The Ring Tutorial to End All Ring Tutorials (Part 2: Engraving Your Elvish Message)

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I know. Things don’t always go as planned in Middle Earth. Or here on Regular Earth, where I promised a weekish ago that I’d write out the step-by-step story of how to inscribe the 3D Ring to Rule Them All. So presuming you’ve either used the Deke’s Techniques video version or Part 1 of this tutorial to make your virtual 3D ring, here’s how to add the mysterious inscription to fully flesh out the effect. 

Engrave your 3D Illustrator ring

(Note, it doesn’t have to be about "The Ring." There are some tips here that will help you inscribe any 3D object in Illustrator.) 

1. Darken the ring.
In order for our inscription to look suitably daunting, it will help if the ring provides a darker, more ominous backdrop.  Change the color of the ring by Shift-clicking on the Fill swatch in the Control Panel and dialing in the following color: R 50, G 20, B 10.

(If you’ve taken a break between making the ring and inscribing it, i.e. you’ve closed the file in between—-maybe because it took me a week to get Part 2 finished—-make sure your banana-shaped ring shape is selected by clicking it with the black arrow tool.)

Change the color in the control panel.

2. Create the text on its own layer.
And by "create" I mean, find yourself an elvish subscription. Don’t have time to dwell in middle earth? Worry not, I’ve brought it to you. You can download this inscription file here

Unzip (if necessary) and open the inscription file. Press Ctrl-A (Command-A) to select all the text, then Ctrl-C (Command-C) to Copy. Switch back to your ring file, create a new layer by clicking the page icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, then press Ctrl-V (Command-V) to paste it. (You can ignore and dismiss any color warning dialog boxes that might appear.)

Paste the text into the document

3. Create a reversed copy of the text.
We need two sets of this obscure text, one of which has to be reversed as it wraps around the ring. I presume there are people who not only know when Elvish is reversed, but even know how to pronounce it backwards. We of Regular Earth are going to trust Illustrator to take care of that.

Move your original text up to the upper right-hand side of the image window, then grab the Rotate tool from the toolbox. Alt-click (Option-click) on the inner face of the ring, roughly where I’ve shown with the cyan cursor below. In the Rotate dialog box, enter an Angle value of 180, then click Copy to make a duplicate in the new location.

Create a reversed copy of the text

4. Create a symbol from the text.
Grab the black arrow tool and Shift-click on the original text to select it along with its reversed copy. Drag them up a bit, then press the Alt (Option) key and let go of the mouse to make a temporary copy.

Choose Window > Symbols then drag the temporary copy into the Symbols panel. In the Symbols Options dialog box, save the new symbol as "Inscription" and keep the (default) settings otherwise (yes, even the Movie Clip type). Once you’ve created the symbol, you don’t need the copy anymore, so you can press Backspace (Delete) to get rid of it.

Make a symbol from the text

(Note, we made a copy to use as the symbol so that the original text doesn’t become an instance of the symbol, but rather remains independent and editable. That way, we can stash the text safely away. You know, for the next time we need text in a made-up language.)

5. Turn off the Elvish inscription layer.
Now that we’ve used it to create the symbol, you can click the eyeball next to the elvish layer to turn it off.

(Tester’s note, save early and save often here. This is where Illustrator can get a little persnickety. As in, "3D is intense, I think I’ll take a little nap, persnickety.)

6. Edit the 3D Revolve dynamic effect.
We’re going to add the symbol we just created to the actual revolve effect. Open the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance), and click the entry for the 3D Revolve effect.

In the 3D Revolve Options dialog box, click the Map Art button at the bottom.

Edit the 3D Revolve effect from the Appearance panel in Illustrator

7. Apply the Symbol to the effect.
In the Map Art dialog box choose your new Inscription symbol from the Symbol pop-up menu. Note that in the preview window, the white areas will are the visible surfaces and the grey areas are hidden. If you have the Preview checkbox turned on, you’ll see that we need to do some position adjustment, but for now click OK. Then click OK again to exit the 3D Revolve Options dialog box as well.

The Map Art dialog box 

Per Deke’s advice, this is a good place to perform File > Save As and save your work so far as a CS6 file. As I mentioned earlier, Illustrator got cranky with me way before this.

8. Modify the symbol.
Press Ctrl-Shift-A (Command-Shift-A) to deselect your artwork. In the Symbols panel (it looks like a playing-card club if you’ve made it small), double-click the icon for the Inscription symbol to enter symbol isolation mode.

The inscription is a bit to high on the ring. So click on the upper text with the black arrow tool and press Shift-down arrow a time or two, then click the bottom text and press Shift-up arrow a few times to bring the two bits closer together. When you’re done, press the Esc key escape isolation mode.

Edit a symbol in Isolation mode

9. Update the appearance to see your changes then adjust.
Changing the symbol doesn’t update immediately. You need to click on the ring with the black arrow tool to select it, return to the Appearance panel, click the 3D Revolve (Mapped) entry and click Map Art again to update it. If it’s wrong, repeat steps 8 and 9. (I know this is tedious. You might as well commit it to memory, though.)

Once the text is spaced evenly, symbol-wise, you can make adjustments from within the Map Art dialog box. Drag the graphic around in the preview window to position it where you like it. Remember to turn on the Preview dialog box (again, sigh) so you can see how things are shaping up on-the-fly. 

Reposition the symbol as needed

10. Add an outer glow to the symbol.
To add the glow you see in Deke’s final product, you’ll have to add that glow to the symbol. Double-click the Inscription symbol in the Symbols panel to enter Isolation mode again. Then choose Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow.

In the Outer Glow dialog box, click the color swatch and enter the gold color from before: R 255, G 200, B 50, and click OK. Back in the main Outer Glow dialog box set the Opacity to 100% and the Blur to 5 points. Click OK. (And hold your breath, just saying.)

Apply an Outer Glow

In Deke’s case, and mine too, there’s now a glow around the front inscription, but the back inscription disappeared entirely. To restore it, click on the 3D Revolve Effect (again) in the Appearance panel, click Map Art (again), and turn on the Shade Artwork (slower) checkbox. For reasons beyond my comprehension, this restores the missing text. Click OK and OK again. (This would be a good time to save again.)

11. Duplicate the glow to the rear inscription.
Press Ctrl-Shift-A (Command-Shift-A) to deselect the ring. Then double-click the Inscription symbol one more time in the Symbols panel.

In the Layers panel, twirl open the Inscription layer, then drag the sculptural meatball (i.e. the little circular icon on the right looks like a sphere instead of a circle. At no point does it actually look like a meatball.) from one layer to the other whilst holding the Alt (Option) key to copy it. Then press Esc to, well, escape.

Copy the effect from one layer to another

12. Update, hold your breath, and sing a song.
To see the duplicated glow actually duplicate, you may have to once again sing your song of clicking on the ring, clicking 3D Revolve (Mapped) in the Appearance panel, turning on the Preview checkbox (which may be enough), and clicking Map Art again. Or, somewhere in the process it may magically come into view. 

If you watch the movie, Deke ends with a tweak to the shadows around the interior of the ring. I’m quite certian Illustrator has had it with me at this point and I’m happy to end things right here:

Final 3D ring effect

A saga, full of challenges and setbacks, that’s worthy of its inspiration. If you’d like to watch these movies at, and you aren’t yet a member, you can get a free week’s trial membership by signing up at Thanks for sharing this adventure with me!

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 349: A Low Color Photo with the Camera Raw Filter

Previous entry:Deke’s Techniques 346: Creating Uniform Hand Drawn Letters in Illustrator

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