How to make a vector geometric cube abstract background - Illustrator

In this tutorial we are going to use Adobe Illustratorís 3D Extrude and Bevel feature to create a retro geometric abstract cube background.

Step 1:  Select the Rectangle tool (M) and create a perfect square.  (If you hold down the Shift key while drawing the square it will maintain even proportions).  Take note of the dimensions of your square as you will need to enter them in the next steps.  Color doesn’t matter at this point as we will be filling in our own gradients later.

Step 2:  With your square selected, go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel.

Step 3: I made a custom rotation for this tutorial, but you can choose any direction you like.  There are only a few fields that you need to make sure you fill out properly:

Step 3A:  Make sure that your Extrude Depth is set to the same size that you made your square.  In my example, my square is 488px wide by 488px high, therefore I set my extrude depth to 488 pt.

Step 3B: If you don’t see the options listed under the Surface as shown in the picture, look to the right of the dialog box and there should be a button that says “More Options.” Click on that to reveal the full information.  Make sure that the checkbox next to “Draw Hidden Faces” is checked.

Now we have a full cube that we are ready to work with.  Click on “OK” to finish making the cube complete.

Step 4:  Select your new cube and go to Object > Expand Appearance.  This will apply the 3D effect to the square and allow you to edit all sides of it.

Step 5:  This first thing we will do is arrange copies of the cube into a design.  To do this, you will make a copy of the cube (ctrl + C) and then paste the copy (ctrl + V) onto your artboard.  You will continue to make copies and line them up until you are satisfied with the layout.  I am using a very simple layout with only 9 cubes.

Step 6:  Take note of where your cubes are placed in relation to one another.  If you move a pasted cube and it looks wrong (see below), it is because you pasted it in front of a cube it shouldn’t be in front of, so the perspective is wrong.  The cube in the picture should be behind those other cubes.  To fix this, simply send that cube to the back.  Object > Arrange > Send to Back.  OR Ctrl + [

Step 7:  Before we start to deconstruct the cubes it will be easier if we apply the colors to each one first.  For this tutorial I am using a few different color gradients that go from light to dark.  All gradients are simple, linear gradients.  These are the colors I used.

Step 8:  Apply the gradients to each cube.  This will also make sure that you can tell if your cubes are arranged properly in front of or behind each other.

Step 9: Now you are going to randomly move some of the sides of the cubes in order to “open” them up.  With the Direct Selection tool (A), select some sides at random and move them slightly away from their cubes.  Keep pulling the cubes open until you are satisfied with the design.

Note:  If you pull the side of the box and see that the inner or bottom squares are not there, it is because you did not check “Draw Hidden Faces” in Step 3.

Step10: At this point, you can go ahead and add a background to the design.  I chose a solid #DDD6C7 for this tutorial.

Step 11: Now you will want to select all of the cubes (not the background) and set the blend mode to Multiply.  If you find that your image doesn’t look right, you may have to ungroup each cube so that it shows through on itself.  To do this, simple select each cube and go to Object > Ungroup (Ctrl + Shift + G).

Step 12:  To add the outlines, simply select all of the cubes and make a copy, then paste onto a new layer.  Make sure to use “Paste in Front” (Ctrl + F).  You can also just drag the whole layer onto the add new layer button in your Layers Palette.

Step 13:  Remove the gradient fill from the cubes and add a fairly large sized stroke to the cubes.  I used the color #CEC3B2 for my stroke and set it at 5pt.

Step 14:  Select all the strokes and expand them:  Object > Expand.  Check the box for “Stroke” and click OK.

Step 15:  After the strokes are expanded, change the Transparency mode to Overlay.

Step 16:  Make a copy of the stroked cube layer and make sure that this layer is on top of all the other layers.  Change the transparency mode to Color Burn and then move the cube outlines slightly away from their original position.

And there you have it.  At this point you can add some grunge elements or text if you would like, congratulations you are done!

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