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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.
In this exercise I'm going to show you how to convert a standard gradient to linear gradient in fact to a gradient mesh object and then clean up that object so that you can actually work on it. I've saved my progress as Completed peppers.ai and we have completed the peppers at this point, so we're now ready to work on the background. In the background it's saved on this layer right here. It's called Gradients. So you might want to go ahead and turn it on. But let me show you for a moment what the final product looks like. Now if I zoom out, you can see that I have this kind of tabletop that's rendered here in white, and then above that I have this area of dark blue, then lighter almost sky blue and then above that we have some yellow.
That's all fairly simple at this point gradient mesh object, although it takes a little bit of effort to get there. The shadows started off as radial gradients. They are now gradient mesh objects as well, or at least they will be by time we're done. So I'm going to go ahead and switch back to Completed peppers.ai and I'm going to grab that gradients layer. It contains one big linear gradient in the background inside of a large rectangle, that's the same size as the art board, and then I have a couple of radial gradients under the peppers. Just because things can go a little haywire when you're converting gradients to gradient mesh objects, even though it's a very powerful solution, you've got to work fairly deliberately.
And it's very possible that you might at some point get so frustrated that you want to go back to your original gradients. Now, hopefully that won't happen, but just in case it's a good idea to duplicate those objects. So I'm going to duplicate this entire layer by dragging and dropping it onto the little Page icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Then very important, turn off the gradients layer. Otherwise we're going to get confused by what's going on in the background. And then double-click on that gradients copies layer and let's rename this layer Mesh Shadows and I'm going to change the color to dark green just so that I can see what I'm doing.
Now, I'm going to zoom out a click, so that I can see the entire illustration and I'm going to click on this background rectangle right there. Now, if you want to convert a gradient into a gradient mesh object and keep all of its colors, right now if you take a look at my Gradient panel, you can see that this gradient goes from white at the bottom to this sort of pale blue right here to a pale orange and then to a very pale yellow at the top. If you want to keep those colors, you do not go up to the Object menu and choose the Create Gradient Mesh command, because if you do that, you will replace all those colors you formerly had inside the rectangle and you'll end up creating a bunch of rows and columns and all that jazz.
We don't want that. That's great for volumetric forms, but for a linear gradient background that's no good at all. So cancel out. Instead, what you do is you go up to the Object menu and you choose the Expand command. If you've loaded dekekeys, you press Ctrl+M or Command+M on the Mac. These default settings are fine. You want to expand the Fill because that's all you've got where this rectangle is concerned. There is no stroke. You want to expand the gradient to a gradient mesh. If you turn on Specify x number of steps here, you will create instead a blend with in this case 255 steps.
That's not what we want. So go ahead and select Gradient Mesh and click OK, and you end up with a simple gradient mesh object. Now, where in the world are the rows? We should at least see rows. I'm not sure we need columns at this point but we need rows, darn it. Well, where are they? They're tucked away inside of one of Illustrator's notorious double groups. So go ahead and twirl open Mesh Shadows, scroll down and there's a group. Oh fancy that. And then I'll press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and click on the triangle in front of group, and you'll see we reveal another group no point in that whatsoever and then we have a clipping path, which is a waste of time because this is a rectangle, with the mesh object finally buried very deep inside that nest.
So I'm going to take it out. I'm going to grab the mesh, and drag it out, like so. That goes ahead and reveals the match with its two rows or at least it looks like two rows. It's actually more than that we'll see. Then we've got this unnecessary group underneath it. Meatball that group object, the one that contains the group that contains the clipping mask. Then just go ahead and press Backspace or Delete in order to get rid of it, because it is utterly and completely useless to us. Now, click on this mesh object in order to select it. Now, we're not done cleaning things up and let me show you why.
Now I'm going to switch to the White Arrow tool so I can show you what's really going on where this gradient is concerned and it gets a little confusing. What we have here is double rows at the bottom and at the top of the gradient, and those can present problems if we leave them in place. So let me show you what I mean. I'm going to click off the gradient mesh for a moment to deselect it. Then I'm going to grab this bottom- left point and pull it down and in this case I went ahead and grabbed the bottom of those two points. I grabbed the base row, that is to say. Then we've got another row above it and they're both white.
Then we have blue above it and pale orange and so on. If I grab this point over here, it's very possible-- let's see if I can grab and then pull it. Well, I end up creating this sort of reverse effect right here. I grabbed the wrong row is what it comes down to. So I've yanked it away from the other one and I've got these overlapping rows going on and that's going to present a real challenge when I start editing things. So here's what I suggest you do. Press Ctrl+Z a couple of times in a row if you tried that out as well, and then sort of move your cursor up a little bit from the bottom-left corner to make sure that you select the topmost of these two points here and then do the same.
Just a few pixels up right there on the bottom-right corner and Shift+Click, and then try dragging those points upward and I got this effect. That's exactly what I was trying to avoid. So I'm going to have to press Ctrl+Z to undo. I'm going to click off the path outline in order to deselect it. Then I'll move my cursor. Notice if you look very carefully, I don't know if you can see this happening. But when I move my cursor up and down I can see the point bounce a little bit. That's because I have two nearly coincident points, one on top of the other, and I'm trying to select the topmost of the two.
So when I see the top point, when I see the point move up a little bit, I'll click and then I'll Shift+Click when I see hopefully the point move up a little bit on this side too. I don't know if I got it or not, and let's try, I'll go ahead and drag this guy up. I did not select that point. I'll click off. Then move my cursor. It looks like I got the top point. Click on it. I'm going to press this Shift+Up-arrow or something to move it up. I did. I got that point. This is such a nightmare. I don't know why they do this. Then I'll press the U key in order to get my Mesh tool for a moment, because I want more than anything on earth to get rid of that row.
So I'm going to Alt+Click on it or Option+ Click on it to get rid of it on the Mac. It actually worked. Now, I've got to do the same thing at the top of the shape. I'm looking forward to it more than I can tell you. Click off the path to deselect it, move your cursor sort of up and down to see the hopping point. Grab the one when it's lower and drag it down, and then do that same thing on the other side. I think it's the safest thing to do. So click off the shape, then move your cursor up and down until you get the lower of those two hopping points, drag it down like so, and I'm pressing the Shift key as a drag, just to get a vertical drag going.
Press the U key in order to get the Mesh tool, press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, and click on that row in order to delete it. It shouldn't have been this much work but we finally have a pristine gradient mesh object that just has one, two, three rows, or if you prefer one, two, three rows, that's how Illustrator marks these things. Now we can edit them with some degree of control, and I'll show you how to edit the shape, and also demonstrate how to work in a Gradient Mesh Isolation mode in the next exercise.
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