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Tutorial: How to create a 3D vector using Cinema 4D and Illustrator

3D is a useful and important tool for graphic designers. Not only it is highly useful for prototypes, interior and construction design, it also comes in handy for graphics and logos. While you can have raster and vectors mashed up in a graphic design, a logo and a t shirt design has to be strictly vector. You can create 3D in Illustrator but the engine is not up to the mark and the dedicated 3D programs render in raster formats but still you can try vector exports; alas they will disappoint you again. So if you want a perfect 3D vector for the logo project or T-shirt design project you are working on you have come to the right place.

In this tutorial you will learn how to create a striking 3D vector logo. I used Cinema 4D as my 3D software but you can use any 3D program. This logo was created by me for a band called “Traced in Shadows”.

Step 1 – Render settings…

Having the correct render settings is very important. These are the render settings I used for my project:

Output : 1920*1080 at 72 ppi.

Save: Format- PNG with Alpha Channel on (this will render without a background).

Anti Aliasing : Best at min. and max. 16*16 each.

Apply Global Illumination

NO Ambient Occlusion please.


Step 2 – Model the Logo …

The first step is to model the logo. And here is what mine looked like.


Step 3 – Apply the materials …

This is a crucial step because how you edit the materials will determine the quality of your vector. Don’t apply any specular or colors just apply a luminance which will give your logo perfect color and make it easier to vectorize. Here is how my “Material Editor” looked like…

Step 4 – Add a camera object…

This is relatively simple, just go to “Scene Objects” and add a “Camera” object

Step 5 – Lighting

Lighting is important too but we do not want realistic lighting because it will ruin the vector. So I found out the trick for perfect lighting:

a) Create a Sphere.

b) Enlarge it so that it engulfs the subject of your logo.

c) Apply a plain white material(only luminance) to it.

d) Apply a composting tag to it and disable the “Seen by Camera” option in the the “Tag” panel.

Step 6 – Rendering.

Render out your logo and now you are halfway through…

Step 7 – Open up the PNG file in Adobe Illustrator.

Open the render in the Illustrator.

Step 8 – Live Trace the image…

Yes you read it correct; Live Trace the image. It is the easiest and fastest way to vectorize anything and because your logo is without shadows and stuff, the trace will be perfect. Be careful about your tracing presets and choose them according to the number of colors you have in your logo. Also, go to Advanced Trace Settings and check the “Ignore White” box. This will give you a transparent background…

Play around with the settings until you get the perfect trace and then go to Object>Live Trace>Expand which will give you the paths.

This is my trace…


Step 9 – Saving

Save it as an AI file and EPS file. These are the formats most clients require and which you need for submitting designs on Design Crowd.


So now you know how to create a perfect 3D vector using Cinema 4D and Illustrator. This tutorial will come in handy for a lot of 3D logo projects, t-shirt projects and what not. So thanks for bearing with me. Hope this was helpful and enjoyable.

Sarao Arts is a freelance graphic designer from Winnipeg, Canada. See his DesignCrowd portfolio here

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