Create 3D Using 2D Software

Written by Tony Richardson on . Posted in Design, Articles, Software

3D software can be rather expensive and for a person who is only looking to create some logos or general graphics might find the cost vs benefits a bit on the costly side.  For expert graphics designers, this may be a seen it, done it article, but for those just starting out or those who haven’t purchase 3D software yet, you might find some of the tips and tricks in this article helpful on your next project.

3D is really an illusion…. YES I’m serious. 3D images are still 2D but only fooling the eye to think that it’s looking at a 3D object.  Your eyes are designed to find shadows and small hints in the real world to give your brain enough information to create a 3D image of what’s being viewed.  A 3D image uses shadows and the same hints the brain is seeking to create a realistic 3D image…or at least one the brain perceives as 3D.   Let me show you some examples first.

This is the image created in a very advanced 3D program using 3D graphics with depth, height and width and the scene was lit by using 2 different lights, one spot and one area light.  The spot is to create the hot glowing effect at the top of the text and the area light was so we could see the overall image.  This software actually calculates the way light reflects and bounces off objects in the scene and then renders the results.

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Now this is a bit of an overkill for most graphic projects, but even so, the image is in fact 2D and the shadows have only tricked our brains into seeing a 3D image.  Now I’m going to show you a graphic of a basic shape and then a few additional changes so you can see what I mean by using shadows.

Shading Example

As you can see, simply by making the ball change colors using a circle gradient, I’ve created an effect that makes it look like it’s a 3 dimensional object. Then the final picture ads a subtle shadow giving the ball an additional element showing that it is in fact in 3D space.

O.K… now I’m going to show how shadows and using some creative framing can change a simple image into a stunning image.  This can all be created using a 2D vector software and creative shading.  Here is an image that has the 2D that I’ve turned into a 3D image using a quick conversion method, but the same effects can be created using multiple layers and making your own gradients for shading.  Here is the first image with no shadows.

As you can see, the above image gives the eye a semi-3D effect, but doesn’t really sell the full possibility of the effect.  Let’s take a look at what can happen when creating a shadow under the text and under the 3D image.  Also, if I move the border of the image out a bit and shrink the inside blue canvas, the text ‘3D’ will appear to be above the image and almost look like it’s floating or coming out of the frame.  Here is the example.

Now you can see what shadows can do for a regular 2D image.  First you will have to create the basic 3D text by using layers and gradients, but once that’s done, the real selling effect is in the shadows.  The above image looks like it’s jumping right off the page and selling the 3D effect.  

This by no means is the only way to create a 3D effect, but its a good start for those who are making a transition in your graphic work.  This will give you a way to think creatively about how to get these looks with regular vector software.  O.K….get out there and start creating your 3D work.  Feel free to email me some examples and if they are some good ones, I’ll post a follow up.

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