While not being a 3D application Illustrator has got some neat 3D
capabilities. If used properly they can give you pretty spectacular
We’ll start with defining a texture for our object.
Create a few colorful, evenly spaced rectangles, like me.
We need to create a symbol from them, so select them all and drag them to the Symbols Panel.
Draw a circle and delete one of the anchor points, so you’re left with only half circle. Make it black.
Select the object you just created and go to Effect>3D>Revolve to create a black sphere.
In the Revolve options click Map Art and from the drop down menu select the symbol we’ve just created.
Adjust the width, height and rotation of the symbol. It is essential to check the “Shade Artwork” option, otherwise the light that we will be setting up in the next step won’t affect the stripes and everything will look awkward.
We need to play a little bit with the lighting options. Turn on Plastic Shading, because it gives the best quality renders. Add some more lights, I added only one, but if you need to you can add more. Also important is the “Blend Steps” parameter – the higher the value, the higher the quality. If your image will be small leave it at the default 25, but if you need a bigger graphic I recommend increasing it to the maximum.
Now that you know the basics you can experiment with different textures
and lighting setups.
Sphere with rotated rectangles pattern and 3 lights.
You can make that kind of pattern by placing a few rows of squares like
in the picture below. Use Object>Transform Each to rotate every
This object was created with diagonal lines pattern which I bent using
Effect>Wrap>Arc. To make the sphere partially transparent I used “Invisible Geometry” option in Effect>3D>Revolve>Map Art.
In this step I mapped a simple linear gradient on my sphere. I also
changed shading color in my lighting options to give the sphere a nice
You can experiment with shading color and light setup to come up with
pretty interesting effects.
Unfortunately, Illustrators rendering engine can’t create shadows or
reflections, so we need to add them manually.
Draw two ellipses on the artboard like in the picture below. Make the
small one black, the bigger one white. Set the bigger one to 0% opacity.
Use the blend tool to connect the two ellipses and set the blend
spacing to “Smooth Color” (you can do this by double clicking on the
To create a reflection copy the sphere and paste it in front (ctrl/cmd+F). Select the copy and go to Object>Expand Appearance. Then flip it vertically and position it below the original sphere.
Create a rectangle over the flipped sphere and fill it with a white to
Select the reflected sphere and the rectangle. Go to Transparency
panel, from the panel menu select Make Opacity Mask.
You can click on the mask thumbnail and play with the gradient to
adjust your reflection.
I presented all my ideas on spheres just because Illustrator renders
them the best, but you can apply these techniques to any shape you want.
Generally, rounded 3D objects will give you best results.
As you can see, with a little bit of creativity and knowledge you can
produce interesting 3D objects in Illustrator.
No need to buy expensive 3D software. You can thank me in the comments