Illustrator Tutorial: Disco Ball

Disco Ball Illustrator Tutorial

I did a quick search to find an illustrator tutorial on creating a vector disco ball but I couldn’t find one. So I’ve decided to write this tutorial to help those interested in creating this awesome disco ball effect. It is actually quite simple, the technique is to create the texture first and map it onto the 3D sphere. However, we will require Illustrator CS and above to create this awesome Illustrator effect.

1. Create the disco ball texture

First, we need to turn on the grid and enable snapping. Go View>Show Grid and View>Snap to Grid. With the Rectangle Tool draw a grey square with a 1pixel white stroke. You realise it will snap perfectly to the grid while drawing. Using the Selection Tool, select the grey square and hold Alt/Option as you drag to the side. This will duplicate a new square.

Press Ctrl/Command+D to duplicate a row of 20 squares. Select the whole row of squares. Hold Alt/Option and drag below to duplicate a new row of squares. Repeat this by pressing Ctrl/Command+D. Do this until you get a 20 by 20 rows of squares.

With the Selection Tool, select a square. Hold Shift and randomly select a number of different squares and fill it with a shade of teal color. Repeat the steps until you have a range of 5 different shades all spread out. Select all the squares and duplicate by holding Alt/Option and drag it to the right side. Now open your Symbols Palette by going to Window>Symbol. Create a new symbol by dragging all the square into it. And we are done with our texture.

2. Create a 3D sphere

Now draw a circle with the Circle Tool. Hold Shift as you drag to create a perfect circle. Next, draw a rectangle that overlaps the circle in the middle. Select both shapes and open up your Pathfinder Palette. Hold Alt/Option and click Subtract from shape area. This will create a semi-circle.

With the semi-circle still selected, go Effect>3D>Revolve. Choose Map Art and select the texture we created under Symbol. Click Scale to Fit to fill up the whole sphere. Press Ok to confirm.

Under 3D Revolve Options, select No Shading for Surface and turn the Preview option on. Spin the cube to create the angle of the disco ball you want. Click Ok to confirm. We are done with our disco ball.

3D Revolve Options

3. Add sparkles and glow

Draw a circle and fill it with Radial Gradient. Open up your Transparency Palette and set the Normal to Screen. This will create a glow on the disco ball.

We will need to add in more sparkles. Select the Star Tool, click and drag to create a basic star. Without releasing your mouse, press Arrow Up key to increase the number of points. Hold Ctrl/Command and drag to adjust the radius until you get the shape below. Next, we draw a Circle and fill up with a Radial Gradient as shown below. Align both in the center and set them to Screen under Transparency Palette. Select both and duplicate a few with different sizes to add sparkles to the disco ball.

Star Tool

4. Disco Ball Reflections

Let’s begin to do the disco reflection. Create a black solid circle. Select it and press Ctrl/Command+C to copy it. Paste it to the front by pressing Ctrl/Command+F to paste in front. Hold Shift and grab to corners to resize it smaller. Fill it with white after that. Select the Blend Tool and click the white circle once then hold Alt/Option and click the black circle. The Blend Options will pop up. Set a value of 6 steps and choose Specified Steps for it. Expand it by going to Object>Expand to break them into individual circles.

Duplicate a few of the reflections and spread them around. Select all the reflections and group them by pressing Ctrl/Command+G and go Effect>Warp>Fisheye. Play around with the options until you find something you like. Go Object>Expand Appearances to expand the warp after that.

Next we create a new rectangle above the reflections. Give it a Radial Gradient from teal to black color. With the Gradient Tool we can click and drag in the gradient to create the gradient below. Open up Transparency Palette and set it to Multiply.

Finally we will create a faint glow for the disco cube. Draw a circle and fill it with Radial Gradient. Go to the Layers Palette and move it behind the disco ball and your done!

Here’s the final disco ball. Hope this tutorial has helped you have a better understanding of using the Map Art in 3D Revolve.

Disco Ball Final

Bonus Tip: We can further make changes to the disco ball by going to Window>Appearance and double click 3D Revolve (Mapped).

Download Source File
Download Source File

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  1. AWESOME tutorial!!! I’ve been BEGGING for someone to teach me what happened to the 3D distort! This is a beautiful work around! Thank you so much

  2. I figured out what I did. Just in case you’re new like me…make sure the circle doesn’t have a stroke. I changed that and now it works. πŸ™‚

  3. Yes, you will need to expand it and clean up the file if you are submitting to istock. You will also need to give up transparency effects. It’s a lot more troublesome.

  4. Pingback:
  5. Want to save yourself A LOT of steps? To make the 20×20 grid do this instead. 1) Create a large square 2) Object > Envelope Distort > Make with mesh 3) Choose 20 columns by 20 rows 4) There is no step 4

  6. yes, this is awsome tutorial… the great one… very easy to learn…. thanks allllllllloooooooooooottttttttttt……………………………

  7. Great tutorial, but I can’t seem to get the final step , getting the final result to render. I am using CS2 and that might be why? When I try to use it effect on a full circle it works (donut shape) but with many tries on the half circle the best I get are the squars applied very much elongated horizontally.

    Thanks tho

  8. Want to save yourself some steps, to make the semi-circle?
    Use the direct selection tool to select one of the anchorpoint from the side of the circle
    Delete the selected anchorpoint, and use the pen tool to connect the open ends from the semi circle.

    awsome tut btw!

  9. For anyone getting the “donut” effect, change your offset in the revolve options from left or right or vise-versa.

  10. yes, nice, only that the first step might be easier achieved by using Split into grid on a rectangle.

  11. Hey awesome tutorial. I’m a newbie…so how do you add the sparkles and then then the reflections and the faded white outline?

  12. Hi Bob, See step 3 to create sparkles and reflections. I guess a lot of people miss out page 2. Anyway I have combined all in a page. Hope it is better now.

  13. i’m also a newbie here… and i love your tutorials! but in step 3 when i try to make that circle with a radial gradient and pretty much do it all, why is it that instead of a glow i just get a semi-transparent white circle?

  14. Great tutorial, thanks a lot, it just help me for one of my homeworks, I was doing a very sucky disco ball by miself, so triying to vectorize from a real one I just find this tutorial and all I have to say is Thanks man!!!, you saved me a lot of time

  15. Nice job. I have mapped a can with a label created. want to show the back of the can, but it is not mapping in color, only light shades of grey. I tried adjusting the plastic shade lighting effect. Any advice?

  16. Thanks to Ash for pointing out the stroke issue!!

    But now i cant seem to get the initial glow on the disco ball ( point #3). It still has a hard edge to it. Anyone know what i’m doing wrong? Thanks!

  17. Ah nevermind i figured it out!

    For those of you having the same problem, do an opacity mask πŸ™‚

  18. Hi i was doing the tutorial and i am having trouble when i get to the 3-d revolve map art part. I scale to fit and after i did everything, the symbol didn’t show up on the ball it was just black is there something I am missing? I thought I was doing all the steps right. Please help.

  19. supper tutorials for beginners !!! it will causes to know what is Illustrator.AWESOME tutorial!!! I’ve been BEGGING for someone to teach me what happened to the 3D distort! This is a beautiful work around! Thank you so much

  20. excellent disco ball created from a equally great tutorial but i can’t seem to resize it in illustrator. i have tried to resize manually as well as using the scale tool. where am i going wrong? i have already expanded the disco ball.

  21. I have the same problem as ash and I can’t figure out what they mean by the stroke…the stroke of what??

  22. Rick, make sure that there is no Stroke on the half circle. Select the half circle and click the white square with the red line through it while the stroke feature is in the foreground of (and very bottom of) your tools palette.

  23. This is a wicked tutorial, I was a beginner with 3D shapes, now I can create spheres n balls!

    My only criticism is that you could have sped up the grid/swatch making part by creating a rectangle with a 5 colour gradient, then turn it into a mosiac!

    Excellent job though, I know much better for trying this!

  24. Hi! Thanks for the excellent tutorial. Is it possible to design text, so that it looks like made of water? I mean, written with water? If possible, please would you share the tips – how to make them?


  25. When ever I make the circle for the glow effect, the outside is very crisp, and when I try to blend it with the blend tool, it doesn’t work. Advice?

  26. Hey All this seems like a great tutorial but following all of the steps I don’t get the same results, the only way I can even have the symbol show up at all on the 3d sphere is to turn on plastic shading and have the map be effected by shading. When I turn it to no shading I get a filled circle. I’ve noticed a few others had the same problem…. was there a solution someone found that works for them? I agree this is a great introduction into the 3d shapes.

  27. Hey all, if anyone else is having the issue I did earlier try removing any gradients from the squares on your symbol, I was getting only part of the symbol displaying for some reason, like it was being clipped. If you notice something weird maybe try that, great tutorial though, very helpful once it worked.

  28. Absolutely love this one – but quite an involved process – will have to brush up on my illustrator techniques AND I’ll have to bookmark this page because I seriously doubt I will remember the steps. Thanks for your expertise…..

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  30. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyways, just wanted to say excellent blog!

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