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

Converting a linear gradient to a mesh


Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery

with Deke McClelland

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Video: Converting a linear gradient to a mesh

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 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.
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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

Converting a linear gradient to a mesh

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 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 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.

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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