Illustrator Tutorial - Perspective Grid Tool (1)

New to Adobe Illustrator CS5 :  The Perspective Grid Tool (Shift-P) and the Perspective Selection Tool (Shift-V). With some super easy controls to handle the grid, these tools can be real handy for some designers specially architects, interior designers, and other graphic designers working with object which need to look 3 dimensional such as packaging. The Perspective Grid Tool adds a grid to the Illustrator workspace that can be visually and easily modified. When a grid plane is active, the normal drawing tools  start to work in perspective. When moving or scaling objects in perspective, be sure to use the Perspective Selection Tool to keep the object in perspective.

First open a new document in landscape format. Click on the perspective icon in the tool bar on the left.

Go to VIEW...Perspective Grid...Show Grid

When you click the Perspective Grid Tool, the grid will immediately appear on the canvas. You can alter the perspective by simply click-dragging the corner nodes located on each corner of the grid , as shown below.  You can also change the vanishing point to a longer or shorter view. The handles at the bottom helps to increase or decrease the number of boxes in the grid.
             Keyboard shortcut = 1 Keyboard shortcut = 2 Keyboard shortcut = 3

With the Perspective Grid on your canvas, a 'cube' (also called a 'widget') will appear to the top-left of your canvas.  Using this cube allows you to choose which plane you can work with.  The image to the right shows the left plane (blue) selected and this is reflected by that plane being highlighted in blue gridlines above.  Similarly, the right plane is orange and the lower plane is green.

As you will see, these keyboard shortcuts are important.  Not only do they let you change perspective without leaving the grid area, you can drag an item from one plane to another with the relevant key held down.

Make sure the Perspective Grid is active and that the left plane is chosen (See image to right). Let's start with drawing a simple shape.  Using the Rectangle Tool we've drawn a simple blue rectangle.

Simply click and drag the shape and you will see it 'snap' to the left-hand grid.  Drop it into a rough position and switch to the Perspective Selection Tool.

Click on your blue shape and 'handles' will appear around its edges.  Use these to resize and move the blue shape into position.

Now click on the widgets' right plane (orange) or press 3.  Again using the Rectangle Tool we've drawn another simple rectangle in a different colour.
Again, using the Perspective Selection Tool, we've resized and moved the red shape to its correct position.
Still on this right plane, we've reselected the Rectangle Tool and drawn a smaller, white shape.  This will be a 'window'.
Again, this shape will assume the correct perspective.  Let's keep going!  Still using the Perspective Selection Tool, press down your Alt key while hovering over this white shape (this will allow us to 'clone' the shape) and drag towards the right.
See what happened?  Not only did we clone the shape, as we dragged it to the right (i.e. further away) it assumed the correct shape and perspective!

In the image above, we've added a third 'window'.  Now for a bit of magic!  We want to add a window to the left plane. Still using the Perspective Selection Tool we're holding our 1 key and Alt key down and dragging the window selected in the above image 'around the corner' onto the left plane.

Just to recap: 

  • Make sure you have the correct plane selected - either by using the widget or your 1, 2 or 3 keys (it doesn't matter if you drop a shape onto the wrong plane - just press down the 1, 2 or 3 keys and - using the Perspective Selection Tool, drag it onto the correct plane).
  • Holding down the Alt key while you drag a shape lets you copy a shape.
  • The Perspective Grid Tool will let see the grid, resize it and alter its perspective.
  • The Perspective Selection Tool lets you select shapes and drag them into position as well as resizing them.
  • With so many elements in each graphic, it is inevitable that the 'layer order' of some elements will not be right.  For example, a building towards the rear of your graphic may appear in front of a closer building.  Select the item you wish you re-order and click Ctrl + [ to send the item towards the back or Ctrl + ] to bring the item forward.  (You may have to click many times until the element is in the right order).
Just one last task for now.  Make the Fill colour a medium grey with no stroke. Use the Rectangle Tool and, with the lower plane selected, draw in a 'pavement'.
Almost done (for now!).  Make sure the right plane is selected and draw the other part of the pavement in.
In this final image, we've turned off the Grid (VIEW...Perspective Grid...Hide Grid).
Now, let's get serious! >>>
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