Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery
Illustration by John Hersey

Adding a gradient mesh to a complex path


Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery

with Deke McClelland

Video: Adding a gradient mesh to a complex path

All right, so I promised you a gorgeous graphic, and here it is. It's called Moku Ka', and Moku is the Hawaiian word for island, by the way. Ka'alikai is my Hawaiian word for hummingbird, because there is no Hawaiian word for hummingbird, so far as I can figure, and that's just by a way of background. I want you to see that over here we've got a custom column graph over on the left side of the illustration. That's what we'll be creating over the course of this chapter. However, in this exercise, you know how I like to begin with something that's unrelated to the topic at hand, but it is a very important topic if you find yourself working with gradient meshes very often.
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  1. 37m 22s
    1. Welcome
    2. Linking AI and EPS files to Illustrator
      6m 34s
    3. Installing the dekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      7m 43s
    4. Remapping Mac OS shortcuts
      6m 56s
    5. Installing the Best Workflow color settings
      4m 56s
    6. The color settings explained
      7m 4s
    7. Preserve Numbers vs. embedded profiles
      3m 24s
  2. 1h 35m
    1. My favorite features in all of Illustrator
      1m 21s
    2. Introducing the Transform effect
      5m 30s
    3. Repeating the last effect you applied
      4m 52s
    4. Applying multiple passes of a single effect
      5m 21s
    5. The wonders of editing dynamic artwork
      7m 13s
    6. Applying effects inside effects
      5m 11s
    7. Assigning an effect to an entire layer
      5m 42s
    8. Building a complex bevel effect
      5m 44s
    9. Placing artwork as a Photoshop Smart Object
      4m 55s
    10. Editing that Smart Object in Illustrator
      4m 21s
    11. Rotating continuously overlapping objects
      5m 34s
    12. Adjusting a dynamic transformation origin
      6m 22s
    13. Vector vs. raster effects
      5m 46s
    14. Introducing the Scribble effect
      5m 23s
    15. Copying effects between layers
      4m 20s
    16. Introducing Graphic Styles
      6m 50s
    17. Controlling the Filter Gallery preview
      2m 28s
    18. Document Raster Effects Settings
      4m 31s
    19. Combining and saving styles
      4m 32s
  3. 1h 25m
    1. Airbrushing with points and handles
      1m 45s
    2. Introducing the gradient mesh
      6m 10s
    3. Working with the Mesh tool
      6m 12s
    4. Lifting colors from a tracing template
      5m 47s
    5. Finessing the colors of mesh points
      4m 17s
    6. Creating a mesh with the Mesh tool
      7m 19s
    7. Adding a gradient mesh to a circle
      4m 37s
    8. Adding a gradient mesh to a slender shape
      8m 7s
    9. Creating soft and sharp transitions
      6m 56s
    10. Converting a linear gradient to a mesh
      7m 29s
    11. Editing a linear gradient mesh
      5m 6s
    12. Converting a radial gradient to a mesh
      8m 19s
    13. Editing a radial gradient mesh
      8m 15s
    14. Creating credible cast shadows
      5m 32s
  4. 1h 15m
    1. The best of static and dynamic adjustments
    2. Adding wings to a horse in Photoshop
      6m 52s
    3. Introducing the Warp tool
      6m 29s
    4. Brush size, Detail, and Simplify
      8m 24s
    5. The Twirl, Pucker, and Bloat tools
      6m 13s
    6. The Scallop, Crystallize, and Wrinkle tools
      5m 55s
    7. Creating a mind-blowing custom starburst
      4m 29s
    8. Introducing Envelope Distort
      5m 21s
    9. Editing the contents of an envelope
      5m 20s
    10. Warping an envelope mesh
      5m 20s
    11. Liquifying the contents of an envelope
      7m 7s
    12. Creating and editing an envelope mesh
      7m 59s
    13. Blending an envelope into a background
      4m 35s
  5. 2h 1m
    1. Outlines along a path
      1m 13s
    2. Weaving a pattern throughout an illustration
      6m 24s
    3. Introducing the Brushes panel
      4m 21s
    4. Applying and editing a calligraphic brush
      8m 28s
    5. Applying and scaling art brushes
      6m 6s
    6. Applying and editing a scatter brush
      5m 29s
    7. Formatting and scaling brushed text
      5m 40s
    8. Editing the path outlines of an art brush
      6m 2s
    9. Replacing an existing art brush
      6m 46s
    10. Creating and refining an art brush
      8m 3s
    11. Tiling pattern vs. pattern brushes
      5m 12s
    12. Creating a pattern brush
      8m 20s
    13. Designing the perfect side pattern
      7m 1s
    14. Start, end, and corner tiles
      8m 58s
    15. Expanding and filling brush outlines
      6m 49s
    16. Text brushes vs. type on a path
      6m 55s
    17. Combining a text brush with the Width tool
      8m 43s
    18. Introducing the bristle brushes
      5m 43s
    19. Adjusting the hairs in a bristle brush
      5m 24s
  6. 1h 32m
    1. Charts can be beautiful
      1m 17s
    2. Adding a gradient mesh to a complex path
      8m 9s
    3. Importing and graphing data
      5m 22s
    4. Switching between the kinds of graphs
      6m 8s
    5. Changing the Graph Type settings
      8m 7s
    6. Correcting and editing data
      6m 51s
    7. Selecting and coloring graph elements
      6m 29s
    8. Making nuanced changes to a graph
      8m 6s
    9. The pitfalls of manual adjustments
      8m 45s
    10. Creating and applying graph designs
      6m 28s
    11. Making a basic pictograph
      6m 47s
    12. Assembling sliding graph designs
      8m 33s
    13. Making last-minute tweaks and edits
      5m 37s
    14. Composing and customizing a graph
      5m 44s
  7. 2h 6m
    1. Perspective is all about real life
      1m 44s
    2. Assembling an isometric projection
      8m 5s
    3. Introducing Illustrator's Perspective Grid
      6m 8s
    4. Drawing a basic perspective cube
      8m 1s
    5. One-point, two-point, and three-point perspective
      8m 25s
    6. Creating automatically scaling box labels
      4m 41s
    7. Setting up a Perspective Grid
      6m 45s
    8. Perspective Grid tips and tricks
      6m 39s
    9. Drawing and editing a perspective shape
      5m 20s
    10. Shifting between planes on the fly
      5m 24s
    11. Creating a freeform shape in perspective
      7m 8s
    12. Working with perspective symbols
      8m 57s
    13. Matching perspective with the Shear tool
      2m 50s
    14. Rendering an off-plane path in perspective
      5m 7s
    15. Replicating symbols in perspective
      8m 12s
    16. Mass-modifying perspective instances
      2m 56s
    17. Adding and editing perspective text
      5m 37s
    18. Duplicating perpendicular shapes
      7m 17s
    19. Adjusting multiple shapes on a single plane
      4m 48s
    20. Creating a perspective column
      9m 23s
    21. Duplicating a series of perspective paths
      3m 20s
  8. 1h 25m
    1. Just another dynamic effect
      1m 10s
    2. Introducing the 3D Revolve effect
      5m 1s
    3. The 3D Revolve settings
      7m 24s
    4. Fixing 3D rendering problems
      6m 32s
    5. Establishing symbols for 3D art
      6m 50s
    6. Mapping symbols onto 3D surfaces
      6m 14s
    7. Adjusting shading and light
      6m 25s
    8. Toning down 3D art in Photoshop
      5m 43s
    9. Adding a photographic texture
      7m 36s
    10. Converting from Illustrator paths to Photoshop masks
      4m 50s
    11. Making 3D droplets in Photoshop
      5m 58s
    12. Unifying textures with Smart Filters
      5m 48s
    13. Creating 3D type with Extrude & Bevel
      6m 44s
    14. Coloring and correcting extruded edges
      9m 15s
  9. 1h 3m
    1. Take action today, save effort tomorrow
    2. Introducing the Actions panel
      4m 16s
    3. Initiating a new action
      5m 33s
    4. Recording a practical action
      4m 56s
    5. Four ways to play an action
      4m 27s
    6. Streamlining by disabling dialog boxes
      5m 48s
    7. Editing an action set in a text editor
      7m 20s
    8. Inserting an unresponsive menu item
      6m 16s
    9. Match-processing a folder of files
      5m 42s
    10. Recording a transformation sequence
      6m 11s
    11. Editing and troubleshooting an action
      5m 6s
    12. Recording actions within actions
      7m 21s
  10. 1m 36s
    1. See Ya
      1m 36s

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Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery
13h 5m Advanced Jan 28, 2011

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In Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery, the third and final part of the comprehensive Illustrator One-on-One series, author and industry expert Deke McClelland shows how to take advantage of the wide array of dynamic effects in Illustrator CS5. Deke explores Illustrator’s powerful Gradient Mesh feature, great for creating photorealistic airbrushing effects. He also covers graphic styles, the liquify tools, envelope-style distortions, the new Bristle Brushes, 3D text, and perspective drawing. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Working with dynamic effects
  • Placing artwork as a Photoshop Smart Object
  • Creating and editing a Gradient Mesh
  • Distorting artwork with an Envelope Mesh
  • Using the Calligraphic, Art, and Scatter Brushes
  • Creating an intricate Pattern Brush
  • Importing and graphing data
  • Creating a complex pictograph
  • Drawing and editing a perspective shape
  • Working with the new Perspective Grid tool
  • Using the 3D Revolve effect
  • Creating 3D type with Extrude & Bevel
  • Recording and playing automated actions
Deke McClelland

Adding a gradient mesh to a complex path

All right, so I promised you a gorgeous graphic, and here it is. It's called Moku Ka', and Moku is the Hawaiian word for island, by the way. Ka'alikai is my Hawaiian word for hummingbird, because there is no Hawaiian word for hummingbird, so far as I can figure, and that's just by a way of background. I want you to see that over here we've got a custom column graph over on the left side of the illustration. That's what we'll be creating over the course of this chapter. However, in this exercise, you know how I like to begin with something that's unrelated to the topic at hand, but it is a very important topic if you find yourself working with gradient meshes very often.

Now, we've got a couple of gradient meshes going on inside of this illustration; one is assigned here to this rectangle at the bottom of the screen. It represents all the sea colors and the surf washing against the shores and so on. And this wave right here, I think it looks great, but it would have to be about 2,000 feet tall in order to look that big. Still, I am taking some artistic license of course. But more to the point, what I think you might find more interesting here is the gradient mesh that's at work inside the island. Now, I am not going to walk you through every point and how I put down the colors and all that jazz. If you want to get a sense of how that gradient mesh is put together, you can twirl open the title & island layer here inside the Layers panel, and then go ahead and scroll down to this group, which is called big island. Twirl it open, and then inside of there you're going to see a compound shape that's masking a mesh. And then you'd go ahead and meatball that mesh, and you would see all of its anchor points and segments and so on here inside of the illustration window.

But, here's the trick. This compound shape--I am going to go ahead and meatball it--notice that it contains a total of three paths that I assembled together using the Unite operation, a dynamic version of the Unite operation, from the Pathfinder panel. And it's wicked complicated from Illustrator's perspective, because it has all of these anchor points, and the reason it has all of these anchor points is twofold. First of all, I created the core outline from a live trace of an image I found of the big island, and so everything is based on that island, including the mountains are basically an upside down version of the island and so forth.

And you can see a little version of the island over here in the lower-left corner of the illustration, so you get a sense of how things are put together. I also went ahead and used the Warp tool, that Liquify tool, in order to scoot the edges around, and I turned off that Simplify check box, so as a result I've just got scads of anchor points. What that means is--let me show you. That makes it very difficult to fill this shape with a gradient mesh. So what I am going to do with that compound shape meatballed, I am going to press Ctrl+C, or Command+C on the Mac, in order to copy it.

Then I am going to twirl closed big island, I am going to meatball it, and we're not going to see any selection at work at all inside the illustration window for some reason. Illustrator just basically gives up on it, but it is selected. And then I'll press Ctrl+F, or Command+F on the Mac, in order to paste it in front, so we've got this wicked complicated path. Let's fill it with something so we can see it. I'll go ahead and fill it with black. And now, let's say I want to assign a gradient mesh. Well, you go up to the Object menu and the Create Gradient Mesh function isn't even available, and that's because I am working with a compound shape. So, fair enough, all right, can't fill a compound shape with a gradient mesh.

So I'll bring up my Pathfinder panel, and I'll go ahead and click on the Expand button in order to expand out those shapes. And if for some reason your Expand button is dimmed, just go ahead and twirl open the shape and twirl it closed and try again; it should wake up at some point. Anyway, I've gone ahead and expanded those shapes to a single path. It's not even a compound path; it's just a straightforward, everyday, average path, with an awful lot of anchor points associated with it. All right, I'm going to hide the Pathfinder panel, and I'll go back up to the Object menu. Now Create Gradient Meshes available to me, so, awesome! And I'll choose the command and Illustrator says, "The path has too many points to create a gradient mesh." Now, the reason it's telling us this, in Illustrator's defense, is because when you create a gradient mesh in this fashion, it tries to mold that gradient mesh to the existing edges inside the path outline. And in order to do that, it's just going to be a big nightmare. So, click OK.

Here is what you've got do. You go ahead and copy this path, so press Ctrl+C, once again, or Command+C on the Mac, and press Ctrl+F, or Command+ F on the Mac, in order to paste it in front. And we'll go ahead and turn off the guy that's in front for a moment, and then I'll turn on the guy that's in back, the original one, and we're going to simplify it. So I'll go up to the Object menu and I'll choose Path, and I'll chose Simplify. And this is a command that I don't use very often. I don't actually recommend it for everyday work, because it really does make a smooth mess of any path outline you assign it to, but in this case it's our only option.

So I'll go ahead and choose Simplify, and I went ahead and took the Curve Precision value to 50% and the Angle Threshold to 90 actually. But notice that I am reducing the number of points, the number of anchor points, from 518 down to 71, which is a lot better. I'll go ahead and leave these two check boxes off, although Show Original is interesting, because if you turn on Show Original, Preview has to be turned on as well. Then any of the points that are showing up blue, in this case, because this is a violet layer I believe, so any of the violet points are the ones that are going to stick, and any of those blue points are the ones that are going to drop away.

So whatever points are in a different color than the layer color are the ones that are going to get wiped out. All right, so I'll turn that back off just so we can focus on this very sort of goopy, simplified version of the island now. Click OK in order to accept it. Now, go ahead and hide big island in the backgrounds, then hide the stroke. To achieve the stroke, I had to create yet another version of the path and stroke it independently. But I'll go up to the Object menu, and now I'll choose Create Gradient Mesh, and I added 6 rows and 9 columns, Appearance > Flat, because I just figured I'd add my own colors. I didn't want anything resembling this, for example; just a glowy island wasn't what I was looking for at all, so I just set it to Flat. And then I clicked OK.

And then I set about obviously modifying my gradient mesh, I added mesh points all over the place, and so on. The larger problem is that it's overly simplified. Let's say I go ahead and change all of these points to, I don't know, something green, just as a place to start. Well, we're of course lacking all kinds of definition associated with this island now. So what I did was I went ahead and turned on the path in the foreground which has all the definition associated with it, and then I went ahead and got my Scale tool. And notice, by the way, the Mesh object in the background is still selected, and I went ahead and scaled this path outward a little bit, made it bigger, like so, so that it takes up too much room, and then I went ahead and did this.

I went back to my Layers panel and I Shift+Clicked on the top path, and because it's in front, I can use it as a mask. So I went up to the Object menu and I chose Clipping Mask and I chose Make, or press Ctrl+7, Command+7 on the Mac. Now, I do get yet another warning. This time Illustrator is saying, hey, that top object, it just hates that top object, it just hates that super complicated path outline, and it says, it's very complex, and it may cause the document to fail when printing. Now, what it means is not the way we think of things failing--that is, you know, gradients drop out and transparency doesn't work and all that jazz.

In this case, it would be an out of memory error. So Illustrator, if it had problems printing this document, it would just choke, whereas if you just go ahead and render the document in Photoshop or export it as the TIFF file from Illustrator, you should be fine. So I'll just go ahead and click Yes, I want to go ahead and do it. And now you can see that you've got the simple object filled with a gradient mesh, clipped inside the more complicated path outline, so you've got the best of both worlds. Then I went ahead and locked down my clipping mask, so that it didn't get in my way, and I meatballed my mesh and I set about working on it.

So just wanted to give you a sense of what's going on there. I am going to turn that off of course, and then I'm going to turn my island back on, turn the stroke on as well, this stroked path in the background. That is the illustration we'll be creating. We won't be creating the island and the surf and all that jazz; instead, we'll be creating this graph. And I'll show you how to take an initial stab at creating a column graph in the very next exercise.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery .

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Q: The instructions for installing the dekeKeys don't work on my computer (which is running Mac OS X Lion). Is there an update to these?
A: The dekeKeys distributed with this course will still work for Lion. You just need to add them to a slightly different folder than in previous versions of OS X.

Open a new Finder window and choose Go > Go to Folder. Type the following file path exactly as written below. Copying and pasting may result in an error.

~/Library/Preferences/Adobe Illustrator CS5 Settings/en_US

Move and/or copy/paste the dekeKeys to this folder and follow the rest of the instructions as outlined in the video, "Installing the dekeKeys keyboard shortcuts."
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