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3D Effects in Illustrator CS, Part 2

Custom bevel creation By Dave Nagel
In our last installment on Adobe Illustrator CS, we explored the basic workings of the software's new 3D capabilities, with an extensive look at the Extrude & Bevel effect. What we left out though was one of the key features of this tool, namely the creation of custom bevels. In Illustrator, as in some other applications, custom bevels allow you to mold not only the edges of the face of your object, but also its sides, similar in some ways to putting your object through a lathe. It's a fairly straightforward process, but there are some limitations and caveats.

To begin, if you haven't already, go back and take a look at our first installment in this series here for a general overview of Illustrator's Extrude & Bevel effect. Once you've done this, you're ready to get started. Open up Illustrator CS, create a new document and draw a circle with no stroke but with a fill that's any color of your choosing. (I'll be using "Bisque," a light color that will allow you to see what's going on.) Give the circle a 60-point diamter, just so we're all working on the same object.

Now, if you open up the Extrude & Bevel effect with your object selected, you'll notice that there is no place within that plugin's interface to add your own custom bevels. So how do you do it?

Save your current document--the one you just created with the circle in it--and then close it. We'll get back to it later.

Choose FIle > Open, and navigate to your Plugins folder within the Illustrator application folder. Here you'll find a file called "Bevels.ai."

This is the source of all bevels in Illustrator application-wide. Any bevel you wish to create and use must be created within this file. And, handily enough, when you open up this file, you're presented with complete instructions for creating bevels.

For those of you who like to read the short version, here it is:

1. Draw on open shape.

2. Drag the shape to your Symbols palette. (The order in which you place it in your Symbols palette will be the order in which the bevel appears in your list.)

3. Double-click the symbol and give it a name you'll recognize. (I'll call mine "Dave Bevel 1," "Dave Bevel 2," etc.)

Now save this document and quit Illustrator.

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