# How to Create Advanced Isometric Illustrations Using the SSR Method

##### Tutorial Details
• Program: Illustrator
• Completion Time: 30 minutes

### Final Product What You'll Be Creating

This is the second part of a series of tutorials I’m doing about creating isometric illustrations in Adobe Illustrator. If you’ve missed that first tutorial I suggest you start with Working with Orthographic Projections and Basic Isometrics. Let’s get started!

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## Introduction

In the last tutorial I covered how to make an isomeric grid and build simple blocky shapes on it. In this tutorial I’m going to talk about another method of creating isometric shapes that doesn’t require
a grid and is much more useful if your objects are complex or curvy.

When creating a complicated isometric illustration it’s best to begin by breaking down your object into its simplest parts. This will help to make the project more approachable. It is possible to make the most complex objects entirely on an isometric grid using the method I discussed in the last tutorial. There is another method that is much more useful for creating curvy or complex isometric objects in Adobe Illustrator. I’m going to call this method scale, shear, rotate or SSR.

The basic idea behind the SSR method is that by using tools in Adobe Illustrator you can place an object onto an isometric plane without using a grid. This method is most useful for curvy or complex objects but it will work for anything. I’ll begin simply by making an isometric cube. Follow the steps below for the SSR Method.

## Step 1

Create a 4 inch square with your Rectangle tool.

## Step 2

With the square selected double-click on your Scale tool. Scale the square 86.062% vertically.

## Step 3

With your object selected double-click on the Shear tool and shear the object 30 degrees.

## Step 4

With the object selected double-click on the Rotate tool and rotate it -30 degrees. You have now created the top of your cube.

## Step 5

To create the left side of the cube, begin with a 4 inch square. Scale vertically 86.062%, Shear -30 degress, and Rotate -30 degrees.

## Step 6

Use the selection tool (black arrow) to line up the front corner with the top of the cube.

To create the right side of the cube, begin with a 4 inch square. Scale vertically 86.062%, Shear 30 degrees, and Rotate 30 degrees.

## Step 7

Next, move the pieces into place with your Selection tool. You have now created an isometric cube without using a grid.

The power of this method becomes apparent when you try to create an object that would be very difficult to construct on a grid. This method only works if you have a set of orthographics to work with.

## Making a Stratocaster Using the SSR Method

For this example I’m going to build the body of a Guitar. To make this complex shape in isometric using only a grid would be a challenge. The complex curves and compound shapes would be very difficult to recreate accurately.

## Step 1

There are many ways to make a set of orthographics depending on your object. You can look online for a set of blue prints, you could trace a photo, and if you own the object you could take it
apart and measure it. Use whatever method works best for your project.

One quick Google search and I’ve found the perfect set of factory blueprints of the “62 vintage re-issue Fender Stratocaster.” These blueprints are much more detailed then I need, but you can be as precise as you’d like for your own projects. Having too much information about your object is never a bad thing.

## Step 2

Trace your blueprints. I’m going to trace just the information I need to complete my isometric, and I’m going to simplify parts of the design.

## Step 3

Once you’ve chosen your orientation you can scale, shear, rotate (SSR), your bottom plane.

You can check your work by comparing any edges that in the orthographic are 90 degrees or 180 degrees. These edges will now fall onto an isometric grid; they will either be on the 30 degree or 150 degree angle.

## Step 4

Now that you’ve created your base you have something to work off of. By taking the side view of the orthographic and scale, shear, rotate (SSR) it onto the Isometric plane you can figure out the thickness of the guitar body.

## Step 5

Line up the bottom edge of the guitar body with the corner of the orthographic side view.

## Step 6

Next you want to copy the outline of the guitar body and move it up to the top edge of the side view. To do this use your Selection tool and click and drag on the edge of the outline, before letting go, engage the Option button to make a copy. You should also use the Shift key to constrain the movement. Holding the Shift key while moving the shape will ensure it stays lined up with the original.

## Step 7

Now you have blocked out the top and bottom planes of the guitar body. The next step is to cut out the spot where the neck is inset. Start by connecting the top and bottom planes of the neck opening so
it’s easier to see the area that you are working on.

## Step 8

Using the side view you can mark off how deep the neck cutaway goes into the body. You now have three planes, the top, bottom and depth of the cutaway.

## Step 9

The next step is to use the Scissors tool to cut away all the excess lines you don’t need anymore. This is often the hardest part for an artist new to technical drawing. All the overlapping lines and shapes can be overwhelming. But if you take your time and start with the clear big shapes it will help to clean up the more complex areas.

## Step 10

After clearing away all the line you don’t need anymore, connect your corners and finish the shapes.

Add some line quality and you’re finished.

## Conclusion

You have now finished the body of the guitar. You could continue on and complete the entire guitar, the exact same steps would apply for each part. This is an example of an exploded isometric of a Stratocaster I did a few years ago with this method.

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• Callum Jefferies

Very nice! Why is it you’re using ’86.062%’ when scaling objects? Seems quite precise… Anyway, this is great – like something you’d see in an instruction manual.

• Ronaldo

Help! i’ve done the cube but they don’t exactly “fit” together. there’s an excess tip when I put them together, they’re a bit overlapping, i’ve tried the “86.602%” instead of the “86.062%” but still it wont fit… is this really like this? or i’m missing something here… thanks in advance!

• http://mogaro.com Garo

yeah…what’s the deal with that. There is an overlap on the top section.

• MarkC

i studied his process and tried verifying the 86.062% scaling.
here’s what i got:
if you’ll use object scaling, it’s 86.6025354730547% (but I don’t recommend this because illustrator rounds this to 86.603% ~ not really accurate)
-OR-
manually calculate the new height of the object: current height multiplied by 0.866025354730547 (the new height will be rounded off by illustrator, but at least it’s the answer that was rounded off, not the multiplier)

• http://www.boxxdesign.co.uk WCHMonk

This is a nice tutorial, but just wondering wouldn’t it be easier to make a square, then go to Effect > 3D > Rotate, then from the position choose Isometric Left/Right/Top for whatever view you’re doing. Just seems like it would save a bit of time compared to doing it manually? Other than that great tutorial.

• http://eneskaya.de Enes

I think he just made it to show the technique…

He Didn’t used the 3D Effect because it’s an effect and not a technical work.

Moreover, the effect cannot be modified in it’s details (but the Technical can) and, in conclusion, can bring errors to the project (most if you work on Windows).

Bye.

• http://allanwav.com vallan anundson

“Moreover, the effect cannot be modified in it’s details”

i would’ve argued the same but as it turns out, object> expand appearance after having extruded and beveled (or rotated) will revectorize the effect.

• Tomas

nice

• Lars

nice, doing it right now aint that hard since i’ve got this example. But if I had to do it from scratch… dont even ask! :p

• http://www.pushingbuttons.net Timothy

Really cool. I always wonder how artists do that. Thanks! Delicioused

• http://www.rachelleleath.com/home.html Rachelle

I agree with Timothy, I always wondered how illustrators got those diagrams so accurate and nice looking! Good to know!

• http://www.1pixelbrush.com Dan

Freaking nice, this may come in handy

• http://www.letitbeknown.dk bendsen

these techical drawings are so awesome – nice job and thx for showing !

• ed

now i just need to find blueprints for a Les Paul…

nice tut

• http://www.studiografiko.com Grafiko

very insightful information. thanks for sharing

• http://tekarttechnicalillustration.blogspot.com/ Bill

You can automate this process a by using Actions.

• K3v

I like these kind of tutorials. You don’t see stuff like that on the web very often!

• http://www.ringshia.com Pratik

I think the scale value has something to do with cosine of 30 degrees which is 0.86602 which translates to 86.602, but the author uses 86.062. Maybe a miscalculation on his part? Excellent article though!!!!

• http://www.beastbrothers.net Ernesto East

i was going crazy on that thanks

• http://rebelmaker.wordpress.com Ian Hutchinson

Another quality tutorial! There’s a lot you can do with this method, so I’ll be sure to give it a go with something soon.

• Jonathan

@Bill- my thoughts too.

Nice final result.

• http://disa4ever.deviantart.com Dy

Really nice tuts :D
must be patient to do this tuts heheh X)

• http://devlim.com devlim.com

Nice but too many process

• http://www.mrkuzio.com/ Mr Kuzio

Cool!

Seems like a project for a personal copy of the guitar, is it not cool?

• Theo

Excellent!

• http://www.liberatocreative.com Maurizio

Grat stuff! I was looking for something like that!!! Well done! :)

• http://blog.otherskies.net Kim

Heh, just saw this linked off Drawn, and as soon as it said “Toronto area illustrator” combined with that pic, I figured you were a Sheridan techie grad. I’m in the program, but not a techie – this stuff scares the crap out of me, always wondered how they did it. And now I know! (Sort of.)

• http://www.graphicsworkshop.net Paige

This is an excellent tutorial from someone who clearly harbors a passion for technical illustration. I’m looking forward to future installments!

• aaronp

I didn’t see it mentioned, but changing the constraining angles in the AI preferences speeds things up too if you need to do some free drawing.

• http://www.omairarts.com Omair Rais

Excellent Tutorial

Thanks
Omair Rais
http://www.omairarts.com

• http://http.//fabianfucci.blogspot.com/ Fabián Fucci

The operation is equivalent to creating a square, rotating it by 45 degrees, and scaling it vertically by 57.735% (this is the tangent of 30 degrees). It’s like pushing a square standing upright on a point downwards.

However, most of vector design programs apply transformations to the object’s bounding box too, so you lose the ‘vertical’ direction after the first rotation with the ‘intuitive’ method just mentioned. The SSR method is a nice turnaround to this problem.

The number 86.602 is the cosine of 30 degrees.

• http://www.tkawaidesign.com T|Kawai

Aaaah, so thats how you do it!

• http://igregurec.net igregurec

it’s nice to see that someone is still doing that in the old fashioned way cause it’s now couple of clicks in 3d program if you got the model

• Cody Walker

Thank you everyone for the great response!

Pratik > I think you may be right! I have some old reference that uses 86.062 but after reading your comment I did some searching and found it both ways in several different places online. So I’ll have to confirm, but what you said makes sense.

• http://www.thendenze.com Thendenze

Very very good tutorial

• http://www.marcorecuero.com marco recuero

un gran tutorial

• ZPaolo

Good tutorial and neat idea, nonetheless if you have the 3d model (and with such blueprints you can build it in a snap in any decent CAD system) and software like Arbortext ISODraw you can obtain the same results effortlessly…

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• richard

woaaa . well or you just model it in something like blender and setup isometric a cam
and export as vector ^^

• http://www.gnurf.net/v3 Paul Söderholm

Great tutorial!

Been a while since I made these kind of illustrations, so this one will be very handy next time I do a SSR image. Especially the 86.062 value was good to know!

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• vin

awesome! I have to do one for class so this is just perfect timing. Thanks man

• http://www.grafikwerx.com Manny

Using CAD/Blender to export models is valid–if you have access to them. A lot of times the illustrator doesn’t have access to such files and must produce art in an efficient and timely manner and there’s no guarantee they’ll know how to use a 3D program.

• hlaiken

Thanks for putting together this tutorial, it was perfectly timed for some technical drawings that I had to do.

Pratik is correct though, it is 86.602% this becomes evident once you try to create any boxes that are not cubes.