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Creating 3D Dice from Scratch in Adobe Illustrator (Super In-Depth!)

This tutorial was specifically designed for newcomers to Illustrator. Anyone with experience in Illustrator may also learn from it, but it was written with non-illustrator users in mind. If you’re looking for a great primer for getting started with Illustrator, this is an awesome place to begin.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make a 3D Dice in Illustrator from scratch. An example of what you might create with what you learn is shown below.

Step 1: Create Document

Create a new document with the following dimensions:

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Step 2: Setup Dice Base Shape

Select the Rectangle Tool from the toolbar (M). In the options bar, set the Fill to a blue, and disable the stroke (shown above). Click anywhere inside the document once to bring up a dialog box for creating a specific dimension rectangle. Create a square 105pt by 105pt.

The exact shade of blue used does not matter as we’ll be changing it later on.

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We will not return to this square for some time. Use the Selection Tool (V) to move it to the top right of the document for now.

Step 3: Begin Creating the Sides of the Dice

Deselect the square that you just created by going to Select → Deselect (Shift + Ctrl + A). Set your Fill color to green now (if we had not deselected the square, this would set the square’s color to green.

In another area of the document, create a new green ellipse using the Ellipse Tool (L). Create the ellipse in the same manner which you created the rectangle, and specify dimensions of 102pt by 102pt.

The exact shade of green does not matter, as we will be changing it soon.

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Deselect this Ellipse (Shift + Ctrl + A).

Set your Fill color to white now. We are going to create a smaller white ellipse in the exact center of our green ellipse. Place your cursor over the center of the green ellipse. The word "center" will appear when you’re in the correct position.

Hold Alt and click once to create a new ellipse that will expand out from this center point. Set the dimensions to 20x20pt.

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Grab the Selection Tool (V) from the toolbar, and select the two ellipses by dragging a box around them. Right click the selected ellipses, and Group Them.

Step 4: Dice Side #2

We need to create 6 of these shapes, one for each side of a normal dice. Create a new Green Ellipse like before.

Create two white ellipses inside of this ellipse.

Select both white ellipses using the Selection Tool (V). Click one of the white ellipses, hold shift, and then click the other white ellipse to select both.

Align these ellipses Vertical Centers. Go to Window → Align to open the Align Panel. Click Vertical Align Center.

Group the two white ellipses. Select the grouped white ellipses, and the green ellipse. Align their vertical centers and horizontal centers so that the white ellipses are positioned in the exact middle of the green ellipse.

Select the two white ellipses, without the green ellipse again. Go to Object → Transform → Rotate, and rotate these grouped ellipses by 45 degrees.

Group the white ellipses group with the green ellipse.

Step 5: Dice Side #3

Start repeating the same process to create the 3-side of the dice. Create 3 white ellipses instead of 2. Spread them out to give them some padding between each ellipse.

Align their vertical centers, and then click Horizontal Distribute Center to spread them perfectly (this takes the two outer ellipses, and puts the middle ellipse in the exact center of them.

Group the 3 white ellipses, then align them vertically and horizontally with the green ellipse (like we did with the 2-side of the dice before.

Rotate the 3 white ellipses 45 degrees like we did with the two side of the dice. Group the white ellipses with the green ellipse.

Step 6: Dice Side #4

Start creating the 4-side of the dice. Create a new green ellipse like when we first began. Instead of creating a white ellipse straight away, we’re going to do something a bit different.

Deselect everything (Shift + Ctrl + A) and select the Rectangle Tool (M). Set the Fill to None (the white square with the red diagonal line through it), and set the Stroke to a black 1px stroke.

While holding Alt create a new 35x35pt square in the center of the green ellipse (just like we did to create the white ellipse on the 1-side of the dice.).

We do this to create 4 well defined points to place our 4 smaller white ellipses. Just like on the 1-side of the dice, we created an ellipse in the exact center of the green ellipse, we can also create ellipses using the 4 corners of this square as the center points.

Maybe you already see where I’m going with this, but if not don’t fret. Deselect everything (Shift + Ctrl + A), and grab the Ellipse tool (L).

Set the Fill to white, and the Stroke to none again. While holding alt, click on one of the anchor points (one of the four corners) of the square and create a new 20x20pt ellipse.

Repeat this 3 more times on the remaining anchor points.

Using the Selection Tool (V) select the square, and hit Delete. Group the four white Ellipses with the green ellipse.

Step 7: Dice Side #5

To create the 5-side of the dice, we’re going to repeat the exact process that we used to create the 4-side. We will change the size of the rectangle to 40pt instead of 35pt though.

Create one additional white ellipse in the center of the rectangle and green ellipse. Delete the square, and then group the 5 white ellipses with the green ellipse.

Step 8: Dice Side #6

You might already have the right idea for creating the 6-side of the dice. Create a new green ellipse like the other 5 sides, and create a rectangle in the middle of this ellipse like we did for the 4th and 5th sides. Make the rectangle 55x35pt.

Create ellipses on the 4 anchor points of this rectangle.

Create two more ellipses On the top and bottom sides of the rectangle where Illustrator shows an intersect with the center of the rectangle (Remember to hold Alt!)

Delete the rectangle, and Group the white ellipses (do not group the white ellipses with the green ellipse yet).

Select the group of white ellipses, and rotate them 45 degrees (like we did for the 2-side of the dice).

Group the white ellipse group with the green ellipse.

The difficult part is over! All 6 sides of the dice are now finished. You should now have all 6 sides somewhere in your document (their position does not matter).

Step 9: Create Symbols

Open up the Symbols Panel (Window → Symbols). Drag and drop each one of the 6 sides into the symbols panel using the Selection Tool. When choosing Symbol Options, be sure to select “Graphic” as type.

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Step 10: Create a 3D Cube

We’re going to return to that blue square we created in the beginning of this tutorial now. First, delete or hide the green ellipse shapes from your document (we no longer need them after they’re in the symbols panel).

Select the Blue Square using the Selection Tool (V). Apply a 3D Extrude to this shape (Effect → 3D → Extrude and Bevel).

Rotate the position as you see fit (or use the settings below), but make sure the Extrude Depth is set to 105pt (the same dimensions as the width and height of the square). Do not click OK yet.

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Before clicking OK, click the Map Art button inside of the 3D Extrude & Bevel Dialog Box.

Map one of the dice symbols we created earlier to each surface of the cube. Below is a dice template that illustrates which symbols go where. Once a symbol is applied to each side, click OK, and apply the Extrude.

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Step 11: Create Round Edges

Using the Selection Tool (V), drag a box around the dice to select the entire dice. Expand Appearance (Object → Expand Appearance) so that all sides of the dice, and all symbols are editable once again.

Deselect everything (Shift + Ctrl + A). Grab the Direct Selection Tool (A) which will allow us to select individual parts of the dice. Click on the 3 blue faces of the die while holding shift to select all 3 at once.

When all 3 surfaces are selected (just the blue surfaces of the cube, don’t select the symbols), Unite the surfaces from the Pathfinder Panel (Window → Pathfinder).

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From the Layers Panel, drag and drop the combinde blue surfaces to the bottom of the Dice Group.

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Using the Selection Tool, select the blue combined cube. Apply Round Corners to the blue shape (Effect → Stylize → Round Corners). User a value between 25 and 30.

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Step 12: Applying Gradients

Using the Direct Selection Tool select the Blue shape. Go to your Gradient Panel (Window → Gradient), and setup a gradient as shown below:

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Using everything you know about setting up gradients, you’re now going to apply gradients to the 3 green circles on the dice. Using the Direct Selection Tool, select only the green circle. Apply the following gradient (Be sure to set to Linear instead of Radial, and set the angle so that the light side of the gradient comes from the center of the dice.)

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Apply the same gradient to the remaining green circles, adjusting the angle as needed so that the light side of the gradient always starts towards the center of the dice.

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Step 13: Adding Insets to the Circles

We are going to inset the circles on the die starting with the larger circles we have applied gradients to. Using the Direct Selection Tool Select the top circle on the dice.

Apply a Drop Shadow (Effect → Stylize → Drop Shadow). Setup the Drop Shadow as follows (you may have to adjust the X Offset and Y Offset depending on your angle.)

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Repeat this process of adding a drop shadow to the white circles. You can select all the White Circles at once, and apply the drop shadow one time to make things easier.

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Repeat on each side of the die, adjusting the X Offset and Y Offset so that the edges always appear on the outside edge of the dice itself. Check “Preview” from the Drop Shadow options to see a live preview of the changes you’re making.

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Step 14: Creating the Shadow

Create a new Ellipse shape a bit larger than the dice itself, and fill it with a Gradient that fades from Black to Transparent (Radial).

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Position the Dice above the Ellipse to make the ellipse appear like a shadow.

Select the Gradient Tool (G), and drag the anchor point on the top of the ellipse gradient down and in towards the center of the ellipse to skew the gradient. Make it thinner than the Ellipse itself so that the gradient smoothly fades to transparent inside of the ellipse as shown below.

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And that wraps it up! You should now be familiar with creating basic symbols, basic alignment and distribution of objects, working with gradients (quite well!), and building a basic 3D scene from scratch. Thanks for following the tutorial. Please post in the comments if you have any questions!

26 Comments

  1. Add point Subtract point
    Tutorial Lounge (2 Points) May 7, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    you did excellent work in this tutorial. thanks

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    sajid khan (1 Point) March 11, 2011 at 4:33 am

    yes very good but got some proble while making dice curve

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  3. Add point Subtract point

    Looking forward to see some of your results on this subject! :-)

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  4. Add point Subtract point

    Going to do any web design/coding exclusives David?

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  5. Add point Subtract point

    Nice tut :D.

    I think the Illustrator’s Map Art is underused despite the fact it provides fast sollutions to 3Dobjects texturing…

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  6. Add point Subtract point
    Bullardino (1 Point) January 22, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Great tut, I’m tweeting it right away :)

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  7. Add point Subtract point
    Jonathan (3 Points) January 18, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Awesome Tutorial. Simple and Straight forward.

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  8. Add point Subtract point

    This tut is great. Pls where can i download this software

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  9. Add point Subtract point

    Very nice tutorial! I love the detail put into the dice.

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  10. Add point Subtract point

    This was incredibly clear and helpful. Thanks so much!!

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  11. Add point Subtract point

    Thq for step by step explanation

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  12. Add point Subtract point
    Dora E. H. Crow (1 Point) December 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    On Step 10, on my Map Art window it shows “1 of 16″ surfaces instead of “1 of 6″. I’m using CS5. With that many surface options, it’s a bit difficult to select the correct sides to put the symbols on.

    Any ideas how I can get it down to 6 surfaces?

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    • Add point Subtract point

      This is only a guess, but it sounds as if you might have strokes enabled on the square. That would be my first assumption, but if that’s not the case there is also a possibility that your “Bevel” settings in the 3D Extrude & Bevel Options is not set to “None”.

      Can you confirm your Stroke and your Bevel options are set to none?

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  13. Add point Subtract point

    Out-cotten-pickin’-standing!

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  14. Add point Subtract point

    thanks for sharing a step-by-step guide tutorial, thanks again for sharing it

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  15. Add point Subtract point

    Very good with step by step instructions.

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  16. Add point Subtract point

    Thank you for the detailed instructions. I’m still at the early beginner stage and this was very helpful.

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  17. Add point Subtract point

    I’ll give this one a try! I’ve always been waiting for my chance to get into Illustrator..
    Ah yes and I’m sorry that I just accidentally clicked on “Flag as inappropriate” on SmashinGeeks’ comment. Maybe you could create some sort of “Are-you-sure-button”?
    Love the new design!
    Greetings

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    SmashinGeeks (2 Points) December 20, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I tried this tutorial, but with modifications, and the result was very nice.

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