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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.
I have saved my progress as Distant table top.ai. In this exercise, we are going to take those two radial gradients, both of which are sitting inside of ellipses below the peppers, and we are going to convert them into gradient meshes, and that will allow us to reshape those gradients, so that they better fit their peppers. So they look like more realistic shadows. So first thing I'm going to do just because I decided what I want is the appearance of the light source being directly on back of the two peppers, so that it's casting the shadow from the right pepper to the right and from the left pepper to the left.
So I am going to select that left handle left. I am going to grab my Rotate tool. This is purely an aesthetic modification by the way, and I'm going to go ahead and drag the ellipse to a different angle, like so. Then I will scoot that ellipse over a little bit, so that the darkest portion of the radial gradient is sitting directly under the pepper. Now let me show you what's going on with those radial gradients. I'm going to switch to my Black Arrow tool for a moment by pressing the V key, and then I'll Shift+Click on the outline of the other ellipse so that both of them are selected.
Now, I will press the G key in order to switch to the Gradient tool here inside the toolbox, and I want you to take a look at those gradient annotators. Notice that the center points of both of those gradients are weighted to the left side of their ellipses, so that these are not entirely symmetrical radial gradients. So in other words, the gradient transitions more quickly on the left side than on the right side. As you may recall, you do that by dragging this smaller circle around, like so. So that way, you can move the center of the gradient independently of the outer perimeter of the gradient.
Anyway, I am going to go ahead and put it back where it was. In an ideal world, that information would be respected when you convert the radial gradient to a gradient mesh. This is not an ideal world though and that doesn't happen. So we're going to lose that information in just a moment but I want you to see that it's there. Also, something else to note. If I were to bring up the Transparency panel for a moment which I will, you can see that these gradients are set to the Multiply blend mode because they both go from dark red to white. And so to avoid having one gradient totally cover up the other, I am using the Multiply blend mode to burn them both into each other.
Multiply being the ideal mode for shadows. All right, so having said that up, let's see what happens when we convert these objects to gradient meshes. I am going to press the V key in order to switch back to the Black Arrow tool. So notice the center location of those gradients, that is, the highest area of colors over here on the left- hand side of each of the ellipses. I will go up to the Object menu. We're not going to choose Create Gradient Mesh of course. We are going to choose the Expand command, or if you've loaded dekekeys, you can press Ctrl+M, Command+M on the Mac. Make sure Expand is set to Fill, make sure Expand Gradient To is set to Gradient Mesh, click OK and look what happen to our gradients.
The large area of color shifted to the center of each of the ellipses. Now, we can't see the rows or columns, so I am just telling you that so you know what to expect. In other words, if you're going to convert a gradient over to a gradient mesh, don't even bother moving it center, because that information is going to get lost. But the fact that it's an elliptical gradient instead of a perfectly circular radial gradient, that information remains intact. We can't see our row or column lines and that's because Illustrator has seen fit to do the double grouping thing. So what I want you to do is go over to the Layers panel, and assuming that your mesh shadows layer is twirled closed, as it is in my case, press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and click that triangle to expand everything so that you can see into these double groups here.
And notice the top group has a group inside of it with a clipping mask in the mesh. We don't need that. So grab the mesh and yank it out of there. Otherwise it just makes the object that much more difficult to edit. Then go ahead and meatball that group. It now just has a group and a clipping mask, so in other words, it's empty, and press the Backspace key to get rid of it. Now do the same thing for the mesh that's in the other group, the lower group right here. I'll grab the mesh, drag it out, so that's directly below the previous mesh, meatball that group, press the Backspace key, or the Delete key to get rid of it, and you should inside your mesh shadows layer, you should see three objects all of which go by the name Mesh and that's it.
Now we did end up losing our blend modes. So now one of the shadows just covers up the other shadow. That's no good of course. So I am going to click on the boundary there of that big mesh object, the lefthand one, and there is one of two things I could do. I could just go up to the Opacity option up here in the Control panel or I could go over to the Transparency panel over here on the right side of the screen as well. Either way, I could change Normal to Multiply and then I would blend those two gradients into each other. I would burn one into the other. This one is burnt into the white tabletop.
So it doesn't matter. You don't need the Multiply blend mode for that. But there's another way of working, and that it is you can assign different levels of opacity to each one of your mesh points. So let me show you how that works. I will just go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac in order to undo the change to that blend mode, and I'm going to grab my White Arrow tool this time around, and I am going to try to click over here to grab a point and I did and I want you to see before we change the opacity of these points, there is a seam in any radial gradient. So linear gradients have their thing. They've got the problem where you've got this extra row at the top, and the bottom of your shape.
Well, the weird thing about radial gradients is they have a seam and the reason is this looks like it's some kind of polar grid, but what it really is, is circular row lines with the spokes being the column lines. So that means somehow this thing has to separate apart, because row lines as a rule don't go into each other. Typically over on the right side of your shape, you will find a seam like this. So the points actually come apart from each other like so and I'm just dragging them in any direction here in order to show you how they come apart.
They will only come apart on one side. So otherwise, if you drag one of these points around, you will just move a single point, but on one side typically, as I say, the right side of the shape is usually where you will find this. You will find that the shape comes apart and you'll want to know about that because you presumably don't want the shape to ever come apart unless you're making a big packman or something like that. But if you want to keep those points together, then you need to marquee them and move them together. So I am going to press Ctrl+Z several times in a row to put those points back together. Now I am going to marquee around these points like so and I end up grabbing some of the mesh that's associated with mesh peppers.
I could lock those peppers down, which is a good idea and you know what I am going to go ahead and do that. So I am going to lock the mesh peppers layer, so I don't run into that problem in the future. I could still, however, end up selecting the other mesh. So you know what I am going to do, I am going to enter the Isolation mode. I am going to do that by grabbing my Black Arrow tool. I will just double-click anywhere on the outline of this gradient mesh object in order to enter the Isolation mode. You can see that's where we are, because the Layers panel says Isolation mode. And up here at the top of the document window, you see that we're working inside the Mesh object, which is located on the mesh shadows layer.
Now having done that, I am going to show you that opacity trick here. I am going to grab my White Arrow tool, and I am going to marquee these points like so, and now I've selected a total of four points, because at each location, we have two points sitting one on top of the other. Then I will Shift+Drag around those points, Shift+Drag around these points, scoot down a little bit and Shift+Drag around these guys. I want them to be the same color as the interior. So I will press the I key in order to get my Eyedropper, Shift+Click inside of the radial gradient in order to switch out that color, and that means we have a uniformly colored gradient which is no gradient at all of course. It's just a flat fill.
But now we can go up to the Opacity option up here in the Control panel and change it from 100 to 0. So you can change the Opacity value that's associated with individually selected points inside of a mesh. You cannot, however, change the blend mode assigned to individual points. You assign blend mode exclusively to an entire object at a time. All right! Anyway, so that's a different way to work. I am going to leave it set that way, and I am going to press the Escape key in order to exit the Isolation mode and then press the V key in order to switch back to the Black Arrow tool.
I am going to move this over a little bit, so that's more or less centered under that left-hand pepper. We now have two radial gradients that have been converted to gradient mesh objects. However, we are really not so far taking that big of advantage of the gradient mesh object. So what we need to do is modify the centers of each of these objects so that they better fit their peppers, and we are going to do exactly that in the next exercise.
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