Illustrator Tutorial - Map Art

Map Art is where, in Illustrator CS5 (and above), you use the 3D effects (EFFECT...3D...Extrude & Bevel/Revolve/Rotate). It is where you 'wrap' an image or texture around your 3D shapes.

To achieve this, you need to save your image or texture as a Symbol. (How?  See this).

If you are drawing the object to be 'mapped' using the standard tools - Pen Tool, Shape Tools etc., Illustrator uses corner anchor points to define a new surface. Smooth anchor points will not define a new surface. When drawing your art, carefully specifying where corner or smooth anchor points appear on your path gives you greater control over how many surfaces are created and where they appear.

You should seelect all the components of the object you wish to apply a 3D effect to by dragging the Select Tool across it and then Group the objects (Ctrl. + G)

In order to map artwork onto the surface of a 3D object, you must first apply a 3D effect to an object. Then, from either the 3D Extrude & Bevel Options dialog or the 3D Revolve Options dialog, click the Map Art button to bring up the Map Art dialog. If the Preview option in the resulting Map Art dialog isn’t checked, go ahead and turn it on so that you can see what your mapped artwork will look like as you make adjustments to it.

Before you can map art onto your object, you have to choose onto which surface of the object you want to place your artwork. At the top of the Map Art dialog, there are buttons with arrows that allow you to navigate or step through each of the surfaces of your object. As you step through each surface, Illustrator displays the selected surface in the center of the Map Art dialog. In addition, Illustrator tries to help you identify the selected surface by highlighting it with a red outline on the of the original artwork. Depending on the color of your object, this red outline could be helpful, or it could be barely visible.
  • The surface that appears in the Map Art dialog is shaped as if it is laid flat. You’ll notice as you step through the different surfaces on your object that some show a light gray background whereas others show a dark gray background. Some surfaces may even show a background that is dark gray only in certain areas. This is Illustrator’s way of letting you know which surfaces, or which parts of a surface, are not visible, or are hidden from view. As you would expect, if you choose to use the track cube to view your object from a different perspective, the shaded surface areas in the Map Art dialog updates accordingly.

  • Once you’ve chosen the surface you want to map art onto, use the Symbol pop-up menu to choose a symbol. The selected symbol appears on the surface area in the Map Art dialog with a bounding box. You can drag the symbol to position it to your liking on the surface, and you can also drag on the handles to resize it. As you adjust the position of the symbol, you will see the preview update on the actual 3D object on the artboard. Alternatively, you can use the Scale to Fit button at the bottom of the Map Art dialog to have Illustrator resize your symbol to fit to the surface, although it does so non-proportionally.

Once you’re happy with the size and position of your symbol on the selected surface, use the arrows at the top of the dialog to navigate to another side to map additional symbols, as needed. At any time, you can click the Clear button to remove a symbol from a selected surface, or you can click the Clear All button to remove symbols from all surfaces at once. By default, Illustrator only calculates shading and lighting for the actual surface of a 3D object, and not artwork that is mapped to a 3D surface. Illustrator does this purely for performance reasons. We mentioned earlier that Illustrator uses blends to calculate shading, and breaking down intricately mapped artwork and shading each element with blends takes quite a bit of processing. However, in order to get a realistic appearance, most likely you will want your mapped artwork to be shaded, even if it takes a bit longer to do so. Checking the Shade Artwork (slower) check box forces Illustrator to shade both the surface of your object and the mapped artwork as well. This setting applies to the entire object, and you don’t need to turn it on for each individual surface.

Tip: It’s easier if you create your symbols at the correct size before you map them to a surface; this way, you won’t have to worry about getting just the right size or position in the Map Art dialog.

Note: A surface can contain only one symbol. If you want multiple art items to appear on a single surface, you have to define a single symbol with all of the elements in it.

The last setting in the Map Art dialog is a check box marked Invisible Geometry, which is a slightly technical term. When this option is turned on, Illustrator hides the actual 3D object on your artboard and displays just the mapped artwork. The result is a symbol that appears to float in space. A good example of when this setting might be useful is when you want to make text appear as if it were wrapped around a sphere. When you’re happy with your artwork mapping settings, click OK to accept the settings in the Map Art dialog and then click OK to close the 3D dialog.

Should you wish to edit the 3D options of your object (perhaps revolve it to see the reverse), click on the 'circle' contained within your artwork and open the Appearance window (WINDOW...Appearance). Then click on the 3D Extrude & Bevel attribute in the list. You’ll be taken back to the 3D Extrude & Bevel Options dialogue.
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