Digital Illustration Tricks: The Mesh Tool & Swatch Patterns | Cory Posts | Skillshare

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Digital Illustration Tricks: The Mesh Tool & Swatch Patterns

teacher avatar Cory Posts

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Class Trailer


    • 2.

      Using the Mesh Tool


    • 3.

      Applying Mesh to Satellite, Saturn, & Rocket Window


    • 4.

      Create Visual Interest with Swatch Patterns


    • 5.

      Finishing All Space Station Elements


    • 6.

      Using the Photo Transparency Trick & Final Touches


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About This Class

Learn two powerful tricks inside Adobe Illustrator to polish your current illustrations. These Digital Illustration tricks are sure to give you an extra edge when completing your designs. Looks great on various design styles, adding realism and cohesive balance to your vector art.

You'll learn:

  • How to use The Mesh Tool to make custom shading
  • How to adjust shading meshes to make vector objects look more realistic
  • How to create halftone patterns to add visual appeal and balance
  • How to use photos inside Illustrator to make vector objects glow with realism

Meet Your Teacher

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Cory Posts

Level: Beginner

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1. Class Trailer: Hey, what's up guys. My name's Corey, and in this class I'm going to show you two illustration tricks to bring detail and dimension to your illustrations. I made a cool space graphic that I made myself and I've also provided for you as the project file, so you can apply these techniques right away. We're going to be looking at two tools with inside Adobe Illustrator. The first is the mesh tool and then the second is creating a custom swatch pattern. Both of these are going to really bring our base illustration to life, taking it to a whole new level. So it's going to take something that's vectorize and scalable to something that has character and texture to it. In this class I go deeper into my illustration work flow, and I show you this specific processes I used to polish my work and give it a professional look. This is a quick class, easy to take in one setting and I think you're going to find the tips and tricks within this class to be useful for the long haul. So if you're ready and want to take your illustrations to the next level, let's get started. 2. Using the Mesh Tool: Let's go ahead and start by opening up the project first and opening up the illustration. I'm just going to adjust the screen a little bit here, zoom in at a good sizing. This digital illustration is something that I created recently, I've been getting into more scenic types of illustration where it shows something going on in a certain setting, so I created this space station with this rocket here, and they're really like how it's turned out, but it's pretty basic as far as everything goes. We still need to add some detail to give it some life. Because really, you'll find out as you get into illustration more that the details are really what bring your projects to live and give them their own personality and presentation. Now just taking a look at this illustration here, you can see that this entire illustration is comprised of a bunch of rectangles and squares. It's really not that complicated to recreate, there's only a few custom shapes like this one here that I use the pen tool to create, and a few other types of stretched and sheared objects that I've made. What I want to do for this course, is just focus specifically on detailing your illustration, taking it from the basic shapes phase and getting into a phase where we bring everything to a whole new level and just polish things up because this is going to make your work look like a completed illustration. Now the two tools that I'm going to be focusing on primarily in this class, are the mesh tool and then also the custom swatch panel, where we're going to make our own custom half term pattern to give our illustrations some texturing and shading, and just give it a little bit more dimension. But the first thing that we're going to take a look at, is using the mesh tool and we're going to add some shade to this rocket ship here. I forgot that we'd start with this and since the focal point of our illustration and it's also the biggest shape in our illustration. Now in order to give you illustrations some shading and give it some dimension, all you have to do is select on a shape that you want to shade, so I'm going to select on the rocket ship here with the arrow tool, and then we're going to Command C to copy it, and then Command F to paste in front. What this does, is it takes your base object, your base shape, and then it copies and duplicates a duplicate on top so that we can use that as a place to put our mesh inside of, so that we don't mess with the original shape and we can always go back to that original shape if we ever need to. With our duplicated shape on top and it's still selected, we're going to go over to the mesh tool, and that's just this little distorted grid looking icon over here, and you can tap you on your keyboard to get to it. Since I want the shading to fall along the left side of the rocket, I'm going to click somewhere on this side, and I think I want to click towards the bottom, because if we look at the moon here, the moon's going to be a source of light for our rocket and it's going to illuminate everything on this side while keeping everything shaded on this side. I'm just going to tap once at the bottom left-hand corner of the rocket. You can see that it plays a grid work of nodes that we can adjust. But the first thing that we're going to do, is we're going to add a little bit of color to this mesh. We're going to press I on the keyboard, and this just takes us to our eyedropper tool. Now since I want to set the darkest point for our shading, I'm going to go ahead and sample the darkest color for our base illustration. Because as you can see on this pillar right here, I've already chosen three colors within our illustration that gives us an illusion of depth. You see this light shaded part, there's a midtone, and then there's the darkest part of this column. I'm going to go and sample the darkest part of the column, and as you can see, it placed it within our rocket ship. Now you can see that there's immediately a change in our basic shape. If we undo this just real quick, I'm going to Command Z, look how much life that actually adds to our shape, and back here. Look at that. It's amazing. The cool thing about this tool, like I said before, is that you can actually go in and mess with these nodes and adjust them to your liking. If we go to the direct selection tool, which is A on the keyboard, and we click on any one of these nodes, we can click on that specific node and drag it anywhere we want within the shape. Now I wouldn't pull it up that far because is just not a natural shade at that point, so I'm going to undo that. But you can actually pull on the nodes or even the handlebars for each individual node, and just drag out to change the curvature of that shade. I'm going to undo that again though. Actually, what I want to do is, I add a second mesh to this. I want to add more of a light side to this so that the shade is not taking over the entire rocket ship. What I'm going to do is press U on my keyboard to go back to the mesh tool. This time, I'm going to click on the upper right-hand corner of the rocket. I think I'll do it like right under the window. Cool. Now you can see that there's two dark sides to this rocket. That's not what we want, so what we're going to do is go back to the eye dropper tool. This time, we're going to select the right-hand side of the column, which is the lightest part of the illustration, and you can see that it balanced out that shade that we added to the first mesh. If we wanted to, we could actually go in and select these individual nodes and just change the curvature if we really wanted to and get a better balance of our meshes. But actually, I like how things turned out with both of the meshes as they are right now, so I'm going to go ahead and de-select everything, which is Shift Command A. I think that looks pretty good. I'm going to leave it like that. Now to complete the rocket shades, I'm actually going to add meshes to all of the individual rocket fins in our illustration. Again, to go back to the mesh tool, hit U on the keyboard, and we're going to select towards the left-hand side here. We need to actually go to the zoom tool to Z on the keyboard, zoom in a little bit. I'm going to back out a couple of steps, command minus. Here we go. Then spacebar to pan over. We'll go back to the mesh till now U, and then also we don't want to forget we need to create a copy so that we don't mess with the original. We're going to go back to the arrow tool, which is V on the keyboard. Select it, Command C, Command F, the paste in front, and now we'll go to the Mesh tool, which is U on the keyboard and select on the left-hand side here. It added our mesh and now we need to just sample the darkest color. We'll sample the dark part of the fin here. So I on the keyboard to go back to the eyedropper tool, and click ''Okay.'' Doesn't look too bad. Just going to de-select everything, Shift Command A to see what that looks like. Actually, I think I like how that turned out too, so I'm going to just go to the direct selection tool A, and click on this note here to see what it would look like if I were to adjust it at all, and that looks a little bit better. It's not bad. I think I like how that shade turned out, so I'm just going to leave it as this. Let's go back to the arrow tool V, select the middle fin here, Command C to copy, Command F to paste in front, and then we'll go back to the mesh tool U. We'll just click towards the bottom here to add the shade on this one, and then I, and select the dark part. That looks pretty good as well. It's nice and centered. Go back to the arrow tool, select the right fin, Command C to copy, Command F to paste in front, and then we're going to go back to the mesh tool U. Then one last time, click on the bottom half of the fin here, and then the eyedropper tool I, select the dark part. Without much effort at all, these all have turned out looking pretty good, and then just zoom back out here. We can already see that we're adding some character to this illustration and adding some depth to it. It really does make a difference. 3. Applying Mesh to Satellite, Saturn, & Rocket Window: I'm going to go ahead and do the same thing now to the dish or the satellite, so I'm going select the shape, Command C, Command F. Put our mesh tool, you click in the lower half of the satellite, and then eyedropper tool, and we're going to click the dark color again. Shift command A to deselect everything. It looks pretty good too. I think maybe I want to drag some of these nodes down a bit or maybe even add another mesh. I'm going to go to the direct selection tool A and just select that middle node there. Let's see if we pull it down if it gives us a better look at all. Right now I've snapping turned on, so when I try to move something down, it just snaps in place. I'm actually going to go to View and then turn off Snap the point, so that I can adjust this exactly how I want it. If we drag down at the base end of the dish here, I think that looks more realistic. I'm going to Shift Command A to deselect everything. Yeah, that's much more smooth, I like the look of that. It looks more round. Now we have the rocket ship and the satellite dish completed. I'm actually going to do the same thing to our Saturn up here. Let's go ahead and zoom in on that part and pan up here, zoom in a little bit more. Let's go ahead and do the same thing to Saturn here. Select it Command C, Command F, go to our mesh tool. I'm going to click in the bottom left-hand corner again this time and we're going to sample the dark color over here. The shading went a little bit further than I wanted to for this planet. I'm going to drag down on the node, the center node here, using A to get to the direct selection tool. That looks pretty good. Maybe even grab the handlebars for individual control. I'm going to space the same one over here. See what that looks like. It's looking pretty good, but I think we need to go back to the mesh tool, click in the top right-hand corner this time, and we're going to go the eyedropper tool and select the color that we have for Saturn here. That's looking a little bit better. Let's Shift Command A to deselect everything and zoom out here. I really like how that looks. It's looking pretty legitimate, I like that. Now I want to go ahead and just add some more detailing with this too. I'm going to actually create the illusion that there's maybe a reflection in this window using the mesh tool method. I'm going to go ahead and select the window Command C, command F. We're going to go to Mesh tool and just click in the top right-hand corner of the window. This time we're actually going to sample the lighter color so we can get a reflection on this window. I'm just going to select it, and wow, yeah, that window is already looking pretty three dimensional. Now just to reiterate, I want to show you that if we select the shape that we added a gradient mesh to, and then we actually click and drag it to the side, they are two completely different shapes. If something by chance happens to your top shape, you accidentally deleted or if it gets skewed a little bit too much or whatever may be the reason, you can always get back to that original shape that's below. It's always just a safety precaution for your illustrations. I like to cover myself at all times, keep things really organized and just prepare for the unexpected because things do happen when you're creating stuff. But as you can see guys, this is a super effective method of adding some depth to your illustration. It only takes a matter of seconds. It's a super easy process. Again, this is just an awesome way to bring some character into your illustration. It's something that I use all the time. It is so powerful. 4. Create Visual Interest with Swatch Patterns: The next trick I'm going to show you seeking detail your illustrations is something called Making a half-tone swatch pattern. What we're going to do first is to zoom out of our illustration a little bit here. I'll just Command minus. We're going to go to the rectangle tool and we're going to create a transparent square. We're going to click and drag, hold Shift so that it constraints to a perfect square. Then, we're going to let go. We're going to remove that fill. Just hit the none down here where the color picker. We're going to deselect everything, so Shift Command A.. I can't see our square now which is okay. We're going to actually change the fill color to the dark color now. Go to the eyedropper tool, select that. Now that our fill color is the dark color, we're going to go back to this shape. If we click and drag over it, we can see that it's still there. We're going to make a rectangle to fill half of that square. We're going to go back to the rectangle tool and then hover over until you can see the square with your smart guides. Before we forget, we need a turn back on Snap to point. That's under View, Snap to point. Let's hover over the square now. Then when we see anchor point, we can click and drag until we see it intersects with half of the square. Then we'll let go. I actually removed our fill color. That's okay, we're going to go back to the eyedropper tool, which is I on the keyboard, and select the dark color. There it is. Now going back to the arrow tool, which is this V on the keyboard. We're going to select both of the rectangle and the square. We're going to go to object, pattern, make. Now, it lets us know right away that the new pattern has been added to the swatch panel and that any changes that we make with the dialogue box that pops up to the left here will be saved and applied to that swatch. We're going to hit okay. Then, we're just going to drag this pattern options panel over here so we can take a look and see what kind of options that we have. As you can see in the pattern options window, there's a bunch of different grid types and you can change the sizing and other options too, but we're not even going to worry about that. We're going to keep this super simple. We're going to go ahead and click done. Then now, if we go over the swatch panel, we can drag this out down a little bit. The Swatch has been saved right there. You'll see that I created this pattern once before, so there's that swatch there. The one that we created is right here, the new pattern too. Now that our swatch pattern is made, what we're going to do is we're going to apply it to our first shape. We're going to apply it to the platform for the rocket. What we need to do is like all the other shapes we used the gradient mesh four, we're going to copy the shape and then Command F to paste it in front. Then we're going to select the swatch pattern up here. New pattern two. You can see that that swatch pattern is way too big for our shape. What we're going to do is go over to the scale tool. We're going to double-click on the scale tool and we're going to take a look at the options within the dialog box here. In order to change the scaling for our swatch pattern, we're going to use the Uniform Scale. We're going to take it down to something like 10 percent just to see what it looks like. Then for all the other options, we're actually going to deselect them. We're going to take off scale corners, scale strokes and effects and transform objects. It automatically will check box the transform patterns selection. We're going to leave that as is, and we're going to pull this dialogue box over so we can see the effect that it's made. If you don't see it on yours, you need to make sure that that preview button is selected right there. It looks pretty good right now, but I think it could go a little bit smaller. I'm thinking maybe six or seven percent. Let's try six, and if that's too small, we can change it back. Let's go to six percent. That's exactly where I wanted it. I'm going to save those changes by hitting okay. Now what we need to do is go to the rotation tool. We're going to double-click the rotation tool. Let's drag this over so we can see the swatch pattern in there. We just need to make sure that the transform patterns box is selected here, not the transform objects. Let's go and select that. Deselect transform objects. We're going to put in a value of 45, it is what I used for the original illustration. I really liked the angle of that so we're going to see how that looks now. Yeah, that looks good. We'll hit Okay. That's how you apply a half-tone swatch to your illustration in order to give it some more character. 5. Finishing All Space Station Elements: Now in order to apply this swatch pattern that we've made to all of our other shapes, I want go ahead and first select the shape that we're going apply it to next. Select it with the arrow tool Command C, Command F and then what we can do to make it easy on our self is just use the eyedropper tool to put that exact same swatch with all the Customization that we made into the shape. We're going to go I for the eyedropper tool and then make sure that we select the dark column because that was our actual swatch pattern and then you see that it places it right into the column itself. Now for the columns, I think I want to make this a little bit smaller for the stripe and in order to do that, I'm just going go back to the scale tool, double-click it in order to make it smaller. S Let's make it something like 5 percent and see what it looks like and then keep in mind it makes the scaling based on the original size of your patterns. What we need to do as bump it up to something much higher because it's 5-percent of what our edit was is really small. It's almost like a cane-cane stripe sizing. What we're going to do is bump this up to like 94 and see what that looks like and it's just a little bit different. Let's go even more, let's do like 85. Closer to what I want to try 80 almost there, I think I'm going to do 77. Let's see. Yeah, like that looks good, hit okay, and then in order to apply it to the rest of the column, will just select the top shape here, Command C, Command F, and then use the eyedropper tool to select that Swatch pattern. All right, looks good do the same thing with these other shapes here and don't forget to keep on duplicating all your shape so that you have that backup. It's our illustration is really starting to come along now, I'm going to go ahead and apply this swatch pattern, a different way to the columns that hold the rocket up. What we're going to do is Command C, Command F and I'm going to apply the smaller gradient again and just use eyedropper tool to do that and what I want do is change the rotation of this so that it's going horizontal with the rocket. I'm going to go ahead and go to the rotation tool. Just double-click on that and let's adjust this until it's straight how we want and you can see that at that 45 degree angle for the rotation tool will put it straight for us. Let's go ahead and leave it there and hit okay and then we're going to go back to the arrow tool, select each column Command C, Command F to duplicate and we're going to, eyedrop this swatch pattern to apply it to the rest, to it one more time for the top bracket here and then I dropped to get that in there then as a last touch, I think we're going to apply that same swatch pattern that we just used for the brackets to the inside of the fence to give it more of a separation. We're going to select the inside fin Command C, Command F, and then eye dropper tool there we go to the same thing with this one. Eye dropper tool again and wallah. All right, so let's get rid of this pin and just see where we're at with everything now, this is looking really good. In a short amount of time, we've added gradient measures that give our rocket and more three-dimensional shape and then we also added these cool swatch patterns that give it a little bit more character and texture. 6. Using the Photo Transparency Trick & Final Touches: All right. Our illustration looks really good now. We've got a custom swatch pattern that we've made and applied to our illustration, and we've also applied a bunch of gradients that have added a whole new layer of character and detail to our illustration. The last two things I want to show you are, I want to show you how to apply a photo to a shape and give it even more texture and the illusion of depth, and then lastly, we're just going to add some texture to this ground to give it a little bit more of a plain like look to it. So what we're going to do first is just clear this shape that we used to make our halftone pattern, so, just select over it with the black arrow tool here and then delete, and then we're just going to commence or to bring everything into view. Now, in order to get the moon to look more like a moon, what we're going to do, is just like we've done with every other shape, here we're going to copy it, ''Command C'', ''Command F'', and then we're going to remove that color fill. I have this moon photo that I found, and what we're going to do is just drag that photo into our project. You can use any moon photo that you find online, it's just has to be something that's practically black and white, it works best like that. Then we're going to just go ahead and focus on resizing this. So go ahead and click on the corner and then also hold ''Shift'' to constrain the size of the moon, and we're just going to bring this over here to try to get as close to the original size of our moon. Then what we need to do is go to the Window menu and then just pull up the "Transparency Panel". Which can I drag this over here and then close up that Stroke Panel that came along with it. Then while our photo still selected, we're going to go to the drop-down here and select ''Multiply'', and then you'll immediately be able to see that our moon photo is now somewhat transparent and our color is coming through. So what we're going to do now, just close out that transparency panel and then try to get the sizing just right here. It's looking pretty close as it is right now, and I think that's pretty good right there. So now what we need to do is just drag this photo to this side, and then bring this bottom shape that we remove the fill from and then just bring it to the front. So we're going to do Command, Shift ) , and now it's at the front. Now if we select the photo and just bring it back down over the moon, try to center as best as we can, we're actually going to rotate the moon to match the rest of our light direction, spring it in over here. I think that's good right there. All right. Now, we're going to go ahead and select on that shape with no fill, and it might be hard to select, but I just got mine right there. You just got to click around until you select that shape then also select the photo shape too. Now we're going to do ''Command seven'', and that's going to create a clipping mask. So that all that's left is that multiplication effect. You can see the outline here if we zoom in. Let's just adjust this a little bit here. Our photo is a little bit off-center and in order to adjust that. All you have to do is double-click into the mask, and then you can see where the photo is positioned in relation to the mask. We're just going to drag that over a little bit here and see if we can get the sizing just a tad bit tighter. I do think it will make it a little bit bigger, hold ''Shift'' on dragging. It's getting pretty close almost there. I think it's good right there. So let's go ahead and hit the back arrow to get out of the clipping mask, and then as you can see, there's our moon. So let's fit our entire illustration into the window now. Just command zero to back up and back up one more time. All right. Everything is looking really good now. All right. Now the last thing I want to do, is just add some texture to this ground here. I'm going to go back into my files that I have, and just so you know where I get my textures, I can't actually provide this file to you because it's something that I purchased and can't give away something free that I bought. It's against the licensing terms, but I'll show you where I got it from. The texture that I use is this one right here, and I got this texture from a texture pack online from a company called True Grit Texture Supply, and it was this pack right here that I use and got it from. It's the mix grit 40 plus assorted textures and half tonnes in TIFF and vector format. So this is very useful. It's something that's already prepped and ready to go. All you have to do, is drag that texture into your illustration. Just going to zoom out here. What we'll do is, just going to rotate this texture hold ''Shift'' to command it's rotation lock, going to play with the positioning a little bit, I'm also going to duplicate it, so, I'm going to click and hold ''Alt'' to duplicate this texture, hold ''Shift'' to get it perfectly horizontal, and then I'll use my arrow keys and nudge that texture until it meets with the other one, that way it's a seamless effect across the board. Do the same thing with this. So ''Alt'' click and drag, hold ''Shift'' to keep it straight with the other one. Trap it right about there, and then I'll adjust using the arrow key. All right. Then I'm going to drag over just the center then hold ''Shift'' right about there. All right. Just make sure all three are selected, then go back to the Transparency Panel under the Window menu, then we'll apply multiply to this as well. Then what we're going to do, is take the opacity down to, let's try 40 percent, maybe a little bit lower there maybe 35 percent. I'm going to take it down to 29 percent. Yeah. That looks pretty good. Then the last thing I want to do, is just adjust this one over here, because you can see a little bit of a divide and then drag it over. All right. Now if we zoom in, let's just do a spot check on everything. Looks pretty good. There's a little bit of a spotery here, I going to drag this one texture over. Yeah. Looks better. All right. I really love how this turned out. We got all of our meshes put in place, we have our half tone textures put throughout the illustration, and we even added a multiply effect with a real moon photo and applied it to our shape, and then last but not least, added some texture to our ground. I think that these tricks as you use them throughout your illustrations are going to prove to be very useful and there's just so much you can do with it. You can apply that mesh effect to so many different types of materials and make it look like a real metal and get some very detailed, super realistic results. What I showed you with this illustration really just a taste or what you can do with the mesh tool. There's so many ways you can take this from here, and this is just an intro of using these types of illustration tricks. So the last thing that we're going to do, like we do with all projects, is export it out to Web and we're going to go to File, Export, Save for web. Then the resolution for my original file was 1920 by 1080. I'm going to leave it at that. Now you see these funky lines that are shown up here, what we need to do is turn off Art optimized. It really messed with the texture on this one, so, we're going to go ahead and hit ''None'', and you'll see that all those pinstripes sent way. So everything looks good, we're going to go ahead and click ''Save'', and we'll just leave it as the default that I set for this project Rocket-Space-Station, and then we'll save this out to the desktop. All right. Hit ''Save'', and here is our final illustration.