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a smooth way to transition between colors on a mesh?

I’m learning Blender, and starting to add color. I’m trying to figure out how to create a soft line between 2 different colors on the same mesh.  The best solution I have come up with is to make a UV map, then brush the color by hand.

duckCloseUp

I’d like a simpler solution. Drawing on the UV map is close, but I would like the transition to be smoother. For example, I don’t want the texture that you see between the bird’s beak and body.

rotating-colored-duck