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Illustrate a Pair of Sweet Gradient Mesh Cherries

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Read Time: 6 min

In this tutorial, we'll explain how to create a pair of cherries solely with the Gradient Mesh tool. If you're not familiar with the Gradient Mesh tool, then this is a great tutorial to learn how to start using it. You can create artwork with a semi-realistic to very realistic look with that tool. It can take effort to master, but it's worth your time.

Final Image Preview

To begin with let's have a look at the image we'll be creating.

Step 1

I went and picked a nice image of some cherries that I thought would be good to recreate. You can get the picture of the cherries at Stock.xchng. Place the image in a new document on its own layer and lock it.

Step 2

We will need to set up some base colors for our cherries. With the Eyedropper Tool (I), I picked five base red colors with one highlight color. I have illustrated below which ones I chose. You can of course choose more, if you decide to go into more detail.

Step 3

Select the Pen Tool(P) and start tracing the outline of the left cherry. Then fill it with a medium red color that we picked in Step 2 (I chose number 5). Then select the Mesh Tool (U) and add a mesh line by clicking on the shape.

Step 4

Start adding more mesh lines from the bottom up by close to the middle of the shape.

Step 5

Add more mesh lines. Make it uneven. Some can be closer, other can be further apart.

Step 6

Continue to add mesh lines towards the top of the shape.

Step 7

In case you clicked somewhere, where you don't want a mesh line, you can easily undo this by holding down the Alt key and clicking on the mesh line. (Instead of a plus sign, you will see a minus sign).

Step 8

The trick with mesh lines is that if you add too much it can get quite intimidating. Also, if a color is added it can look unnatural. Try to keep the lines to a small amount.

Step 9

Another thing with mesh is to start with a simple object, such as an oval.

Step 10

Irregular shapes will look funny first, when a mesh line is applied. I will show this later on. Just keep adding some mesh lines horizontally.

Step 11

Make sure you add mesh line close to the cherry outline. This will help setting up contrast areas.

Step 12

Now add mesh lines on the vertical. Below you can see the mesh object with its parts. We will soon select either mesh points or mesh fields, drag mesh lines, or pull some control handles.

Step 13

Drag your shape below the cherry image. This will make it easier for you to apply the colors, like highlights and shadows. Let's add our first highlight. Select the mesh point shown in the image with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and click on the lightest color (number 1). This will set our first highlight. Our cherry is starting to come to life!

Step 14

Select another mesh point to add another highlight point, then fill it with the light red.

Step 15

Select the mesh point below the first highlight point and fill it with a darker red. Have a look at the cherry image and compare.

Step 16

Selected the mesh point below the previous one and fill it with a lighter red.

Step 17

Have a look at the cherry image. On the top right, you can see that it has a shadow part (Most likely from the stem). Select a mesh point near the top right and fill it with the darkest red.

Step 18

If you want to spread the color out a little, you can do this by adjusting the control handles. Pull them with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and drag them around to see how it affects the color.

Step 19

To define edges, we want to set the mesh points to the darkest red we have picked in the beginning. Select the outer mesh point to do that and fill them with the dark red.

Step 20

Sometimes, we need to add some highlights to the outline. So in between the darker points, select some mesh points and fill them with the lightest red.

Step 21

As you can see in the image below, if you select several outer mesh points and fill them with the light red, it will give the cherry a beveled look.

Step 22

Repeat this all around. Don't forget to have a look at the cherry photograph. Nobody expects you to have a super genius photographic memory!

Step 23

Select the mesh points close to the most outer points and fill them with the darkest red. Add some dark points to the middle of the shape.

Step 24

Let's have a look. Not bad, but a little dull, don't you think? Let's make the cherry more round looking.

Step 25

Now instead of selecting mesh points, we will select mesh fields. This will spread out the color more like a gradient. Select the mesh fields with the Direct Selection Tool (A), as illustrated in the image below, then fill them with the darkest red. You can compare the mesh cherry with the photograph and add more highlights and shadows, mid-tones and details.

Step 26

Now you have created a cherry as a gradient mesh object!

Step 27

Lets move on to the stem. Create a shape with the Pen Tool (P) and fill it with a green. You can pick the colors from the cherry photograph. Create the left half first.

Step 28

Now create the right half of the stem and fill it with the same color. Make sure that both shapes are closed and individual.

Step 29

Add mesh lines with the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) just as we did before. Sometimes, when you come close to the outline of the shape, you will see mesh lines overlapping and being outside of the shape. Don't worry about these. They will not affect the colors for now.

Step 30

Add lighter and darker colors, as we did before.

Step 31

Repeat the same with the right part of the stem. In order to make them look like one stem, select the top-left most mesh point with the Direct Selection Tool (A).

Step 32

Drag it slightly to the left. As you can see, the colors are spreading with it.

Step 33

There you go. Our stem is almost ready.

Step 34

One last thing. Create a small shape with the Pen Tool (P) for the tip of the stem. Add mesh lines with the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) and select mesh points, then fill them with brown colors.


Now we have all our parts and the cherry pair is ready. Of course I made a copy of the cherry, reflected it, and moved all parts together. I also added some shadows (I applied the Gaussian Blur). I hope you enjoyed this Gradient Mesh tutorial.

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