Unlock the power of this tricky tool for subtle results.


The Gradient Mesh tool is tricky to master, which leads many digital artists to play with it a few times and then leave it alone, or only use it for specific tasks. One challenge with the tool is that when the mesh is complicated, the gradation of colour between two points forms a hard line instead of a soft gradient.

There isn’t always an easy way to combat this: instead, the artist has to learn to fool the eye, and even compromise a little sometimes. In this tutorial, Stephen Freeman shows how to deal with this, guiding you step-by-step through how to create this illustration.

He’ll also illustrate the potential and limitations of the Gradient Mesh tool, and show you how to handle some of the tool’s other little niggles. Gradient meshes use a lot of power, particularly when they get complex, so be patient if your machine doesn’t boast a speedy processor.


01. Create a quick sketch. In this case, we’ve drawn a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s head. The purpose of this sketch is to lay down the shape of the head as it will appear in the final illustration. At this point it is wise to apply some colour and map out light and shadow areas. Save it as a CMYK image.