I'm not sure if this is a widely used Illustrator feature or not. I've been using Illustrator almost every day for years, but I never took advantage of this feature until a few months ago. If this isn't new to you, spare me the “I already knew that crap.” It's new to me, and I think it's something every Illustrator should know about, so I'm posting it. You can easily create realistic 3D objects in Illustrator in seconds using the Effect menu. You don't need anything more than a flat shape to get started, and it can be changed after it's applied, using the appearance palette. It's so simple, I hate myself for not using it a long time ago. . .
To begin, create a simple shape on the artboard that you would like to make 3d. I used a square and I put my logo on top of the square so you can see the perspective effects of any artwork or designs you might incorporate into this effect. This is NOT an image it is 2 vector shapes in Illustrator. Important: You must group the shapes (artwork) BEFORE you apply this effect. Here is what my shape looks like:
Now that you have your shape, make sure it is grouped, and select it.
With your shape selected, go to the “Effect” menu and select “3D > Extrude and Bevel.”
You will see this options menu: (immediately click “preview” so you can see your shape change in real-time)
Now your 2D Design is rendered by Illustrator in 3D, complete with lighting and shading!
Now all you have to do is explore the options that Illustrator provides you, and see what suits you best. Here are the settings I used in the example. I added a light, changed the perspective angle, and the depth of the extrusion.
Take it a step further:
The Adobe team has been kind enough to offer us the option to map out artwork for each face of our extrusion. Explore the “Map Artwork” settings to “Skin” your Illustrator 3D objects!