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How did they create this very subtle 3D vector effect in Illustrator?

enter image description here


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up vote 0 down vote accepted

Here are a few things I noticed.

  1. The cloud shapes all have a subtle gradient to make them look as if they have depth.
  2. It looks like their strokes also have a gradient to make them look beveled.
  3. Most of the apparent depth comes from the use of drop shadows.

Here's an example I did quickly

To add a gradient to the stroke:

  1. Use Object > Expand > Stroke (do not expand the fill),
  2. Ungroup the stroke from the fill and then you can add a gradient.
  3. Regroup the shape and the stroke
  4. Then add a drop shadow using Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow.

Changing the x and y coordinates and the blur of the shadow will change how much apparent depth the effect creates.

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usually, drop shadows are not accepted by stock sites – Ilan Mar 2 '14 at 11:31
If for some reason you can't use the drop shadow effect but you can use gradients, then you could use a radial gradient to produce the shadow or a gradient mesh. In fact, in the example image originally posted, it looks like the shadows beneath the cloud shapes are radial gradients, not drop shadows, because they don't match the shape of the clouds, they're pretty much circular. – Michael Osterhus Mar 2 '14 at 15:54

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