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Create 3D graphics in Illustrator

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      11. Design a flower in 5 easy steps
      12. Perspective drawing
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    2. 3D effects and Adobe Substance materials
      1. About 3D effects in Illustrator
      2. Create 3D graphics
      3. Map artwork over 3D objects
      4. Create 3D objects
      5. Create 3D Text
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      15. Fonts | FAQ and troubleshooting tips
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Learn how to create lifelike objects in Illustrator by applying 3D effects, lighting, and materials sourced from Adobe Substance. 

You can apply 3D effects, lighting, and material to 2D vector graphics with realistic textures viewed under different lighting scenarios. You can then render them with ray tracing to create realistic 3D graphics with ease.

Read on to learn how to re-create a sample vector art with 3D effects as shown in this design sample.

outcome
A sample 3D vector design

3 steps to create a 3D artwork

Get started by drawing your favorite art on paper, trace it into Illustrator, apply 3D effects like Extrude, Rotation, and Substance Materials. Provide finishing touches to your design with appropriate Lighting and Shadow effects and then render your artwork with ease.

Create a vector art

You can convert the image of a pencil sketch that was drawn on paper into vector art using image trace. You can also download a sample 2D artwork to try on the go.

vector art
A sample 2D artwork

  1. Draw your favorite art on a piece of paper. For example, Flora letters. 
  2. Import the raster image into Illustrator using File > Place in a document.  
  3. Choose Object > Image Trace > Make to trace the image with default options. 

Apply 3D effects to the artwork

Before you start applying 3D effects to the vector artwork, explore Object, Materials, or Lighting
options and presets available in the 3D and Materials panel. The 3D and Materials panel appears when you click Window > 3D and Materials

Object

3d types
3D Types in 3D and Materials panel

A. Plane    

Flattens object onto the plane. 

A. Extrude

Extends a 2D object to add depth. 

A. Revolve    

Sweeps a path or profile in a circular direction. 

A. Inflate

Inflates the flat object. 

B. Depth

Sets the depth of the object from 0 through 2000. 

C. Cap

Specifies whether the object appears solid or hollow. 

D. Bevel

Applies beveled edge along the object's depth. 

E. Presets

Applies rotation presets based on direction, axis, and isometrics. 

F. Vertical rotation

Rotates object vertically from -180 to 180°.

G. Horizontal rotation

Rotates object horizontally from -180 to 180°. 

H. Circular rotation

Rotates object in a circle from -180 to 180°. 

Materials

substance materials
Materials in 3D and Materials panel

A. Base Materials   

Applies default preset material. 

B. Adobe Substance Materials

Enables you to apply some of the Adobe Substance Materials.

C. Substance 3D assets

Adds Materials from Adobe Substance assets

D. Substance community assets

Adds Materials from Adobe Substance community

E. Add new materials and Graphic

Add Materials - Adds your own new materials to the panel.

Add Graphics - Add artwork as Graphic. You can use graphics to map artwork over 3D objects

F. Material properties

Applies roughness and metallic properties from 0 through 1 for basic materials. Properties vary for each of the Adobe Substance materials. 

Lighting

lighting effects
Lighting in 3D and Materials panel

A. Presets   

Applies pre-configured lighting effects like Standard, Diffuse, Top Left, or Right quickly to your artwork.

B. Intensity

Changes the selected light’s brightness from 0% through 100%.

C. Rotation

Rotates the focus of light around the object with a value from -180° through 180.

D. Height

Brings the light closer to the object, if it's lower causing a short shadow and conversely from 0° through 90°.

E. Softness

Determines how the light spreads. Overrides the diffuse preset with a value from 0% through 100%.

F. Ambient Light intensity

Controls the global lighting intensity, with a value from 0% to 200%. 

G. Shadows

Applies shadows to your artwork when the toggle button is on. 

H. Position

Applies shadow either Behind Object or Below Object.

I. Distance from object

Adjusts the distance of the shadow from the object with a value from 0% through 100%. 

J. Shadow boundary

Applies shadow's boundary with a value from 0% through 
200%. 

Apply Extrude, Materials, Lighting, and Shadow Effects

Now that you have explored all the available 3D effects and materials options in the section above, you can apply Extrude and RotationAdobe Substance Materials, and Lighting, Intensity, and Shadows effects to the imported vector artwork. 

Be familiar with these limitations and error messages before you start applying 3D effects: 

  • If Ray Tracing is enabled, you will experience lag depending upon the complexity or size of the object. For objects with complex paths, 3D effects are applied partially. 
  • 3D effects are not supported on all object types. For example, raster images or single anchor point objects. 

Extrude and Rotation

Watch this 17-second video to learn how to apply Extrude effects on the 2D artwork. 

  1. Select the artwork created using Create vector art.  

  2. Click Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. 3D and Materials panel appears. 

  3. Choose the depth within a range of 0 to 100 pts. 

  4. Select Rotation > Presets > Off-Axis - Front and set X-axis and Y-axis values to any appropriate value from 0° through 360°.

Rotation and Perspective

You can also set the rotation of an object and the perspective from which you view it.

 

To adjust the perspective,  select a value within a range of 0 to 160 in the 3D and Materials > Object > 3D TypePerspective slider.

A smaller angle is similar to a telephoto camera lens; a larger lens angle is similar to a wide-angle camera lens.

Perspective camera
Add perspective to the object

Adobe Substance Materials

After applying Extrude effects to the vector artwork, you can now learn how to apply 3D Materials

3D materials
3D artwork after applying materials

  1. Select the vector artwork after applying Extrude effects on it. 

  2. Select Materials from the 3D Effects panel. Choose material from the list or add your own material
    by clicking + icon

    You can either add your own material or choose from the free community and Adobe materials. You can also add thousands of Adobe Substance 3D materials with a subscription plan.

  3. Click Material Properties to apply parameters, or change position, channels, and filters.  

Lighting, Intensity, and Shadows

After applying Extrude and 3D Materials to the artwork, watch this 11-second video to learn how to apply lighting effects.

  1. Click Lighting in the 3D effects panel.

  2. Choose one of the default presets like Standard, Diffuse, Top Left, or Right. Or customize by applying color, intensity, rotation, height, and cloudiness parameters. 

  3. Choose the Ambience Light > Intensity and set a value from 0 through 100%.

  4. Click the Shadows toggle button to apply a shadow. You can use parameters like position, distance from the object, or boundary to customize a shadow effect. 

Render the artwork

After applying the 3D effects to the vector art, you can use Render with Ray Tracing to create realistic 3D graphic artwork more efficiently and better. Ray tracing enables you to create realistic 3D graphics by tracing the path of light rays as they bounce over the object. 

To enable/disable ray tracing and render, click the Render with Ray Tracing icon at the upper-right corner of the 3D & Materials panel. 

Ray Tracing settings

You can also change quality, noise, and raster options for Ray Tracing using the settings. Click the render settings drop-down at the upper-right corner of the 3D effects panel. 

  • Click the Ray Tracing toggle button to enable/disable it.
  • You can also change the resolution, color, and background for the raster image by clicking Raster Settings.
  • Select Quality as High and click Render to get one of the industry's optimal quality renderings of your artwork. 

Refer to some of the best practices on how to optimize CPU usage while you render the artwork. 

The final design

Now that you have learned about the power of 3D effects in Illustrator, play around with the sample files and take your creative design to the next level.

You can also download the final design to view your 3D graphic artwork.

What's next: Create 3D text effects

We've got you started with applying 3D effects in Illustrator. Take a step forward and learn how to create 3D text effects using basic tools and features. 

Have a question or an idea?

If you have a question to ask or an idea to share, and participate in Adobe Illustrator Community. We'd love to hear from you.

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