18 Nov 2010

Fun with Illustrator’s 3D tool

Illustration, Personal Work, Process / Tutorial No Comments

I’m no 3D artist, so I know that I’m not getting the most from the incredible 3D tools that Illustrator offers, but I wanted to show you one quick thing that I DO use them for in some of my t-shirt designs that has been phenomenally helpful to me: perspective on complex, round objects. I have a devil of a time hand-drawing these sorts of things, and the Illustrator 3D tool has saved me from countless hours of frustration.

Here, let me show you a couple of examples.

For my Blue Plate Special design, I drew all of the characters by hand, but used the 3D Revolve tool to help me get the correct perspective on the plate.

First draw a cross section of half of a plate (an enlarged version on the left shows it a bit better). Then, with that object selected, go to Effect > 3D > Revolve.

The Revolve tool will take your selected object, and revolve it around a central axis (you can choose to use the right or left side of the selected object as the rotational axis), creating a fully editable 3D object that you can now rotate in any direction until it is in the correct perspective for your project.

There are several different rendering modes for 3D objects (which of course have a myriad of uses) but when I’m using it purely as a 3D reference, I find it most helpful to use the “wireframe” setting, as it show the full object, including invisible surfaces.

At this point, I incorporated the wireframe plate with my character composition sketch, and used it as a basis for the pen and ink drawing.

As it turns out, by the time I was finished with the illustration, the characters ended up hiding most of the plate, but the part that IS visible is juuuust right.

Here’s another example of the usefulness of a custom 3D reference. In my “Once Upon a Carousel in the West” design, I couldn’t find a good reference photo of a carousel in the orientation that I needed it, so I created one myself following the same steps above.

Once again, I created a cross-section of my intended shape, expanded it into 3D using the Revolve tool, and set it to wireframe mode.

Then I repeated the same process for the base of the Carousel.

Once I put the two pieces together, I had an accurate 3D reference image of a carousel in exactly the position that I needed it for my illustration. I printed out this wireframe image, and used it as a positioning reference when I drew the design.

The final design shows how the carousel was incorporated into the full illustration, as well as how I added embellishments to the basic structure, all of which are in correct perspective since I was able to use the wireframe for an accurate reference.

So there’s a little introduction to one of the ways to use Illustrator’s 3D Revolve tool to ensure that you keep correct perspective on complex, round elements in your work.  As I have time, I’ll try to post more tutorials and process blogs for some of my other designs. If there’s something you’re especially interested in, leave a comment and I’ll try to answer any questions in future posts.

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