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Design

Quick Tip: Create Gradient Mesh Brushes in Illustrator With Mesh Tormentor

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:QuickLanguages:

Adobe Illustrator has two great features, Gradient Mesh and custom Brushes. The problem is they don't work together, even though it would be an amazing time saver. The good news is that there is a plugin which allows you to combine the two and it's called Mesh Tormentor. Follow this quick tip tutorial and I'll show you how.



1. Install the Mesh Tormentor Plugin

First we need to download the plugin from the Mesh Tormentor site. It's very easy to install, just extract the file and double-click it. Adobe Extension Manager will come to help. Just remember to have Adobe Illustrator closed before you start!

gradientbrush_1_1_meshtormentor_install

2. Create a Base Element for the Brush

Step 1

Our example will be a scale brush for this exercise. I intend on using this to create repeating elements on the body of a dragon. Draw a base shape using your favorite drawing tool. I'm using the Pen Tool (P).

gradientbrush_2_1_brush_shape

Step 2

Now, convert the shape to a mesh by clicking somewhere in the middle with the Mesh Tool (U).

gradientbrush_2_2_convert_to_mesh

Step 3

You can change the color of every point. Do it to give the scale a 3D look. Use Direct Selection Tool (A) to select single points and Lasso Tool (Q) to select multiple points.

gradientbrush_2_3_mesh_coloring

Here is what I'm left with. This will be the scale I wish to use in my Scatter Brush.

gradientbrush_2_4_mesh_coloring_more

3. Convert the Gradient Mesh Shape to a Brush Base

Step 1

Here comes the most interesting part. Open the Mesh Tormentor's window by going to Window > Mesh Tormentor.

gradientbrush_3_1_run_mesh_tormentor

Step 2

Select your mesh and click the tool shown below. It will convert the mesh to a brush mesh grid, an inter form between mesh and "brushable" shape.

gradientbrush_3_2_convert_to_grid

And this is what such a brush mesh grid looks like:

gradientbrush_3_3_grid

4. Create a New Scatter Brush

Step 1

Rotate your brush mesh grid to the right position. What is right position? Imagine a straight horizontal line between left and right edge of the screen - it's like a straight stroke drawn from left to right. Now, if you place your base element in parallel to this line, you can easily guess where next element will appear. I want my scales to be placed one after another in straight line, so the brush base must be placed horizontally.

gradientbrush_4_1_brush_direction

Step 2

Our brush can now be made in the usual way. Open Brushes panel and click New Brush icon. Then select the Scatter Brush option.

gradientbrush_4_2_create_new_brush

Step 3

A new window should appear. You can experiment with these options, as they're very easy to change afterwards (just double-click the brush on the list to re-open this window). The most important for us at the moment are Rotation and Spacing options. We want our scales to follow the path (hence "Rotation relative to Path") and to be squeezed a little bit (lower the Spacing for it).

gradientbrush_4_3_brush_settings

Step 4

Now select your brush from the list and draw whatever you want. It works just like a normal brush, you can resize it and so on. The problem is it's still made of brush mesh grid.

gradientbrush_4_4_preview

5. Convert the Stroke Back to Mesh

Step 1

Convert the stroke back to a mesh grid (not a brush line) by going to Object > Expand Appearance.

gradientbrush_5_1_expand

Step 2

Now just click the option from below. Voila! It's a mesh again.

gradientbrush_5_2_convert_back

6. Creating Brushes of Multiple Elements

Step 1

You can also create complicated brushes to save even more time. Just use two or more meshes and select them all before creating new brush.

gradientbrush_6_1_mutliple_scales

Step 2

The process is the same for such a brush, just remember it may slow your computer down as it will be memory intensive (you're going to draw a lot of meshes at one time).

gradientbrush_6_2_multiple_scales2

7. Creating Irregular Brushes

Sometimes you don't want your brush to be completely straight - irregularities may make your picture more interesting. To create this kind of brush just place your base element at an angle. Imagine all your elements placed one after another between left and right edge of the screen - it should help you figure it out.

gradientbrush_7_1_rotation

8. Creating More Complicated Brushes

Of course, you don't need to keep restricted to this one simple scale - there are so many possibilities for this! Just remember, if you're a beginner when it comes to gradient mesh, use some simple shape (like rectangle) as a base before building something more complicated. If you draw a complicated shape as a path and converted it to mesh, mesh points could be placed in many surprising - thus hard to control - positions.

gradientbrush_8_1_more_examples

Congratulations! You're Done!

You've just learn't how easy it is to create a Gradient Mesh brush. This method will save your time when you'll struggle with scales, feathers, fur and hair too. The dragon from below is just one example of creative use of it. Just imagine how long it would take to place all these scales one by one!

sample effect
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