For this Tutorial, we are going to use an image with a nice but simple color transition. We are using some cherries on a white background.
1 - In Illustrator, create a “New Document”.
2 - Go to File > Place, navigate to where you saved the image you chose and select it. Click on the canvas and resize it if necessary.
3 - Lock your Layer by clicking on the left side of its Thumbnail and bring out the small padlock. Then, click on the small “Create New Layer” button at the bottom to create a “New Layer”.
4 - Select the “Pen Tool” §, use no “Fill” and a contrasting color for the “Stroke”. Trace the outline of your subject and once you are finished, fill it with a color that is fairly visible against the one of the image.
5 - In the “Layers Panel”, hold the “Command/Control” key and click on the small eye icon placed on the left side of your Layer’s Thumbnail to “Toggle the Visibility”. Select your path and the “Mesh Tool” (U), then, click on some spots on the “Path” to create new ones and form the “Mesh”. Repeat in other paths if needed.
6 - Open the “Navigator Panel” (Window > Navigator) to help you see your progress.
7 - Select the “Direct Selection Tool” (A) and click in one of the “Anchor Points”. Now, select the “Eyedropper Tool” (E) and click on a spot close to the selected point to apply the color to that part of the “Mesh”. Keep doing this until you cover all the “Path”. You can select several “Anchor Points” at the same time by holding the “Shift” Key and clicking on them.
8 - If you have more than one Path you can “Lock” the one you are not working with so you won’t select it by mistake (Command/Control + 2). Then you can work with your other paths. Once you are done, click “Command/Control + 2” again to “Unlock All”
9 - Repeat “Steps 4 to 8” if you have other parts of the image to work with. We made two separate stems for our cherries.
10 - You may notice that some spots still have the original “Fill” color, so “Zoom In” (Command/Control +), select the “Points” and change the color.
11 - Then, check your “Meshes” and add some extra “Points” if you need to add more detail. Like the part where the cherry covers the stem in order to make it more tridimensional.
12 - To add a “Shadow”, create a “New Layer”, drag it underneath your “Mesh” Layers and select the “Ellipse Tool” (L). Draw an oval under your fruit and “Fill” it with a “Radial Gradient” from Black (60% Opacity) to Transparent (100% Opacity).
13 - Your work should look similar to this.