By: admin                Categories: 3D Animation

This is an excerpt from Rafiq Elmansy’s Illustrator Foundations. Rafiq walks you through a step-by-step tutorial of 3D perspective grid in Adobe Illustrator, giving you the opportunity to create your own 3D objects.

Before jumping to the 3D effects, we will start with the 3D perspective grid. This feature was added to Adobe Illustrator starting with CS5. It provides a middle ground between the manual method to create 3D content and 3D effects because it does not create the 3D objects for you. Instead, it gives you guides and a 3D grid that allow you to create accurate 3D objects.

The perspective grid helps you to create objects in perspective or in the third dimension. You can create the object directly on the grid, span the object to any of the grid sides, and transform the object applied to each of the grid sizes, as we will see in the practice example.

Before starting the example, let us understand the perspective grid and how to control it. To display the perspective grid, either select the Perspective tool in the Tools panel, or go to View > Perspective Grid > Show/Hide Grid. When you activate the perspective grid, it displays on the stage to allow you to draw an object on one of the three planes that are marked with three different colors: blue for the left planes, orange for the right planes, and green for the bottom planes. These colors are the default colors, which you can change from the View menu by choosing Perspective Grid > Define Grid Setup.


Use Ctrl+Shift+I (on Windows) or Cmd+Shift+I (on Mac) to show or hide the perspective grid.

FIG 13-1 The perspective grid in Illustrator document

At the top left of the workspace, you will find the Active Plane widget that allows you to activate any of the three grids. The perspective grid is surrounded with points that allow you to edit the object’s size and grids as follows. The far left and right circle points are the left and right vanishing points that allow you to change the right and left grid perspective. Each of these points moves independent of each other, which may lead to an inaccurate perspective.

Note You can link both perspective points by choosing View > Perspective Grid > Lock Station Points.

Next to the vanishing points, there is a small diamond point that controls the horizontal perspective line level. Changing this line up and down affects the vertical view angle. At the top of the perspective grid, there is the Vertical Grid Extend option, which allows you to increase the height of the grid. Under this point, there is the Grid Cell Resize point, which allows you to resize the grid cells. On the right and the left are the Extend Grid Point points that extend the grid over each side.

At the bottom of the perspective grid, there are three gray points, and each point controls the position of each plane. For example, you can change the position of the planes to become more suitable for internal room planes than external building planes. In the middle of these points is the origin point.

While you can control the perspective grid from the working space, you can perform the same modifications using the Define Perspective Grid dialog box in View > Perspective Grid.

FIG 13-2 The Define Perspective Grid dialog box

Furthermore, the dialog box includes more options to control the perspective grid, such as creating a custom perspective grid view and changing between one-, two-, and three-point perspectives, as discussed next.

The Define Perspective Grid dialog box allows you to choose from one of the three view presets available in the Presets drop-down list. Each preset has a different view, based on the number of perspective points:

• One-point perspective view displays the grid as one-sided perspective.

• Two-point perspective view shows the default perspective appearance.

• Three-point perspective view looks similar to the default perspective but flipped down.

You can create your own setting for the perspective look, and you can save these settings as custom presets using the Save icon next to the Presets list. From the Edit menu, you can choose the Perspective Grid Presets command to edit, import, and export grid presets and define them.

FIG 13-3 The different point perspective views, from top left: one-point perspective, two-point perspective, and three-point perspective

Next to the Preset section, the Perspective Grid Settings option allows you to change the perspective values as follows:

• Type lets you choose between the different three-point perspective values mentioned.

• Unites defines the measurement method, such as points, pixels, inches, and centimeters.

• Scale sets the scale aspect ratio between the artboard and the real-world measurements.

• Gridline lets you set the size of the grid cells.

• Viewing Angle allows you to set the horizontal view for the object and is related to the vanishing points. For example, a 45-degrees view means that both right and left vanishing points stand at an equal distance from each other.

• Viewing Distance shows the distance between the viewer and the object.

• Horizontal Height shows the distance between the horizontal line and ground line.

• Third Vanishing Point becomes active when you select the three-point perspective, and it then lets you set the position of the third point.

The third section in the Define Perspective Grid dialog box lets you set the colors of each plane’s grids and the opacity of the lines. In addition to the options in the Define Perspective Grid dialog box, the Perspective Grid menu allows you to show or hide the grid, show or hide rulers, enable Snap to Grid, lock the grid, and save custom perspective grids as presets.

In the example below we will learn how to use the perspective grid to create a building plan.

1. Open the fi le Perspective In this document, you will find building architecture elements such as doors and windows. We will use these elements after we create the building walls in the next steps.

2. From the Active Plane widget, select the blue side to activate drawing on this side.

3. Use the Rectangle tool to create the first side of the building on the blue side. Notice that the created rectangle is attached and transformed according to the blue side.

4. Set this side’s color to a dark red as shown in the figure below.

FIG 13-4 The first side of the building

5. From the Active Plane widget, choose the orange side.

6. Using the Rectangle tool, draw the next side of the building and give it a darker red color.

7. Move to the green, bottom side by selecting it from the Active Plane widget.

8. Select the Rectangle tool and make the foreground color gray.

9. Click under the control points at the bottom center of the perspective grid, and drag to create the building ground. Also, try to extend it outside the building to form the sidewalk.

10. To send the rectangle behind the current walls, right-click on it, and choose Arrange > Send to Back.

Note You can arrange objects in front of each other by right-clicking the object and choosing Arrange.

At this point we have created the building’s main walls. In the next steps we will add the windows and doors to the building.

11. From the Active Plane widget, select the blue plane.

12. Select the Perspective Selection tool (Shift+V), select the window, and drag it to the blue plane.

13. Select the first window and press Option (Alt in Windows) while dragging to duplicate the window.

14. Repeat the duplication step to have the windows repeated over the building side.

FIG 13-5 The 3D building in the Perspective Grid setting

15. Repeat the above steps to add the door in the blue plane as shown in the figure below.

16. Move to the orange plane and repeat the above steps with the other side of the building.

17. Also repeat the same steps with the wall brackets, and make sure they appear under the windows.

Note You can also click around the cube in the Active Plane widget to draw without any grid selected. In order to be able to select any side, you need to have the Perspective Grid tool selected.

Now that we have added the building details, we will learn about adding text into the perspective grid and editing it. You cannot directly write text in the 3D perspective, but you can write text outside the perspective sides and attach it to a specific side, as we will see from the steps below:

18. Make sure that the blue side is selected from the Active Plane widget.

19. Select the Rectangle tool and create a rectangle on the blue side. Make it in a dark color to be a background for the text that we will add.

20. Select the Text tool, click on the stage, and write the text “Building 404.”

FIG 13-6 Adding the text to the 3D plane

21. Select the 3D Perspective tool, select the text, and drag it to the blue plane. Notice that the text follows the perspective of the rest of the objects in the plane.

Note Notice that the text is converted into outline, as you can see the path points of the text letters. However, you can still edit the text by either double-clicking it to enter isolated mode or choosing Object > Perspective > Edit Text or by clicking the Edit Text button in the Control panel.

22. Double-click on the text to edit it.

23. Change the text to “Building 404.”

24. Double-click outside the object to exit editing mode. You can also return to the document stage by clicking the back arrow on the document path at the top left of the document window.

FIG 13-7 Editing the text in the 3D plane

As we have seen from the above examples, the difference between the Perspective Grid tool and the Perspective Selection tool is that the first allows you to create and edit the perspective grid, while the second lets you select the plane side and the objects in each active plane. Also, there are number of tools that allow you to draw directly on the perspective plan: the Line Segment tool and the Rectangle groups of tools (Round Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, and Star), except the Flare tool.

Through this example, we have learned how to work with the 3D perspective grid and how to use it to build perspective-view architecture. You can use the same steps to create more buildings, experience different views, and see the results of each perspective view.

Excerpt from Illustrator Foundations: The Art of Vector Graphics, Design, and Illustration in Illustrator by Rafiq Elmansy © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Illustrator Foundations can be purchased on,, and wherever fine books can be found.

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