julianna kunstler logo

gradient mesh and symbols in Illustrator
Instagram icon

by JuliannaKunstler.com

Gradient mesh and symbols. Vector flower drawing. Adobe Illustrator assignment for beginners. Lesson plan.

Things to learn:

  • Drawing shapes
  • Converting anchor points
  • Gradient mesh
  • Saving objects as symbols
  • Editing symbols
  • Shape order
  • Layer palette object selection
  • Special effects


gradient mesh example


gradient mesh

A mesh object is a multicolored object on which colors can flow in different directions and transition smoothly from one point to another.

At the intersection of two mesh lines is a special kind of anchor point called a mesh point. Mesh points appear as diamonds and have all of the same properties as anchor points but with the added capability of accepting color. 

AMesh line BMesh patch CMesh point DAnchor point 


More information here.

Create a New file in Adobe Illustrator. Artboard size is 8" x 8".

Set General Units to inches in Preferences (Edit / Illustrator > Preferences > Units)

step 1

gradient mesh

Choose Ellipse tool from the Tool box.

Draw an oval as shown.

ellipse tool
draw shape

Click on the bottom anchor point with Convert AP tool.

edit shape

Drag the AP handles to make the shape less symmetrical and "perfect".

step 2: gradient mesh

gradient mesh

Object > Create Gradient Mesh

Gradient Mesh is a form of a color grid applied to a shape.

This grid has color anchor points (mesh points) at grid-lines (mesh lines) intersections.

The colors transition smoothly within the grid cell.

They can be moved around, added, deleted, and edited.

Default color is White when you convert a shape into Mesh object.

selection tool

Choose Direct Selection tool

gradient mesh

Drag to select the bottom part of the petal.

Apply a color to the selected point(s).

use Swatches palette or Color Picker.

gradient mesh

Select the 4 middle mesh points (Use Direct Selection tool and hold Shift).

Use a lighter color.

gradient mesh

This is what it should look.

lasso tool

To select multiple points around the edges - choose Lasso tool.

gradient mesh

Select points as shown.

gradient mesh

Apply darker shade

gradient mesh

Select points as shown.

gradient mesh

Apply even darker shade.

gradient mesh

Select points as shown.

gradient mesh

Apply a mid-value color.

In this example its a version of orange.

gradient mesh

Select points as shown.

gradient mesh

Apply another color.

In my case it's yellow-green.

step 3: editing gradient mesh

direct selection tool

Choose Direct Selection tool.

gradient mesh

Select an inside mesh point.

Apply a darker shade to the point.

gradient mesh

You can move the mesh point to make the dark area wider.

gradient mesh

Move another mesh point down as shown.

This will make room for the shadow to spread further down.

step 4: adding mesh points

gradient mesh tool

Select Gradient Mesh tool.

gradient mesh

Click on the vertical mesh line with Gradient Mesh tool.

This will create a new mesh point on the existing line and will add an additional horizontal line.

gradient mesh

If you click in the empty area - a new set of mesh lines (horizontal & vertical) will be added.

gradient meshgradient mesh

Modify mesh points as shown.

File > Save

step 5: symbol


Select the petal.

Convert it into symbol: drag it onto the symbol palette or click on New Symbol button at the bottom of the palette.

Name it "petal".

Mark the Registration point as bottom-center.


A new symbol will be created in the Symbols palette.


Drag an instance of the symbol onto the artboard and rotate it.


Complete the flower.

step 6: center

ellipse tool

Choose Ellipse tool


Draw a circle.

Pick a dark color for the fill.

No stroke.


Apply a glow effect around the circle.

Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow


Click on preview button.

Choose color and mode.

Adjust the settings for a visible result.

step 7: custom brush


Click on the art board with Ellipse tool.

Set the dimensions as shown.

Colors: black fill, no stroke


With the circle selected - click on New Brush button in the Brushes palette.

Use the settings shown.


New brush thumbnail will appear in the palette.

step 8: special effects


It is important that you follow the settings shown to get the result we need.

If you choose your own dimensions - you'll have to adjust the rest of the settings.

Start with drawing a circle.


No fill color.

Black stroke.

Stroke size: 1 pt.

custom stroke

Apply your new brush stroke to the circle.

special effects

Now we are going to create multiple copies of that circle that gradually get smaller.

Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform.

special effects

Set the number of the copies you want (30).

Each copy will be scaled down 90%

special effects

Now we convert the circles with custom brush stroke to groups of circles.

Object > Expand Appearance

special effects

This is what it should look like.

special effects

Change the fill option for the circles.

Choose Radial Gradient.

Set the colors in the Gradient palette.

special effects

Open Layers palette.

Double-click on Layer 1.

Open the group that you have for the flower center.

special effects

Select every other one of the ring groups by clicking on the circle icon on the right side of the group sub-layer.

special effects

Object > Transform > Rotate

special effects

Rotate at 18 degrees.

Click on Preview to make sure it looks right.

special effects

This is how it should look now.

Next step is to change the order of the circle groups:

The outer circles will be placed in the back, and the center ones will be moved forward.

special effects

Select the very last circle group and rename it "1".

It will become our top group.

special effects

Drag the group above "1" to the bottom of the stack.

Continue dragging each group that is directly above "1" to the bottom of the stack.

special effects

Eventually you will end up with "1" being at the top.


Position the flower center in the middle of the flower.

Resize if necessary.

File > Save

step 9: edit symbols

edit symbols

You can edit symbols by double-clicking in a thumbnail in Symbols palette.

edit symbols

Select a few mesh points with Direct Selection tool.

Adjust the color.

edit symbols

Double-click on the artboard outside the symbol to exit Symbol Editing Mode.

You can also click on the arrow at the top left corner of your image window.

edit symbols

You can also enter Symbol Editing mode by double-clicking on the symbol's instance.

In this case - double-click on a petal.

Click OK to continue.

edit symbols

Add more dramatic shadows to the petal.

Exit Editing mode.

edit symbols

The changes will be applied to all instances (all petals).

edit symbols

If you need to adjust a setting for any of the shapes - you can select the shape from Layers palette. All properties and effects are stored in Appearance palette.