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Create Detailed Tulips With Gradient Mesh, Without the Mesh Tool in Illustrator

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Read Time: 10 min

We're celebrating spring in this tutorial! Here you will learn how to draw beautiful tulips in a vase. We'll start with a 3D base and then go on to create tulips with Gradient Meshes without the Mesh Tool, all in Adobe Illustrator. So let's take a closer look.

1. Open a New Document

First, open a new document (File > New) then type a name and select these dimensions.

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2. Create the 3D Vase

Step 1

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw a path like below representing half of a flower vase. Make sure that the Rulers are turned on (View > Show Rulers) then drag a guide next to the vase-path. The two end points of the path must be in line with this guide before you continue. Apply a 1px red Stroke Weight.

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Step 2

Having the path selected, go to Effect > 3D > Revolve. Set the position co-ordinates then press the More Options button to view the entire dialog. These are the default values but we will make some changes because the vase doesn't look quite good at this stage.

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Step 3

First, move the existing light to the right as indicated (L1) and lower the Light Intensity from 100% to 85%. Add another light by pressing on the New Light symbol then move it on the upper left side (L2). Having the second light selected, set the Light Intensity to 70%. Increase the Blend Steps from 25 to 50 to make the surface of the vase smoother.

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3. Creating a Dot Pattern for the Vase

Step 1

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a small 14 x 14px circle. The fill color is not important at this point. Select this circle then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. In the Move section, under Horizontal type 24px then choose eight copies.

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Step 2

Still having the circle selected, go back to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. You will get a warning but select Apply New Effect. This time, under Vertical type 48px and choose only one copy.

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Step 3

Apply again the Transform effect using the settings shown and at this point you should have the three effects in the Appearance panel.

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Step 4

Select Expand Appearance from the Object menu then fill the resulting group of dots with the color indicated. Drag the group into the Symbols panel to save it.

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4. Apply the Dots on the Vase

Now, go back to the vase and open again the 3D Revolve Options window from the Appearance panel then press the Map Art button. Select the dots symbol from the list and apply it on the front surface of the vase. Position the dots as you like then hit OK.

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5. Add Shadows & Highlights to the Vase

Step 1

To expand the 3D vase, go to Object > Expand Appearance. Open the resulting group in the Layers panel and navigate through all the parts of the vase. Find the base of the vase and open the group. Select the Clipping path that you will find there then Copy and Paste it in front but drag the copy outside of the group because we don't want it there.

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Step 2

Move the base-shape made at the previous step in front of the vase then fill it with a linear gradient from black to gray. Set the Blending Mode to Overlay and reduce the Opacity to 75%.

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Step 3

Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw an ellipse over the first light (L1). Fill it with a linear gradient from white to black then go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and apply a 5.5px Radius. Set the Blending Mode to Screen.

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Step 4

Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a shape on the left side of the vase as shown below. Fill it with a radial gradient from white to black then apply a 5.5px Gaussian Blur. Change the Blending Mode to Color Dodge and lower the Opacity to 35%.

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Step 5

Draw another shape with the Pen Tool (P) like in the image and fill it with a linear gradient using black and gray shades. Apply a 5px Gaussian Blur then set it to Blending Mode Overlay and reduce the Opacity to 60%.

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6. Draw the Mouth of the Vase

For the mouth of the vase, draw an ellipse and fill it with the gradient shown. We are done with the vase for the moment.

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7. Draw the Tulip & Create Gradient Mesh

Step 1

We will continue with the beautiful tulip. Now, follow the sequence of images and draw some petals similar to the ones from below.

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Step 2

Focus on the first petal and go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh. Select 12 rows and 9 columns then hit OK. At this point you can make a few adjustments like to move some of the anchor points and handles or to move the lines closer to or further from each other. Gradient Mesh is so much easier than the Mesh Tool (U), right?

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Step 3

In terms of coloring, you can see in the image below the "anatomy" of the petal. There are some main areas depending on the shades used like red, salmon and pink. For a little gloss use light pink and as you go towards the bottom of the petal use darker shades of red. Close to the stem is better to use shades of green/brown. All the colors are available in the Swatches panel if you download the Illustrator file.

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Step 4

Continue with the second petal. Go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh and this time select 14 rows and 8 columns. Move some of the points closer to each other as shown below.

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Step 5

The same theory applies here and basically I used the same colors.

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Step 6

The third petal is right between the first two. Select it then create the mesh lines and color the petal as you did before. Use the Illustrator file as a reference if you need it.

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Step 7

At this point you can start to compose the tulip. Only the two small petals in the back are missing.

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Step 8

Focus on the small petal and create the mesh lines then color it using mainly red shades. When you are done, draw with the Pen Tool (P) a thin shape on the left side of the petal. Fill it with the linear gradient shown. Do the same thing for the other small petal or reflect the first one to finish faster.

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Step 9

The tulip is ready and looks like this:

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8. Draw the Stem & Create Gradient Mesh

Step 1

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a long rectangle having the dimensions shown. Go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh and select four rows and columns.

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Step 2

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to drag a selection over the five points of the second row and move them up as indicated. Now, let's move on to the coloring and since there aren't so many shades this time, I've shown them below. Take each column separately and color the mesh points.

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Here are the rest of the green shades:

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Step 3

In the upper portion of the stem I've used green shades along with brown shades. In the lower part we need dark green shades because there the stem goes into the vase. On the right side we have shadow because of the other tulips in the vase therefore the light is in the other. Next, we will distort a little the stem. Drag a selection with the Direct Selection Tool (A) over the first two rows and move them to the left as indicated. Then, select only the five points from the top and move them to the left also. Adjust some of the points and handles if needed.

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Step 4

Attach the stem to the tulip and send it behind. We will continue with the leaf.

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9. Draw the Leaf & Create Gradient Mesh

Step 1

Draw an Ellipse (L) having the dimensions shown then go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh and select five rows and seven columns.

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Step 2

We will distort this shape little by little in order to obtain the leaf. Follow the sequence of images and use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to move the points from the bottom left side upwards as indicated (1-3). Next, select all the points from the fourth row and move them a little up (4) then continue to distort the left side of the shape (5).

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Step 3

Select only the first point from the first row and move it in the upper left side as indicated (1). Continue to move the rest of the points from the top, one by one in the left side above the point moved previously (2). The points must be aligned (3) and after you are done, adjust the mesh lines by moving the handles. You will obtain the sharp tip of the leaf (4).

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Step 4

It's time to color the leaf and you can see below the most important areas. Basically, there are green, dark green and a few brown shades. You can find all the colors in the Swatches panel along with the others. Arrange the leaf behind the stem and the tulip is ready.

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10. Arrange the Tulips in the Vase

Step 1

Put the beautiful tulip above the vase then make two copies. Arrange the tulips as you wish.

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Step 2

Copy and Paste in front the mouth of the vase (1) then delete the top anchor point (2). Starting from the end points of this path (3) draw a shape with the Pen Tool (P) around the stems and the leaves (4). Set the Stroke to none.

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Step 3

Select the shape from the previous step and all the stems and leaves then go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make. Now, it looks like the tulips actually go into the vase.

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11. Add Shadows to the Leaves & Vase

Step 1

Now that the stems and leaves are all together I had to add more shadows and more contrast. Therefore, select some of the mesh points and choose a darker shade of green to add shadows and lighter shades of green for more light. Draw with the Pen Tool (P) a shape like below over the base of the tulips and fill it with a linear gradient from white to black. Change the Blending Mode to Multiply and lower the Opacity to 50%. This will also add a discreet shadow.

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Step 2

We need some shadow behind the tulips also. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw two flat ellipses following the edge of the vase. Send the ellipses behind the tulips but in front of the vase. Fill them with a radial gradient from black to white and set them to Multiply.

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Step 3

At this step the tulips and the vase should look like in the next image:

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Step 4

To create the shadow under the vase, draw the two ellipses having the dimensions shown. Fill them both with black and set the Opacity values as indicated for each one. Select them both then go to Object > Blend > Blend Options. Choose 50 Specified Steps and hit OK then go back to Object > Blend and select Make. Reduce the Opacity for the resulting blend-group to 35%.

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Step 5

Here is how you can easily make the reflection. Make a copy of the vase and flip it vertically (1). Arrange it like in the image then draw a rectangle over it and fill it with the gradient shown (2). Now, select the copy of the vase and also the rectangle, go to the Transparency panel and from the fly-out menu choose Make Opacity Mask (3). That's it!

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Are You a Create Gradient Mesh Convert?

We got to the end and this is the final image. I hope that you will use more the Gradient Mesh from now on since it's so much easier than the Mesh Tool. I know that the coloring part seems overwhelming and I admit that I hated these two tools in the beginning but now we are best friends. Give them a try and create even other types of tulips like yellow or purple. You can also create other models of vases having this technique as inspiration.

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