In this tutorial we will learn how to create a complex 3D object. The creation of complex shapes is the job of the VectorScribe plugin. In addition to learning the features of its tools, we will study the basics of 3D modeling and a few basic techniques, such as blend, work with gradients, color and gradient mesh objects.
Start this tutorial creating a spool shape on which the film will be rolled. Such complex shapes are easy to create using the VectorScribe plugin. Let’s see how it’s done. Open the Dynamic Shapes panel , to activate the panel take the Dynamic Shapes Tool. Now choose the Dynamic Donut in the Dynamic Shapes panel and create a shape as shown in the figure below.
As you can see, Dynamic Shapes panel allows us to control the size and other properties of the object, such as the number of segments. To change the shape of the figure, you just need to move one of its corner points.
To change the inner diameter of the figure, click on one of the inner corner points, and without releasing the mouse button, press Cmd / Ctrl button and move.
Now create a new shape. This time select the Dynamic Star, set the number of points in the Dynamic Shapes panel and create a six-pointed star.
Controlling the shape and size of the Dynamic Star is the same as controlling the Dynamic Donut. Thus, controlling the corner points, bring the star to the view shown in the figure below.
Keeping the dynamic shape selected, set the rounding corner radius in the Dynamic shapes panel.
For more information how to manage dynamic shapes you can find by clicking on the following links:
Select both created shapes and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel VectorScribe plugin.. We got such a complex shape in a rather simple way with the help of the
I just want to point out that after the merging, the shapes lost their dynamic status, so try to do all the necessary shaping before this step.
Further transformations will be performed using another tool of the VectorScribe plugin. It’s called the Dynamic Corners Tool. Take this tool and open its panel . Now set the radius of the corner rounding in this panel and by clicking with the Dynamic Corners Tool enabled on the points that we want to round.
I think there is no easier way to round a corner, than just clicking on it. No wonder this tool is called dynamic. After rounding the corner, we can change the radius by simply dragging of one or more radius points.
Thus, after rounding the corners our figure is as follows.
For more information about the properties of the Dynamic Corners Tool you can find by clicking on the following links:
With the help of the Dynamic Shapes Tool create a new six-pointed star. We will be controlling the radii of rounding the corners using the Dynamic Corners Tool.
Now with the help of the Ellipse Tool (L) or Dynamic Shapes Tool create a circle which we will place in the underlayer below the stars.
Select the circle and star (it has a dark blue shading in the figure below) and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.
Select the resultant group of objects with red shading and shape of the spoked wheel profile that you created in previous steps, and then click on the Minus Front button in the Pathfinder panel. This produces additional holes cut out from the main shape.
Now create a circle and a rectangle in the center of the disk.
Select them and combine them into one shape with the help of Unite from the Pathfinder panel.
Select all the created objects (Cmd / Ctrl + A) and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel creating a new hole in the profile.
With the help of the Ellipse Tool (L), create a new circle and place it below the disk. This will be the template for the film roll.
Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a wavy line consisting of straight segments. The wave should appear to be fading out at the end.
Select all the points of this line. It is convenient to do it by clicking on the “Select all points on selected paths” from the PathScribe panel. Now convert all the selected points from corner into smooth ones by clicking on the “Smooth point” button from the same panel.
Now we can proceed to 3D modeling. Group up the circle and the wavy line (Cmd / Ctrl + G) and go to. Controlling the coordinates of the dialog window, find the right angles.
Write down the coordinates after reaching the desired result, we will need in future stages.
Select the spool disk and go to, set the written coordinates of which were applied with the roll of film and set the Extrude Depth.
With the help of the Selection Tool (V) place the spool disk on its place.
Duplicate spool disk (drag it holding down the Opt / Alt) and place it below all the objects.
You can always get access to the parameters of 3D objects, to do this, open the Appearance panel, select the object and click on the effect name in the panel opening the dialog box of the effect with this action.
Before converting the 3D object into a group of ordinary vector objects, I always select “No Shading” in the dialog window Extrude & Bevel, this will reduce the number of objects in future and, therefore, simplify your work.
You should do the same with all the 3D objects.
Select the left spool disk and go to. Now we have a group of simple vector objects. To identify the surface, I usually color them with different colors.
Do the same actions with the right spool disk.
It’s time to proceed to the film creation. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a rectangle filled with black color.
The height of the film is 60 px and is equal to the parameter of the Extrude Depth which we set in the Extrude & Bevel dialog window when modeling film roll. With the help of the Rectangle Tool (M) create a square 3 x 3 px and place at the top left corner of the black rectangle.
Create the square of the same size on the right upper edge of the black rectangle.
Select both red squares and go to, then go to and set the number of Specified Steps.
Duplicate the blend object and place it on the bottom edge of the film.
Select both blend objects and go to, turning them into a group of squares.
Select the group of upper-squares and a black rectangle, then click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel, creating perforation in the upper part of the film.
Use the same technique to create perforation in the lower part of the film.
Create a new rectangle; it will be the first frame of film.
Drag the rectangle to the side, holding the Shift + Opt / Alt, duplicating it.
Click shortcuts Cmd / Ctrl + D (Transform Again) a few times, so that the frames filled the entire length of the film.
Group up all the elements of the film (Cmd / Ctrl + G). Open the Symbols paneland save the film as a new symbol.
Select the 3D model of the film roll and in the Appearance panel click on the name of the effect in order to get access to the parameters of the effect.
In the dialog window Extrude & Bevel click on the Map Art button. Switch between the surfaces of the object, choosing the required surface and apply the film strip symbol created in the previous step.
After this operation, the film is as follows.
Keep the film roll selected, go to, turning it into a group of vector objects.
The 3D modelling is considered to be complete.
Now proceed to the coloring of objects. Let’s start with the film. As all our objects are in groups, so we will be using the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select them. Select one of the frames of the film and go to, set the number of columns and rows in the dialog window.
Now select the gradient mesh nodes one by one and color them with different bright colors.
This technique should be applied to all the frames of the film.
Frames of the film have a certain transparency, so around the areas of the film where the curves overlay, apply Overlay Blending Mode in the Transparency panel. This mode will allow us to keep the color of frames, yet making them transparent.
Fill the outer surface of the film with linear gradient fill consisting of black and dark gray shades reproducing the light distribution on it.
Leave the inner surfaces of the film black.
Color frames of the spool cannot look as bright as on the wavy part of the film, because the light does not pass through them but is only reflected.
Brightness of these frames are easy to change if you are using the Phantasm CS plugin. Select the frames on the reel and go to , reduce the brightness of the frame. As with all Illustrator live Effects, Phantasm CS’ Brightness/Contrast effect can be adjusted after application. You can get the access to the parameters of the effect in the Appearance panel.
Frames on the spool will not have the same brightness. Copy the frames on the spool and paste them in front (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + F), fill all the frames with black and white linear gradient and set the Multiply Blending Mode for them in the Transparency panel.
Copy the flat surface of the film roll and paste it in front (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + F), swap the fill with stroke. Set the stroke width and color – gray.
Copy and paste this shape in front, now holding down Shift + Opt / Alt, scale down the top ellipse as shown in the figure below.
Select both ellipses and go to.
Fill the inner surface of the right spool disk with black and white radial gradient.
Fill the edge of this disk with a complex linear gradient containing rotating light and dark shades of gray. You can also include a few warm (e.g., orange) or cold (e.g., blue) colors into the gradient. I’ve added two light blue sliders to this gradient.
Fill the edge of the disk holes with linear gradients, trying to reproduce the light distribution.
Fill the surface of the left spool disk with the black and white radial gradient.
Fill its edge with the same gradient as the end of the right disc.
Metal surfaces can reflect other objects, for example, the surface on which the spool stands. Create this kind of reflection on the surface of the left disc. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a closed path, as shown in the figure below.
Select the path and the disk surface. Now take the Shape Builder Tool (Shift + M), and holding down Opt / Alt, remove unnecessary parts of the red figure.
Shape Builder Tool has appeared in Adobe Illustrator CS5, it was more complicated to perform the previous step in early versions. I’ll try to do this job in the best optimal way. Copy the red object and paste it in front (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + F) (for clarity, recolor it in a different color). Copy and paste the left disk in front, place it above all the objects.
Select the upper disc and a blue shape, then click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder palette.
Select the red and blue shapes, and again press the Minus Front from the Pathfinder panel.
Fill the resultant shape with a linear gradient of black and shades of blue color.
You can create a complex surface lighting with simple gradients with the help of the Appearance panel. Select the shape, add a new fill via the Appearance panel, and then change the gradient fill. In order to see the lower the gradient fill, the top-most gradient fills should be transparent as a whole or using the gradient opacity options in Illustrator CS4 and above.
Now fill the edges of the holes of the left disk with linear gradients.
Create a bright glare on one of the edges of the left spool. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle filled with black and white radial gradient. Set to the Color Dodge Blending Mode for this circle in the Transparency panel.
Create the shadow of the spool with the help of the blend. For the bigger shape set 0% opacity in the Transparency panel.
You can ask the reasonable question: why do these shapes look like that? I always create two ellipses, then apply a blend, and then edit the shapes using the Direct Selection Tool (A) until I get the desired effect. You can always move and edit the shapes making up a blend object.
Create the shadow of the film in a different way. With the help of the Pen Tool (P) create a shape under the wavy part of the film shown in the picture below.
Fill this shape with a linear gradient consisting of the rotating white and green sliders. White sliders have 0% opacity.
Hopefully, techniques and tricks described in this tutorial will help you make your work more convenient and simple. Feel free to ask questions and I’ll try to respond!
Download the tutorial artwork
Click here for the Illustrator CS3 artwork…
Click here for the Illustrator CS4 artwork…
Click here for the Illustrator CS5 artwork…
About the author
My name is Iaroslav Lazunov, I am a graphic designer from Zhytomyr, Ukraine. I am glad that I finally found the job in my life that I can share my knowledge and experiments with you in my tutorials.