I would like to implement the rules to make an isometric drawing on a layer instead of an object. The rules are the following:

  1. Scale the width times 0.866
  2. Shear by +/- 30° around the vertical axis
  3. Rotate by +/- 60° (for the top only)

I am using Adobe Illustrator (CC 2021) Step 1 and 3 can be applied on a layer using the Transform effect, however I don't find any solution for the shear effect. I tried Free Transform. That does not work, it is not precise enough.



  • 1
    Effect -> 3D -> rotate does all you want in one go.
    – joojaa
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 17:15
  • Might work. I'll have try tomorrow and let you know. Might, also lack the precise positioning and set of dimensions.
    – alias_paj
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 22:57
  • definitely lacks positioning.
    – joojaa
    Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 7:15

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure why you would want this or how practical my answer will be for your specific case, but you could use a symbol to do something like what you are suggesting.

Anyway. Here's an example below. I drew a square, dragged it into the Symbols panel. Then I applied the regular transforms: scale, shear, and rotate, to the symbol, to transform it isometrically. Now you can enter the symbol by double clicking it, and then edit it. Exit the symbol by double clicking outside of it, and the transforms are applied to the updated symbol.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Since there is no option to get done using effects, working with symbols seems to be the best solution. 1. Smart Guides work even on the transformed symbols (that is not possible with effects), and therefore let me position the sides of the isometric drawing precisely. 2. It allows a precise transformation 3. And I can modify the drawing at a later state. Thanks - all I needed.
    – alias_paj
    Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 13:36

Transform > Shear works well if you have a group or simply a bunch of objects selected at the same time:

enter image description here

  1. few rectangles, grouped
  2. scaled horizontally to 75% and vertically to 86,6025% to keep the apparent size (
  3. Object > Transform > Shear > -30 degrees is applied
  4. Object > Transform > Rotate > -60 degrees is applied

I guess you want automatically vertical parts along, too if you are making something 3D-like. For it there's 3D effect Extrude & Bevel:

enter image description here

In the left the effect is applied to the group. Every part get the same extrusion depth.

In the right the parts are ungrouped and everyone got different extrusion depth. Unfortunately they also lost their places, they are dragged manually to the same formation as the extruded group.

Applying Object > Expand Appearance and Ungroup frees the exrtuded objects so that every polygon can be edited separately. You need 2 Ungoupings if the extruded item was a group. You need it if you for example want to change colors or insert strokes. Effect Extrude & Bevel generates very complex results if the extruded shapes have strokes. That's why I had no strokes.

Expanded separately extruded shapes can be placed to the isometric formation easily if you have the same shapes extruded as group + expanded as your reference and if you have snap to point and smart guides ON. Select one shape and drag its corner with the direct selection tool.

ADD due comments:

I guess you reach something unusable. Isometrization as an effect which can be disabled really could allow easy edits to the original, but you will lose Snap to Point. Snapping will use the non-effected version.

Of course you could have an expanded version of the isometrized result to have snaps and hide it when it's not needed.

Preferably have a replica of the non-isometrized original in a hidden layer, use the replica if the original needs edits. Delete the isometrized version, make the edits, make a new replica and isometrize. Have some control points to be able to move the new isometrized version to its place with snapping. It moves if its centerpoint is changed due the edits.

The straightly knocked version 1...4 can be reversed. You can rotate, shear and scale to opposite directions. Scale needs better value for cos(30 degr) than 0,886 for full Illustrator's accuracy. Use 0,886025. Its reverse is 115,4701%

  • Op is asking how to apply shearing as a effect. Also does not state wants to extrude . Which is why i suggested rotate which is same as extrude sans the extrude.
    – joojaa
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 9:31
  • "Object > Transform > Shear" does not let me change the items at a later state. That is the reason why I want to do it via effects rather than direct transform.
    – alias_paj
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 22:48
  • 3D Extrude & Bevel is a fast option, but lacks the option to keep the size constraint, meaning to set the hight to exactly 50px. Furthermore, as you already noted, does it move the objects, and you are not able to draw on the sides (you can use symbols for that which would are not precise enough).
    – alias_paj
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 22:56

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