Follow this tutorial and learn how to create beautiful flowers with the help of the Gradient Mesh function in Adobe Illustrator. We will start with the shape of the petal then using the Gradient Mesh we will add the mesh points and color it. After this, we will compose the flower followed by the stamens in the center. For them, we will use a custom Scatter Brush along with the Transform effect and the Gradient Mesh of course. We will continue with adding details on the petals with the help of the Blend Tool, Pucker & Bloat and Transform effects. We'll finish with adding shadows and trying other color versions. Let's begin!
1. Start a New Project
Launch Illustrator then go to File > New to open a new blank document. Type a name and set up the dimensions then select Pixels as Units and RGB as Color Mode. Now, go to Edit > Preferences > General and set the Keyboard Increment to 1px. While there, go to Units & Display Performance and set the Units as in the image. I usually work with these settings and they will help you throughout the drawing process.
2. Create the Shape of the Petal
First, grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw an 18 x 75px ellipse having a simple stroke. Now, using the Direct Selection Tool (A) select only the anchor point at the bottom then move it down and a little to the left. You can see the difference between them, the red path is the original and the blue path is the new one.
Starting from the shape obtained at the previous step you can create different petals. So, before you continue make a copy and keep it for the second petal.
Now, select using the Direct Selection Tool (A) only the anchor point from the left and move it a little to the left. Also move the handles as indicated. You can make extra adjustments is you want but the petal is pretty much ready. I will name this shape "petal 1".
Grab the copy that I've mentioned earlier and modify it to create the second petal. With the Direct Selection Tool (A) move the left and right point a bit further from each other then move the handles of the top point as shown. I will name the new shape (red) "petal 2".
You can create only one petal but for variety reasons I decided to go with two.
3. Create the Mesh and Color the Petals
Now you have the two petals. Select "petal 2" then go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh, select 3 Rows and 3 Columns and hit OK. Your petal should look like below at this point.
Using the Direct Selection Tool (A) you can select each mesh point and color it. In this case we're using shades of pink. Follow the color codes and replace the gray fill of each point with the colors indicated. At the end the petal should look like in the next image.
Next, select "petal 1" then go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh, select 4 Rows and 3 Columns and hit OK. Following the first example you can color the petal using again shades of pink.
"Petal 1" and "petal 2" are ready. If you're having trouble with the coloring part you can find all the colors that I've used in the Swatches panel if you download the reference file.
Multiply "petal 1" and "petal 2" then rotate and arrange them as indicated to create the flower. At the beginning create the first layer then arrange more petals above and finally for the third layer, just fill the remaining empty spaces.
4. Create the Center of the Flower
Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a 25 x 25px circle and select brown as the fill color. With the circle still selected, go to Effect > Stylize and apply the Outer Glow effect using the settings shown below. This will make sense once the stamen will be ready.
With the Ellipse Tool (L) draw a small circle and give it a black fill. Drag this circle into the Brushes panel and choose New Scatter Brush. Leave the settings as they are and just hit OK.
Draw a new circle having the dimensions indicated then give it a 1 pt black Stroke. Also Stroke the circle with the Scatter Brush saved at the previous step.
Having the circle selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform and apply the settings shown below. You can't really see the result but we'll get there.
With the circle still selected, go to Object menu and choose Expand Appearance in order to expand the brush stroke and the effect applied. Fill the resulting group with the radial gradient indicated.
Now, take a closer look at this group. Go to the Layers panel, locate the group and open it. You will see that it's composed of many other groups of circles arranged in order, from outside to the center (very small circles).
Next, we will rearrange all these groups. The first group of circles (from the outside) remains as is. Select the second group from the Layers panel then go to Object > Transform > Rotate, set the Angle to 10 degrees and hit OK. Do not release the group yet and go to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front (Shift-Control-]).
Now, select the third group of circles from the Layers panel and go to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front (Shift-Control-]). This time we won't rotate the group.
Select the fourth group of circles then Rotate 10 degrees and Bring it to Front as you did with the second group. The fifth group you just have to Bring it to Front. You've got this! The point is to bring each group in front of the previous (invert the existing order) and also rotate every second group in order to get the specific look. Continue with the remaining groups and the center of your flower should look like in the next image.
Move the entire group in the center of the flower and scale it about the size of the brown circle.
Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw a circle above the stamens. Mine was about 25 x 25px. Select black as the fill color then go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh, choose 2 Rows and 2 Columns and hit OK. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A) select only the mesh point from the center and replace the black fill color with white. Set this circle to Blending Mode Overlay and 40-50% Opacity.
5. Add Details on the Flower
Draw two circles with the Ellipse Tool (L) having the dimensions 45 x 45px and 9 x 9px. Fill both circles with black but set the bigger circle to 0% Opacity. Having both of them selected, go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and choose 20 Specified Steps then hit OK. Go back to Object > Blend > Make (Alt-Control-B). Move the resulting blend group behind the stamens but in front of the petals.
Select the same blend group then go to Effect > Distort & Transform and apply the Pucker & Bloat effect. Don't release the group yet and go back to Effect > Distort & Transform to apply the Transform effect this time. At the end, lower the Opacity of the blend group to 10-20%.
These are the settings that I've used for the Pucker & Bloat and Transform effects:
You can see here a before and after screenshot but we are not done yet.
Draw other two circles having the dimensions 45 x 45px and 9 x 9px. Fill both circles with black. Select the bigger circle and go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points in order to add four extra points on the path (more point means more spikes at the next step). Also set the bigger circle to 0% Opacity. Blend them using again 20 Specified Steps then move the resulting blend group behind the stamens.
Having the blend group from the previous step selected, apply the Pucker & Bloat effect then the Transform effect. Set the group to Blending Mode Overlay and 40-50% Opacity.
These are the settings that I've used for the two effects:
Here is a before and after screenshot:
6. Add Shadow Behind the Flower
Select all the petals then go to Object > Path > Offset Path and apply a 0px Offset. As a result you will get the shapes of the petals but without the mesh points and lines.
Select all the petal shapes obtained at the previous step and press Add in the Pathfinder panel. You will get a compound path but go to Object > Compound Path > Release and delete the small shapes in the center. You only need the outline and I will name it "flower-shape".
Before you continue, make a copy of the "flower-shape" because you will need it later for a mask. Now, with the original shape selected go to Object > Transform > Scale, type 109% in the Scale field and hit OK. Next, with the Ellipse Tool (L) draw a circle about the size of the stamens. Fill both shapes with the color indicated but set the "flower-shape" to 3% Opacity.
Select the "flower-shape" and the circle then go to Object > Blend > Blend Options, choose 30 Specified Steps and hit OK. Go back to Object > Blend > Make (Alt-Control-B). Send the resulting blend group behind everything by going to Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Control-[). At this point I thought that the shadow is too sharp so I also applied a 2px Gaussian Blur (Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur) but this is optional.
7. Add Shadows between the Petals
You don't need to add shadows to all the petals but only for those on top (the third layer from step 3.5). Select each petal then go to Effect > Stylize and apply the Drop Shadow effect. The settings vary for each petal and in the image below you can see two examples. You only need to set the X Offset and Y Offset values according to the position of the petals, the Mode, Opacity and Blur values remain the same.
We only want the shadows between the petals where they overlap and not on the outside, because there we have the flower's shadow. To fix this we will use a mask. Take the copy of the "flower-shape" that I've mentioned earlier and move it in front of the petals with the help of the Layers panel. Now, select this shape (fill-none, stroke-none) and also the group of petals and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7).
At this point the pink flower is ready and should look like in the next image:
8. Try Different Colors
Imagine replacing all the shades of pink that you have used for the mesh points of the petals. Crazy, right? Well, you can easily create other color versions of the same flower with the help of the Recolor Artwork function. First, make a copy of the pink flower then go to the Layer panel and select only the group of petals without the mask. Now, go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork, press the Edit tab, press the Link harmony colors option and select RGB mode. Type in the shade of purple indicated and hit OK. As a result your pink petals will turn into purple petals.
Make another copy of the pink flower then select only the group of petals and go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork. This time use the color indicated and you'll get a coral-colored flower.
The same thing goes for the orange flower.
Great Work, You're Now Done!
I hope that you've enjoyed this tutorial and also enjoyed using the Gradient Mesh function. Feel free to create flowers of different colors and if you do, please show them to us. I would love to see them.