# 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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• BriScrye

THere is a student project where you create an isometric projection of a product box that follows the same steps/procedure… I like this take on it but wonder if it’s too much for a first semester of Illustrator instruction?

• http://www.contempographicdesign.com Chris Robinson

really nice technique

• Facundo

quote:
“This is an example of an exploded isometric of a Stratocaster I did a few years ago with this method.”

the explode illustration of the example isn’t a Stratoccaster, it looks like a Gibson SG (that one use the guitarrist of ACDC).

The tutorial is really good. Thanx for share.

• Idiot

No. It’s a strat. Look it up.

• Ross McVinnie

Not sure if this is an easier way to make a cube or if it is even correct but here goes:

Draw a square. Vertically scale 115%. Shear vertically 30º. Rotate 60º. You now have the top face of your cube.

Left face: Repeat above steps but don’t rotate 60º.

Right face: Repeat steps again but shear vertically -30º instead of 30º.

Like I say, this seems easier to me, if only because 115% is easier to remember than 86.062 but it also seems like less rotating. Quite happy to be shot down though if I’m wrong.

All the best.

• http://triswan.wordpress.com/ Triswan

cool…. i always wanted to draw this kinda stuff

• http://eneskaya.de Enes

Really awesome and useful tutorial, thanks for that!

But what I don’t get is how you did the thicker border on the outside of the Box. I really have no clue, could somebody explain it for me… that’d be nice :)

• http://www.ericdubois.com/ Eric Dubois

Setting up 3 actions for “left”, “right” and “top” really speeds things up, and avoids typing in the wrong #s.

For the thicker outline, you can either copy the line segments, paste in place and change the thickness, or you can copy everything, paste in place, use pathfinder -> add to shape area (to combine all 3 sides) and change the thickness. You can also use the scissor tool to separate the segments. The option you choose depends on whether you need a fill for the object, for each face, or no fill.

• http://www.ericdubois.com/ Eric Dubois

Oh… I forgot other time-savers:
- Use smart guides (just turn object highlighting off so it doesn’t drive you crazy).
- Set Angles to 0, 30, 45, 90, 135, 150

• Daniel

When you are done with a part you can also rotate it again by insert 120 degrees in “Rotate”.

If you are using a European Adobe program you may need to use “,” instead if “.” when you write things like “86.062%”.

Also if you use “Move” (ctrl+shift+M, when you have select a object) you can move your parts in “3D” by moving them in the angel “30″, “-30″,”150″ and “-150″

When you are done and think you are ready, use the “Effect” -> “Distort and transform” -> “Free distort”. There you can give your 3D picture a more realistic appearance

• Bowman

This is a lot of work for something you could do in five seconds with any decent 3D program…

• http://www.nonamae.es Skaaven

But your output isn’t vectorial, or if you use vector renderings (like FinalToon), it isn’t as editable as with this method.

Very useful!

• Victor

I definitely appreciate the tutorial because it gives you the background information on one of the coolest design-styles ever! :)

However, there is a 3rd option to Bowman’s and Skaaven’s comments:
Create a flat shape, then go to Effect > 3D > Extrude and Bevel, and get the same Isometric effect quickly from the top drop-down box. This also automates the depth process (change the value of the Extrude Depth). Once you’re happy with your shape, go to Object > Expand Appearance, and the output is now a vector — you can Ungroup the items so you can edit all 3 sides separately, or you can leave it as-is and edit each side using the Direct Selection tool (white arrow).

What I find a little more difficult to replicate using the above method is the cut-out where the neck inset is. This is where the grid and the method nicely presented by Cody can prove quite useful. Thank you Cody!

• http://www.2ndstring1st.com/Resume Robert Wing

Actions, as mentioned by Bill and Eric, you can automate your development with Actions. Saves a lot of time.
Set up and name each Action to run a Right Hand Face, Left Hand Face, or Top Face. Set these actions to a key stroke.
Move, or copy, your elements to a ‘Working’ layer, run the Action, them move the finished elements to your original layer.
I prefer to do my fills in a layer under the line elements, makes for further editing much easier.
Speaking of Actions, set your line weight designations to Actions, and assign a keystroke. Now what several mouse movements, or key inputs use to take, can be done with one key.

• Mardian Alvethia T. Y.

this is exactly what i have been searching for hours!!!.. thx a lot man, i learn how to draw isometrically, but its been years, and now i need to do it again. thx a lot, you are really really good.. thx again.. hahaha.. now i can continue my presentation..

• jane

thanks a lot!
..gives back fun to my work!

• josema

• egaiken

I just make a regular hexagon and draw lines across point to give me the isometric box but the SSR method works too and using the guides…I use Corel X4 now and it gives you the iso projection box that makes this so easy.

• Fabio Fidanza

Thanks!
Truly amazing geometry magic!

• Marcus

Interesting, i followed the steps exactly, but everytime one of the sides is turning out longer, and sticking out. Am i doing something wrong, or there’s a typo somewhere in the tutorial?

• Matt

Great step by step!
I too had a problem with one side being a bit longer. I changed the vert. scale to 86.6 for all sides and it lines up much better now.

• Jay Hicks

Thanks for the reminder of shrinking the box by 86.062%. I knew it at one time and I spent forever on the web looking for it.
Thanks, Jay

• http://kouj.blogspot.com/ Kouj

Merci pour le tuto!

Histoire d’essayer le procédé, j’ai tenté de reproduire une gameboy…ça prend du temps…
http://kouj.blogspot.com/2012/03/game-boy-en-3d-isometrique-kouj.html

• http://unver.se Ron

The vertical scale should be 86.602%.

Let’s say we have a 100px by 100px box. If we shear that box 30 degrees the angles become 120 and 60, and our side lengths become 100px (horizontal) and 115.47px (vertical). As we are trying to produce an isometric perspective we want to correct the vertical side to be as close to 100px as possible.

Scaling the box vertically by 86.062 (the indicated value) corrects the vertical length to 99.375, which at large scales is a noticeable variance, and complicates producing overlay grids.

However using a more precise vertical scale solves the issue:
115.47 * 0.86603 = 100.00048… which is the closest you can get in Illustrator (Illustrator allows 3 decimal places when scaling).

If you have a more precise program the closest I was able to calculate to perfect vertical scale correction is:
86.60258076%

• Hank den Drijver

The scale factor should be 86.602 not 86.062.
I came across both numbers on the net so I grabbed my calculator.
The exact value is 0.5 * tan(60) which is approx. 0,866025403784439.

I guess if you do 86.6% it’s close enough, certainly much better than 86.062.

• Scott Henderson

Another way of looking at the correct vertical scale is cos(30) which as Ron and Hank pointed out is 86.602%.

• Jeff Scherr

This is beautiful. thank you!