Tutorial: Mapping a pattern to a 3D object in Illustrator

I spoke a little about my creative process in Get off the Computer for a project I was working on over the summer. We had a Kickstarter and I was in charge of designing all the rewards. One of our rewards needed to be a laser cut pendant with a design based off my original zeppelin art car concept art:

Since it was going to be for a wooden pendant and laser cut, the original design had to be significantly adapted and simplified. Sticking with the design brief, my direction was that the lights would be strung on the blimp in a spiral, emulating the curve of the Fibonacci Golden Spiral.

I took a straightforward approach and decided to create a Fibonacci Golden Spiral pattern and apply it to a 3D construction of the zeppelin blimp in Illustrator. Here’s the tutorial on mapping a pattern to a 3D object in Illustrator.

To start with, I downloaded a template from here for Illustrator.

As there would be multiple strings of lights, I needed multiple spirals so I used a simple step and repeat process in Illustrator using the rotate tool. I clicked on the center or “start” of the spiral for my center point, and held down the alt key to bring up the rotate dialogue box.

I wanted ten spirals to make up a circle so I made the angle 36 degrees (360/10). To duplicate the spiral I simply pressed command + D and I had a circle of Fibonacci Spirals:

I wanted intersecting spirals so I grouped the spirals, duplicated them and by right clicking on my grouped objects, reflected them:

Since these spirals were going to represent the strands of lights on the zeppelin I wanted the lines of the spirals to be dots. I made the stroke a dashed line and chose rounded corners, and made the stroke taper at the ends:

I now have my Fibonacci Golden Spiral pattern. After highlighting the entire pattern I can drag it into the symbols pallet. This is what will be used to “map” the pattern to the 3D object:

I’ll save just the Fibonacci Golden Spiral pattern as separate file, in case I want to make changes to it later. Now I need to create the basic 3D  zeppelin/blimp shape which I was asked to make slightly egg shaped. First I created an oval, then using the pathfinder I cut the oval in half. I dragged the top point up to create more of a tapered shape.

Now that I have my basic egg shape I can wrap the pattern around it. After selecting my shape I’ll navigate to Effect > 3D > Revolve.

I will then click on “Map Art” and make sure “Invisible Geometry” is selected. I can then navigate to Symbol and select the Fibonacci Spiral Pattern. If I select preview I will then see how and where the pattern will be placed on my object. After some positioning, I hit the “Ok” button.

And viola, my pattern has been mapped to my shape!

From this shape I created the rest of my zeppelin Kickstarter reward design adding in other elements for the zeppelin.

After I finished the design in Illustrator, I was then able to have it laser cut into 100 wooden pendants.

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