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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Gradient Mesh Tool

How to Draw a Gradient Mesh Sunflower in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to use the Mesh Tool and Warp Effects in Adobe Illustrator to create a beautiful sunflower!

If you want to skip the tutorial and just use this flower in your work, you can purchase the Sunflowers Background with Leaves from GraphicRiver!

Sunflowers Background with Leaves
Sunflowers Background with Leaves

1. How to Create a Gradient Mesh Background

Step 1

Let's learn how to use the Mesh Tool while creating this background!

First, draw a rectangle, filling it with the color #DDF5E1. Grab the Mesh Tool (U) and create a Mesh grid like the one in the screenshot below by clicking where the nodes are supposed to be.

Next, add a couple more rows to the grid, and then select five nodes as indicated in the second step of the image, and color them with #FFFFFE.

Continue in a similar fashion, first coloring some more nodes, now with #F0E16A, and then four more nodes with #DAA403.

white in the middle yellow on the bottom

Step 2

Only four more steps left! You will need these colors:

  1. #7DA196
  2. #DEF1D6
  3. #A1CAC8
  4. #CE8A08
dark on the top and bottom edge

Step 3

Now, let's create three white circles, varying in size. Every circle should have an Overlay Blending Mode and their Opacity set to 25%.

see above

Step 4

Draw one more circle, this one bigger than the rest. Set its Transparency Blending Mode to Overlay and its Opacity to 40%.

see above

Step 5

Place these circles on top of the background, just like bokeh lights.

just like bokeh effect

2. How to Create Petals

Now that we've learned how to use Mesh, let's move on to the most challenging part of this tutorial: drawing petals.

Step 1

We will be creating Petal 1.

Grab a yellow rectangle, filled with #F1E00F. Next, place nodes with the Mesh Tool (U), creating a Mesh grid.

Use the nodes on the edges to bend the rectangle so that it looks like the shape in the screenshot below.

Next, add even more nodes and start coloring! You will need these:

  1. #F1E00F
  2. -
  3. #ECC51B
  4. #E5A40D
  5. #A3560A
  6. #562706
  7. #F2E54A
  8. #AB670B
petal darker on the right

Step 2

Create copies of Petal 1 we made in the previous step—we will need three of them, plus the original. We will be creating lots of different petals, so you might want to label them with the numbers I mention in this tutorial.

Now create Petal 1a by shrinking a copy of Petal 1 a little.

see above

Step 3

Create Petal 1b by recoloring some of Petal 1's nodes.

Use these colors:

  1. #B67D0B
  2. #A8680A
  3. #DAAB0E
  4. #F1E211
more darker colors on the left and right

Step 4

Now let's draw Petal 2! The process is very similar to the previous steps.

You will need these:

  1. #F1E00F
  2. #EECB31
  3. #E9B10E
  4. #9E5809
  5. #EECA10
dark on the right

Step 5

Finish your work on Petal 2 with these five steps and colors:

  1. #E4A10D
  2. #FFE83E
  3. #722F09
  4. #BA6A47
  5. #EEC810
even more darker colors on the right

Step 6

Create Petal 3 out of a copy of Petal 2 by stretching it, bringing its top left tip in a bit to the right, and bringing the nodes on the top edge of the petal upwards into an arch.

see above

Step 7

Create Petal 4 out of a copy of Petal 1 by simply flattening it.

see above

Step 8

To get Petal 5, grab a copy of Petal 1b. Proceed to Effects > Warp > Arc and apply the effect with the following settings:

  • Bend -8%
  • Horizontal 47%
  • Vertical -8%
see above

Step 9

Go to Object > Expand Appearance, and modify the shape by bringing its right edges out a bit.

see above

Step 10

Create Petal 6 out of a copy of Petal 5 by shrinking it and coloring some nodes with #F0D815.

see above

Step 11

Grab a copy of Petal 5 once more—we will be creating Petal 7.

This time, apply Effect > Warp > Inflate to it with these settings:

  • Bend -26%
  • Horizontal 29%
  • Vertical -8%
apply warp effect

Step 12

Expand Appearance of the object, and bend it again with Effect > Warp > Arc.

  • Bend -24%
  • Horizontal -3%
  • Vertical -10%
apply warp effect

Step 13

Once more, Expand Appearance, and then shrink the petal a little.

Finally, bring its top left edge upwards.

make smaller then bring left edge up

Step 14

Just two petals left! For Petal 8, use a copy of Petal 6, applying Effect > Warp > Arc to it.

  • Bend -26%
  • Horizontal -14%
  • Vertical -22%

Don't forget to Expand Appearance of the result!

apply warp effect

Step 15

Our final petal, Petal 9, will be made on the basis of Petal 5.

Grab its copy and apply Effect > Warp > Flag.

  • Bend -50%
  • Horizontal -1%
  • Vertical -6%
apply warp effect

Step 16

Expand Appearance of the result, and then stretch it.

Color some of its nodes with #F9F400 and finally, shrink it a little bit.

stretch color middle yellow

Our petals are all done! On to the flower.

3. How to Assemble the Sunflower

Step 1

First, we will need to draw a simple leaf. We will need just three steps and these colors:

  1. #576400
  2. #7C7E00
  3. #424A00
triangle green leaf

Step 2

Now, grab all the petals we made and assemble them according to their numbers! The petals should naturally overlap and leave a circular space in the middle.

Add the leaves we made in the previous step under our petals.

assemble a sunflower this one is important to see

Step 3

The one element we are missing is the middle of the sunflower. As it is very difficult to draw such a complex thing from scratch, I'd like to turn to Image Trace.

In the sidebar of this tutorial, you will find the Download Attachment button. Press it and, when the zip file downloads, unzip the archive. One of the files, sunflower.jpg, is a photo (taken by me) that we will be using in this step.

Open the photo in Adobe Illustrator and bring up the Image Trace panel (Window > Image Trace). Choose the High Fidelity Photo preset. Click Trace to begin the tracing process. It may take a little while.

If you encounter any technical difficulties during this step, skip to the next one to use an alternative solution.

trace the provided photo

Step 4

Now that our image is traced into vector, ungroup it and delete everything except the middle of the flower.

This might be an unnecessarily long process, so if you'd like to skip it or if you've encountered any technical difficulties, you can use my already isolated vector middle, contained in tracedflower.ai.

isolate the middle

Step 5

Place the middle of the flower between the petals.

see above

Step 6

To hide the blank spaces between the petals, draw an ellipse, fill it with #6F0E00, and place it behind the flower, in the middle of it.

place the brown circle behind the middle

Step 7

To soften the transition between the middle and the petals, create a Blend.

First, draw two circles, filling the bigger one with #F3D700 and the smaller one with #6D2F05. Set the yellow circle to 0% Opacity.

yellow circle a bit bigger than the brown aligned by center

Step 8

Go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and set the Spacing to Specified Steps, 30.

Then select both circles and use Object > Blend > Make.

apply blend

Step 9

Set the Transparency mode of the Blend to Multiply.

apply options

Step 10

Place the Blend above the petals, but under the middle of the flower.

place shape above petals but under middle

Our sunflower is done!

4. How to Create and Place the Leaves

Step 1

In this last section, we will be creating a leaf.

Let's start off by making and coloring a Mesh grid for it. We will need these colors:

  1. #476419
  2. #3C5415
  3. #6D7F1E
dark in the middle

Step 2

Next, grab the last file from the archive we downloaded in the previous section: the leaf.ai file. Open it in Adobe Illustrator and drag both objects into your workspace.

First, take the leaf lines. Check the color and the opacity (#ADADAD, 30%) and place them on top of our Mesh.

place leaf lines in the middle of mesh

Step 3

Now take the leaf outline. Place it under both objects, select all of them, and after right-clicking, use Make Clipping Mask.

place the outline accordingly

Step 4

Our leaf is finished! It should look like this:

finished leaf

Step 5

All that's left is to create a few copies of our flower and of our leaf and arrange them as nicely as you can! Here is my example.

four sunflowers with leaves around them

Step 6

Finally, place the flowers on top of the background, and you're done!

with the background

Awesome Work, You're Done!

Thank you for following along, and please feel welcome to post your result in the comments. I'll be looking forward to seeing it!

In this tutorial, you learned how to create beautiful photo-realistic sunflowers using the Mesh Tool.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and learned how to use some useful tools for the future! Check out some of my other vector tutorials on my instructor profile.

You can purchase this flower as well as other similar designs in my portfolio on GraphicRiver.

Sunflowers Background with Leaves
Sunflowers Background with Leaves
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