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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.
The topic of this chapter is a thing called Gradient Mesh. It allows you to create multipoint gradients in which colors flow in any direction you like, including around the volumetric forms of an object, permitting you to establish highlights, shadows, and everything in between. In other words, you can airbrush your paths. A gradient mesh is ultimately an intersecting network of path outlines, which means, and forgive me for this, we have to review how path outlines work.
You have an anchor point connected to another anchor point by a segment. As many as two control handles may emanate from any one anchor point and they bend the segment. Now imagine that instead of each point connecting the two other points, one on either side, it connects to four other points: North, East, South, and West. That means each point hooks to four segments and therefore gives rise to four control handles. Extrapolate that outward horizontally and vertically and you have a mesh.
That is to say a grid, but one that bends and weaves as you adjusts the points and handles. It's totally custom. Now imagine that this custom grid, this mesh, fits inside of a conventional path outline and each point in the mesh determines the position of an unique color, and the handles and segments define how a color transitions from one point to the next. What you have then is colors wherever you want them and tiny micro-gradients in between. If that sounds a bit confusing, it can be.
If it sounds awfully powerful, it is. And you know what, I think I can help eliminate the confusion and maximize the power. Here is how.
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