Illustrator’s superb tools for building 3D objects out of 2D shapes aren’t appreciated as much as they should be. Here Derek Lea shows you how to create an offbeat creature using Illustrator’s 3D Revolve effect, complete with a mouth, an eye and scaly skin that are simple to draw and wrap to the body and head.

It’s all very easy – in fact, a bit too easy. The problem with working with vectors in this way is that the results can look inherently digital and too perfect. One way to remedy this is with masking methods that let you combine pixel-based textures with vector imagery. Derek does this here by using an image as an opacity mask in Illustrator, giving the creature a worn-looking ‘skin’.

If you don’t have time to create the two symbols wrapped to the creature, grab Derek’s symbols.ai file from the Downloads link on the right. Then go to the Symbols panel menu, choose Open Symbol Library > Other Library and navigate to the file.

Step 1 In a new Illustrator document, draw a large rectangle with a lime green fill and no stroke. Next, use the Ellipse tool (L) to create a vertical ellipse of the same colour, but with a light blue stroke, near the bottom of the rectangle. Holding down Alt + Shift, drag the ellipse with the Selection tool to fill the rectangle’s base with a row of neatly aligned duplicates. Leave a bit of space at the end.


Step 2 Select the row of ellipses and Alt-drag it upward, offsetting the duplicate a little. Repeat until the rectangle is filled with a pattern resembling scales. Now, using the existing stroke, start creating the eye, made up of a circle with a white fill and another, smaller circle with a light purple fill. Select both circles and align their horizontal and vertical centres, then drag them to the middle of the rectangle. Finally, draw a small, yellow circle with no stroke inside the purple circle, to serve as a highlight.