3D prototype mock up in Adobe Illustrator

When producing packaging design, how can you tell how your design will look on a product unless you test it?

One way of seeing whether packaging design is effective or not is to create a prototype. This would normally consist of printing the design out and mocking it up - this is costly and expensive to do, and normally only one prototype would be produced. What if prototypes could be mocked up in a fraction of time, be less expensive and messy, and be more environmentally friendly? What if multiple prototypes could be produced to show a client what their products would eventually look like in mass on a shelf?

Welcome to this tutorial which will show you how to use Adobe Illustrators 3D feature to mock up prototypes. For this example we will be mocking up a label for a pill container but the techniques used can work for many things including box packaging.


Step 1 / The Label

Firstly you need to produce your label design. Here is ours below:

To prepare this artwork to be able to be wrapped around a 3D object we need to make it a Symbol. First select the label and outline all the text (hot keys command + shift + O). Then select the artwork using the selection tool (hot key V). Get the Symbols pallet up (Window > Symbols). Drag the artwork into the pallet. A dialog box will appear allowing you to save the artwork as a symbol.


The artwork is now ready to be mapped onto a 3D object.

Step 2 / Preparing your 3D object

Now we need to create the packaging object upon which the label will sit. Use the "Rounded rectangle tool" from the tools pallet (note: by default the rectangle tool will be highlighted - click and hold on this and a menu will expand which will allow you to select the rounded rectangle tool). If you click (don't click and drag) on your art-board with this tool selected you will find a window will appear giving you the option to define the radius of the rounded corners. You can also select the dimensions you wish to use. Alternatively click and drag on the art-board to create your shapes.


Using this tool create your pill container by drawing the relevant shapes. One you have them use the tools in the "Align" pallet (hotkeys shift + F7) to center, or 'horizontally align' them.


We are now going to group these separate shapes and make them one single shape. You do this by using the tools in the "Pathfinder" palette (hotkeys Shift + Command + F9). Select the shapes using the selection tool (hot key V) and then in the "Pathfinder Palette" select the first icon on the left "add to shape area" then click "expand".


Now we have our basic shape but we need to get this ready for being made "3D". To do this we need half of this shape. To create this draw a rectangle using the rectangle tool which can be found in the main tool pallet (hot key M). Click and drag on your artboard to produce a shape and position it over half of the pill container shape we have just created. Then select both shapes using the selection tool (hot key V), go back to the "Pathfinder Palette" and select the 2nd option on the left (Subtract from shape area).


We now have a shape, ready to be made "3D". But before we go onto that step there is one last task to do - we now need to divide our shape to allow us to colour the lid, the label and the main body of the pill box. To do this use the pen tool (hot key P) and draw horizontal lines across the pill container where the label and lid will sit. To use the pen tool click to the left of your shape, on the artboard where you wish to make your first segment - this will create your first "node" - then hold shift and click on the right hand side, this will create your second node. Now hold command and click onto the artboard to deselect the line you have just drawn and repeat the process. By holding down shift you will keep the line exactly at 90 degrees. See the example below:


Now select the lines and the shape using using the selection tool (hot key V) and hit the "divide" option on the "Pathfinder Pallet". This will divide the shape into sections.


Use the "Direct selection tool" (hot key A) and click and drag over the inner vertical lines. Press the delete or backspace key on your keyboard. You can then go in an colour the different segments as you desire (it is also possible to make them partly transparent if you want - so as to create the illusion of glass). This tidies up the shape and makes it ready to be taken into the third dimension!


3. Bringing it all together into your 3D prototype

Select your shapes using the selection tool (hot key V) and group them (hot keys Command + G). Now go to "Effect > 3D > Revolve". This will open a window giving you options to make your object 3d. If you press "Preview" you will be able to see what your object looks like in 3D. (If the revolve seems to be inside out ensure that that you select "Right edge").


When you have obtained the angle of the shape you desire click on the "Map Art" button. This will bring up another window. You will need to find the relevant surface you want your label artwork to be mapped onto. Once you find it select the label symbol from the drop down and position into place (ensure you select the "Shade Artwork" option for a realistic effect). Press ok., then make any rotation amends as may be required and then press ok again.


And there you have it - your own prototype. If you can master this technique you will be able to do it in around 15 minuets - something which might have taken an hour if you were to have printed it, cropped it and stuck onto a real pill container. You can also duplicate the shape and develop examples of how multiple pieces would look together! Enjoy!



Excellent tut

what a tutorials i love it, will bookmarked this and learn from it..

Thank you very much!!!

very good tutorial!
i reaaly apreciate it!
thanks a lot!!!

very nice tutorial..

Hi there,

Thanks for the great tutorial - I'm just wondering how you did the drop shadow that can be seen in the final version of the image?

Looking forward to hearing back from you,


Hi Nathan,

You can achieve this by drawing a grey oval and then, whilst it is selected go to 'Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur'. Set the amount of blur you require and then 'send object to back'. Then position as required.

Hope this helps!

great tut! learned a lot today! thanks guyz!

Good Stuff! Thanks for the tutorial tip.

Hi, this tutorial is so helpful, one question, wich size is the label? Any size works?


Simple explanation but great result. Thank you!

Thanks for share your great idea.
As per your direction I have created linear 2 shapes as you shown in your image.

But after getting not exact an idea how to play with 2 linear form?

Is I have to mix each other or what?
If possible please, please explain in detail after it.

Thanks for everything!

Warm Regards,
Niranjan Gohane

Hi I have followed all your steps but when i render the object in 3D its all shaded blac. i have tried changing the direction of the light etc using the more options button but the object will not change colour, intead it stays shaded black. what am i doing wrong? Please help!

@Diana Hernandez - yes you can do this with any size label once you get to grips with how it works...

@Niranjan - we assume you are speaking of creating x2 3D objects? It's best to do one at a time in illustrator. If you need to do more then maybe a more advanced 3D package might be worth purchasing like Cinema 4D.

@sid - not sure what could have gone wrong to be honest sid. The shape itself isn't actually coloured black is it? Be sure to also have a play with the lighting - try switching it off completely or try the wireframe option to see if those work...

I went thru the whole tutorial, but at the end, when I was trying to implement this " You will need to find the relevant surface you want your label artwork to be mapped onto. Once you find it select the label symbol from the drop down and position into place- Press ok. Nothing shows up on my 3D image at all. I have gone thru it 3x. Any suggestions?

Hi Guys,

Great tut. Thank you... I followed it step by ste and getting the same as Sid a solid black, or whatever color you use cylinder instead of a 3D bottle shape. Giving an error, "Path self-insertion may have occured". What causes this?

@Renae, I was having the same issue, but you must remember with 3D that a hollow bottle has half of the surfaces on the inside. I was selecting what I thought was the outside surface and it was actually the inside of the bottle. Once I chose the outside it worked!

I hope this helps!

Thanks for this great tutorial! I was wondering if this is to be done the same for a mockup box. Do I still use a rectangular shape artwork (my box artwork is die cut to the actual folds of the box)? If possible, I would really love a simple tutorial for box mock up. Sorry, I'm kinda slow! :(

I figured the box out :)

Wow! It's a nice process, thanks.....

awesome tutorial... thank you for sharing!!!

fantastic example, and great step by step tutorial, thanks.

Great. Thank you so much.