How to Make a Cube in Adobe Illustrator

A cube? Are we getting into 3D design? Whenever people asked if I could make a 3D design before, my answer was always: NO! With a bit of fear. 

But since I tried the 3D effect in Adobe Illustrator a couple of years ago, I found out that it’s actually not that difficult. Of course, I’m talking about some basic 3D-looking designs. Although graphic design is mostly 2D, cooperating some 3D effects can make something pretty cool. 

By the way, who says a cube has to be 3D? It can be 2D as well and you don’t need to use the 3D effect if you don’t feel comfortable with it. 

In this tutorial, you will learn two how to make a 2D and 3D cube in Adobe Illustrator. 

Let’s dive in!

How to Make a Cube in Adobe Illustrator (2D & 3D)

Depending on the effect you want to create, you can make a Cube to fit in your 2D graphic design or a 3D style using the Extrude & Bevel effect.

Note: all screenshots are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC 2021 Mac version. Windows or other versions can look different. 

Making a 2D cube

Step 1: Select the Polygon Tool from the toolbar. Usually, it’s on the same menu as the rectangle tool. 

Click on the artboard to make a 6 sided polygon. 

Step 2: Select the polygon and rotate it 330 degrees. You can rotate it manually or double click on the Rotate Tool to input the exact angle value.

You can also scale the polygon to make it bigger or smaller. Click and drag on any corner of the bounding box, and hold the Shift key to scale proportionally. 

Step 3: Select the Line Segment Tool (\) from the toolbar. 

Click on the bottom anchor point of the polygon and draw a line from there to the center. If your smart guide is on, it’ll show when you reach the center. 

Repeat the same step for the other two corners to connect the lines to the center, and you’ll see a cube. 

Step 4: Select all (the polygon and the lines) and choose the Shape Builder Tool (Shift+M) from the toolbar. 

Click on the three surfaces of the cube. 

They will become shapes instead of lines. You can separate them to double-check if the shapes are built. 

Put them back together after you make sure the shapes are formed and you’re pretty much done. Now you can add colors to your cube! 

Tip: After adding colors, I recommend grouping the object together if you want to move around. 

Not exactly the effect you’re looking for? You can also make a more 3D-looking cube using the 3D effect.

Making a 3D cube 

Step 1: Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the toolbar, hold the Shift key to draw a square. 

Step 2: With the square selected, go to the overhead menu and select Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel

A 3D Extrude and Bevel Options window will show. Yeah, it can look confusing, but actually, it’s not that complicated. Remember to check the Preview box to see the changes and process as you modify. 

I’m going to quickly go over the options here for making a 3D cube, basically, we’ll only be adjusting the Position, Extrude Depth, and Surface lighting options. 

Position should be pretty easy to understand, it shows the perspective of how you want to view the 3D shape, you can choose an option from the position options, adjust the angle from the value box, or manually move the shape on the axis to change the positions.  

Extrude Depth specifies the depth of the object. In simple words, how far is the shading color (black in this case) from the (square) surface? 

For example, the default value was 50 pt (you can see how it looks from the screenshot above), now I increase the value to 100 pt, and it looks “deeper” and more 3D. 

There are different Surface options you can choose from, and there will be different options to adjust lighting and style. 

A common cube effect is made from Plastic Shading, which makes the object reflect light and creates a shiny effect. When you choose a surface style, you can adjust the lighting accordingly. You can also change the shading color to make a better match. 

Click OK when you’re happy with how it looks. That’s it! It’s not that complicated to make a 3D object. 

You can change the color, add or remove the stroke.

If you want a detailed explanation of making 3D objects, you might want to explore and try the different options of each setting. 

Conclusion

Actually, it’s a pretty clear A or B choice. If you want to make a 2D cube, use the polygon tool, line tool, and shape builder tool. If you want to create a more realistic 3D style cube, choose the Extrude & Bevel effect. It can be more complicated than making a 2D cube, just take your time to explore the options and styles.

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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  • Sd

    Illustrator has new 3D feature in latest version

  • June Escalada

    Yes! I just got the CC 2022 version and saw that feature. Pretty cool. Basically it’s the same effect but easier to manipulate the different settings.