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In this tutorial you will learn how to create a realistic image of a gift bow using the Mesh Tool. With many uses including greeting cards, designs and even web banners, I'm sure you'll find many uses for this fancy ribbon. You will also learn many helpful tips on how to use the gradient mesh to make conical gradients. Let's get started!
First, determine the colors that you're going to use. All the colors will match the numbers, which I will use in screenshots and further description. I use a light red color # 1 (C = 2, M = 83, Y = 73 and K = 0) as the basic one. I used two colors to reproduce the highlights of the bow: pink # 2 (C = 5, M = 64, Y = 52 and K = 0), pale pink # 3 (C = 0, M = 20, Y = 23 and K = 0). I used four colors to reproduce the shadows: dark red # 4 (C = 20, M = 95, Y = 91 and K = 12); light brown # 5 (C = 30, M = 88, Y = 83 and K = 30), brown # 6 (C = 30, M = 92, Y = 91 and K = 38); brown # 7 (C = 33, M = 93, Y = 87 and K = 46). I used two colors to reproduce deep shadows on the inner part of the ribbon: dark brown # 8 (C = 37, M = 90, Y = 82 and K = 58) and dark brown # 8 (C = 44, M = 83, Y = 76 and K = 68). Move all the colors that you will work with to the Swatches palette one after another from the lightest color to darkest one.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M) create the shape of ribbon with a linear gradient fill. The figure shows the numbers of the colors.
Create the upper edge of the ribbon. Copy the created rectangle and paste it behind (Command + C then Command + B). Change the fill color of the new rectangle to a dark brown # 9, and shift the rectangle a little vertically up. To edit the color and rectangle location, it will be easier to select it in the Layer palette.
Create the shadow from the ribbon. Copy the rectangle with the gradient and paste it behind (Command + C, Command + B). Change the fill color to dark grey. Copy this rectangle and paste it behind (Command + C then Command + B), now shift the copy down a bit and change the Opacity to 0% in the Transparency palette.
Select the two rectangles and go to Object > Blend > Make.
Group up all the objects and keep them selected, go to Object > Transform > Rotate, set 45 degrees in the dialogue box.
Let us proceed to the bow elements. The ribbon curves represent a conical surface. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a trapezoid-like shape, fill it with a linear gradient.
Now our task is to transform the linear gradient into a conical one. Select the object and go to Object > Expand, choose the Gradient Mesh in the dialogue box.
As a result of this operation we have a group containing two objects: the Clipping Mask and the Mesh. In order not to deform the mask, lock the sub-layer with the Clipping Mask, and proceed to editing the gradient mesh.
Move the upper points of the mesh horizontally closer to the center of the figure (hold Shift). The handles of the anchor points should not overlap, otherwise you will not get a smooth transition of color (overlapping of the anchor point handles)
While moving the anchor points make sure that mesh lines do not override the outlines of the figure.
Make the handles of vertical curves (on the mesh) straight.
The transition smoothness can be adjusted by moving the horizontal handles of the anchor points. The overlapping of the adjacent handles can prevent a smooth transition. This overlapping is hard to notice once the anchor points are very close to each other, even at a very large scale. The anchor point needs to be shifted up at the place of torn transition and then it will be easy to see the overlapping one, adjust the length of the anchor point handle and move it back to its place.
To edit the gradient mesh, you may also need the Convert anchor point Tool. This tool can remove and add shoulders to the anchor points of the mesh. After several minutes of editing I have this conical gradient.
Now create the inner surface of the ribbon. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create an ellipse, fill it with a linear gradient.
Let's take a look at the elements of the bow. Reflections on the bends of the ribbon may have sharp edges. The shape of such reflections can be created with the help of the Pen Tool (P) and fill them with a solid color or gradient. Now drag the created object into the group of edited element of the bow in the Layers palette.
Create the illusion of thickness on the edge of the ribbon. Use the technique described in step 2. The lower ellipse can be filled with a solid color or linear gradient picking colors from the Swatches palette.
Build eight more similar elements of the bow and place them circle-wise as shown in the figure below.
Take the Pen Tool (P) and create the straight-line portion of the ribbon. Fill this shape with a linear gradient.
Now create the inner part of the straight-line portion of the ribbon with the help of the Pen Tool (P).
Duplicating the created element and shifting it slightly upward to create the thickness of the straight-line portion of the ribbon. Use the technique described in step 2.
Create a central lobe of the bow with the Pen Tool (P) and fix its location with the help of four guides. Now rotate the created shape and place it aside, so it will be easier to create the Gradient Mesh.
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle in the sub-layer below the central lobe.
Select the rectangle and the central lobe and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make. Now take the Mesh Tool (U) and set the first grid point at the center of the lower side of the rectangle.
Add new points to the gradient mesh, edit the grid lines and add color to the anchor points from the Swatches palette
Place the central lobe in place which is marked by the guides. The guides can be deleted now. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a hole in the central lobe.
Now create the lower lobes of the bow. Create their shapes using the Pen Tool (P). Since these lobes are flat, there will not need in such a complicated gradient mesh. Take the Mesh Tool (U) and put one single point on the lower lobe. Add colors from the Swatches palette.
Create two reflections on the surface of ribbons for it to look more realistic. Create the first one with the help of the Pen Tool (P) and fill the shape with radial gradient.
Create the second one of four objects and apply the Bend.
Now you can decorate a greeting card or a gift image with this bow, it may even come in handy as a web banner for e-commerce. I hope found this tutorial helpful. Feel free to ask questions if you have something that doesn't work out and I will happily help you.