I'm learning about perspective in Adobe Illustrator and and came across the effect used in this image (https://www.reddit.com/r/interestingasfuck/comments/brf6ph/hotel_in_germany_uses_3d_carpets_to_prevent/).

I'd like to recreate the sinkhole effect seen on the centre of the carpet.

I believe it could be done with an Envelope Distort (mesh) applied to a grid in Illustrator, but I'm struggling to get anything close to the visual effect seen in the linked image.

Any ideas?

EDIT: Removed comment about not recreating bent lines to avoid confusion.

  • If you don't want the lines, it's merely a radial gradient.
    – Scott
    Apr 20, 2022 at 1:58
  • @Scott, interesting idea. I've removed my comment about not recreating the lines, as I'd to recreate the sinkhole illusion with the grid. Apr 20, 2022 at 2:28
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    The lines and apparent light variations (=shading) are both useful in making the illusion. The lines are more important. Designing them is far from trivial because to get fooled one must see the lines like thy were partially hidden by the bumps and dimples and their apparent density must vary like caused by substantially varying viewing angles. I'll add an answer If I find how to generate - not a single fake view, but something which would look right placed on the floor . It's not a problem to render in a 3D program a view which looks right as pasted to a corridor photo, but that's not wanted.
    – user82991
    Apr 20, 2022 at 10:16
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    (continued) It must look right when pasted to planar rectangular floor and watched by a person on that floor. That's totally different than recreating something which is for ex. in your linked image as a photo. A way to utilize the linked photo would be to make the reverse perspective transformation to see what's on the floor.
    – user82991
    Apr 20, 2022 at 12:20
  • @user287001, yes, I see what you mean. Even using Free Transform with Shift, Alt and Ctrl held to give a perspective effect looks slightly different on screen then when printed and placed on the floor. Apr 20, 2022 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


This shows only what to draw in Illustrator, it's thin in telling how to draw it in Illustrator.

enter image description here

In the left there's a rectangular image which in theory could be painted or otherwise transferred to the floor. It's watched straight downwards, it has no perspective.

The black curves are paths, but the greyish background is only a screen resolution bitmap image. That's why the version in the right still contains sharp curves, but the background has pixelated edges.

How the image would look for a person in the room can be estimated in Illustrator with 3D effect Rotate. The rightmost one is the same planar image rotated to a tilted view with perspective.

The leftmost image could be drawn in Illustrator by distorting a rectangular grating with big enough envelope distortion mesh. The background could be a grey rectangle + heavily blurred black and white shapes. As well one could insert a gradient mesh.

Both drawing the right looking distorted grating and the shading for it are very difficult. Illustrator has no 3D tools for surfaces this complex. One must either make it by trial and error or apply his drawing knowledge. A person who can draw or paint plausible human faces seen from different directions probably hasn't any problems.

I cheated and used a 3D program named Moi. This program is a simple one, very limited when compared to Blender, Maya, Rhinoceros etc... and pro CAD programs, but easy to use. Here's a screenshot from the process:

enter image description here

In the left there's a rectangular grating on a grey rectangle. The lines and curves are profile curves for my bumpy surface. The curves are in vertical planes. The 3rd image from the left is the surface after applying "Loft" to the profile curves. It generates a smooth surface through the curves.

The rectangular grating is bent along the lofted surface. Program Moi has transformation "Flow" for it.

The screenshot above is a perspective view. I changed the view to no-perspective -parallel-projection and exported the Lofted and Flown version as PDF. That PDF has the grating as paths, but the shading is only a screen resolution bitmap image.

Illustrator opened it - only a bunch of clipping masks had to be removed to make every part individually accessible. Actually that's not needed except in case one wants to make edits in Illustrator. I removed the edge rectangle and made the grating curves thinner.

This is the no-perspective 3D view setting dialog in Moi:

enter image description here

From there you see that the viewing angle is 60 degrees, it's 30 degrees off from straight perpendicular.

If one adjusts the viewing direction in Illustrator he notices that the right illusion doesn't happen in the same way from every direction. Here's a side view and a view from the opposite corner:

enter image description here

The bumpiness is much faded in the side view and seen from the opposite corner bumps are changed to notches and vice versa. I guess a more curved grating would fix the reduced bumpiness of the side view.

  • Thank you for your detailed answer. You've managed to produce a fantastic bumpy grid and given me some good insight into the advantages and disadvantages of this sort of work in Illustrator. I kow have a far better idea how to proceed with Illustrator. I've also been watching videos on MoI. It's fantastic software. I'm going to try and reproduce your work with it as well. Apr 23, 2022 at 8:30

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