Stepping into the Third Dimension
This month we’re thinking about artists who go that extra dimension. 3D is on our minds for two big reasons: new creative tools are opening up 3D technology to any designer who wants to give it a try, and more and more 2D designers and brands are embracing what 3D can do now and in the not-too-distant future.
Even if you didn’t know it when you saw it, chances are that you’ve come across plenty of 3D design already. Take car ads — the majority of them are now created with 3D tools that combine 3D models with 2D and 3D graphics for realistic-looking visuals of scenes that never existed in the real world. Ikea is another big early adopter. Most of their catalogue is now computer generated, and they say that the next step is to go completely virtual.
According to Chantel Benson, Adobe product manager and 3D-industry veteran, using 3D has a lot of benefits. Beyond saving a car company from expensive, complicated on-location photo shoots, 3D opens up future possibilities. Take Ikea: “They’re jumping into this trend because working with 3D models gives them the ability to use content for more than just static marketing collateral like 2D websites — the same chair, cup, or window treatment can be used for immersive shopping experiences, too.”
Moving into 3D
So who else is making the jump into 3D design? Some of the earliest adopters include graphic designers working on branding, using 3D tools to visualize the look of a logo or package design on the actual bottle or box. Designers are also embracing the tools to develop infographics. And digital artists are exploring the creative side of 3D design.
Graphic designer Michael Dolan has experimented with 3D art for art’s sake as well as client work. “It’s always fun to step away from work and just create. I’ll see something inspiring and say, ‘I think I’ll create that, too,’” says Michael. “I also use 3D for commercial projects. It’s useful for phone and device mockups on tables. I’ll purchase images and pop in app UIs. You can snap a picture of a table and then throw a device down.”
How hard is it to shift to 3D design if your background is 2D? We asked Chantel, who works with our Project Felix team on building tools for designers who aren’t 3D experts but want to composite 2D and 3D assets to build photorealistic scenes, product shots, and abstract art. She told us that, while the transition might seem intimidating, designers’ 2D skills transfer well, and even give them a head start.
“I tell designers that they already think in 3D because they are so tuned into how images look — or how they’re supposed to look! They inherently know if the shadows or lighting don’t match correctly or if the colour values are off,” says Chantel. “Designers are experts in sniffing out mistakes in 2D composites because they all face the same challenges when combining multiple flat images together. How do you fake this shadow? How do you find photos of the hero object in the exact right position? Working in an application like Felix frees up designers from those challenges and lets them iterate on positioning, placement, light, and shadow, instead of mastering tricks to make it look like something is set at just one angle.”
Where will 3D go next?
Working with Felix gives Chantel the opportunity to track how people are using 3D tools, and she’s been amazed at how quickly the work is evolving. “It has been really gratifying to see the content folks are creating. Over the past year as the Felix feature set has expanded, the variety and depth of images created with the app has grown as well,” she says. You can take a peek yourself at the growing collections on Instagram and Behance.
Looking ahead, Chantel imagines big developments in 3D design, including more immersive experiences like Pokémon GO and Augment for Salesforce. “This is already starting now with augmented reality becoming part of how we navigate with our phones or interact with our favourite IP.”
Stay with us on the blog this month as we talk to designers about what it’s like to start working in 3D, and get an insider’s view on the process behind developing models, materials, lights, and textures for 3D design. And don’t miss Adobe Stock’s marketplace of 3D assets, or this month’s dedicated gallery of 3D-inspired stock.