By Corrie Haffly

More About Gradient Meshing…

By Corrie Haffly

Some of you die-hard Photoshop users might be wondering why you should care about gradient meshes in Illustrator. After all, can’t you achieve the exact same effects — with less time and eye-straining work — by using a variety of brushes and colors?

(DaisyChain – that answers your question about gradient meshes in Photoshop, if obliquely… there isn’t a “gradient mesh” tool in Photoshop because Photoshop is primarily a bitmap-art program… so any realistic effects can just be painted in using your choice of airbrush and color.)

To answer that question, I think I just need to post a reminder that Illustrator is a vector graphic program. So UNLIKE a realistic drawing painted in Photoshop, a realistic-looking gradient-meshed object in Illustrator can be resized — smaller OR larger — at will! Try to make a Photoshop-painted object larger, and you start losing image quality.

Even if you don’t have the need to make crazy-realistic 4723849 MB Illustrator files, gradient meshes can still help you to make more-realistic vector-based web graphics, icons, etc.

A few links for those of you interested in this topic:

Illustrator inspiration (in particular, click on the “realistic” link in the left column)

A pretty thorough overview of gradient meshes (if you found my last post’s link good but wanted more detail)

The best super-realism step-by-step example I’ve seen out there. Be sure to click on the screenshots to see the detail!

  • Thanks for answering that Corrie, looks like it might be time to invest in Illustrator!

  • helix7

    Can’t you achieve basically the same gradients in Photoshop if you are working with vector shapes?

  • malikyte

    Although you can work with vector “shapes” in Photoshop, they aren’t technically vector “objects”. A vector object is something that is created completely mathematically, and shown to you, the user, as a visual object. Photoshop may use mathematics to calculate exactly where the image should be placed and how it should appear when you’re creating it, but once you’re done creating it, it is no longer mathematical – it is completely pixel based. Therefore, when you resize that image (as Corrie mentioned), you lose quality because resizing pixels are a mathematical guesswork, not a strict certainty. The only thing working for you in Bitmap images would be anti-aliasing which just softens hard edges.

    No, vector arts are usually the best tool for a majority of things. If you know for CERTAIN the dimensions you would need, and can achieve the effect quicker and easier in PhotoShop, then go for it. Just be careful if you’re doing this for print media, as printers don’t always make bitmaps look really good – which is another good use of vector-based programs.

    Personally, since I don’t have Illustrator and only have Flash MX as a vector tool, I create some icons in Flash, get them the size I want, then take a screen capture of the image and save it in Photoshop (with only a minimal amount of editing). It takes a lot longer, but can be easier to handle when you’re finally done.

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