Liven up your poster printing projects or website designs with a butterfly that jumps off the page.

Design a 3D Butterfly Using Illustrator

A 3D illustration can really add a lot of depth to a design. Liven up your poster printing projects or website designs with a butterfly that jumps off the page using this 3D butterfly tutorial. Creating your butterfly in Illustrator is not only easy but also will give you a vector design that you can resize without losing any quality. Simply follow the 14 steps below and you'll have a beautiful butterfly that will look good on any design!

Using the Pen tool, draw a butterfly wing. It should look almost like an upside down water drop. Use the Direct Selection tool to perfect the wing if necessary.

Draw a butterfly wing 

Select the Scale tool and right click anywhere on the path of the shape you created. Go to Transform>Scale. In the box that appears, choose Uniform and change it to 50%. Then click Copy.

Scale Tool  Scale

Duplicate this action by hitting Ctrl+D or using the same steps as above while selecting the smaller shape.


Stroke Size and Color
Arrange the two smaller shapes near the inner part of the wing using the Selection tool. Then select all shapes (hold down Shift while selecting each individually or use the Selection tool to drag around all shapes) and change the stroke to at least 20 pts. Also, choose a color for your Stroke at this time.



Select the Rotate tool and change the Angle to -275. Or right click on the wing when it is selected and go to Transform>Rotate. Hit Copy.


Rotate Again

Move this copy beneath the first wing and select both wings again.


Outline Stroke and Clean Up
Now go to Object>Path>Outline Stroke. Then go to Object>Path>Clean Up. Select all three options in the box that appears. A new box may appear that says no clean up was necessary, which is fine.

Outline Stroke

Unite and Expand

Go to Window>Pathfinder. In the Pathfinder palette that appears, hold down Alt while clicking on the Unite button. Then click Expand. This makes the two wings one object.


Right click on the selected wing and go to Transform>Reflect; choose Vertical and Copy. Move this second set of wings into place, rotating it if necessary.


Unite Again
Select both wings and go back to Pathfinder. Once again, Alt-click on the Unite button and then click on Expand.


3D Effect

Now go to Effect>3D>Extrude and Bevel. Change the Extrude Depth to 20 pt., change Bevel to Rolling, and the Height to 5 pts. Do not worry if the warning "Bevel self-intersection may have occurred" since this should only be minor and unnoticeable once we fill the wings with color. Click OK.

3D Effect

New Layer
Before filling the wings, first create a new layer. Go to Window>Layers and in the Layers palette, click on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the palette, and drag the new layer below the first layer. Lock the first layer by clicking in the second box to the left of the layer.

New Layer

With the bottom layer selected, choose the Pen tool and trace the shapes of the wings. Choose any color for the fill at this time and choose No Stroke. Do not worry about getting the wings outlined perfectly, just as long as the fill completely covers the background of the wings.


Fill this layer with a gradient by opening the Gradient palette (Window>Gradient). Double-click on the right-hand slider box to open the color palette and choose a lighter color than the stroke of your wings.


Draw Abdomen
To draw the abdomen of the butterfly, create a new layer and drag this below the first two. Lock the first two layers. Choose the Pen tool and set the stroke to a desired color and the fill to black so that you can make sure the entire abdomen covers the space between the two wings.


3D Effect and Gradient Fill
Change the stroke to 10 pt. and go to Effect>3D>Extrude and Bevel again. Change the Extrude Depth to 10 pt., Bevel to Rolling, and Height to 1 pt. Go to Gradient and change the fill to a gradient color of your choice. Your butterfly is now complete and ready for use!


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