The totally possible isometric cube

On the left is the impossible cube by MC Escher, a classic optical illusion which defies time and space. Lines intersect with each other and come toward us and recede, and often we can get lost trying to follow where we are expecting the line to take us and where it actually goes. It can’t exist as an actual four sided cube and in the real world version of this as a 3D object the lines in fact don’t meet up.

The impossible cube is an isometric drawing with a twist. The cube on the right, is a standard isometric drawing, and what this post will cover. It is a challenge to create the 3d shape as well, and to understand the 3D nature of drawing a cube as isometric.

What is Isometric Drawing?

Isometric drawing is a way to graphically represent a 3D shape. Graphic designers, artists, product designers, architects and industrial designers would use this drawing method to communicate to clients what their product, artwork, building or packaging might look like.

Learning Goal for this lesson: Explore and make a 3D cube in Illustrator, using pen tool, gradient and pathfinder

Step 1 – 3D cube

There are various ways you can create an Isometric drawing, by hand or using a set square and a T-square. This first step today is to create a cube using an isometric grid and the pen tool in illustrator. Use the file your teacher has provided.

Once you have completed this step, and coloured each face of the cube a different colour, move along to the next step.

Step 2 – Initials

For step 2, create your initials in the isometric grid in Illustrator, the same one you made the cube in. Create a new layer for these initials in the layers panel by clicking on the ‘new layer’ icon. If you’re not sure what this one is, hover your mouse over the different sections of the layers panel until you see the words ‘new layer’. It is along the bottom part of the panel and is a square with a small plus sign in it.

Use the click and release method to draw out your initials with the pen tool, exactly like the technique we just used to create whole shapes of the different faces of the letters of your name. This is not as easy as it looks! Some letters are more challenging than others. If you have two letters the same in your name try another letter as well. For curved letters in this exercise you can make them more block like and angular.

Take care to consider how the colours work together, make it bright and fun! Consider the different faces of the letters and ensure you use some difference between them. On this exercise you must use the gradient tool.

Step 3 – Cube, gradient and pathfinder

You’ve done a great job getting this far! Lets get cracking on the big one!

Open the file and inside there are two templates for the front squares and the rear squares. You can toggle these on and off in. your layers panel.

Here is what the front will look like eventually:

And here is what the back part of the cube will look like:

To start with we want to work on the front part, so ensure you have the pink template visible and are working in the top layer which is called ‘front cube sections’.

After drawing the one side in Illustrator the rest you can copy and paste and finish up with a totally possible isometric cube!

Lastly you can include a paper texture. I like the ones from as they are high quality and don’t pixelate when added to Illustrator.

Learning designer, digital designer and educator with extensive experience teaching creative subjects. Qualifications include: MA Creative Media (Multimedia), Ba Arts (Fine Art), Cert IV Training and Assessment, Dip Training Design and Development, Dip Vocational Education and Training, currently studying an MA in Secondary Education.

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