Mapping Artwork onto 3D Objects with Illustrator
by Sara Froehlich
Using Illustrator symbols, artwork can be mapped onto the 3D objects you create. Here’s how!
Textures and artwork can be mapped onto the 3D objects you create. I’ll use the blue sphere I made in the 3D Filter How-To to create a globe. 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. Cmd/ctrl + G (or Object > Group) to group it. If you used the red map, change the color to a dark green using the Swatches palette.
Edit > Copy to place a copy of the green map on the clipboard. Edit > Paste in Front to paste the copy directly on top of the original. You won’t see any difference, but it’s there.
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.
Converting the Map to a Symbol
Any artwork used for mapping to 3D object in the 3D filters has to be a symbol. Drag the maps group to the Symbols palette and drop it in to convert it to a symbol. You can also open the Symbol palette options menu and choose New Symbol, and then you would have 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 globe.ai, and do not close it. The map symbol is now a part of the document globe.ai.
Open the sphere image you created in the 3D Filter How-To. Select it and copy it to the clipboard.
Make the globe.ai document active again and Edit > Paste to add the sphere to the globe document. The reason you need to put the sphere into the globe document is 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 that symbol exists is in the document it was created in, which is globe.ai. 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. What you want to do is to edit the instance you already have. To do this, open the Appearance palette and double click on the effect icon in the palette. This will let you edit the existing effect.
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.
Open the Symbol menu. The symbol you saved will be at the bottom of the list. Double click on it 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.
Click the Preview button so you can preview the map on the sphere. This 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.
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. You’ll have to decide as you use the Effects which way to proceed on an image by image basis.
If you are happy with the result, click OK in the Map Art dialog.
You could actually rotate the globe in the 3D Revolve dialog if you wanted a different part of the globe showing. 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.
©2005-2008 Sara Froehlich