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How to Create a Hollow Die in Adobe Illustrator

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In this tutorial we will be learning how to create a stylized hollow 3D die. Instead of having usual dots on its surface we will create holes. Well not actual holes, but we will certainly make them look like holes. In the whole creating process there is something we shouldn't forget - perspective. Perspective is one of the most important things we have to be aware of when we are creating a 3D object. If we leave out the perspective we will end up with distorted object. So let's move from words to deeds.


Step 1

We will start by creating symbols for each individual side of the die. That means we need 6 Rounded Rectangles with different number of dots. These symbols will be applied to our 3D die. Grab the Rounded Rectangle Tool from the Tool panel and click somewhere on the Artboard. In the Rounded Rectangle Options box set the parameters as it shown on the picture below. Fill color is not important.


Step 2

Now, grab the Ellipse Tool (L) from the Tool panel and create a perfect circle (for perfect circle hold the Shift key on your keyboard). Select both shapes and under the Align panel select the Horizontal and Vertical Align Center.


Step 3

For the side of the die with two dots create another rounded rectangle, make a two copies (Ctrl / Command + C, Ctrl / Command + V) of the yellow dot from the previous step and arrange them as it shown on the picture below. Make sure to align yellow dots properly by using Horizontal Align Center under the Align panel. Group them (Ctrl / Command + G) and align both dots with the rounded rectangle using Horizontal and Vertical Align Center under the Align panel.


Step 4

Select both dots and under Object select Transform > Rotate. Set the Angle to 45˚ and hit the OK button.


Step 5

For the die side with three dots create another rounded rectangle, create one copy (Ctrl / Command + C, Ctrl / Command + V) of two dots from the previous step. Bring them back to Horizontal position and place a new dot in the middle. To ensure the same distance between dots select them all and hit the Horizontal Distribute Space button under Align panel. Group (Ctrl / Command + G) yellow dots and under the Object select Transform > Reflect. Set the Angle to 45˚. You should end up with something like this.


Step 6

To create a side of the die with four dots duplicate elements from the Step 4. The best way to do that is to select rounded rectangle and two yellow dots, holding the Alt / Option key on your keyboard click and drag selected shapes to the side. Now select just yellow dots and under Object select Transform > Reflect. Select Vertical for Axis and hit the Copy button. It will create a reflected image of selected elements and we will end up with four instead of two dots.


Step 7

Create the copy of the entire side with four dots (hold Alt / Opt key on your keyboard and to Click and Drag the shapes). Place a new dot in the middle. Make sure to align all elements to fit perfectly. To do that, Group (Ctrl / Command + G) four dots we already had. Then select all elements that constitute the "5 dots" side of the die and under the Align Panel hit Horizontal and Vertical Align Center.


Step 8

As you probably already assume, for the "6 dots" side of the die we need to create the copy of "3 dots" side. Repeat the familiar Alt / Opt + click and drag action to create the copy. Place three yellow dots in horizontal position, duplicate them (Ctrl / Command + C, Ctrl / Command + F) and place them as it shown on the picture below.


Step 9

You should end up with something like this.


Step 10

We have all six sides ready for our die and we are going to turn them into the symbols. This way we will be able to apply them to our 3D die. Make sure to Group (Ctrl / Command + G) all elements that constitute each individual side of the die. Grab each side of the die, drag and drop it into the Symbol Panel. When Symbol Options window pop up, select Graphic in the Type drop down menu. Make sure to turn other sides of the die into the Symbols as well.


Step 11

Now, we are all set to work on the look of our 3D die. There are many different positions of the die we can create, flying in the air, rolling on the table, etc…but we will create a still die on the plain surface. This way we will get the chance to play with the light and to create some nice shadows. So let's get started.

Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tool panel and click somewhere on the Artboard. It will bring up the Rectangle Options window. Set dimensions to 200 x 200. Fill color is not important.


Step 12

Under the Effect select 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Set the Depth to 200 pt and the Perspective to 97˚. Remember, without Perspective your die will look distorted. We certainly don't want that. We will also set the Orientation to make it look like the die is sitting on the plain surface. Feel free to experiment with orientation by rotating the cube in the 3D Extrude & Bevel Options window (make sure to thick the Preview option in order to be able to monitor creating process). These are the setting we will be using in this tutorial.

Make a copy (Ctrl / Command + C, Ctrl / Command + V) of our die. Place it on the side and lock it in the Layer Panel (we are going to use this copy later).


Step 13

Now we can start with assigning symbols to each individual side of the die. To do that we need to enter Map Art options.


Step 14

Switch between sides of the die under Surface and select the symbols under Symbol drop down menu.


Step 15

Repeat this step only for visible sides of the die. We will complete other sides of the die later. You should end up with something like this.


Step 16

Basic look of our die is done but you have to admit, it doesn't look very nice. Now it is time to do some polishing. First of all we are going turn our die into the editable shape. To do that simple select the die and under the Object select Expand Appearance. After expanding the die we need to Ungroup it (Shift + Ctrl / Command + G) and to make sure to separate all the elements that constitute our die. Be prepared to do that several time, until all the shapes are independent. After ungrouping you might find few useless parts of the die (those can be removed from the Layer panel).

We need to modify each side of the die a bit. To do that we will be using Offset Path feature. It will allow us to shrink each rounded side of the die just a bit. Select just the pink shape of each side and under the Object select Path > Offset Path. Set the value for Offset to -1 pixels and hit the OK button.


Step 17

Make sure to remove the larger, original pink shape and leave the smaller one we have just created.


Step 18

Repeat previous step for other sides of the die as well. You should have something like this.


Step 19

Select all three brown rectangles and select the Unite button under the Pathfinder panel. This action will turn three shapes into just one. You will probably have to send the new shape we have just created to Back ( Shift + Ctrl / Command +[ ).


Step 20

Let's modify our new shape slightly. Select the brown shape and under the Effects select Stylize > Round Corners. In this tutorial we will set the Radius to 15 pixels. Thick the Preview box in order to be able to see what works the best for you. It will give our die nice and round corners.


Step 21

Now we need to expand the brown shape and prepare the die for more interesting step – coloring. Make sure the brown shape is selected and under the Object select Expand Appearance.


Step 22

We are going to nudge each individual pink shape for one pixel closer to the edge. This will support the perspective a bit more. You should end up with something like this.


Step 23

In case you are not quite satisfied with the size of the dots you can increase their size. Let demonstrate how.

Select all yellow dots and under the Object select Path > Offset Path. Set the Offset as your wish (don't forget to check Preview box in order to be able to see what are you doing). We will set the value for Offset to 2 pixels. We will unite both dots (small and large) into one by selecting Unite under the Pathfinder panel.


Step 24

You may notice that each yellow dot contains many anchor points. In order to avoid any kind of imperfection we will try to decrease the number of anchor points. To do that select Object > Path > Simplify. Make sure to set the Curve Precision to 100% and the Angle Threshold to 0%. You should end up with something like this.


Step 25

Our die is ready to get some nice color gradients. So, let's get started.


Step 26

As you can see, we have made some improvement but obviously we need to do much more for our die than applying simple color gradient. Let's turn our dots into the holes. Select them all and duplicate them (Ctrl / Command + C, Ctrl / Command + F) twice. We are going to nudge blue copies as it shown on the picture below. (Set the Fill color of the copies on the top to blue). Ungroup (Shift + Ctrl / Command + G) new set of dots.


Step 27

Select one yellow copy and one blue copy and under the Pathfinder Panel hit the Minus Front button. You should end up with something like this.


Step 28

Repeat previous step for the other dots as well.


Step 29

With few changes we are going to make these dots to look like holes. First we will apply nice dark red color gradient to the "inner" side of the die. It means we will apply gradient to the yellow dots.


Step 30

We will apply the same linear gradient to the other yellow dots as well.


Step 31

Let's change the color of the shapes that represent the thickness of the dies walls (sides). We will be using red linear gradient with few light shades of red in order to emphasize the influence of the light.


Step 32

There is something else we can do to make our die look even better. Remember the die we have left on the side for later? We are going to use it now.

As you remember, this is our basic square that we have used at the very beginning. Since we have already applied 3D effect Extrude & Bevel we will just modify the look of the die. We are actually trying to get the shape, size and the position of the dots/holes on invisible sides of the die. But let's get started, things will become clearly.


Step 33

Under the Appearance panel (if it's not visible you can find the Appearance panel under the Window) click on the 3D Extrude & Bevel (Mapped). It will bring up the Extrude & Bevel Options window. We are going to make few changes.


Step 34

Leave everything as it is. Don't change the rotation of the cube or its perspective. We need the exact same cube we are working on through this tutorial. But, we are going to make few changes under the Map Art Options. We are going to assign Symbols for invisible sides of the die. Since we already have sides with 1,2 and 4 dots/holes, we need to create sides with 3,5 and 6 dots/holes.


Step 35

In order to be able to see invisible sides of the die thick the Invisible Geometry box on the bottom of Map Art Options window and hit the OK button. You should end up with something like this.


Step 36

Under Object select Expand and turn our square into the editable shape.


Step 37

Ungroup (Shift + Ctrl / Command + G) the shape we have just created (you will have to repeat it several times) and remove all elements beside yellow dots.


Step 38

Now we need to reduce number of anchor points. Select Object > Path > Simplify.


Step 39

Set the Curve Precision to 100% and the Angle Threshold to 0% and hit the OK button.


Step 40

There is one more thing we need to do before we use new dots on our die. You shouldn't forget that we have enlarged the dots on our die. It means we have to do the same thing with this dots as well (all holes need to be the same size). First, Ungroup (Shift + Ctrl / Command + G) the yellow dots. Select Object > Path > Offset Path. Set the value to 2 pixels (just like we did earlier) and hit the OK button.


Step 41

This way we have created larger dots. We will unite them with smaller dots by selecting Unite under the Pathfinder panel.


Step 42

Now, our dots are ready for the die. Place them as it shown on the picture below. This is approximate position of the holes on the invisible sites of the die.


Step 43

First, we are going to remove yellow dots that are going to remain invisible. You should end up with something like this.


Step 44

We are going to combine the yellow dots with dark ellipses that represent the holes. For each yellow dot that intersects the hole create one copy of the dark ellipse. Select the copy we have just created and the yellow dot and under the Pathfinder panel hit the Intersect button.


Step 45

Make sure to set the Fill color of the new shape to white (#FFFFFF) and place it underneath the shape that represents the thickness of the dies wall (side). You should end up with something like this.


Step 46

Make sure to repeat the previous step for the other yellow dots as well.


Step 47

Let's create some interesting details that will improve our illustration.

We are going to create a nice thin edge for the each side of the die. To do that duplicate (Ctrl / Command + C, Ctrl / Command + F) twice the rounded rectangle. Nudge for 1 pixel downwards one of the copies. Select both copies and under the Pathfinder panel hit the Minus Front button.


Step 48

Apply red radial gradient as it show on the picture below.


Step 49

It might seem like there are way too many shades of red color in this radial gradient, but actually there are not. If you zoom in you can see that we have created a nice highlight for the rounded corner at the bottom of the die.


Step 50

Repeat the previous step for the left sides of the die. Feel free to use same radial gradient.


Step 51

For the highlight on the top of the die you can use a bit simpler radial gradient.


Step 52

Let's create the highlight for the holes. This is going to be a thin line that follows the shape of the hole. To do that we are going to duplicate (Ctrl / Command + C. Ctrl / Command + F) the ellipse that represents the hole. Under the right click select Isolate Selected Path. This way we will be able to modify ellipse without messing up the rest of the illustration.


Step 53

Grab the Direct Selection Tool (A) from the Tool panel, select the anchor points as it show on the picture below and remove them by hitting Delete key on your keyboard.


Step 54

Remove the Fill color and set the Stroke color to #FFB59C. Under the Stroke panel set the Width to 0.75 and the Profile to Width Profile 1. You should end up with something like this.


Step 55

Repeat the previous step for the other holes as well. Feel free to change the Stroke color for other highlights in order to get nice result.


Step 56

Using the same technique create few edge highlights for rounded rectangles on the each side of the die.


Step 57

Let's create a nice light reflection on the one side of our die. Select the Ellipse Tool (L) from the Tool panel and create an ellipse.


Step 58

Duplicate (Ctrl / Command + C, Ctrl / Command + F) the rounded rectangle underneath the yellow ellipse. Select the copy we have just created and the yellow rectangle and under Pathfinder panel hit the Intersect button.


Step 59

We are going to apply dark linear gradient.


Step 60

Under the Transparency panel set Blending Mode to Screen. Make sure to place the hew shape underneath the ellipses that represent holes. Since we have many different shapes the best way to do that is under the Layer panel. Just make sure to place our reflection underneath ellipses.


Step 61

Now we need to create a nice shadow that will match our light source. As you can notice the light is coming from the top front (viewer) position. It means that the shadow should be behind the cube.

Grab the Pen Tool (P) from the Tool panel and draw the rectangle as it shown on the picture below.


Step 62

Under the Object select Path > Offset Path. Set the value for Offset to -20 pixels and hit the OK button.


Step 63

Adjust the position of the new shape a bit. You can also use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to adjust the position of the anchor points. You should end up with something like this.


Step 64

Set the Fill color of the large shape to white (#FFFFFF) and the Fill color of the smaller shape to #D1D3D4. Select both shapes and under the Object select Blend. It will create a nice transition between white and gray color.


Step 65

Make sure to place the shadow underneath the die (Shift + Ctrl / Command + [ ).


Step 66

Using the exact same technique create the shadow for the right side of our die. And we are done!


Conclusion

Today we had an opportunity to create a unique 3D die. We have learned how to respect the perspective to achieve a nice semi-realistic look of the die. Also, we have learned a small trick how to turn a simple ellipse into a hole. Sometimes, there are few different techniques you can use to create a specific illustration. The most important thing is to find the right one for you. A technique that won't be too complicated and that will provide you a clean vector file that will be ready for print or for web publishing. Keep trying and exploring, there is always room for improvement.

I hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial as much as I enjoyed creating it. Thank you for following along.

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