Use shortcuts with Illustrator's Gradient Mesh

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In a previous article, I went into some elaborate detail about how to create and use the Gradient Mesh feature in Illustrator CS4 ( ). Today, in this second of a two-part series about gradient mesh, I'll show you some quick keyboard shortcuts that will hasten the creation process. As with the previous Gradient Mesh tutorial, this is targeted toward users who are already familiar with Illustrator and the way its tools behave.

Gradient mesh tools

Successfully working with a gradient mesh is much more involved than just using the Gradient Mesh tool. It involves the Direct Selection tool, the Eyedropper tool, the Lasso tool, and others. Depending on where you click and when, each of these tools can exhibit multiple, sometimes conflicting behaviors. The following short guide gives you a quick reference to common tools and their keyboard shortcuts.

The finished tomato, complete with gradient mesh leaves and stem, and a standard radial gradient cast shadow.

Gradient Mesh tool: Use the Gradient Mesh tool to select one mesh point at a time for coloring or manipulation. Click on a mesh line to add a point in that location, which will create a new column or row spanning the entire mesh. Click inside a mesh patch while in Preview Mode to add a point in that spot, which also creates a new row and column spanning the entire mesh. (Keyboard shortcut: U)

Direct Selection Tool: Use the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) to select a mesh point for coloring or manipulation. Click on a mesh line to select the points at both ends of the line. Click inside a mesh patch to select all mesh points surrounding the patch. Shift-click to select additional mesh points or deselect some mesh points while leaving others selected. (Keyboard shortcut: A)

Lasso Tool: Click outside the mesh or in an area of the mesh that’s clear of all existing points, and then drag in a closed loop to select all points, lines, and patches inside the loop. (Keyboard shortcut: Q)

Eyedropper Tool: This tool is a universal color sampler. Click to sample the color under the cursor. If a mesh point or patch is selected when the Eyedropper tool is used, all selected points and patches will adopt the color under the cursor. Hold down the option key while clicking to reverse this behavior and find the color of the selected point or patch. (Keyboard shortcut: I)

Convert Anchor Point Tool: Click and release on a mesh point inside the mesh or on an anchor point along the outside of the mesh path to convert the point from a smooth (curvy) point to a corner (angle) point or vice versa. With a point selected, click the Convert Anchor Point tool on the point’s direction handle to convert only the corresponding mesh line or path segment without altering the line or segment on the other side of the anchor point. Click and drag a mesh point to rotate it and all mesh lines emanating from it, or to equally increase or decrease the curvature of those lines. (Keyboard shortcut: Shift+C)

[Pariah S. Burke is the author of Mastering InDesign CS3 for Print Design and Production (Sybex, 2007), and other books; a freelance graphic designer; and the publisher of the Web sites,, and Pariah lives in Portland, Ore.]

[This is the second of a two part series on Gradient Mesh techniques in Illustrator. The first part of this series is available here .]

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