Eternity by Kevin Roodhorst blends images of a woman and a flower with objects rendered in Cinema 4D

By combining 2D and 3D creative tools, it’s easy to add extra depth to artworks and illustrations – and turn a simple render into a thing of beauty. Allow the physical accuracy and clay-moulding-like nature of 3D modelling to meet the creativity and compositing wizardry of 2D applications such as Photoshop, and forms and styles appear that just aren’t possible in one or the other domain alone.

2D artists seeking to venture into 3D will need a general awareness of lighting and textural interaction, a good understanding of perspective and composition, and an ability to visualise 3D within a 2D space, says James Digby-Jones, creative director at London ad agency Saddington Baynes (saddingtonbaynes.com).

That’s all well and good, but if you’ve never tackled a full-blown 3D suite, you’ll find you can’t just pick up a copy of Cinema 4D or Maya and start to weave magic – you have to gain experience of modelling and rendering first. Figure-posing and positioning tools such as Poser and Daz Studio can be a good place to start before venturing into a full 3D suite.

Energy, also by Kevin, uses images of a dancer and a dragon’s head along with yet more Cinema 4D renders

Then there’s the problem of making sense of 3D’s almost indecipherable language. For a crash course in 3D vocabulary, see the box opposite.

If you want to dive straight into something like Cinema 4D, playing around with stock 3D objects can provide a great way to learn modelling. Many websites offer free models, often not of the best quality, but that may not matter if you’re just looking for something to play around with. One site where you can grab resources that might actually be useful for a project is turbosquid.com.

Keys to compositing

Once you can get decent results from a 3D suite, you will need to have a game plan for using the output to best effect. As art director at the Romanian architectural visualisation firm X3 (wearex3.com), Sorin Bechira is well placed to offer advice on integrating 3D CG into your work. His own portfolio is a good example of how you can obtain hyperrealistic, innovative results by blending 2D and CG.

These two images featuring a character called Eddy were created by Saddington Baynes for a campaign to promote O2’s business phone tariffs. The work involved compositing photos by Simon Burch together with 3D renderings of Eddy by Greg Coelho


“First of all, you must respect perspective, illumination and ratios between objects composing the scene,” Sorin says. “These three points are what make the composition realistic and authentic.” Get one of them wrong, he says, and “the entire composition will be compromised”.