In this tutorial, you will learn how to use the Mesh Tool and Warp Effects in Adobe Illustrator to create a beautiful sunflower!
How to Draw a Gradient Mesh Sunflower in Adobe Illustrator
1. How to Create a Gradient Mesh Background
Let’s learn how to use the Mesh Tool while creating this background!
First, draw a rectangle, filling it with the color
#DDF5E1. Grab the Mesh Tool (U) and create a Mesh grid like the one in the screenshot below by clicking where the nodes are supposed to be.
Next, add a couple more rows to the grid, and then select five nodes as indicated in the second step of the image, and color them with
Continue in a similar fashion, first coloring some more nodes, now with
#F0E16A, and then four more nodes with
Only four more steps left! You will need these colors:
Now, let’s create three white circles, varying in size. Every circle should have an Overlay Blending Modeand their Opacity set to 25%.
Draw one more circle, this one bigger than the rest. Set its Transparency Blending Mode to Overlay and its Opacity to 40%.
Place these circles on top of the background, just like bokeh lights.
2. How to Create Petals
Now that we’ve learned how to use Mesh, let’s move on to the most challenging part of this tutorial: drawing petals.
We will be creating Petal 1.
Grab a yellow rectangle, filled with
#F1E00F. Next, place nodes with the Mesh Tool (U), creating a Mesh grid.
Use the nodes on the edges to bend the rectangle so that it looks like the shape in the screenshot below.
Next, add even more nodes and start coloring! You will need these:
Create copies of Petal 1 we made in the previous step—we will need three of them, plus the original. We will be creating lots of different petals, so you might want to label them with the numbers I mention in this tutorial.
Now create Petal 1a by shrinking a copy of Petal 1 a little.
Create Petal 1b by recoloring some of Petal 1’s nodes.
Use these colors:
Now let’s draw Petal 2! The process is very similar to the previous steps.
You will need these:
Finish your work on Petal 2 with these five steps and colors:
Create Petal 3 out of a copy of Petal 2 by stretching it, bringing its top left tip in a bit to the right, and bringing the nodes on the top edge of the petal upwards into an arch.
Create Petal 4 out of a copy of Petal 1 by simply flattening it.
To get Petal 5, grab a copy of Petal 1b. Proceed to Effects > Warp > Arc and apply the effect with the following settings:
- Bend -8%
- Horizontal 47%
- Vertical -8%
Go to Object > Expand Appearance, and modify the shape by bringing its right edges out a bit.
Create Petal 6 out of a copy of Petal 5 by shrinking it and coloring some nodes with
Grab a copy of Petal 5 once more—we will be creating Petal 7.
This time, apply Effect > Warp > Inflate to it with these settings:
- Bend -26%
- Horizontal 29%
- Vertical -8%
Expand Appearance of the object, and bend it again with Effect > Warp > Arc.
- Bend -24%
- Horizontal -3%
- Vertical -10%
Once more, Expand Appearance, and then shrink the petal a little.
Finally, bring its top left edge upwards.
Just two petals left! For Petal 8, use a copy of Petal 6, applying Effect > Warp > Arc to it.
- Bend -26%
- Horizontal -14%
- Vertical -22%
Don’t forget to Expand Appearance of the result!
Our final petal, Petal 9, will be made on the basis of Petal 5.
Grab its copy and apply Effect > Warp > Flag.
- Bend -50%
- Horizontal -1%
- Vertical -6%
Expand Appearance of the result, and then stretch it.
Color some of its nodes with
#F9F400 and finally, shrink it a little bit.
Our petals are all done! On to the flower.
3. How to Assemble the Sunflower
First, we will need to draw a simple leaf. We will need just three steps and these colors:
Now, grab all the petals we made and assemble them according to their numbers! The petals should naturally overlap and leave a circular space in the middle.
Add the leaves we made in the previous step under our petals.
The one element we are missing is the middle of the sunflower. As it is very difficult to draw such a complex thing from scratch, I’d like to turn to Image Trace.
In the sidebar of this tutorial, you will find the Download Attachment button. Press it and, when the zip file downloads, unzip the archive. One of the files, sunflower.jpg, is a photo (taken by me) that we will be using in this step.
Open the photo in Adobe Illustrator and bring up the Image Trace panel (Window > Image Trace). Choose theHigh Fidelity Photo preset. Click Trace to begin the tracing process. It may take a little while.
If you encounter any technical difficulties during this step, skip to the next one to use an alternative solution.
Now that our image is traced into vector, ungroup it and delete everything except the middle of the flower.
This might be an unnecessarily long process, so if you’d like to skip it or if you’ve encountered any technical difficulties, you can use my already isolated vector middle, contained in tracedflower.ai.
Place the middle of the flower between the petals.
To hide the blank spaces between the petals, draw an ellipse, fill it with
#6F0E00, and place it behind the flower, in the middle of it.
To soften the transition between the middle and the petals, create a Blend.
First, draw two circles, filling the bigger one with
#F3D700 and the smaller one with
#6D2F05. Set the yellow circle to 0% Opacity.
Go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and set the Spacing to Specified Steps, 30.
Then select both circles and use Object > Blend > Make.
Set the Transparency mode of the Blend to Multiply.
Place the Blend above the petals, but under the middle of the flower.
Our sunflower is done!
4. How to Create and Place the Leaves
In this last section, we will be creating a leaf.
Let’s start off by making and coloring a Mesh grid for it. We will need these colors:
Next, grab the last file from the archive we downloaded in the previous section: the leaf.ai file. Open it in Adobe Illustrator and drag both objects into your workspace.
First, take the leaf lines. Check the color and the opacity (
#ADADAD, 30%) and place them on top of our Mesh.
Now take the leaf outline. Place it under both objects, select all of them, and after right-clicking, use Make Clipping Mask.
Our leaf is finished! It should look like this:
All that’s left is to create a few copies of our flower and of our leaf and arrange them as nicely as you can! Here is my example.
Finally, place the flowers on top of the background, and you’re done!
Awesome Work, You’re Done!
Thank you for following along, and please feel welcome to post your result in the comments. I’ll be looking forward to seeing it!
In this tutorial, you learned how to create beautiful photo-realistic sunflowers using theMesh Tool.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and learned how to use some useful tools for the future! Check out some of my other vector tutorials on myinstructor profile.