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Create 3D Designs with Extrude and Bevel Effects in Illustrator

By Sheila Pen, Shutterstock Contributor To extrude flat paths or shapes you have drawn means to give the path or shape depth by literally stretching it along the Z-axis. For example, extruding a square will turn it into a cube, a circle into a cylinder, text into 3D text, etc.

A bevel is a decoration that you can apply to the sides and edges of the extrusion. This often makes the edges and sides of your 3D object a little more jazzy and appealing than simply flat sides. Let‘s examine this in action as we model a padlock icon, in two simple steps!

Step 1 - Applying the Extrude Draw a rectangle with the Rectangle tool and give it a nice yellow color fill from the Swatches panel. With the rectangle selected, click on the menu Effect > 3D > Extrude and Bevel. In the dialog box that appears, check Preview to see it change from a flat rectangle into a rectangular box, which will make up the body of our padlock.

Give it more depth by increasing the Extrude Depth slider. This value adjusts how much our rectangle gets stretched along the object‘s Z-axis. I‘ve moved it to about 100 pts. The box will at first appear to be lying down, so rotate it by clicking and dragging on the Track Cube so it appears to be standing solidly and as if we are looking upwards at it.

Here the flat rectangle is turned into a box.

Step 2 - Applying the Bevel Using the Bevel drop down menu, choose a bevel shape. Bevel shapes really are just a shaped path or line that connects the front face of 3D objects to the back face. The shape of this path will define how the edges and sides of the extrusion will appear. There are ten default shapes in the menu to choose from and they are appropriately named Complex 1, Cove, Jaggy, etc.

The Bevel Shapes drop down menu

I‘ve tried a few different bevel shapes to demonstrate how simply changing this setting can result in a variety of different padlock designs very quickly. The Bevel Height value directly below the Bevel menu is also important. Sometimes applying a bevel shape can causebevel self-intersection, which occurs when bevels from different sides cross and overlap each other. This can really deform your 3D object and usually occurs when the Bevel Heightvalue is too high, so I recommend using small values for this. Here, I‘ve used a height of just 3 pts for each padlock.

Different Bevel Shapes

As you can see, extruding and beveling is really just a simple, two-step process. To apply the finishing touch, in this case, the top of the padlock, draw a circle with a white color filland go to Effect > 3D > Revolve to apply a 3D Revolve effect to it. (Read how to model half a torus with the 3D Revolve effect in the Graphic Design Tips and Tricks section).

Here a circle is revolved into half a torus.

In Part 2, discover how to make vector beveled buttons using the 3D Extrude & Bevel effect and how to create your own bevel shapes.

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