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I have tried to recreate the part with the 2 "discs", their mounting and the red bar with the purple box in the middle. However, I would like to achieve the same effect of realism as on the left hand side, where there's added depth to the objects. But I am not sure how to achieve this in Illustrator. Thanks for any tips!

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Try to present them as extrudes (see the 3D effects for objects). Give a different extrusion height for those parts that in reality have different height. You must combine your model from several pieces to be able to specify the extrusions independently. The shadows and reflections of the light makes the difference.

Without 3D effects, the light and shadows must be expressed by inserting them manually. We have seen in old atworks, how well shadows, glows and shines can be painted. But that job needs remarkable talent and practice. At least me as well as other ordinaries must use 3D effects to get something worthy enough to be shown.

You have tried to insert a radial gradient onto the grey parts. Unfortunately thar's considered usually to be a ball or other convex surface. The highlights should be mostly at the edges on the planar surfaces. Easy to say - try 3D, like me!

But if you have some talent, you probably soon learn, how at least acceptably convincing lights & shadows are manually doable. Start by trying to repeat what 3D extrusion produces (after understanding and adjusting all its parameters)

  • I, do not think this is very good advice. It can work but its just easier to shade the thing smartly with gradients. – joojaa Jan 11 '17 at 17:26
  • @joojaa Surely! Even beginners like Leonardo Da Vinci, Rafael etc... grasped it at least passably. But 3D is a good prosthesis that helps to find, how the beginners maybe thinked when they did it smartly. – user287001 Jan 11 '17 at 17:50
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    Yes but despite its name the 3d effects in illustrator are not good for actually making 3D except in a few simple cases. They do not help you make 3d; They in fact making your 3D stuff harder. As there is no easy way to merge 2 different 3D pieces together without going horribly off. So you cant easily combine a extrude and revolve. Point is they are not even good starting points for beginners. – joojaa Jan 11 '17 at 18:47
  • not denying the limitations of 3D in illustrator. But it is very good for visualizing what elements Illustrator has for representing 3Dness. Maybe one piece at a time, no combinations needed. When the ideas for creating some apparent depth by using Illustrator's vocabulary are found, then they as well can be used manually (=shading, gradients, light spots), start to build some speed & accuracy and soon get the result fast enough.. – user287001 Jan 11 '17 at 23:20
  • Thanks for the discussion guys. I came across the limitation @joojaa was referring to when I had two 2d shapes above each other. However it was a very helpful tip and probably the way to go for me. This is for the base of a snowboard and won't get a lot of attention. Maybe I'll try to fix some of the places where the overlapping shapes don't make much sense when extruded. This is what I got so far: imgur.com/a/Q3qqb – tzippy Jan 12 '17 at 8:35

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