Gradient Mesh can be a wonderful tool to master but the learning curve can
bring a bit of frustration to the beginner, I myself found it confusing at first
but with a little practice and a simple plan I was able to get around a few
of the tools weaknesses and avoid snapping Wacom pens in anguish.
When I started illustrating with the mesh tool I would always attempt to draw
a large portion of the image and then force the mesh to conform to what I wanted
it to look like. With this technique, what would happen was when I tried to
manipulate the points I would find myself tasked with forcing the mesh to take
the shape of the image I wanted, which meant that I had to spend quite some
effort “sculpting” the mesh itself. When I say sculpting I’m not talking about
the sexy way it was done in that movie Ghost with Patrick Swayze, I’m talking
about the geeky mouse and Wacom push points around sculpting. Doing it this
way is fine if you are patient and skilled/super art geek, but the door is wide
open for issues to crop up later as the more complex a mesh is the harder it
is to work with.
Break It Down
The solution would be to find the inner shape in the image and illustrate them
instead. Then construct the image as a whole from its smaller parts. By working
with the smallest identifiable shape in the image, and applying the mesh to
it, I am fully in control of the meshes behavior. With simple shapes the mesh
will conform to the contour of the shape as long as you start the mesh near
the edge of the vector.
Working The Curves
The key to good control of the fountain pen tool is to have the disipline of
a Jedi master or just take your time and develop the arc bit by bit. First we
will creat one petal so we get the hang of useing the pen tool. You can download
an Adobe Illustrator file Petal.ai or Petal
Outlined.ai of the petal I did or just follow along these steps to create
Create A Leaf / Walk Through Fire
There is nothing like practice to hone your ability. This process can be like
walking through fire, painfull but nessesary to complete the journey. You can
download an Adobe Illustrator files Leaf.ai and
Now that we are breaking the image down to simple shapes we find that it takes
longer to get to a point in the illustration where the image is identifiable.
So many little shapes to illustrate and not much time especially when the PS3
is waiting to be played. There is not always an easy way around this but in
this instance because this illustrations parts are similar I was able to get
Fortunately because the petals on this plant are similar I was able to clone
several of them and reuse them. I copy and paste them down changing the shape
and adjusting the color with the adjust color balance control or going into
the mesh and changing the color at the points.
The Big Finish
Keeping it simple is the best strategy I know of so just follow that rule and
you can’t go wrong. Be sure to invest I good equipment as well. At the time
I did this illustration I had a VERY good color accurate monitor that was calibrated
regularly by people more knowledgeable than I (I call them Supermen you call
them techies). I don’t still have access to such equipment but I have come to
learn with digital art you have to be cognisant of how color shifts from monitor
to monitor and at the final print end.
Well I’m going to finish off the alchemist battle in Prince Of Persia. Good
luck with your projects and I hope this tutorial helps. Cheers :).
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