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Utilizing 3D in Digital Painting

The use of 3D is not to everyone’s taste, but in this digital age when so much painting is done on computers, the rift between the two disciplines is getting closer. More artists are finding themselves embracing both in order to achieve better results. This is true especially in production art, where quality and efficiency are equally as important.

These days, I start most of my paintings directly in Photoshop. I create a rough sketch to frame the composition, and to see how proportions work together. In this example, I started blocking in the rough shapes, using a one point perspective, focusing on the positive and negative space.

Once I am happy with the layout, I go into the 3D software, set up the camera, blocking in shapes in a very basic way. When I feel like I am at a good spot, I will then start to add in modeling details. From this stage on, I run for details – Painting the skybox, model and paint the 3D models etc. But even without all that, I am still able to manipulate the camera, play around with DOF, and get a feel for how the final outcome of the shot will stand.

Here is another example of a painting we did using 3D as the starting point. This time, we completely bypassed the thumbnail pass, Ash and I decided to comp the shot directly inside of Maya. That went back and forth a few passes – tinkering with the camera tilt, the FOV, and the angle of attack of the Biplane.

Paralleling this process, we had our production artists modeling and texturing assets in 3D, and painting the skybox. Once we have all the elements in place. We passed the render off (one beauty pass, with minimum lighting) to our 2D artist to paint over.

Simple texture work was done on the plane, ships and so on. Placing lights in the scene could also have been exploited to provide realistic effects if need be. Depending on time, further 3D elements such as water, smoke, and fire VFX can be generated in 3D.

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