Arrow', and I'm going to start bending this around. 

I don't even know what I'm doing, just kind of following some curves. I'm going to cross my fingers, this thing's going to look half decent when I'm finished. I'm going to add another one there. 'White Arrow', just the 'A' key. And this guy here had to be made to kind of make this thing consistent, but what you can do is, grab him, and drag him up there. Make sure these guys don't overlap. I could spend ages, I should spend ages to make it look really cool. I'm kind of happy with what we're doing. This guy here, what's he doing? If this guy's in the way, you can drag him off so he doesn't kind of influences him much. He's going to be up here. You are going to come up. This Anchor Point's going to come up here. Get on with it, Dan. I'm getting on with it, I promise. 

What I'm going to do now is click on, maybe this guy. And maybe, holding 'Shift', grab this guy as well, and this guy, so I've got three of them selected, I'm going to go to my 'Properties Panel'. I'm going to go to 'Fill', I'm going to use some of that Gradient. That's the way to kind of do a Gradient Mesh. Yes, I could have just done that with just a, maybe a Linear Gradient. Let's go further. Couldn't have done that with a Radial, or a Linear, maybe you could. So when it gets down to things like this, this guy, let's force him in here, I'm going to start doing some cool kind of pushing around of these things. So, it's that kind of really tricky Gradient. You can see, it's kind of really sharp over here, it starts getting quite furry over here. Just because the distances between these Anchor Points are quite big. So go through, or what we do now is—

You spend a bit longer doing it than I did. Man, it's bad. So I'm going to grab this guy. And we're going to go to our 'Layers panel' and hold the 'Command' key to turn that back on. And what we want to do, they need to be on the same layer now because we want to turn them into a Clipping Mask. Do they need to be on the same layer? That's a good point. As long as the whale is in front I'm pretty sure I might be able to 'Shift' click this guy and hit 'Command 7'; it did work. So 'Command 7' is the shortcut for Clipping Mask. If you want it the long way there's 'Make a Clipping Mask', it's not very long as a button. If you're on an older version of Illustrator, 'Object', 'Clipping Mask', 'Make'. Either way, that's what I'm trying to do. It's easier to do this Gradient Mesh inside a simple circle, but it is to try and do on top of the actual shape. How good is this? This is pretty bad. My color. Somewhat a good idea, you could have a live interact, watching me. 

Now one more thing we might do before we go is, often people want to do kind of a Gradient Mesh that looks kind of, like they want to do-- they think they need a Gradient Mesh when they don't. Let me show you another way that I often do things. I'm going to grab my 'Pen Tool' and draw-- I'm going to turn the Smart Guides off, 'Command U', because what I want to do is create kind of a shape up here. Kind of does this kind of thing. I got it in my head, let's make it reality. So you want kind of a jelly button kind of thing. So instead of trying to do that with a Gradient Map it's easier often just to give it the right color. I'm going to click down here, and I'm going to say I want you to be white. Then just use a 'Blur'. So I'm going to go 'Effect', go down to 'Blur' and use 'Gaussian Blur'; cheap trick, turn Preview 'on'. You can kind of see what it's going to do. 

Same kind of thing that we maybe would have been able to do down there. Getting the Blur right. I'll lower the Opacity a little bit. I wanted this kind of, yes, that kind of effect. I'm going to do one last little shape. What I'll do is, I'll duplicate him. And you my friend, I'm going to trim off with a circle to get kind of a better layer thing going. I select 'Outline Mode' just so I can grab you, select both of them. And I'm going to go, not to Outline mode because it's kind of confusing. I'm going to use my Shape Builder Tool, 'Shift M'. I'm going to delete these bits, I just wanted this kind of chunk. 

What I might do is turn down the Blur of this. So where you've got some sort of an effect applied you need to go to either the Appearance panel which is under 'Window', or in my case I can see here. I'm going to turn this way down. Now I've got this kind of, like dual effect here where the top part has converted different Blur levels. You get what I mean? Man, I was hoping that was going to look better. Hopefully you understand it in technique. Gradient Meshes can be tricky, sometimes it is easier just to make things like that, and just blur them out. 

One last thing before we go is, often Gradients, especially Gradient Meshes and stuff in Illustrator, it has a really kind of vector look that maybe isn't as popular at the moment. Cool trick is, you can select all of this stuff and add a cool effect in here, under 'Effect'-- I'm sure I'm going to redeem myself. Somewhat better. 'Effect', and go to 'Artistic'. It's not under Artistic, down to 'Texture', go to 'Grain'. I had kind of one part of it selected, I wanted the part that I have-- did I have it all selected? It's actually just picked whatever the top piece was. You can kind of see what it's doing, right? Assumed a little bit, it's adding this kind of like Film Grain texture stuff to it. You can decide on the intensity and texture. It does something weird with the edges though. I'll show you how to get around that. It only picked one piece even though it has done it to all of them. I find-- forget the edges but it kind of adds a nicer effect to these guys. 

So to get around the pixelation of the edges I'm going to undo that, and it's easier to do this. Grab our 'Rectangle' Tool'. Draw this over the top, and you apply it to this, basically into a Layer Mode, so I'll do you and apply the exact same one, 'Apply Grain'. This I wanted to be here for you, if you haven't done it before, it's like repeat that thing I just did. Apply it to this, then under here, under 'Opacity', switch this to 'Multiply'. Does a same kind of effect, does something to the background as well, which maybe is not what you want, but it definitely fixes up these edges. And what I might do is adjust it a bit more. Under 'Appearance' panel here, click on 'Grain', and 'Contrast', I need to go up, maybe. 'Intensity', let's go up, click 'OK'. 

Is it better? Have I redeemed myself? Probably not, but you my creative friend, I got to make it look he's better than me. You got the techniques. All right, that is going to be it. I'll see you in the very next video where I will do something that looks nicer, I promise.