How to Use the Gradient Mesh Tool in Adobe Illustrator

Gradient Meshes allow for very flexible and detailed application of color to objects. A Gradient Mesh creates a grid inside the object that follows the contour. Color can then be applied to grid points, and different colors between grid points feather into each other.

This function is found in Illustrator CS5, CS6, and CC.

  1. Select the object, then go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh.
    Object Menu
  2. Set the number of Rows and Columns. Check Preview, if necessary, so you can see the grid, then click OK.
    Gradient Mesh Dialog Box
  3. The grid has anchor points at the ends and intersections of the grid lines. Choose the Direct Selection Tool and click one of the anchor points and you'll that they are Connector Points with Bezier handles. This means you can adjust the contour of the grid lines, if necessary.
    Gradient Mesh
  4. Select the Gradient Mesh Tool and make sure that Fill is active. Click on one of the grid points in the object, then click a color in the Swatches Panel.
    Gradient Mesh Tool
  5. Continue selecting different grid points and applying color. Be careful around the edges. If you click the path where there is no grid point, you'll add another grid line.
    Gradient Mesh with Color Applied
  6. Note that the Gradient Mesh Tool only allows one grid point at a time to be selected. If you want to apply the same color to more than one grid point, use the Direct Selection Tool instead. After clicking the first grid point, hold down the Shift key to select additional ones.
Author: Kate Cahill

Kate Cahill is a graphic designer, writer, and creative director who has developed content for print and web. As creative director, she has produced award-winning work for agencies focused on the pharmaceutical and health and beauty aid industries. She has also served as production manager, with responsibility for the successful fulfillment of long-run print contracts. Kate has been delivering training for Webucator clients since 2010. Her enthusiasm for cutting-edge technology, combined with hands-on practical experience, brings an added benefit to her classes. Kate teaches real-world techniques and integration of Adobe software, as well as Microsoft PowerPoint, to produce a fully developed and cohesive brand identity.

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