How To Create A Lego Block In Adobe Illustrator CC 2015

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How To Create A Lego Block In Adobe Illustrator CC 2015

Four Lego blocks created in Illustrator are shown as is the 3D Extrude &Bevel Options dialog box.
Illustrator 3D is geometry and letting the software do the work.

One of the least understood aspects of working with Adobe Illustrator is the 3D features. This is quite understandable considering the fact most graphics produced by Adobe Illustrator are commonly assumed to be flat and two-dimensional. Yet, once you get the “hang” of the 3D features you will discover how easy they are to use. One way of discovering how to use them is to create a common object. In this “How To” we are going to create a Lego building block.

As I tell my students, don’t focus on the object …  focus on the geometry. If you consider a Lego block’s geometry, you quickly realize it is a series of circles on a rectangle. Where the difficulty traditionally appears is turning those two geometric objects into a three-dimensional object.

In fact there are only two ways to create a 3D object in Illustrator: Extruding and Revolving.

Extruding simply extends an object along the object’s z-axis. A Z-axis is what gives an object depth. Extrude a circle and it becomes a cylinder. Extrude a rectangle and it becomes a cube.

Revolving involves nothing more than sweeping a path around the object’s y-axis. Think of a potter’s wheel, and you can visualize the concept.

Now that you understand those concepts, let’s build a Lego block.

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How To Create The Basic Shapes In Illustrator.

A simple rectangle and a green circle are shown on the Illustrator artboard.
If you can draw a rectangle and a circle, you can create 3D objects.

The first step in the process, after you open Illustrator, is to create the basic shapes: a circle and a rectangle.

With Illustrator open select the Rectangle tool and draw out a rectangle that is 150 pixels wide and 300 pixels high. Set the stroke to black and the Fill to None.

Switch over to the Ellipse tool and with the Option/Alt and Shift keys pressed, draw a circle on the rectangle that has a diameter of 45 pixels. Fill the circle with a color and turn off the stroke.

This values used for the circle and the rectangle are arbitrary numbers because we are more concerned with learning 3D than precise measurements or ratios.

Did I mention this is the only drawing you have to do? From here on in, we are going to follow a fundamental rule of working with graphics software: Let the software do the work.

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How To Create Multiple Copies Of A Shape

Eight copies of the circle are shown as is the Transform Effect dialog box.
The Transform Effect dialog box is one way of letting the software to the work.

Let’s assume our Lego block has 8 pegs. Does this mean we have to create 7 more evenly-spaced circles? Nope. We are going to let the software do that for us.

Select the circle and then select Effect>Distort and Transform>Transform. This will open the Transform Effect dialog box. When it opens, select Preview.

There are only two areas we need to pay attention to: Move and Copies. What we want to do here is to move a copy of the circle to the right of its current position. Set the number of copies to one and move the Horizontal slider to the right. As you move the slider, a copy of the circle moves into position by the distance shown on the slider. Click OK to accept the change.

With the Circle still selected, choose Effect>Distort and Transform>Transform yet again. This time you are going to see an alert asking if you really want to do this. You do, so click the Apply New Effect button.

What we are going to do is to create 6 more copies of the circle. When the Transform effect dialog box opens, click the Preview button. Next change the number of copies to 3 and , this time, move the Vertical slider to the right. When your circles are all properly placed, click OK.

One final step. Select the Rectangle and set its Fill color to match the circles and turn off the stroke.

We are now ready to create the 3D Lego block.

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How To Use The Illustrator 3D Extrude And Bevel Feature

The Bevel and Extrude dialog box is shown as is the 3D rectanle.
Bevel and Extrude is another way of letting the software do the work.

To get started select the circle and, with the circles selected, select 3D>Extrude & Bevel. This will open the 3D Extrude and Bevel Options dialog box. If you select Preview your circles become cylinders.

The cube you see shows you the effect of rotating it on the X,Y, and Z axes. The blue shows you the surface that is lit. Use the following values:

  • X-Rotation: 30 degrees
  • Y-Rotation: 45 degrees
  • Z-Rotation: -45 degrees.

The pegs look a little long. Let’s change that. Set the Extrude Depth value to 20 points.

If things look fine, click OK to accept these values.

The final step is to apply those same Rotation values to the square. The only change is to set the Extrude depth to 60 pt.

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How To Move The Cylinders Into Position

The circle used to create the pegs is selected.
Use the arrow keys to move the circle and get the pegs into their final position.

The final step in the process is to move the pegs into position. Your first instinct will, mostly likely, be to select them and drag them into place. Not a good idea.

Select the circle because the pegs use it as their base art. With the circle selected, press the up arrow key to move the pegs upward or press the down key to move them downward.

From this point onwards, all you have to do, to recreate the Lego blocks used to build a Lego toy is to simply look at the geometry of the piece, determine the number of pegs and the colors and, by letting the software do the work, you can create a variety of Lego blocks in Illustrator