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Project: Logo Decaled onto a Cylindrical Mug

We’ll apply a logo as a transparent decal to a rotated and angled jar in three easy steps:

  1. Building a shaped grid

  2. Applying the cylindrical decal

  3. Blending the decal into the object’s lighting

Mapping a Vector Logo to a Cylindrical Mug

Coffee fiends (like yours truly) and tea drinkers far outweigh fans of any other beverage, so coffee mugs are a safe bet for promotional items. Even more universal, though, is a travel mug, which can be used for hot and cold beverages. Of course, you can also employ the following technique to apply any artwork to thermoses, paper cups, glasses, balls, bald heads, and any other rounded surface. (I recently used it to apply a tattoo onto a bare arm for an article I wrote on tattoos and copyright.)

STEP 1: Building a Shaped Grid

With a ballpoint pen, plastic spork, and six inches of twine—no, wait, that was McGyver. And it was a hydro-electric generator, not a shaped grid.

You could use the same technique for decaling cylindrical objects as we did on the jar. The only drawback to the jar method is that the decal will fill the area of the target surface shape—it’s a full-surface application. What if you only want your decal to cover a portion of the surface? Right, you make a smaller target shape. But creating an accurate target shape by eye on a cylindrical or round object is easier said than done. Fortunately, we can build a shaped grid to make it a much simpler process.

  1. Start a new 11x8.5-inch RGB document and name it Decal-Cup.

  2. Place the Steel Mug.psd image and lock its layer. Create a new layer called Shape Grid.

  3. With the Pen tool, draw a curve along the top edge of the steel body, where it meets the plastic top. Your curve doesn’t have to be precise, but will work better if it contains three points (one on either end, then one in the middle). Ensure that the curve runs edge-to-edge (see Figure 3.4).

  4. Draw another curve along the mid-body curve, where the cup begins to narrow. Again, go edge-to-edge and use at least three points in the curve. Somewhere between these two curves is where we’ll place the logo. While you work, think about where in that area it should appear.

  5. Figure 3.4

    FIGURE 3.4 My curves, lining the top and bottom of the possible target surface.

  6. Grab the Blend tool and click once on the left point of the upper curve, then on the left point of the lower curve. A number of lines should appear between them. Note how the curvature of the lines blends between the two original curves? This is a blend.

  7. With the blend still selected, select Object > Blend > Blend Options. Set the Spacing to Specified Steps and enter whatever number of blend steps is necessary to align steps to the top and bottom of the area you’ve chosen for the placement of the logo.

  8. Lock the blend like any other object—(Cmd-2) [Ctrl+2], remember?.

  9. Again using the Pen tool, draw vertical lines that appear to (but don’t actually) connect the top and bottom of the first blend on either side. Follow the contour of the cup. Blend these two lines together, adjusting the blend options as needed (see Figure 3.5). Lock the Shape Grid layer.

Figure 3.56

FIGURE 3.5 With the grid in place, we can now easily identify where we should apply the label.

STEP 2: Applying the Cylindrical Decal

The shaped grid lines will act as guides, enabling us to define an accurate target surface shape.

  1. On a new layer, draw a target surface shape to define the size and position of your logo, using the grid to define the shape. Use at least three points in your curves for best results. When the target surface shape is finished, hide the Shape Grid layer.

  2. Place the Logo – B&W.ai artwork.

  3. Send it behind the target surface shape, then create an envelope distort via Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object (see Figure 3.6). If the envelope needs to be edited, use the Direct Selection tool. However, if you need to modify the logo itself, select Object > Envelope Distort > Edit Contents, at which point the original logo paths become accessible.

Figure 3.6

FIGURE 3.6 The logo is now in place, matching the contour of the travel mug.

STEP 3: Blending the Decal into the Object's Lighting

Although the logo decal has the correct shape, it’s still just floating above the travel mug. The white bits in particular look out of place. To accomplish the illusion of being part of the mug, the logo needs to be just black and, more importantly, adopt the lighting and shadow of the original photograph. Do we need to go back to the Logo – B&W.ai file for this or even undo the envelope? No, sirree.

  1. With the logo still selected, open the Transparency palette from the Window menu.

  2. Set the blending mode to Multiply. Instantly the white disappears.

  3. Now for the seemingly impossible task of sharing all those streaks of light with the black logo. Set the Opacity to something less than 100%—whatever looks good to you. I used 65% (see Figure 3.7). Let your light shine through.

Figure 3.7

FIGURE 3.7 The finished travel mug. The blending mode and opacity settings allow the highlights to shine through, creating realism.

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