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Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
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Understanding the Gradient Mesh feature


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Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics

with Mordy Golding

Video: Understanding the Gradient Mesh feature

One of the more mysterious features inside of Illustrator is Gradient Mesh. Now we are already familiar with what a gradient is. A gradient basically allows us to take a single fill for an object and have it be made up of multiple colors. Those colors actually travel in a single direction and they blend seamlessly into each other. But the most important part of the definition is those particular colors travel in one direction. So for example, we know that there are two kinds of gradients fills, something called the Linear Gradient fill and something called the Radial Gradient fill. Now in this case over here, I have a Linear Gradient fill on this object and you could see that I have a start color and an end color. We could have multiple colors but all the colors, the transition of those colors, always travel in one direction.
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  1. 2m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 41s
    2. Using the exercise files
      23s
  2. 33m 20s
    1. Introducing Live Paint
      38s
    2. Drawing in Illustrator
      4m 21s
    3. Creating a Live Paint group
      2m 54s
    4. Using the Live Paint Bucket tool
      3m 17s
    5. Using Live Paint with open paths
      2m 29s
    6. Detecting gaps in Live Paint groups
      4m 17s
    7. Adding paths to a Live Paint group
      3m 41s
    8. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      5m 44s
    9. Releasing and expanding Live Paint groups
      2m 55s
    10. Understanding how Live Paint groups work
      3m 4s
  3. 49m 36s
    1. Introducing the trace options
      39s
    2. Setting expectations: Live Trace
      2m 26s
    3. Using the Live Trace feature
      1m 51s
    4. Understanding how Live Trace works
      5m 41s
    5. Making raster-based adjustments
      5m 52s
    6. Tracing with fills, strokes, or both
      2m 55s
    7. Making vector-based adjustments
      6m 12s
    8. Adjusting colors in Live Trace
      4m 39s
    9. Using Photoshop with Live Trace
      5m 22s
    10. Releasing and expanding Live Trace artwork
      2m 58s
    11. Saving and exporting Live Trace presets
      2m 36s
    12. Tracing in Batch mode with Adobe Bridge
      1m 35s
    13. Turning an image into mosaic tiles
      2m 28s
    14. Tracing an image manually
      4m 22s
  4. 1h 24m
    1. Introducing 3D
      33s
    2. Setting expectations: 3D in Illustrator
      2m 53s
    3. How fills and strokes affect 3D artwork
      4m 43s
    4. Applying the 3D Extrude & Bevel effect
      6m 25s
    5. Applying a bevel
      5m 40s
    6. Showing the hidden faces of a 3D object
      4m 49s
    7. Applying the 3D Revolve effect
      5m 22s
    8. Visualizing the revolve axis
      3m 5s
    9. Applying the 3D Rotate effect
      1m 35s
    10. Adjusting surface settings
      9m 33s
    11. Understanding the importance of 3D and groups
      3m 24s
    12. Preparing art for mapping
      10m 19s
    13. Mapping artwork to a 3D surface
      14m 21s
    14. Hiding geometry with 3D artwork mapping
      4m 0s
    15. Extending the use of 3D in Illustrator
      8m 7s
  5. 44m 37s
    1. Introducing transformations and effects
      32s
    2. Using the Transform panel
      12m 37s
    3. Repeating transformations
      5m 23s
    4. Using the Transform Each function
      3m 48s
    5. Using the Convert to Shape effects
      5m 49s
    6. Using the Distort & Transform effects
      5m 12s
    7. Using the Path effects
      6m 58s
    8. Using the Pathfinder effects
      4m 18s
  6. 28m 23s
    1. Introducing graphic styles
      33s
    2. Applying graphic styles
      10m 8s
    3. Defining graphic styles
      8m 46s
    4. Previewing graphic styles
      2m 10s
    5. Modifying graphic styles
      3m 30s
    6. Understanding graphic styles for text
      3m 16s
  7. 22m 49s
    1. Introducing advanced masking techniques
      32s
    2. Understanding clipping masks
      7m 15s
    3. Using layer clipping masks
      6m 30s
    4. Creating opacity masks
      8m 32s
  8. 1h 6m
    1. Introducing color
      40s
    2. Considering three types of color swatches
      7m 7s
    3. Managing color groups
      2m 58s
    4. Understanding the HSB color wheel
      3m 57s
    5. Understanding color harmonies
      2m 57s
    6. Using the color guide
      3m 54s
    7. Limiting the color guide
      3m 17s
    8. Modifying color with the Recolor Artwork feature
      6m 25s
    9. Using the Edit tab to adjust color
      5m 44s
    10. Using the Assign tab to replace colors
      8m 37s
    11. Making global color adjustments
      2m 17s
    12. Using Recolor options
      7m 3s
    13. Converting artwork to grayscale
      3m 23s
    14. Simulating artwork on different devices
      3m 18s
    15. Accessing Kuler directly from Illustrator
      2m 7s
    16. Ensuring high contrast for color-blind people
      2m 42s
  9. 53m 19s
    1. Introducing transparency
      40s
    2. Understanding transparency flattening
      2m 31s
    3. Exercising the two rules of transparency flattening
      10m 53s
    4. Understanding complex regions in transparency flattening
      4m 50s
    5. Exploring the transparency flattener settings
      8m 37s
    6. Using transparency flattening and object stacking order
      6m 39s
    7. Using the Flattener Preview panel
      6m 31s
    8. Creating and sharing Transparency Flattener presets
      2m 25s
    9. Working within an EPS workflow
      5m 3s
    10. Understanding the Illustrator and InDesign workflow
      5m 10s
  10. 50m 1s
    1. Introducing prepress and output
      23s
    2. Understanding resolutions
      8m 27s
    3. Discovering RGB and CMYK "gotchas"
      5m 42s
    4. Using Overprints and Overprint Preview
      7m 43s
    5. Understanding "book color" and proofing spot colors
      8m 1s
    6. Collecting vital information with Document Info
      2m 28s
    7. Previewing color separations onscreen
      1m 12s
    8. Making 3D artwork look good
      2m 16s
    9. Seeing white lines and knowing what to do about them
      2m 41s
    10. Creating "bulletproof" press-ready PDF files
      3m 45s
    11. Protecting content with secure PDFs
      2m 48s
    12. Using PDF presets
      2m 47s
    13. Moving forward: The Adobe PDF Print Engine
      1m 48s
  11. 35m 43s
    1. Introducing distortions
      27s
    2. Using the Warp effect
      4m 20s
    3. The Warp effect vs. envelope distortion
      3m 48s
    4. Applying the Make with Warp envelope distortion
      2m 45s
    5. Applying the Make with Mesh envelope distortion
      2m 41s
    6. Applying the Make with Top Object envelope distortion
      3m 45s
    7. Editing envelopes
      5m 0s
    8. Adjusting envelope settings
      4m 2s
    9. Releasing and expanding envelope distortions
      1m 44s
    10. Applying envelope distortions to text
      1m 27s
    11. Using the liquify distortion tools
      3m 5s
    12. Customizing the liquify tools
      2m 39s
  12. 28m 56s
    1. Introducing blends
      32s
    2. Blending two objects
      6m 18s
    3. Adjusting blend options
      5m 47s
    4. Blending anchor points
      5m 36s
    5. Blending three or more objects
      2m 9s
    6. Replacing the spine of a blend
      4m 32s
    7. Reversing the direction of a blend
      2m 15s
    8. Releasing and expanding a blend
      1m 47s
  13. 46m 54s
    1. Introducing charts and graphs
      35s
    2. Setting expectations: Graphs in Illustrator
      3m 19s
    3. Creating a chart
      8m 2s
    4. Importing data
      3m 34s
    5. Formatting data
      5m 1s
    6. Customizing a chart
      10m 21s
    7. Combining chart types
      2m 40s
    8. Creating graph designs
      6m 0s
    9. Styling and updating graphs
      5m 33s
    10. Ungrouping graphs
      1m 49s
  14. 26m 36s
    1. Introducing Gradient Mesh
      23s
    2. Understanding the Gradient Mesh feature
      9m 34s
    3. Using Gradient Mesh to add contoured shading
      6m 14s
    4. Using Gradient Mesh to create photorealistic effects
      10m 25s
  15. 8m 18s
    1. Introducing flare effects
      25s
    2. Drawing a lens flare
      3m 28s
    3. Modifying a lens flare
      1m 27s
    4. Using a mask with lens flares
      2m 58s
  16. 29s
    1. Goodbye
      29s

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Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
9h 42m Intermediate Apr 03, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Covering a wide range of topics, from advanced masking to chart creation, Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics reveals a whole new level of power, creativity, and efficiency with Illustrator. Instructor Mordy Golding explores how to work with Live Paint groups, get the most out of the Live Trace feature, and take advantage of Illustrator’s wide range of effects. He also discusses advanced transformation techniques, powerful 3D functionality, and important color concepts. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Tracing artwork both automatically and manually
  • Mapping artwork to complex 3D surfaces
  • Using pressure-sensitive distortion tools
  • Recoloring artwork across a document
  • Using Excel data to create charts and graphs
  • Understanding how transparency really works
  • Creating high-quality, press-ready PDFs
  • Building efficient files with graphic styles
Subject:
Design
Software:
Illustrator
Author:
Mordy Golding

Understanding the Gradient Mesh feature

One of the more mysterious features inside of Illustrator is Gradient Mesh. Now we are already familiar with what a gradient is. A gradient basically allows us to take a single fill for an object and have it be made up of multiple colors. Those colors actually travel in a single direction and they blend seamlessly into each other. But the most important part of the definition is those particular colors travel in one direction. So for example, we know that there are two kinds of gradients fills, something called the Linear Gradient fill and something called the Radial Gradient fill. Now in this case over here, I have a Linear Gradient fill on this object and you could see that I have a start color and an end color. We could have multiple colors but all the colors, the transition of those colors, always travel in one direction.

I can have it go up, down or at an angle but again they all travel in one direction. Let me open up my Swatches panel here and I'll choose a Radial Gradient. So again the Radial Gradient has to abide by the same rules. The gradient itself travels in one direction, except it travels from the center outwards but I can't really have anything else deviate from that inside of this particular gradient. Well that is where Gradient Mesh comes into play. As we are going to see Gradient Mesh is actually an object that is made up of a grid of many anchor points, what we are going to be calling mesh points. You can think of those mesh points as different stops in a gradient but the benefit is that because these are actual mesh points, the gradients themselves can travel in any different direction.

Let me show you exactly what I mean. There are two ways to define or create a Gradient Mesh inside of Illustrator. Now a mesh object inside of Illustrator is actually different than a path. You can't just start off by creating a mesh object from scratch. You need to first start with the path and then convert that path into a mesh object and the tricky thing is also that once you create a mesh object, that object no longer can be turned back into a path again. As we are going to learn mesh objects and paths are like apples and oranges. They are not exact same type of object inside of Illustrator. So I'm going to start off with this object right here. I'm actually going to change its fill color just to solid red and I'm now going to show you that there are two ways to define a Gradient Mesh inside of Illustrator.

The easiest way is actually go straight to your Tools panel and choose the Mesh tool. Now in previous versions of Illustrator, this is actually called the Gradient Mesh tool but now there are many technologies or features inside of Illustrator that actually use mesh. For example, we know that the envelope feature which is used to store objects inside of Illustrator also uses mesh, but in this case here we'll be dealing specifically with gradient, so I'm going to use the Mesh tool to move my cursor outside on to the artboard. You can see, by the way, right now there is a circle with a line going through that cursor. That is identifying that right now I can't use that particular tool. Remember the tool itself can only be used on an existing path. That is also important to know that it has to be a regular plane path; it can't be a compound path or text object for example. And what I'll do is I'll actually move my mouse cursor over that particular object.

Now I'll see that I now have the ability to add a mesh point inside of this particular object. So the first thing is I'm going to move my cursor just about right about over here. I'm going to click once Define a mesh point. Now, actually two things just happened right now. First of all, I took my path and I have converted it now into a mesh object. Second of all, I have defined my first mesh point on my object. Now Illustrator automatically creates mesh points around the outsides of the object as well, which we'll talk about in a minute, but let us first understand what this mesh point actually is. So like I mentioned before, a mesh point can be thought of as a color stop in a gradient.

So right now, this particular mesh point is selected. I'm now going to go to my Swatches panel and choose, let's say, white. So here is the first main difference between a Gradient Mesh and anything else inside of Illustrator. Now we know that we can apply fill attributes to entire objects inside of Illustrator. I can have multiple fills that overlap each other but every object itself has a fill. What I can do inside of Illustrator though is I can apply a fill color to just one anchor point or in this case here, a mesh point inside of the object. Now just like the color stops in a gradient when I define one color, it automatically blends that color into the other side of the color of that particular gradient. If we take a look at this mesh point right now, this mesh point has a white fill attribute applied to it.

This particular mesh point right over here has a red fill color applied to it. So Illustrator is now basically creating a gradient from this anchor point or mesh point to this mesh point right here. So you see it goes from white and it transitions all the way to red. Now the thing though was that we discussed before, Gradient Meshes go in all different directions. So now, the actual blend or gradient that exists between this anchor point and this anchor point or mesh points also goes from white to red. Same thing in this direction and the same thing-- I'm going to move my screen just a little bit over here to the side-- actually exists from this mesh point to this mesh point as well. But because the distance between these two mesh points is far greater than the ones that appear between these, the actual gradient itself is kind of stretched out. So I get a really nice smooth transition which is different that what exists right here. In addition, you will also note that at every mesh point, I also have control handles, which is really not unlike any smooth anchor point inside of Illustrator. In fact, I can use my Direct Selection tool to actually click and drag on these control handles and what that does it actually adjust the contour of the gradient as it goes along this particular path between the two mesh points.

So right now I'm basically telling Illustrator, here is one mesh point which is filled white, here is one mesh point which is filled red, create a blend of the color between those two points and while you are doing that, follow this particular contour the path. So this is really at the core of the power of the Gradient Mesh tool. Let's take a look over here. I'm going to actually delete this object. I'm going to show you the other way to create a Gradient Mesh object. That is one way using the Mesh tool. I'm actually going to use my Ellipse tool here, hold down the Option key on the Mac or Alt on Windows. I want to start drawing it out from the center. I'm actually going to create an oval somewhere about that size. It does not make a difference what it is.

I'm going to change its fill color, let's say, to green. Again, I'm just choosing an arbitrary color here. So now instead of using the Mesh tool itself, I'm going to go to the Object menu. With that path selected, I'm going to choose Create Gradient Mesh. It opens up the Create Gradient Mesh dialog box. Now here I have the ability to specify a number of rows and columns which automatically define mesh points at standardized areas throughout the particular object. Now there is also an option here where it says Appearance. Right now it is set to Flat. [00:05:51. 22] That means that all of the color right now is remaining flat. Illustrator does have the ability to automatically say to center, just uses white as like a highlight color and it basically goes ahead and applies some colors here to make it appear as some kind of a 3D appearance. We'll talk more about this in a moment.

Or I can choose To Edge which is just reverse. I can also choose the intensity of what highlight is right now, but in reality when I go ahead and I work with Gradient Mesh, I really go ahead and I choose that as my appearance. So I want to that on my own by I choosing my own colors. So I can specify the number of rows and columns. I could add more rows and columns. For example, I could add let's say 20 rows and 20 columns and that adds that many more mesh points to my object. Now here is the thing about working with mesh points in a Gradient Mesh object. The more mesh points you have, the more transitions of color you can have. At the same time though, it also makes your Gradient Mesh object more complex and more difficult to control as we'll see when you start working with these mesh points. So you really are kind of faced with this kind of thing.

Do you want more color divisions or do you want to be able to actually have an easier object to work with? That depends on the task that you have at hand. But my advice is always to kind of err on the lower side basically meaning I add fewer rows and columns to my object because it's easier to add mesh points later on. Starting to delete mesh points is easy to do but you still have to worry about all the extra rows or columns that exist. So what I'm just going to is I'm actually going to set this back to just the original, let's say, 5 rows and 5 columns and click OK. So at this point now, I have the ability to use my Mesh tool over here. I'm going to go back over here to the Mesh tool and I can click on a mesh point to select that mesh point and assign a color to it.

Now I also have the ability to move over mesh points and I can actually hold down the Option or the Alt key and click to remove that particular mesh point. Notice now that mesh point disappeared. I also have the ability to just simply click and add a mesh point anywhere that I want to as well. So adding mesh points, removing mesh points, very easy. One thing that I really want to point though about what the Gradient Mesh tool really kind of brings here is that even on a very simplistic level, you have the ability over here to create these contours, which is very difficult to do working with blends or gradients otherwise. Even if you are not going to create some kind of complex shape, you could still take advantage of the Gradient Mesh feature. Let me show you exactly what I mean. I'm going to press Undo a few times.

I want to go back to my shape before as it turns into a mesh object. Notice over here in my control panel it says I'm working with a path. I'm going to basically work with this object. I have it selected. I'm going to use my Mesh tool here. To click, let's say, in the upper right hand region of this particular oval and when I click, you can see that the actual lines that are defined here are kind of contoured match my shape. This happens automatically when you are working with Gradient Mesh and that is extremely powerful because when I choose another color, let's say for a highlight color here, I can see that I automatically get a very nice transition and the contour matches the shape.

So I get an appearance that normally would not happen with the regular flat type of gradient or blend even that I would create. So this is really, I think, where Gradient Mesh kind of comes into play. You don't have to worry about creating all different kinds of things. We are actually going to explore in this chapter, two different ways to actually employ Gradient Mesh. So for example, if I look at these two items down here. Here I actually used Gradient Mesh to create a realistic highlight, a reflection, on this particular shape right here. Notice how it kind of transitions and it also kind of matches the contour of the shape as well. So I want to use Gradient Mesh to help me do that instead of me trying to figure how to do that on my own.

Additionally, you can also use Gradient Mesh to create photorealistic images. For example, in this case here I wanted to create some kind of a stylized image of a guy surfing. In fact, I'll even show you the image that I started with before I created this and you will see how easy it is when you are working with Gradient Mesh to basically start with a photograph and then convert that step by step into something that looks rather cool. To now understand what Gradient Mesh is, how it works, the elements that basically make it tick, we can start to explore how to actually go about creating these two different types of effects.

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