Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Lighting up 2D illustrations within a 3D software application

Hey there,
This is a nice 3D lighting on 2D images trick for us people who have a hard time coloring our comic book style of art using "traditional" methods. I use lightwave but pretty much any 3D software package should work just as good.

Here is a space marine Starcraft fan art image created by Alexander Popov. It is nicely drawn but colored quick and crude. It is relatively easy to turn this into a more cohesive and atmospheric image even with this basic of a coloring job.

Notice the super saturated blues and purples in the image above. The marine also doesn't seem to fit in the scene as a whole... Lighting wise... And there is little sense of drama, mystery or atmospherics present at this moment. So...

Open up your 3D app. of choice and make a rectangle with an aspect ratio the same as your artwork image. If your image is 30 by 20 inches then a 3 by 2 rectangle will work. If your image is 32 by 21 then a 3.2 by 2.1 rectangle will do. Click on the face of the rectangle that you are going to map the image on to, name it and map your drawing onto it.

Above is what the space marine looks like mapped on the rec and lit in Lightwave layout. Notice that I enlarged my rectangle to a size where lights become smaller for tighter positioning and brightness control. I have also enabled lens flares on the space marines suit to add a little more drama. Below is the final colored version.

One of the most important lights is the overall global light... The bright blues and purples will desaturate and become more cohesive by dimming this light as well as giving it a color... I chose a greenish color for this scene. The overall rectangle that the image is mapped on to can also be diffused or brightened depending on the situation. Notice the blue light on the marines face to separate and highlight it in the scene.

The next step might be to make more layers for this scene, setting them up in 3D space and maybe "filming" the scene with the camera's f-stop setting set to blur fore and background objects. Particles such as rain, dust or fog might also bring your piece of art to another level. Animation is another option. Maps can be made to heighten specular, transparency or luminosity properties of certain areas of the marine as well.

I cut the figure from the background in this example. This gives the option of back lighting the character as well as creating more drama with the positioning of the mountain and other background features.

This is great exercise for someone who can draw and color fairly well but is afraid of jumping to a 3D modeling app. Learning to light will help your coloring immensely and vice-versa.

Thanks for reading my lighting 2D images in a 3D software application tutorial. Check out my lighting up vector images with a 3D application tutorial. Later!

Keywords: alexander popov starcraft space marine concept fan art lighting up 2D two dimensional images in a 3D three dimensional program application lightwave compositing blizzard entertainment

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