How to Use Gradient Mesh in Adobe Illustrator

Mastering the Gradient Mesh Tool in Adobe Illustrator opens up a world of creative possibilities. From realistic illustrations to striking graphic designs, this powerful tool can transform your artwork from ordinary to extraordinary.

My name is Kerry and in this article, I will go through the steps to use Gradient Mesh in Adobe Illustrator so that you will be able to create stunning, eye-catching masterpieces that showcase your artistic prowess and leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Are you ready to get into it? Let’s go! 

Key Takeaways

  • The Gradient Mesh tool in Adobe Illustrator tool allows you to create lifelike shading and smooth color transitions in your artwork.
  • Unlike traditional gradients, which involve two or more solid colors fading into each other, the Gradient Mesh Tool lets you apply multiple colors to specific points within an object. 

What is Gradient Mesh in Adobe Illustrator 

The Gradient Mesh tool in Adobe Illustrator transforms your flat, lifeless artwork into a dynamic and realistic masterpiece.

At its core, a gradient mesh is a grid-based color blending technique that allows designers to divide objects into smaller, editable sections, called mesh points, and apply smooth color transitions across them. The result? A stunning blend of colors, shadows, and highlights that breathe depth and dimensionality into the artwork.

When you select an object in Illustrator and apply the Gradient Mesh Tool, it subdivides the object into a grid of individual anchor points. These points become the centers of color blending, and by manipulating their colors and positions, you can achieve a variety of shading effects.

For example, if you’re illustrating a shiny apple, you can use the Gradient Mesh Tool to place a lighter color at the top where the light hits and gradually transition to darker shades towards the bottom, where shadows reside. This creates a realistic 3D effect that makes your apple look plump and delicious.

Steps for Using the Guides in Adobe Illustrator

Now that you have a grasp of what the Gradient Mesh Tool can do, let’s explore the steps to use it:

Step 1: Select the object you want to apply the Gradient Mesh effect. Ensure the object or image you want to apply the gradient mesh to is vectorized. If not, you can trace it using the Image Trace feature to vectorize the image.

Step 2: Go to the overhead menu Object > Create Gradient Mesh. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + U (Windows) or Command + Option + U (Mac).

Step 3: A dialog box will appear, prompting you to specify the number of rows and columns for your gradient mesh. This determines the density of the mesh, affecting how smooth or detailed the gradients will be. 

Keep in mind that a higher mesh density can be more challenging to work with, especially for beginners. Start with a modest mesh density and adjust as needed.

Step 4: After defining the mesh density, you’ll see a grid overlaid on your object. The mesh points will be distributed across the object, with a center point and corner points. Each mesh point corresponds to a specific area on the object, where you can apply different colors.

To edit a mesh point, use the Direct Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut A). Click on a mesh point to select it, and then use the Eyedropper Tool (keyboard shortcut: I) to choose a color. 

By selecting multiple mesh points at once, you can create smooth gradients that blend seamlessly across your object.

Step 5: You can add or remove mesh points to refine the details of your artwork. To add a new mesh point, select the Add Anchor Point Tool (keyboard shortcut +), and click on any line within the mesh. This creates a new mesh point that you can then manipulate and color.

To remove a mesh point, select the Delete Anchor Point Tool (keyboard shortcut ) and click on the mesh point you want to eliminate.


The mesh lines define the shape and form of your object. To edit them, select the Direct Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut A) and click on a mesh line. You can then move the line or alter its curvature to create smoother transitions between colors.

For more subtle shading effects, experiment with the opacity of individual mesh points or mesh lines. Reduce the opacity to let the underlying colors shine through, giving your artwork a more realistic and dynamic appearance.

Final Thoughts

The Gradient Mesh tool in Adobe Illustrator is created for creating a blended gradient effect and you can edit the blend by moving the anchor points. Again, remember that you can only apply this effect to vector shapes. 

We would love to hear from you! Do you have any tips or strategies for playing around with Gradient Mesh in Adobe Illustrator?  Please comment down below with any tricks to utilizing this function or additional questions that you might still have about guides!

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