In this technique, we’ll create a blend of 3D objects and export it as an animated Flash file. We’ll create a series of objects that emulate the rotation of an item through space. We’ll create one 3D object and duplicate it, adjust the 3D settings, and then blend the two.

You can download the Illustrator file here with the shapes I used.

You can also see this technique demonstrated in video here:


Draw a simple path that outlines the silhouette of the product chopped in half to create a basic object. I drew half of a bottle. Later we’ll revolve the art around the Y-axis to create the complete effect and then map the product logo and art onto the surfaces.


Set the Stroke to None and set the Fill to the primary color you want for your product. Create the art that will be mapped to the surfaces of your product nearby so that you will have a clear sense of scale. I drew a rectangle with some text and a circle. You can use the Shape, Pen, or Pencil tools to draw and fill the shape with color.


Next, select the art for the product’s surface and click the New Symbol icon at the base of the Symbols palette. Do this for each piece of art. In this example, all the items that make up the label should be one symbol and all of the objects that make the pattern for the cap are a second symbol. After you make the art into symbols, delete the original art from the page, leaving the half shape that we’ll make 3D.


Select the half shape we drew earlier and go to Effect>3D>Revolve. In the dialog, make sure that the Revolve Angle is set to 360° and the Cap is set to On. Set the X, Y, and Z rotation values as you desire.


Click the Map Art button. Click on the forward arrows to navigate through the surfaces. The currently selected surface will highlight with a red mesh in the document. Select an appropriate design for the surface from the Symbol drop-down menu in the Map Art dialog. A thumbnail of your pattern appears on the surface in the preview pane. Drag it around to position it, keeping in mind that dark gray areas are currently not visible in the document. If you have a second piece of art, map that one as well the same way on a different area and then click OK to exit all the way out to the document.


Once back in the document, copy and paste the 3D object, or duplicate it by pressing Option (PC: Alt) and then click-and-drag the 3D object to another part of the canvas. Using the Selection tool, drag the new art away from the original.


With only the new art selected, open the Appearance palette (Window>Appearance). Locate the 3D Revolve (mapped) effect in the palette and double click on it. This opens up the options so that you can adjust them. Reset the rotation values to bring the art around so that it is back upright. The copied version of the art gets its own rotation values. This will eventually be the final frame in the animation, so we are bringing it back around to upright.


Select both versions of the product and choose Object>Blend>Make. This will likely produce too few intermediate objects to be useful. Remember that each instance of the art will be a frame in an animation.


To add additional objects, leave the items selected and choose Object>Blend>Blend Options. Set the Spacing to Specified Steps and dial in the number of objects you want between the two. A good rule of thumb here is to figure out the time you want the animation to take and multiply it by the frames per second of your clip. So, if you had a half second animation running at 12 frames per second, you would need 6 objects. In that case you would need four steps in your blend (the original two objects, plus the four intermediate objects).


Adjust the blend as you see fit. You can move the individual objects and adjust their 3D settings.


With the blend complete, let’s make a background. The key here is to set up the background art on one layer and the blend on another. Create a new layer by clicking on the New Layer button at the base of the Layers palette. In the Layers palette, drag the new layer below all of the other layers in the document. Move the background art onto the bottom layer by cutting and pasting it from another document or creating it within the bottom layer.


Now let’s export the animation. Choose File: Export. In the Export dialog, choose Macromedia Flash (SWF) from the Format menu. Give the file a name and save location. Press Export.


In the Macromedia Flash (SWF) Format Options dialog, Select AI Layers to SWF Frames from the Export As menu.


Click the Animate Blends checkbox and select the In Sequence radio button. This replaces each object in each frame in the animation as it plays, rather than leaving them on the screen. The result is the illusion of motion. The alternate option In Build leaves each object in the frames on screen as it plays the next. I selected the Clip to Artboard Size to crop artwork outside of the document size, causing the art to come in from out of frame.


Check the Use as Background button and highlight the Background layer you made in the previous steps. This sets the contents of that layer as a backdrop for the animation. It will appear in every frame.


Set the remaining options as desired. Usually, the default settings will be fine. Click OK.

Here’s the final result.