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3D in Illustrator CS, Part 4

Using lighting and transparency to create a glass effect By Dave Nagel
Now that we've covered just about all the basics of using 3D effects in Adobe Illustrator CS, it's time to move on to some techniques for applying the basics to actual projects. This week we're going to take what we've learned from previous installments and combine that with transparency, lighting and faux environment/reflection mapping to create something of a glass effect--specifically a wine glass, though the technique can be applied to any sort of transparent object.

If you haven't already done so, you'll want to take a look at some of our previous articles covering the basics of 3D in Illustrator CS. We'll be using some of the techniques described in these articles (particularly Part 3) without too much in the way of backtracking. You can find these articles here:

For this particular piece, we'll be focused primarily on the Revolve effect, along with a little bit of texture mapping, combined with transparency and lighting to get just about as close as we can get to creating the illusion of glass in our image.

Preparing the object
As I say, we're creating our glass object using the 3D Revolve effect. So this means, first, that you'll have to create a suitable 3D object. In my case, I'm going to be making something that resembles a wine glass, so I want to start by creating a "half silhouette" of my wine glass, as if I were looking at and outline of the object directly from the side. For the purpose of creating glass, it's better to use a closed object than an open one because sometimes with open objects your surfaces will behave unpredictably. So here's what I'm going to be working with.

If desired, you can download my base object here (192 KB) to follow along. It's called "glassproject.ai" and requires Aladdin's free Stuffit Expander to decompress.

I also want to give my object a slight tint. Why? Well, it's not entirely necessary, but white, black or saturated fills, from my experiments, tend to produce a more artificial-looking glass effect. So I'm just going to give the object a little bit of a green tint and leave it at that.

Important: Make sure your object has no stroke. If it has a stroke, you will wind up with far too complex an object for this technique to come off successfully.

Next, as you might expect, I want to give my object some transparency, so I'll open up my Transparency palette and change it to a 35 percent opacity. Really, anything between 35 percent and 50 percent will work well, and the actual value you choose will depend on the background upon which you place your object. You can always go back in and change it later.

And now, finally, is the key to this whole operation: Select your object, and group it (Command-G). This might seem strange, since you have but one object that you'll be working with, but it must be done. Also, critically, you must apply the transparency setting from the previous step before you group your object. If you apply transparency to the group rather than to the object prior to the grouping, this effect won't work properly.

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Related Keywords:3D effects, Illustrator CS, Part 4


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