from vertex colors - like mesh but with smoother transitions (in a way similar to how mesh is turned to SubD, I guess from linear to cubic interpolation?).
and respecting ngons and quads (for both meshes and Subds), and probably creases?
Can you post a file to help explain what you want to do in terms of the gradients and also how you’d use the model ultimately? For instance, is this for a rendering or a working display mode or 3D printing in color?