This diagram is the same as the one above but the dimmer comes first in the circuit. This arrangement is provided for easy reference when dealing with a circuit wired like this.
A 3-wire cable runs from L1 to L2, 2-wire cable runs from there to the first switch, and 3-wire cable runs between SW1 and SW2. The source hot is spliced to the black wire running between the lights and at the last light, it is spliced to the black wire running through to the common on SW1. The white wire is marked black and spliced to the black wire running to the common on SW2.
Three-way switches have 3 terminals to carry circuit electricity and one terminal for a ground wire. Of the three circuit terminals, one is called the common and the other two are known as travelers. The common terminal may be labeled and is usually a different color than the traveler terminals. Depending on the manufacturer, the travelers may be on opposite sides of the device or the two terminals may be on the same side. In any case, the common terminal will be distinguished from the travelers in some way.
A rheostat, or dimmer, makes it possible to vary the current flowing to a light fixture thereby varying the intensity of the light. The dimmer switch will have stranded wires that must be sliced to the solid cable wiring with a pigtail. A device like this should only be used with an incandescent light fixture and not with a ceiling fan or other motor. See wiring a speed controller for wiring a rheostat to control fan speed.
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