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Using Gradient Mesh to create photorealistic effects

From: Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics

Video: Using Gradient Mesh to create photorealistic effects

One of the benefits about working with Gradient Mesh is that you can create so many mesh points in an object that you have so many minute different changes in colors that you can get something that looks very photorealistic. Now in this example over here, what I would like to show you is a way to kind of create some kind of a stylized version of photograph that has some photorealism inside of it but that also allows us to be somewhat creative with our result and I want to use gradient mesh to do that and more importantly, I want you to pay attention to the techniques that we are going to be using in this particular example because we are going to be using things like the Lasso and the Eyedropper tools, even mixing some of the Warp effects inside of Illustrator and we'll really get a feel for how all these tools kind of mesh together with Gradient Mesh to get a really cool result.

Using Gradient Mesh to create photorealistic effects

One of the benefits about working with Gradient Mesh is that you can create so many mesh points in an object that you have so many minute different changes in colors that you can get something that looks very photorealistic. Now in this example over here, what I would like to show you is a way to kind of create some kind of a stylized version of photograph that has some photorealism inside of it but that also allows us to be somewhat creative with our result and I want to use gradient mesh to do that and more importantly, I want you to pay attention to the techniques that we are going to be using in this particular example because we are going to be using things like the Lasso and the Eyedropper tools, even mixing some of the Warp effects inside of Illustrator and we'll really get a feel for how all these tools kind of mesh together with Gradient Mesh to get a really cool result.

So I'm going to start of with this file here. It's called photorealism and on the bottom, I have a photograph that I have actually embedded in this document. It's a regular plain photo, which I have of a guy basically surfing, and I want to create some kind of a stylized version of this but I want to use the photograph as a base for it. So I'm going to start off just by drawing a regular path. Remember when we are working with Gradient Mesh inside of Illustrator, we have to first create a path and then convert it into a mesh object. So I'm going to use a rectangle about the same size and again, be creative with this as we kind of go through if you are following along. You do not have to do the exact same things that I'm doing here but it is just a general way of understanding how we work in this particular way. So I'm going to start off by first choosing a fill color for this particular object and when I start off with just like maybe a darker color over here and something maybe this area over here that we can work with. Again we'll start to see as we start to introduce other shading for the colors that we are going to be using. So with the top objects still selected, I'm going to tap the I key on my keyboard. The I key is the keyboard shortcut to the Eyedropper tool and wherever I move my cursor, I'll see the eyedroppers here which will allow me to sample the color of the screen from that particular areas.

I am going to hold down the Shift key when I click because I want to be able to sample the actual pixels from this area of the image. I'm going to click just about right over here and I'm going to fill my entire rectangle with that one color. That is going to be my base color. We are going to work off of that color. So I'm ready for the next step, which I'm going to actually define a mesh. So we are going to take this path, convert it into a mesh object. I'm going to go to the Object menu here, I'm going to choose Create Gradient Mesh and here is the interesting thing here. What I want is I want to somehow create these kind of waves and the appearance of these waves through the water. So what I would like to do is I'd like to have a lot of rows but not as many columns. I do not want to add that much complexity. So what I'll do is I'll specify, let's say, I do not know. Maybe around 10, almost to may 12.

12 columns and then for the number of rows though, we'll try to go somewhere like 20. Maybe we can go a little bit more and it's about 25 rows but we have basically, there is a lot of mesh points to deal with on that particular level. I'm going to leave the appearance set to Flat. We are going to change the colors on our own. I'm going to leave the highlight, which is irrelevant. In reality, the highlight here should be grayed out if we are using a flat appearance. This does not apply. I am going to click on the OK button over here to basically now have converted my regular object right now, you can see is now a mesh object here inside of Illustrator. So now I'm going to start by actually applying some of the colors to the mesh points in this file. So the first thing that I want to do is I want to create this kind of rift over this top of the wave that exist right here at this part of the image. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to start off over here by using my Lasso tool and again when I'm working with mesh, I find a lot of times it's easier to work with a Lasso tool but again in this example also, as we'll see we can also use the regular Direct Selection tool because all these are pretty much in straight line. In fact, let us go ahead and do that here because it's easy to marquee select them.

Just take the top portion of this image right over here, something around, say, these points right here. Notice now these are selected and these are not. I'm going to tap the I key on my keyboard again to go back to the Eyedropper tool and we are doing this a lot and I'm simply going to go ahead and Shift-click on, let's say, a part of a lighter color for this top portion. So the first thing I have done, I'm going to deselect this right now so we can see what we have done here, is we have actually created now two different shaded areas for my Gradient Mesh but over here it's simply solid and here it's simply solid. The only area that actually transitions or changes in color are the anchor points or the mesh points that exist from this area to this area over here.

So this is what we are starting to do. We are starting to create some kind of area that I can start working with to define what my shape is going to look like. So now, I can use again my Direct Selection tool here to actually go ahead and highlight just an anchor point, let's say in the middle, just these points and I want to create a look of some of these waves. So I'm just going to again tap the I key on my keyboard. I'm actually going to go over here and just Shift-click again in a little bit of a darker area. It does not make a difference what color you are going to be choosing here because we just want to create some kind of difference of shades of colors between these points. I'll use my Direct Selection tool to go ahead and just again highlight some other colors that are here as well.

Tap the I key on my keyboard and I'll choose, let's say, another color. Let's say Shift-click on some other color that is here as well. Just until I get something that looks little bit different in that particular area. Now here is the keyboard shortcut by the way. Hold down the Command key. You can see the Command key returns you to your Direct Selection tool. That actually returns you to the last Selection tool that you have used but the last one we did use was the Direct Selection tool. So now I could just quickly go ahead here and hold down the Command key. If you are on Windows, press the Ctrl key to make this work and I'll go ahead and I'll select, maybe let's say just skip a row, and then choose these over here and then use my Eyedropper tool to then choose let's say another color, maybe something little bit lighter just to get some other kind of shading in there and again I'll hold down the Command key. Let's go ahead and highlight another row over here. I just simply want to create these different areas or different shades of colors as well as I do this. So now, if I go ahead and kind of deselect it, see what I have created. I have started to create these different levels of colors of shading in that Gradient Mesh and again because of the Gradient Mesh, they will blend into each other.

So now let us work close to the bottom where we have some of these darker colors going on. Again, I'll select this over here. I'll use my Direct Selection tool to again highlight maybe some areas of let's say the colors over here, highlight those mesh points, tap the I key to get my Eyedropper tool and go ahead and maybe get some darker areas there. Again Command key to switch tools. Let's go ahead and highlight a few of these. Pick something little bit not too dark and say somewhere over there and again I'll continue to do this just for the rest of the mesh points that I have. I'm actually skipping lines as I do this because I want it to transition back to the original background color that I had chosen but you don't have to do that. I can actually choose let's say a few colors here and then let's say choose.. And I'll skip right down to the bottom, let's say to over here. I'm going to go to a darker color like there.

So now I have basically all these areas of color that I have created. What I want to start doing now is start to kind of add other areas of color that may be a little bit lighter or darker. For example, I notice let's say in this area here it is all kind of lightened up, than it is, let's say, on this side of the image. So here is where I start to use my Lasso tool because I can use my Lasso tool to just simply select a range of these mesh points. I do not really care if it's specific or not. I'm just trying to work something here in a generic form. Tap the I key to go to my Eyedropper tool. I'm going to go ahead and choose a color here. So, I'm starting to introduce other areas basically of color and blends as well and I'm using my Lasso tool to just select random areas.

Maybe I want to bring some like tiny highlights around over here. Maybe I just want to go ahead and choose these areas let's say over here and do that the same for here as well. Let's say add a few more in this here again and if I'll hold down the Shift key, I can actually do this in multiple areas. Tap the I key, choose let's say a darker color that is right there. See I'm just basically introducing other areas here in the artwork and I can kind of do the same thing for down here on the bottom as well. Let's just choose some random areas here with the Shift key as I do this to simply add to my selection here. And I'll go ahead and choose let's say darker color, let's say for there. So now you can start to see I'm starting to add a little bit more texture into this object that I'm working with here which eventually will have some kind of a stylized look for the water itself. So now what I'm going to do is I'm actually going to go ahead and start to use some other tools that will allow me to adjust this mesh in ways that I cannot do with the mesh itself.

In reality, I could start selecting this mesh. Use my regular Direct Selection tool here. Click on each mesh point and they all have little anchor points and they all have control handles, so I could start modifying to the control handles. It's a lot of work to do. So if I want, for example, the waves to kind of bend upwards a little bit, right now it goes straight across. What I can do is use some of the other tools inside of Illustrator. For example, I'm going to use my regular Selection tool to click and select the entire object. Now all my mesh points are selected and I'm actually going to go ahead and use the Warp tool inside of Illustrator. Now this Warp tool allows you to basically reposition or adjust paths inside of Illustrator. These mesh points and the paths they connect them are all vectors.

So the Warp tool itself can work on these objects. So I'm actually going to click on it right now. Let's say the brush size, which is -- I'm pretty happy with where it is right now and I can start to actually push this up and adjust these particular areas to kind of introduce different parts or different ways that these mesh points actually interact with each other. So I'll start to introduce a few other areas. The only thing I want to avoid here in this case is since these outer edges are also selected, if I go over here I kind of stretch that out. In reality, you can do this and still add realism and then maybe overall just create a regular rectangular as a mask to kind of trim out those areas. I'm going to stay away from the edges here. Just to kind of do this.

I'm starting to introduce some of these areas here to just add a little bit more texture and more of randomness to this but at the same time, I want to be able to maybe pull up in certain areas the wave here to make it look a little bit more realistic. Now on top of that, there are other tools that I could use within the Liquefy toolset to really help adjust this. For example, right now I'm going to deselect this. All the areas kind of blend into each other smoothly but maybe I want to create some areas where it does not really appear so smooth. So, again with my mesh object actually selected, I'm going to use one of the other Liquefy tools. For example, this one called the Wrinkle tool and I'll start to actually kind of introduce these wrinkles into the paths here which will give me that appearance as the color transitions between each other to have more of a kind of wrinkle transition which matches more closely to the way that I see the waves and the water that is right over here and again the more that I go ahead and I drag in this, the more of that distortion I'm basically adding to it.

I'm staying away from the middle here because I do want to have more of that kind of straight line that is there. But as I click on the Selection tool to deselect this object, you can see what I have created. Something really nice and natural, almost painterly, which I cannot do otherwise inside of Illustrator. Even if I was to start manually editing these mesh points inside of Illustrator, it would be very difficult to get this type of appearance and look. So now all I really need to do is add a surfer in this particular area. Well, if I go to my Symbols panel here, you can actually see I have created this guy. I have actually just done a basic simple trace of this guy right over here and I'll drag it that on to my artboard, put him just where I want him to be, let's say right about over here. Maybe I'll bring him down just about over here as well and maybe just for effect I want to add just a little bit of a splash behind him.

So what I'll do is I'll lock this particular object right now. I can't select it. I'll use my Lasso tool to just select a range of mesh points right behind him over there and fill those with white. And now I have created this really really cool effect here inside of Illustrator, almost photorealistic in nature, very painterly. And again what I just basically did here was I started working with a regular Gradient Mesh, but I have been sampling parts of the image itself. Once I'm done with that, I can just simply click on that image, delete it and I'm left with a really cool image that I can work with here inside of Illustrator.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics

137 video lessons · 29161 viewers

Mordy Golding
Author

 
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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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