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  1. #1

    Tutorial Create an isometric tower in Illustrator

    There was a recent request for a tutorial on to creating isometric city icons in Inkscape. I'm not an Inkscape user, but hopefully some or all of these Illustrator techniques can be adapted.

    Creating an isometric round castle tower with crenelations in Adobe Illustrator CS3.

    Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a rectangle of appropriate height and width for your tower.

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    Create another rectangle the size of the spaces of your crenelations. Make this rectangle a different color than the first rectangle so you can see it easily. This rectangle will be used to cut out the spaces on the top of the tower. Place it over the top of the original rectangle where you want your first crenel to go.

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    Using the Selection Tool (V), click on the second rectangle once, then hold down alt and start dragging the rectangle to a new position. While you're dragging, press shift to constrain movement to a straight horizontal line. When the new rectangle is in the position you want it, release the mouse button before you release alt and shift.

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    You now have a second small rectangle. Use Ctrl-D (command-D if you're working in MacOS) to make additional copies—each new copy will appear spaced exactly like the first one, so you don't need to guess to make each crenel identical.

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    Again using the Selection Tool, drag a marquee around all of the objects to select them all. Open the Pathfinder Window (Ctrl-Shift-F9). In the Pathfinder Window, click the Subtract button—the second from the left on the top row.

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    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  2. #2


    Then click “Expand.” You now have a crenelated wall.

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    Depending on the relative spacing, the last crenel might not be the right size. You can use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the two nodes on that side of the wall and click-drag them to where you want them to be. Again, hold down Shift to constrain the movement to the horizontal axis.

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    If you want square towers, you could copy the wall then use the Shear Tool to modify the shape of the walls to fake perspective, but we're going to get a little more complex and make a round tower instead.

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    First, make a copy of the wall. Each of the walls will be distorted in a different direction to make the front and back of the tower. Set the copy aside for now—we'll get to it later. Select the original wall, and go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp. In the window that pops up, tick the “Preview” box so you can see the results of your manipulations.

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    The default setting of Arc isn't what we're after—it slants the sides of the tower. From the drop-down box, choose Arch. The Bend value depends on how high a perspective you want; 27% is pretty good for my purposes, so I'll leave it there. Click OK to accept the distortion.

    The tower still doesn't look quite round, so we're going to tweak the corners a little bit. Zoom in on one of the top corners and use the Direct Selection tool to play with the control handles.

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    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  3. #3


    Pointing the handle straight up makes the side of the tower look more round.

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    However, once you've done that on both sides, you will see that the middle of the wall is now distorted. This new distortion is easy to fix, though. Select both of the nodes in the middle of the path, and drag them upward. The ripple will vanish as the nodes stop fighting with each other.

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    That takes care of the back part of the tower. Return to the copy you made earlier; this is the front part of the tower. The front works the same way as the back, except you need to change the sign of the Bend value. My 27% becomes -27%, so the Arch is exactly reversed. Move the copy over the original and adjust the nodes so that the tower top appears round.

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    Since this part of the wall is in front, you'll also need to adjust the nodes at the bottom to complete the effect.

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    Only one step remains: You need a floor for the guards to stand on. Right now, the tower is an empty cylinder. A simple ellipse (L) in a different color serves to finish it off. Send it behind the front wall with Ctrl-[ (Command-[ on Macs), and adjust its dimensions to match the roundness of the back wall.

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    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  4. #4


    Add a few finishing details, select the entire tower, and group it (Ctrl-G). Find the new group in your layers window (Window > Layers), and double-click on it to give it a meaningful name. Now you're ready to copy it as many times as you need. If you anticipate using your tower over and over, you could even turn it into a symbol. Open the Symbols window (Window > Symbols), drag the tower into the window, and give the new symbol a name. Click on the drop-down palette menu and choose “Save Symbol Library...” Now you will have easy access to your tower in any Illustrator drawing you make.

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    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  5. #5
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
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    Looks like I'll have a use for this for my current challenge entry...thanks a million man Now I just gotta get myself comfortable with Illustrator.
    If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
    -J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atom bomb) alluding to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11, Verse 32)

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  6. #6
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Steel General's Avatar
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    Very nice Midgard!

    I'd give you a *bonk* but I need to spread some more 'luv' around.
    My Finished Maps | My Challenge Maps | Ghoraja Juun, my largely stagnated campaign setting.

    Unless otherwise stated by me in the post, all work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

  7. #7


    Sheer Genius! If I were doing this in drawplus I would have tried to draw it curved from the start! Curse my tiny mind!! thank you for opening up a new world for me!

  8. #8


    I actually tried initially to pull the crenels down by hand from an ellipse, but it was taking forever. And since the final image is going to be a tiny little icon, I couldn't see taking that long for just one detail.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

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