Create a 3D model from raster line art with help from Adobe Illustrator

Have you ever found an image or even made a quick sketch (the old fashioned kind) and wanted to quickly make a 3D model out of it? If you have Adobe Illustrator and SketchUp Pro, here is a quick way to do that.

Place your image into an Adobe Illustrator document.

From the toolbar select “Image Trace” OR select the Image Trace dialog from the Illustrator Menu Window > Image Trace

Adjust the Image Trace settings. If you are just looking for flat shapes from line-art (or near line-art) images, the Black and White mode works well. Expand the traced image.

Right-click and select Ungroup. Then use the Illustrator Direct Select tool to shift-select just the parts you want to keep. Copy that selection and then select and delete everything. This is easier than selecting and removing the noise you want to delete.

Paste your selection back into the blank Illustrator workspace. From the Illustrator Menu Object > Path, you can tweak the anchor points. Simplify will allow you to convert segments to straight lines, which SketchUp seems to prefer.

Export your Illustrator document as either a .dxf or a .dwg file. Import into SketchUp Pro. You may need to heal surfaces manually or use a plugin like Make Faces. I draw a rectangle over my import and use Intersect with Selection to create faces.

SketchUp! You can Soften/Smooth edges to clean up any edge lines.


I did that a number of times in my previous job. Though I usually found the curves the rather dense so I used Edge Tools to simplify the curves.

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I have tried to you use the described steps on a logo, but it did not work. Here’s what I did:

  1. I have a logo created in Adobe Illustrator and exported it to *.dwg file format.
  2. I imported it into Sketchup 2015.
  3. Then I added a rectangle and selected both the rectangle and the logo in it.
  4. I then selected Edit > Intersect Faces > Intersect with Model.

Unfortunately, it did not created the faces in the right place. Since there are many curved lives, creating manual faces will be a hell of a job. Do you have any recommendations?
I can share the logo file if you need to see it.

Yeah, let’s see it.


If you send me an email at info@filamentworld, I will return by sending you the file.

The forum works by group discussion. I’d rather not give advice by private email, which puts me more in the position of unpaid private tutor–which I did not sign up for–than participant in a community discussion–which I did.

If you post your model with a clear description of the problem, you’re sure to get the help you need. If you don’t, it’s hard to predict what you’ll get.


Gully, no problem to post it in the forum. Though, the upload function of the forum does not support *.DWG. Please advise.

@jody - can you do your admin magic? DXF appear to also be missing.

I guess there are a couple of possibilities. First, you could import the dwg file into a new model and post the skp model file. I believe that would provide enough information to support specific recommendations on how to proceed.

Or, you could upload the dwg file to one of the many “cloud drive” servers and provide us a link to that.


Thanks for the advise!
I have imported the *.DWG logo file into Skecthup and saved it as “Filamentworld logo 3D.SKP”. So, here it is.Filamentworld logo 3D.skp (1.4 MB)

Fixed, I’m not sure how I omitted it. I’ve also added DXF and DAE since I saw them missing as well. I might as well go back and add AI as well real quick as well. (c:

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The logo is really complicated and the geometry within it is very small. What I did was to scale it up, first 10, then 100, then 1000 times. I then used the Drape command (Sandbox tools) to project the lines on a face. The bigger I scaled, the better results I got. In the attached the logo is scaled 1000 times, and it still has some missing segments, but not many.

Filamentworld logo 3D.skp (1.9 MB)

Actually, I didn’t need to scale it to fill in the faces. The main problem was that the three elements of the logo–the filament ball, the name Filament World, and the abbreviation .NL–were all in separate groups. You can’t really operate on the geometry in a group unless you either enter the group’s context (double-click to edit) or explode the group.

In the picture below, I separated and exploded the groups, made faces using the method you described, namely intersecting a rectangle with the logo linework, repaired a few minor errors such as Anssi mentioned, colored them, regrouped and re-superimposed them. I gave the text elements some thickness to prevent z-fighting with the background group. Thus:


Well, if you’re going to add ai, how about cdr as well?


I would recommend PDF instead of CDR or AI for vector “artwork”. It’s usually smaller as it is compressed, and it is more version independent.


I agree with Gully_Foyle,
I’m a sign designer, so most of my work needs to be at scale. AI & PDF is not very scale friendly unless you are willing to work with a giant Artboard Size. Because of this I use Corel (CDR) to export to DWG or DXF. Unfortunately, some the complex curves with low node counts become “wonky”.
It would be nice to have Corel or Sketchup offer a import / export file extension that reads these complex curves without all of the additional nodes.

Hi guys! I am trying this method and I’m having some trouble. My file won’t import into sketchup, keeps giving me an error. I saved it as a .dwg file. Please help! audrys window vector.dwg (700.8 KB)
I want to import this stained glass design and raise it about .05 inches off of the flat side of a shape I made. PLEASE HELP!

Is this some kind of vectorized scan? When looking at it in AutoCad I see a zillion partly crossing and overlapping splines, and hatch fills, and the whole is also copied three times. This would never make a clean model in SketchUp.