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TUTORIAL
Fun with AI's 3D tool
by Matt Kloskowski
Introduction: A Wireframe effect outlines the contours of an object but leaves each surface transparent. Since the tech boom in the late 1990’s, Wireframe effects have been extremely popular and synonymous with technology. However, creating these effects usually involved the use of a 3D modeling program. It was possible to fake this effect in Illustrator but, as with many “faked” effects, the results are usually unpredictable and not top quality. Illustrator CS has changed all of that with 3D effects though. You can now reduce any 3D object you create to a wireframed object. In this exercise, you will learn, not only how to accomplish this, but a highly used technique for incorporating wireframe objects with other artwork.

STEP 1

Start out by drawing a shape with the Pen Tool similar to this one.

STEP 2

Now, we are ready for some 3D effects. Select the half figure 8 shape. Choose Effect > 3D > Revolve . This will bring up the 3D Revolve Options dialog box. First off, check the Preview checkbox. If not already selected, press the More Options button to expand this dialog box further.

STEP 3

Make your settings appear similar to this reference image. Don’t forget to add another surface light to the bottom left of the Lighting Sphere.

Next, I’d like to rotate this shape. If you were to click OK now, and try to rotate the new 3D shape using the traditional Object > Transform > Rotate method you would get something similar to the following.

Very unpredictable isn’t it. What you need to do is use the 3D effects dialog box. This will be our next step.

STEP 4

Enter –45 degrees in the Rotate textbox.

STEP 5

Click OK. You should now have something similar to this reference image.

STEP 6

Name this layer SHADED.

STEP 7

Make a duplicate of this layer by dragging the layer over the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers Palette. Name the new layer WIREFRAME. Your Layers palette should now look like this.

STEP 8

Select the WIREFRAME layer object by using the Selection Tool or by targeting its meatball within the Layers palette. Also, make sure the Appearance palette (SHIFT + F6) is visible.

STEP 9

In the Appearance palette, you should notice a 3D Revolve attribute. Double click on this attribute to bring up the 3D Revolve dialog box for the WIREFRAME object.

STEP 10

In the Surface drop down list, change the choice from Plastic Shading to Wireframe.

STEP 11

Click OK. You will now have a wireframe representation of the object as well

The next part of this exercise will entail merging the two objects so it looks as if the 3D shaded object is fading out and wireframe object is emerging from it or vice versa.

STEP 12

First off, lock the WIREFRAME layer so we don’t accidentally modify it and hide it. Next, create a new sub layer within the SHADED layer but on top of the shaded object. Name this layer SHADED MASK

STEP 13

On the SHADED MASK layer, select the Rectangle Tool and create a square that encompasses the entire shaded object. Fill this square with a black to white gradient as seen in this reference image. Note the angle setting of 45 degrees. Also, be sure to move each color stop accordingly. The white Color Stop is positioned at 40% and the black Color Stop is positioned at 60% for this example. You can change these by clicking on the small white and black swatches along the bottom of the Gradient palette and modifying the Location setting.

STEP 14

Duplicate the gradient square in the SHADED MASK layer by dragging it over the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers palette. The new layer will appear directly above the existing one. Name this layer WIREFRAME MASK.

STEP 15

Now unhide and unlock the WIREFRAME layer. Drag the duplicate above the existing wireframe object. Your Layers palette should now look similar to this reference image.

STEP 16

Select the WIREFRAME MASK layer and choose Object > Transform > Rotate. Enter 180 degrees for the Angle setting.

STEP 17

Lock and hide the parent layer that contains the WIREFRAME and WIREFRAME MASK sub layers.

STEP 18

Choose Select > All (CTRL/CMD + A). Then select Make Opacity Mask from the Transparency palette’s flyout menu.

STEP 19

Lock the parent layer that contains the SHADED sub layer. Unhide and unlock the layer containing the wireframe object and gradient square.

STEP 20

Choose Select > All (CTRL/CMD + A). Then select Make Opacity Mask from the Transparency palette’s flyout menu

STEP 21

If all went well it should now appear as if the wireframe and shaded 3D object morph into each other. One finishing touch would be to reduce the opacity of the WIREFRAME layer to about 40% to make the effect a little subtler.

END TUTORIAL


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Based on an exercise from Matt's upcoming book Illustrator Most Wanted - Techniques and Effects.
Learn more about Illustrator CS in this book from friends of Ed: ISBN 1-5905-9372-3
www.extremeillustrator.com

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