Creating an Animation in Illustrator CS using 3D Effects and the Blending Tool

This tutorial is actually two tutorials in one. In the first part, I will show how to take graphics and create a Symbol Library and, then, how to use this new Library. While the Illustrator CS manual describes how to do it a little differently, I am only approaching it from a different angle. The angle being that I wanted to create a whole library of swatches and then use them. First it is necessary to understand the difference between a Symbol Library Palette and a Symbol Palette. I guess the best way to describe the distinction is to say the Symbol Library Palette isn't active until the specific symbol is dragged onto the Symbol Palette.

First I will show how to make two cubes using 3D Effects and the Extrude and Bevel command.

1 - In Illustrator CS, take the rectangle tool and draw a square by holding down the shift key as you draw it. Make sure that the fill has a color and the stroke has no color. You want your cube to have six sides for mapping. If you look at the table below, you will see the different number of sides your cube will have once extruded for mapping art depending on how you draw your square.

24 Sides
18 Sides
6 Sides

2 -Select the drawn square and click on 3D Effects> Extrude and Bevel. Since this cube was small, I found that a good depth was 34 so that it remained almost a cube.

Depth of Extrusions

3 - Now I wanted to map colors to each side of the cube so I had to prepare swatches. I wanted two different cubes for my animation, so I wanted twelve different colors. I created twelve squares and filled them with color. The size is not important because that can be adjusted while mapping to the 3D object. After I created the twelve swatches, I dragged them to the Default Symbol Palette. Lastly, to create a Swatches Palette, I deleted all the default symbols and by clicking on the arrow on the upper right of the palette, I opened all the Symbol options and saved my palette as a new Symbol Library.

12 Squares of Color
Default Symbol Palette
Save Symbol Library
New Symbol Library

4 - After creating the cube and the swatches, click on Map Art on the 3D Effects> Extrude and Bevel menu. In the Symbol Library, I access Open Symbol Library which is the command directly above Save Symbol Library.

5 - Transfer the swatches to the Default Symbol Palette by pulling them over with your mouse. In the Map Art menu, notice how the Swatch Symbols appear in the Symbol drop down menu. Drag it onto a side of the cube so that it fits. You can see it appear on the 3=dimensional cube to the left of the Map Art window.

Dragging Over from the Swatches Library
Mapping the Symbol

6 - Once both cubes are mapped, the animation can be constructed. For this animation, place the cubes in Illustrator CS on a diagonal

7 - From the top bar, choose Object>Blend> enter 12 for the number of intermediate steps in the blend.

8 - Take the Blend Tool and connect the two end cubes.

9 - Go to Object>Blend>Expand.

10 - And then, Object>Ungroup.

11 - Go to the Layer's Palette and click on the right arrow and select Release to Layers (Sequence)

Cubes on a Diagonal
Blend Tool
Two Cubes Connected
Expanded Blend Object>Ungroup Release to Layers (Sequence)

12 - Go to File>Export and choose SWF as your format of choice (Flash).Choose:

Export As:
Frame Rate:
AI Layers to SwF Frames
12 fps

13 - The other Export choices are more individualistic dependent on quality vs time of download. However, the resolution needs to be 72dpi.