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3D in Illustrator CS, Part 3

Creating symmetrical 3D objects using Revolve By Dave Nagel
In our last two explorations of Adobe Illustrator, we looked at some of the basics of using 3D, including general controls and a somewhat extensive examination of the Extrude & Bevel effect. Now we'll move beyond that and into the much more extraordinary 3D Revolve tool. In Part 3 of our series on 3D effects in Illustrator CS, we'll use the Revolve function to create some basic shapes in order to get accustomed to the effect and also get a little bit into texture mapping.

3D Revolve is an effect that allows you to use a path as a sort of lathe. That is, you create a path, and 3D Revolve uses it to define the edge of a symmetrical object. So it's useful for generating any sort of symmetrical object from a path or group of paths. But it also includes a few options for creating some unique effects as well. If you haven't already, you'll want to read up on our previous tutorials covering basic lighting, texture mapping and other considerations. You'll find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The basics
Just to give you a clear idea of how the tool works, I'm going to create a squiggly, vertically oriented path and use it for my lathe. In this case, I'm just creating a vertical line and applying a Zig Zag effect.

After this, I'll expand the object's appearance (Object > Expand Appearance) so that I don't have to deal with a live effect hogging up my processor every time I want to make a change to it. And, after this, I'm going to do a 90-degree mirror flip (Edit > Transform > Reflect) just so that I have the open ends pointing to the left, since I'll be using the left edge of the object as the central hub of my lathe.

Now, simply, I'm going to select Effect > 3D > Revolve, and I wind up with something that resembles a string of beads.

Obviously this isn't a particularly fantastic effect, but it should serve to show you the relationship between your path and the final 3D Revolve effect that you're going to get. The left edges of our path form the center of our object, while the right edges pul the geometry outward. And the same holds true for any other type of path or 2D object you'd care to use, as in the examples below.

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