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Create 3D graphics in Illustrator

  1. Illustrator User Guide
  2. Get to know Illustrator
    1. Introduction to Illustrator
      1. What's new in Illustrator
      2. Common questions
      3. Illustrator system requirements
      4. Illustrator for Apple silicon
    2. Workspace
      1. Workspace basics
      2. Learn faster with the Illustrator Discover panel
      3. Create documents
      4. Toolbar
      5. Default keyboard shortcuts
      6. Customize keyboard shortcuts
      7. Introduction to artboards
      8. Manage artboards
      9. Customize the workspace
      10. Properties panel
      11. Set preferences
      12. Touch Workspace
      13. Microsoft Surface Dial support in Illustrator
      14. Undo edits and manage design history
      15. Rotate view
      16. Rulers, grids, and guides
      17. Accessibility in Illustrator
      18. Safe Mode
      19. View artwork
      20. Use the Touch Bar with Illustrator
      21. Files and templates
    3. Tools in Illustrator
      1. Tools at a glance
      2. Select tools
        1. Selection
        2. Direct Selection
        3. Group Selection
        4. Magic Wand
        5. Lasso
        6. Artboard
      3. Navigate tools
        1. Hand
        2. Rotate View
        3. Zoom
      4. Paint tools
        1. Gradient
        2. Mesh
        3. Shape Builder
      5. Text tools
        1. Type
        2. Type on a Path
        3. Vertical Type
      6. Draw tools
        1. Pen
        2. Add Anchor Point
        3. Delete Anchor Point
        4. Anchor Point
        5. Curvature
        6. Line Segment
        7. Rectangle
        8. Rounded Rectangle
        9. Ellipse
        10. Polygon
        11. Star
        12. Paintbrush
        13. Blob Brush
        14. Pencil
        15. Shaper
        16. Slice
      7. Modify tools
        1. Rotate
        2. Reflect
        3. Scale
        4. Shear
        5. Width
        6. Free Transform
        7. Eyedropper
        8. Blend
        9. Eraser
        10. Scissors
        11. Dimension
    4. Generative AI (not available in mainland China)
      1. Generate a vector graphic using a text prompt
      2. Recolor your artwork using a text prompt
    5. Quick actions
      1. Retro text
      2. Neon glow text
      3. Old school text
      4. Recolor
      5. Convert sketch to vector
  3. Illustrator on the web (beta)
    1. Illustrator on the web (beta) overview
    2. Illustrator on the web (beta) FAQ
    3. Troubleshooting issues FAQ
    4. Keyboard shortcuts for Illustrator on the web (beta)
    5. Create and combine shapes on the web
    6. Add and edit text on the web
    7. Apply colors and gradients on the web
    8. Draw and edit paths on the web
    9. Work with cloud documents on the web
    10. Invite collaborators to edit on the web
  4. Illustrator on the iPad
    1. Introduction to Illustrator on the iPad
      1. Illustrator on the iPad overview
      2. Illustrator on the iPad FAQs
      3. System requirements | Illustrator on the iPad
      4. What you can or cannot do on Illustrator on the iPad
    2. Workspace
      1. Illustrator on the iPad workspace
      2. Touch shortcuts and gestures
      3. Keyboard shortcuts for Illustrator on the iPad
      4. Manage your app settings
    3. Documents
      1. Work with documents in Illustrator on the iPad
      2. Import Photoshop and Fresco documents
    4. Select and arrange objects
      1. Create repeat objects
      2. Blend objects
    5. Drawing
      1. Draw and edit paths
      2. Draw and edit shapes
    6. Type
      1. Work with type and fonts
      2. Create text designs along a path
      3. Add your own fonts
    7. Work with images
      1. Vectorize raster images
    8. Color
      1. Apply colors and gradients
  5. Cloud documents
    1. Basics
      1. Work with Illustrator cloud documents
      2. Share and collaborate on Illustrator cloud documents
      3. Share documents for review
      4. Upgrade cloud storage for Adobe Illustrator
      5. Illustrator cloud documents | Common questions
    2. Troubleshooting
      1. Troubleshoot create or save issues for Illustrator cloud documents
      2. Troubleshoot Illustrator cloud documents issues
  6. Add and edit content
    1. Drawing and dimensioning
      1. Drawing basics
      2. Edit paths
      3. Draw pixel-perfect art
      4. Draw with the Pen, Curvature, or Pencil tool
      5. Draw simple lines and shapes
      6. Draw rectangular and polar grids
      7. Draw and edit flares
      8. Image Trace
      9. Simplify a path
      10. Symbolism tools and symbol sets
      11. Adjust path segments
      12. Design a flower in 5 easy steps
      13. Create and edit a perspective grid
      14. Draw and modify objects on a perspective grid
      15. Use objects as symbols for repeat use
      16. Draw pixel-aligned paths for web workflows
      17. Measure and plot dimensions
    2. 3D objects and materials
      1. About 3D effects in Illustrator
      2. Create 3D graphics
      3. Map artwork over 3D objects
      4. Create 3D Text
      5. Create 3D objects
    3. Color
      1. About color
      2. Select colors
      3. Use and create swatches
      4. Adjust colors
      5. Use the Adobe Color Themes panel
      6. Color groups (harmonies)
      7. Color Themes panel
      8. Recolor your artwork
    4. Painting
      1. About painting
      2. Paint with fills and strokes
      3. Live Paint groups
      4. Gradients
      5. Brushes
      6. Transparency and blending modes
      7. Apply stroke on an object
      8. Create and edit patterns
      9. Meshes
      10. Patterns
    5. Select and arrange objects
      1. Select objects
      2. Layers
      3. Group and expand objects
      4. Move, align, and distribute objects
      5. Stack objects    
      6. Lock, hide, and delete objects
      7. Copy and duplicate objects
      8. Rotate and reflect objects
      9. Intertwine objects
      10. Create realistic art mockups
    6. Reshape objects
      1. Crop images
      2. Transform objects
      3. Combine objects
      4. Cut, divide, and trim objects
      5. Puppet Warp
      6. Scale, shear, and distort objects
      7. Blend objects
      8. Reshape using envelopes
      9. Reshape objects with effects
      10. Build new shapes with Shaper and Shape Builder tools
      11. Work with Live Corners
      12. Enhanced reshape workflows with touch support
      13. Edit clipping masks
      14. Live shapes
      15. Create shapes using the Shape Builder tool
      16. Global editing
    7. Type
      1. Add text and work with type objects
      2. Create bulleted and numbered lists
      3. Manage text area
      4. Fonts and typography
      5. Convert text within images into editable text
      6. Add basic formatting to text
      7. Add advanced formatting to text
      8. Import and export text
      9. Format paragraphs
      10. Special characters
      11. Create type on a path
      12. Character and paragraph styles
      13. Tabs
      14. Find missing fonts (Typekit workflow)
      15. Arabic and Hebrew type
      16. Fonts | FAQ and troubleshooting tips
      17. Create 3D text effect
      18. Creative typography designs
      19. Scale and rotate type
      20. Line and character spacing
      21. Hyphenation and line breaks
      22. Spelling and language dictionaries
      23. Format Asian characters
      24. Composers for Asian scripts
      25. Create text designs with blend objects
      26. Create a text poster using Image Trace
    8. Create special effects
      1. Work with effects
      2. Graphic styles
      3. Appearance attributes
      4. Create sketches and mosaics
      5. Drop shadows, glows, and feathering
      6. Summary of effects
    9. Web graphics
      1. Best practices for creating web graphics
      2. Graphs
      3. SVG
      4. Slices and image maps
  7. Import, export, and save
    1. Import
      1. Place multiple files
      2. Manage linked and embedded files
      3. Links information
      4. Unembed images
      5. Import artwork from Photoshop
      6. Import bitmap images
      7. Import Adobe PDF files
      8. Import EPS, DCS, and AutoCAD files
    2. Creative Cloud Libraries in Illustrator 
      1. Creative Cloud Libraries in Illustrator
    3. Save
      1. Save artwork
    4. Export
      1. Use Illustrator artwork in Photoshop
      2. Export artwork
      3. Collect assets and export in batches
      4. Package files
      5. Create Adobe PDF files
      6. Extract CSS | Illustrator CC
      7. Adobe PDF options
      8. Document info panel
  8. Printing
    1. Prepare for printing
      1. Set up documents for printing
      2. Change the page size and orientation
      3. Specify crop marks for trimming or aligning
      4. Get started with large canvas
    2. Printing
      1. Overprint
      2. Print with color management
      3. PostScript printing
      4. Print presets
      5. Printer's marks and bleeds
      6. Print and save transparent artwork
      7. Trapping
      8. Print color separations
      9. Print gradients, meshes, and color blends
      10. White Overprint
  9. Automate tasks
    1. Data merge using the Variables panel
    2. Automation with scripts
    3. Automation with actions
  10. Troubleshooting 
    1. Known issues
    2. Crash issues
    3. Recover files after crash
    4. File issues
    5. Supported file formats
    6. GPU device driver issues
    7. Wacom device issues
    8. DLL file issues
    9. Memory issues
    10. Preferences file issues
    11. Font issues
    12. Printer issues
    13. Share crash report with Adobe
    14. Improve Illustrator performance

Learn how to create lifelike objects in Illustrator by applying 3D effects, lighting, and materials sourced from Adobe Substance. 

Adobe Illustrator deeplink

Try it in the app
Follow along with any project to create 3D graphics in a few simple steps.

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.

A sample 3D vector design

3 steps to create a 3D artwork

Get started by drawing your favorite art on paper, tracing 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 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


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

A. Plane    

Flattens the 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. Twist

Twists the object up to 360°.

D. Taper

Tapers the object from 100% through 1%.

E. Cap

Specifies whether the object appears solid or hollow. 

F. Bevel

Applies beveled edge along the object's depth. 

G. Presets

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

H. Vertical rotation

Rotates object vertically from -180° to 180°.

I. Horizontal rotation

Rotates object horizontally from -180° to 180°. 

J. Circular rotation

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

K. Perspective

Changes the object's perspective from 0° through 160°.


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 new materials to the panel.

Add Graphics - Add artwork as a 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 tab in the 3D and Materials panel has lighting presets, lighting widget, and other lighting controls.
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. Lighting widget

Allows you to drag light sources to adjust their lighting angles.

C. Light source

Multiple light sources illuminate the 3D object better.

D. Move selected light to the back/front of an object

Moves the selected light to the back of the object when in front and vice-versa.

E. Intensity

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

F. Rotation

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

G. Height

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

H. Softness

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

I. Ambient Light intensity

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

J. Shadows

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

K. Position

Applies shadow either Behind Object or Below Object.

L. Distance from object

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

M. Shadow Bounds

Applies shadow's boundary with a value from 10% through 

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. Set Depth, Twist, and Taper

  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.

Perspective camera
Add perspective to the object

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.

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 Materials to your 3D object, you can add lighting and shadow to it.

The Lighting tab in the 3D and Materials panel shows two light sources from opposite directions.
Add lighting to your 3D object

  1. Select Lighting in the 3D and Materials panel.

  2. Do one of the following to add lighting:

    • Single light: Choose a default preset like StandardDiffuseTop Left, or Right. To adjust the angle of the light, drag the light within the lighting widget, or use the Rotation and Height sliders.
    • Multiple lights: Use     to add up to ten lights. To adjust the angle of the lights, drag them within the lighting widget, or select a light on the list and use the Rotation and Height sliders.

    Select Move selected light to back of object to position the light behind the object.

  3. Adjust the Color, Intensity, and Softness if required. If there are multiple lights, select a light on the list to adjust its Color, Intensity, and Softness

  4. Select Ambient Light > Intensity and set a value from 0 through 200%.

  5. Select the Shadows toggle button to apply a shadow. You can use parameters like Position, Distance from the Object, and Shadow Bounds to customize a shadow effect. 

    Even if you have added multiple lights and enabled shadows, you will see only one shadow in Real-time preview. To see the shadows of all the lights, switch to Render with Ray Tracing.

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, select Render with Ray Tracing   in the upper-right corner of the 3D and Materials panel. 

Render with Ray Tracing selected in the 3D and Materials panel.
Render with Ray Tracing to create realistic lighting for your 3D object.

Ray Tracing settings

You can also change quality, noise, and raster options for Ray TracingSelect Render Settings   in the upper-right corner of the 3D and Materials panel. 

  • Select the Ray Tracing toggle button to enable/disable it.
  • You can also change the resolution, color, and background for the raster image by selecting 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. 

Render or expand 3D objects as wireframes

Use wireframes to view the underlying structure of your 3D object to ensure accuracy. Do one of the following:

  • Render as wireframe: Select Wireframe in Render Settings   to easily edit the 3D properties of the object such as Depth, Taper, and Twist.
  • Expand as wireframe: Select Expand as wireframes in the Quick Actions section of the Object tab to convert the object to a 2D object.

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.

Download your final design

Export 3D objects

You can export 3D objects to GLTF and USD file formats and open them in other 3D applications to further edit and enhance 3D objects and 3D objects with materials and graphics. Illustrator also supports exporting 3D objects as OBJ files along with colors.

When you export multiple objects, you can view each object as an independent modifiable object.

Follow the steps to export 3D objects:

  1. In the 3D and Materials panel, select Export 3D objects.

    Select Export 3D objects to open the Asset Export panel.
    Select Export 3D objects to open the Asset Export panel

  2. In the Asset Export panel, select the 3D asset and select GLTF, USD, or OBJ from the Format drop-down list.


     For any 3D object that you choose to export, the Format option is set as USDA by default in the Asset Export panel.

  3. Select Export.

To learn more about how to export objects using the Asset Export panel, see Collect assets and export in batches

You can import the exported file in Adobe Substance 3D Stager or any other 3D application to further enhance your 3D object. 

 Get Substance 3D Stager         

What's next: Create 3D text effects

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

Talk to us

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


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Adobe MAX
The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online

Adobe MAX

The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online