How to Create Symbols for Mapping Artwork to 3D Objects in Adobe Illustrator

There are different techniques for creating three-dimensional renderings of art work in Illustrator. This is particularly useful for packaging and environmental designers. In this tutorial, the Extrude & Bevel effect will be used.

While mapping art to the Bevel & Extrude effect is possible in previous versions, the technique detailed here for creating the symbols is specific to Illustrator CC 2017.

  1. Here's the packaging layout:
  2. The first step is to divide the artwork into individual panels and turn each panel into a symbol. There are different ways to do this. One easy way is to create new artboards sized to the dimensions of each panel and then export them. Select the Artboard Tool [ Artboard Tool ]. Create a new artboard anywhere on the pasteboard outside the current artboard, then go to the Options Bar and set the Width and Height to the dimensions of a panel.
    Options Bar
  3. Position the artboard over the first panel in the layout.
  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until you have six new artboards for the front, back, left, right, top and bottom panels. You may want to name your artboards as you create them, which can also be done in the Options Bar.
  5. In the Layers Panel, turn off the visibility any non-art layers, such as dielines.
    Layers Panel
  6. Go to File > Export > Export As.
    File Menu
  7. In the dialog box, set Save as Type to JPEG. Check Use Artboards, then set the Range to 2-7. Click Export.
    Export Dialog Box
  8. In the next dialog box, set the Color Model to CMYK, the Quality to 10 (Maximum) and the Resolution to High (300 ppi).
    JPEG Options
  9. Create a new document (File > New).
  10. Go to File > Place. Select the six panel images and make sure none of the options are checked, then click Place.
    Place Dialog Box
  11. Click to place each of the six images.
    Placed Images
  12. Now it's time to turn the images into symbols. Open the Symbols Panel (Window > Symbols) and click the menu to choose Select All Unused.
    Symbols Panel
  13. With the default symbols selected click the Delete button.
    Symbols Panel
  14. Drag each of the panel images into the Symbols Panel, naming them appropriately in the dialog box that opens.
    Symbol Options
  15. Once all of the panel images have been turned into symbols, the images can be deleted from the artboard.
  16. Select the Rectangle Tool and create a rectangle the same size as the front panel. Set the Fill to white and Stroke to none.
  17. With the rectangle selected, open the Appearance Panel. Click the fx button and go to 3D > Extrude & Bevel.
  18. Set the X, Y and Z Axes to the desired angles, then set the Extrude Depth to the width of the side panel. (Tip: You can enter the dimension in inches, just be sure to type the " at the end.) Check Preview to see it take effect in the art.
    Extrude & Bevel Options
  19. Uncheck Preview, then click Map Art. The Map Art dialog box maps symbols to surfaces.
    Map Art
  20. Select the top symbol from the Symbol menu and turn on Preview.
    Map Art
  21. Change the Surface to 2 of 6 and select the bottom symbol from the Symbol menu.
    Map Art
  22. Change the Surface to 3 of 6 and select the right symbol from the Symbol. The previewed art will be upside-down. Hover outside one of the corners of the displayed symbol in the dialog box so that the cursor changes to the rotate icon. Click and drag to rotate the symbol. Holding down the Shift key will constrain the rotation to 22.5° angles.
    Map Art
  23. Continue mapping the other three surfaces to the corresponding symbols, even the surfaces that won't be visible. Rotate symbols as needed.
  24. Once the surfaces have been mapped, lighting effects can be added by turning on Shade Artwork.
    Map Art
  25. Click OK to close the Map Art dialog box, then click OK again to finalize the 3D effect.
Author: Kate Cahill

Kate Cahill is a graphic designer, writer, and creative director who has developed content for print and web. As creative director, she has produced award-winning work for agencies focused on the pharmaceutical and health and beauty aid industries. She has also served as production manager, with responsibility for the successful fulfillment of long-run print contracts. Kate has been delivering training for Webucator clients since 2010. Her enthusiasm for cutting-edge technology, combined with hands-on practical experience, brings an added benefit to her classes. Kate teaches real-world techniques and integration of Adobe software, as well as Microsoft PowerPoint, to produce a fully developed and cohesive brand identity.

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