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  2. Gradient Mesh Tool

How to Create a Night Sky With Clouds Using Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial you will learn how to use the Mesh Tool and the Mesh Tormentor plugin as well as how to make your images look better with some simple tweaks to Transparency settings—all while creating a beautiful mystical scene with realistic clouds!

If you'd like to skip this tutorial and wish to purchase the end result, head over to GraphicRiver to purchase Night Nature Sky Background With Moon, Cloud and Stars.

original imageoriginal imageoriginal image
Night Nature Sky Background With Moon, Cloud and Stars

Before starting this tutorial, you should install the Mesh Tormentor plugin. Go to the Mesh Tormentor site and download the free Mesh Tormentor plugin that corresponds with your Illustrator version. Then unzip the received archive, close Adobe Illustrator, and copy the .aip file into the folder "Extensions" on your local installation disk. (For example, it is the C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CS6\Plug-ins\Extensions folder on my computer.) Open Adobe Illustrator again and go to Window > Mesh Tormentor.

1. How to Create Clouds

Step 1

We will start off by creating the realistic clouds. For this, we will need to start work in Adobe Photoshop.

You can click Download attachment on the right of the tutorial to receive my photo of a cloud that I will be using; however, you're also welcome to use your own photo!

Open the photo in Adobe Photoshop, and then go to Select > Color Range.

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Step 2

In the resulting dialog window, grab the white eyedropper and click on the whitest section of the cloud. The resulting preview of the selection should look similar to mine in the screenshot below. Click OK.

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Step 3

Open a new file in Adobe Photoshop, and make sure the background is Transparent.

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Step 4

Drag the selected cloud from the first file to our newly opened file.

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Step 5

Create a new layer under the layer with the cloud and fill the whole artboard with a blue color, just so we can see the cloud better.

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Step 6

Your cloud should turn out like this at this point.

white cloud on blue backgroundwhite cloud on blue backgroundwhite cloud on blue background

Step 7

Grab the Eraser Tool (E), select Layer 1 (the one with the cloud) and erase all of the unnecessary little artifacts on the picture. Only the main cloud shape should remain.

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Step 8

Finally, grab the Blur Tool (R) and blur the edges of the cloud. This will make sure it doesn't look pixelated when we convert it into a vector image.

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Step 9

When you are happy with the result, delete the blue layer and save the image as a .png.

Open the .png file in Adobe Illustrator.

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Step 10

Create an ellipse over the top of the cloud.

Go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh and set Rows and Columns to 50.

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Step 11

Here's where Mesh Tormentor comes into play. If you haven't already, install it and open it through Window > Mesh Tormentor.

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Step 12

Select our ellipse and, in the Mesh Tormentor panel, click on the fifth icon from the left in the sixth row to Increase Mesh Density.

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Step 13

The result should turn out like this.

dense meshdense meshdense mesh

Step 14

Now, select both the cloud we made in Adobe Photoshop and the Mesh ellipse. The ellipse should be on top of the cloud! Click on the "Mona Lisa" icon in the Mesh Tormentor panel to color our mesh like the cloud.

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Step 15

Delete the original raster image and voila—you've got your amazing realistic vector cloud!

finished cloudfinished cloudfinished cloud

2. How to Create the Background

Step 1

Create a dark blue square and, using the Mesh Tool (U), create a 5x6 Mesh grid.

000841 color000841 color000841 color

Step 2

Following the set of steps below, color the mesh grid. The darker nodes in the images represent the ones you should be coloring with the included color code.

lighter in the middle and on the bottomlighter in the middle and on the bottomlighter in the middle and on the bottom

Step 3

Now for the clouds. Create a random blue rectangle and place our mesh cloud over the top of it. Place it just above the bottom right edge.

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Step 4

Create a couple of copies and, after rotating them a bit, place them to resemble the picture below.

One under the original one on the leftOne under the original one on the leftOne under the original one on the left

Step 5

Place another copy under the left cloud.

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Step 6

Finish with a small copy in the middle bottom of the rectangle.

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Step 7

Now, place the blue rectangle in front of the clouds (Shift-Control-]), select all shapes, right-click and select Make Clipping Mask.

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Step 8

Our resulting clouds will look like this:

cropped cloudscropped cloudscropped clouds

You can move them on top of the background we made earlier.

3. How to Create the Moon and the Beams of Light

Step 1

Create a moon shape by selecting two overlapping circles and clicking Exclude in the Pathfinder panel. Ungroup the result and delete the top shape.

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Step 2

Create three copies of the resulting shape. Take the first copy, putting the other two aside for now. Fill it with a white color, and then create another copy and move it a bit up and to the left of the original. Fill it with #95A5BC. Finally, drag the blue shape's middle node a bit to the left.

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Step 3

Set the blue shape's Transparency to 0%.

Go to Object > Blend > Blend Options. Set the Spacing to Specified Steps and the number of steps to 30.

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Step 4

With both objects selected, click Object > Blend > Make.

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Step 5

With the second copy that we made in Step 2, repeat a process similar to Steps 2-4.

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Step 6

Take the last unused copy and put it on top of the two blends. The moon should look as if it's glowing now. You can move it to the top right corner of the background.

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Step 7

Create a circle with a Radial Gradient (White - #4AF0F8 - #0888D5 - #054B87 - Black).

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Step 8

Create a couple of different copies of this shape.

flatten the circleflatten the circleflatten the circle

Step 9

Set the Transparency of all shapes, including the original circle, to Screen.

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Step 10

Create three shapes out of the gradients.

create stars by crossing the flattened gradientscreate stars by crossing the flattened gradientscreate stars by crossing the flattened gradients

Step 11

Put all of the shapes over the top of the original circle. The result should look like this:

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Step 12

Create another ellipse shape with a #274F7B to #000000 Radial Gradient.

Set the Transparency to Screen.

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Step 13

Similarly to Steps 9 and 10, create different shapes out of the ellipse with gradients. The most important are the ones with the thinnest rays!

Put them all on top of each other in the end.

create lots of stars with different width of gradient ellipsescreate lots of stars with different width of gradient ellipsescreate lots of stars with different width of gradient ellipses

Step 14

Put the second shape on top of the first shape.

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Step 15

Move the rays on top of the sky background with the clouds and the moon.

We're almost done!

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4. How to Create the Stars

Step 1

Create three little circles with a white to black radial gradient, 80% Opacity, and Screen transparency mode. Each circle should have a different size, which should be about as small as a star should be on your artwork.

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Step 2

Drag all of the circles into the Symbols panel to create three new symbols.

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Step 3

Grab the Symbol Sprayer Tool (Shift-S), select one of the symbols in the Symbols panel, and drag it around the artwork, creating lots of stars.

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Step 4

Repeat this with all three symbols. When you are happy with the result, select each shape with the stars and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

"Crop" the image by drawing a rectangle over top the background, selecting all the elements, and Making a Clipping Mask.

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Step 5

We're going to be creating a final couple of stars. Create another circle with white to black Radial Gradient, 80% Opacity, and Screen transparency.

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Step 6

Create another shape out of three ellipses, with a similar gradient, the same transparency setting, and 60% Opacity.

star shapestar shapestar shape

Step 7

Create another star shape with the settings mentioned below.

cross star shape white to black gradient screen 80 opacitycross star shape white to black gradient screen 80 opacitycross star shape white to black gradient screen 80 opacity

Step 8

Assemble all of the parts on top of each other.

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Step 9

Place some big stars onto the background.

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Awesome Work, You're Now Done!

What now? You can try any of my other tutorials from my profile, or check out my portfolio on GraphicRiver, as well as the original image we recreated in this tutorial.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and will be extremely happy to see any results in the comments below!

original imageoriginal imageoriginal image
Night Nature Sky Background With Moon, Cloud and Stars
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