How To Map Artwork onto 3D Objects with Illustrator


Article courtesy In Adobe Illustrator, you can map textures and artwork onto 3D objects you create and get results such as you see in Figure 1.

Figure 1. This impressive-looking globe wasn't hard to make.

To create a globe, I'll use a blue sphere I made. (To make your own, see "3D Filter How-To.") I need a map, so I downloaded one from NASA Reusable Images. I used "World Map with Solid Red Continents." I actually wanted my continents green, but the green one available on this page would not open for me, so I just recolored the red map green. With the map file open in Illustrator, zoom out or scroll until you can see the whole map. Drag the selection tool around it to select all parts of it. Hit Cmd/ctrl + G (or Object > Group) to group it. If you're using the red map, change the color to a dark green using the Swatches palette. Go to Edit > Copy to place a copy of the green map on the clipboard and Edit > Paste in Front to paste the copy directly on top of the original (Figure 2). You won't see any difference, but it's there.

Figure 2. Paste a copy of the map directly on top of the original.

Change the color of the top copy to bright green. The top copy will already be selected, so just click on the bright green swatch in the Swatches palette. Now use the arrow keys to nudge the top copy up and to the left three pixels. Select > All, then group (cmd/ctrl + G). The map now has some dimension (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Now the map has dimension.

Converting the Map to a Symbol Any artwork used for mapping to 3D objects in the 3D filters has to be a symbol. To convert the maps group to a symbol, drag it to the Symbols palette and drop it in. You can also open the Symbol palette options menu and choose New Symbol, which gives you an opportunity to name it, but it isn't necessary. After the map has been converted to a symbol, you can delete it from the page. You won't need it anymore. Save this file as, and do not close it. The map symbol is now a part of the document Open the sphere image you created in the 3D Filter How-To. Select it and copy it to the clipboard. Make the document active again and Edit > Paste to add the sphere to the globe document. You should put the sphere into the globe document because you need the map symbol you defined to be available. Since symbols are document-level resources -- that is, they are not saved with the program preferences but rather with specific documents -- the only place the symbol exists is in the document it was created in, which is In order to map it to the sphere, the sphere has to be in the same document as the symbol. You'll need to use the 3D Revolve filter again to get the map on the sphere; but if you go to Effect > 3D > Revolve, Illustrator will want to add another instance. Instead, you want to edit the instance you already have. To do this, open the Appearance palette and double-click on the effect icon in the palette (Figure 4). This will let you edit the existing effect.

Figure 4. Edit the instance in Illustrator's Appearance palette.

TIP: To completely get rid of an instance of the 3D Effects, drag the effect icon in the Appearance palette to the palette trash. The Revolve dialog opens again. Make sure you drag the dialog off to the side by its title bar so you can see the sphere. You don't need to change the rotation, you just need to map the art to the sphere, so click the Map Art button at the top right side of the dialog. The light areas in the diagram are the surface areas you can see in the image at its present rotation. The dark areas are hidden, or more accurately will be on the side of the sphere that is rotated away from you. Notice the sphere is relatively simple: It has 2 surfaces that can be mapped. Move from side to side with the arrows. Place the map on surface 1 (Figure 5).

Figure 5. The Map Art dialog box.

Open the Symbol menu. The symbol you saved will be at the bottom of the list (Figure 6). Double-click on it to add it to the diagram.

Figure 6. Double-click on the symbol you saved to add it to the diagram.

It's too large for the diagram. You can resize by dragging corner handles the same as any object, or you can resize it instantly to fit by clicking the Scale to Fit button. Click the button now to resize the map (Figure 7).

Figure 7. It's easy to resize the map -- just click the Scale to Fit button.

Click the Preview button so you can preview the map on the sphere. It might take a while to render. Notice how the maps of North and South America show up, but the maps of Asia, Africa, and Australia are hidden on the other side of the globe (Figure 8).

Figure 8. The entire map is on the globe, but you can see only part of it in this view.

Shaded artwork takes longer to render and takes more computing power, but it usually looks more realistic. Try checking the Shade Artwork box and letting it render to see which version you prefer. On some images it will make a big difference, and on others it won't, and if there is transparency in the artwork it might even look strange. As you use the Effects, you'll have to decide which way to proceed on an image-by-image basis. If you are happy with the result (Figure 9), click OK in the Map Art dialog.

Figure 9. The globe with shading applied.

You can rotate the globe in the 3D Revolve dialog if you want a different part of the globe showing (Figure 10). When you're done rotating by dragging the globe in the preview window, click OK in the 3D Revolve dialog to apply the mapped art to the sphere, and you now have a globe. Save the file, and you've got the whole world in your hands!

Figure 10. The world is your oyster -- or at least your Illustrator symbol.

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