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I'm interested in creating an effect similar to the one linked below, but freehand drawing with perspective isn't my strong suit. Looking at this image it appears that I could individually create the constituents pieces, and then map the islands and icebergs to the surface of the sphere before "wrapping" the cloud pieces around all of it.

But, I have no idea how to go about this in Illustrator...any help?

Planet Illustration

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I suggest you try with pencil on paper, and only then in Illustrator. The creation process will eventually be quite similar, but pencil on paper is easier to figure out. –  kontur Jan 9 '13 at 13:37
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I tend to notice a lot of people try to answer these questions by showing various automated tools within software. While these can be useful, what you are actually asking is "How do I draw stuff" which is a much broader type of question. In other words, this isn't a question solved by software, but rather by pencil and paper and practice, practice, practice. –  DA01 Jan 9 '13 at 17:04
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The thing is, there is very little "perspective" in the image to begin with and what little there is is broken. Don't get me wrong: it is quaint and fun and I like it. DA01 is entirely correct: you will have a difficult time doing this in any software unless you know what you want ahead of time. Pencil and paper is painless and fun and you can cut through the illusion of technique and come up with a plan. Then you can struggle with the software. Illustrator is crappy enough to wrestle with on its own without having the added hassle of trying to compose an idea at the same time! –  horatio Jan 9 '13 at 17:24
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3 Answers 3

There is an easy Illustrator trick that'll get you 3/4 of the way, but relying on tricks like this might not be the best way. You will need to do at least some hand-drawing, for the bits that stick out from the sphere (unless you use a serious 3D application... but that might not match the cartoony aesthetic so well...), and it might turn out to be better to just hand-draw the whole thing with perspective.

Here's the trick anyway, because it's a good one. Suppose we had a flat image we wanted to wrap around a sphere, like this old cartoon map for example...

enter image description here

  1. Make the original image into a Symbol by dragging it into the Symbols window. Ideally the image should be short and wide.

  2. Create a 'sphere'. Make a half-circle (create a circle, then select and delete one of the points on one side). No fill, no stroke. Select it, then Effects > 3D > Revolve.

  3. In the box for the Revolve effect (you can access it from Styles window if you've closed it), click Map Art at the bottom. Choose your image from the drop-down list of symbols, and scale it for the best fit.

  4. Tick 'Preview' in the Revolve settings, and rotate the sphere using the big cube until the face you want is facing forward. Experiment will all available settings, particularly Perspective (I find 110 works pretty well), and try different scalings and placements of the image.

enter image description here

You'll notice this works pretty well, but maps the image to a perfectly flat somewhat artificial and lifeless looking sphere. You'll probably want to use this as a base and a guide, and draw details and add effects over the top of it - definitely don't just use this as a finished product. It also gives slightly nasty jagged (un-antialiased) edges around the circle - you might want to add a no-fill circle over the top with an outline stroke.

If you want to use Illustrator's in-built 3D shading effects, give the original image less than 100% opacity or a blending effect influenced by underlying shading / highlighting like multiply or screen before making the symbol, then tinker with shading options under 'More options' in revolve.

enter image description here

Finally, when doing the original 2D drawing, you'll probably want to draw it then distort it so that it scales and maps in a more appropriate way (thin at the top, fat in the middle). Notice how our Russian octupus has developed a pointy cone-head that isn't in the original, due to the way the image is distorted in the mapping. You'll want to avoid this.

One way to do this off the top of my head (not particularly tested), is to do the drawing in an ellipse, then use Object > Envelope Distort > Make with mesh (enter a 2x2 grid), then stretch the corners, so that it is more like a rectangle. Something like that might work - stretching the the top and bottom out, so that the mapping shrinks them back down. Might work better if you stretch the corners only left and right, not up and down as well.

Something like this:

enter image description here

...or this:

enter image description here


Or, you could try getting better at perspective drawing. Not sure which is going to be easier. It's always tempting - and also always a bad idea in the long run - to use technology as a crutch to avoid tackling something you can learn to do, but don't want to :-)

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+1 for the last paragraph. –  DA01 Jan 9 '13 at 17:09
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But, I have no idea how to go about this in Illustrator

You don't! Rarely is a finished drawing that you see something that was created directly in something like Illustrator.

This example was likely hand-sketched. Then re-sketched with tracing paper. Then likely re-sketched a few more times until the illustrator was happy.

Then the rough sketch was likely scanned into Illustrator where the tracing and touch up process takes place.

In the end, Illustrator is the last step...not the first.

Now, over time, a good illustrator may eventually start doing less on paper and more on screen, but the idea is the same. Start rough, refine, refine, refine and then polish.

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Unless you are good with drawing accurately directly on computer using illustrator and or Photoshop, then do this: 1. Make a drawing on paper. 2. Scan it. 3. Trace it using pen tool in illustrator. 4. Drag it into Photoshop and color it. Fastest and easiest way to do it.

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