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Make a Shiny Gum Ball Machine with Mesh Gradients

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In this tutorial, we'll explain how to create a gum ball machine with mesh gradient. We'll create the base, the glass casing, the money slot, and the opening where the bubble gum balls come out. This is an advanced tutorial and the pace is fairly quick. Intermediate Illustrator knowledge is required.

Final Image Preview

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

Step 1

Before we start, let's grab some inspirational reference images to built our gum ball machine. I went to stock.xchng and pick some images that can help us with the part we need to build. Here are the links: Image 1, Image 2 and Image 3.

Let's get started. Draw a shape like you see in the image below and fill it with a red color. I set up the document with CMYK colors. To have a symmetrical shape, I drew half of the shape with the Pen Tool (P), and then mirrored it and joined the shapes. This will be our base shape.

Step 2

Create a duplicate of the shape and fill it with a linear gradient (black/red).

Step 3

Move the just created shape behind the red shape, center it, and move it slightly downwards until you can see the black at the bottom.

Step 4

Create a duplicate of the red shape. This will be our mesh object. I am showing you the shape with mesh paths in the Outline Mode (Command + Y) to give you an idea how many mesh paths are needed.

Step 5

Select the Mesh Tool (U) and start adding mesh paths by clicking on the shape. I started by added paths in the middle.

Step 6

Add more mesh paths on the horizontal.

Step 7

Add more mesh paths on the horizontal.

Step 8

Add more mesh paths on the vertical and horizontal.

Step 9

Add some on the vertical and horizontal close together. We will need these so we can apply highlights.

Step 10

With the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the middle mesh point of the top middle mesh path, then fill it with the color white. As you can see, it spreads horizontally. This is possible since we added a mesh line above and below. This helps to constrain colors from spreading. The closer they are together, the thinner they spread. Keep that in mind when setting up meshes.

Step 11

Select a mesh point on the right and fill it with a darker red than the shape. This adds an illusion that the object is curved.

Step 12

Repeat this on the other side, then select the most outer mesh point and fill it with white. This will add another highlight.

Step 13

Select a mesh point towards the bottom, which is where we added three horizontal mesh lines. Repeat Step 10 and add another highlight. Also, I selected a light gray color so it's not too harsh.

Step 14

Now select the mesh points above and below, then fill them with a light orange. You'll see that this gives the shape the illusion that it has a beveled bottom.

Step 15

Select the mesh points above the orange we created and fill them with a lighter red to create more bevel. Continue to add more highlights, either in red or white or dark to give it a more realistic look. Remember to study some photographs to get a good idea where highlights and shadows should fall. Once finished with the mesh object, move it over the other base shapes and center it.

Step 16

Lets create the glass shape. Draw a similar shape like you see in the image below with the Pen Tool (P). Fill it with a white to light gray radial gradient. Place the gradient highlight towards the top with the Gradient Tool (G).

Step 17

Duplicate the shape on top (Command + C + F) and reshape it with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and the Pen Tool (P). Fill it with a darker gray and set the Layer Mode to Multiply.

Step 18

Create another duplicate of the glass shape and fill it with a light gray light gray radial gradient. Make sure to put it right on top of the original glass shape. Select all three shapes and put them behind the base shape.

Step 19

Create a long pole with the Rectangle Tool (M), center it, and fill it with a gray to black linear gradient. Make sure that the pole is behind the base shape, but above the glass shapes. Next, select the Ellipse Tool (L), and create a small circular shape, then fill it with red. This will be our top part of the glass object.

On top of that create another circular shape (make it smaller but similar in size). Next, fill it with a dark linear gradient. Align the shape with the bottom of the red circular shape.

Step 20

Make a duplicate of both on top (Command + C + F) and select the Subtract from Shape Area in the Pathfinder Palette. We'll use this shape as a mesh object for the top part.

Step 21

Add meshes with the Mesh Tool (U) and add shadows and highlights just like we did in previous steps. Make sure you add the shape on top of the other objects.

Step 22

We need to add some really glossy highlights. Let's create a similar shape as you see in the image below, use the Pen Tool (P), and fill it with a white to red linear gradient. It's important that the red is the same as the the one in the object below. They will have to match in order to make it look like it blends in. Repeat that for the other side. Place all the parts on top of the glass shape.

Step 23

Select the pole and set the Layer Mode to Multiply.

Step 24

We'll also create two highlights for the glass shape. Draw a similar shape as in Step 22, and fill it with white or a light linear gradient, then set the Layer Mode to Screen.

Step 25

Repeat Step 24 and add another highlight on the right side.

Step 26

Let's create the money slot. Create two black circles. One smaller than the other. Align them centered vertically. Have the smaller circle slightly overlapping the other, as shown below. Select both and choose Add to Shape Area in the Pathfinder Palette.

Create another circle just slightly smaller than the smaller black one, then fill it with a gray linear gradient. Add an Inner Glow to it via Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow. Apply the settings you see in the image below.

Step 27

Duplicate the black circle shape and place it above. Fill it with a linear gradient and add an Inner Glow to it.

Step 28

Let's create the turn knob. Create a long rectangle (M) and a circle (L), then center both vertically and horizontally. Select both and choose Add to Shape Area in the Pathfinder Palette. Fill it with black. Duplicate it on top (Command + C + F) and apply a linear gradient and an Inner Glow, just like in the previous step. Move that shape one or two points higher than the black shape. This will give an illusion of depth.

Step 29

Create a rectangle for the opening. Fill it with a red linear gradient. Duplicate it and send it to the back (Command + C + B), then scale it up a bit (E). Next, via the Appearance Palette, add a Stroke of 1 pt in red and an Outer Glow. Choose a light pink as the glow color. Select the smaller rectangle and add the same Outer Glow, but use a lower Blur strength.

Step 30

Group both shapes and add an Opacity Mask to it in order to hide the bottom part. This will help achieve an open slot look.

Step 31

We need to add some shadow below the base shape. Let's use blends to achieve that. Create two circles, one small black one, another one much bigger and white. Select both and add a Blend Mode of Smooth Color to it. Set the Layer opacity to 53% and place it underneath the base.

Step 32

To add some extra details, I added two rounded rectangle shapes for the top as screws. I added meshes to make them look round and shiny.

Step 33

Just to bring the gum ball machine to life, I added some bubble gum balls. You can easily create some gum balls by creating a circle and adding meshes to add some highlights and shadows. Then I used a circle and modified it to a sickle like shape. I added both together. Next, I selected both and added an Outer Glow. Voila your gum ball. Make as many as you want in different colors.

Step 34

I modified the base mesh shape a little and squeezed it with the Warp Tool. This will give it an even better rounded look. Hint: guess what you could do with mesh objects in the future!


Here is my final image. I placed all the gum balls inside and moved them around, behind each other, and on top. This will create more depth. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

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