3D Illustration Tips, Secrets & Hardware Picks

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3D Illustration Tips, Secrets & Hardware Picks

Choosing the Best Software & Hardware…


“Here I use warm and cool color opposition to create a sense of depth and interior/exterior,” Adam says. “The blue light cast from the door doesn’t technically cast itself on the lead character in a ‘real’ physical sense because of the angle and distance. But for artistic reasons, and light consistency throughout the scene, I added additional blue lighting to the characters far side to echo that of the door.


Describe the specific software packages you use, and how they’re employed in various stages of your work flow.
My primary 3D package is Maxon’s Cinema 4D, but I also use Pixologic ZBrush, Eon’s Vue Infinite, and good-old Bryce on occasion. I also use the standard Adobe Creative Suite apps, of course, Photoshop being an absolute must-have for any digital artist.


But Cinema – aka C4D -- is the central hub of practically all my illustration work. I model, texture, render and animate (when required) within the diversity of this package. Photoshop is used for additional texture creation, which is then imported into C4D, and once the final renders are complete, I use Photoshop again for final touch-ups, color tweaks and finessing.


The other 3D apps are generally used for specialist tasks, and the results are either imported back into C4D for final rendering, or used as 2D renders which are then composited in Photoshop.


“It’s important to be aware of the imperfections, aging, grime, and irregularities in surface forms,” Adam says. “This is just as important as recognizing how items are constructed, or how their materials react to light in the real world.”


What computer components are most essential to pro-level 3D illustration?

Processor speed is paramount in 3D, because almost everything is processor-intensive, and the faster something can be calculated or rendered -- even as a preview -- the faster you can work without lots of frustrating waiting. Also, many clients don’t factor in the rendering time for print resolution images when it comes to deadlines, so it’s worth having a machine that can crank through that work ASAP.


Like with most things, more RAM is always useful too, and will have some impact on overall speed, since it allows more data to exist in RAM than being cached into virtual memory on the hard drive. And, if you have a particularly complex scene or object, too little RAM could prevent the model from even being rendered at large sizes.


Videocards play their part when it comes to real-time previewing – that is, during the modeling process, and previewing an animation’s motion in the viewport. The more RAM on the card, the better, and, indeed, batter specs mean that your interaction with the 3D elements will be more fluid and smoother in terms of anti-aliasing.


But I have to provide an important caveat. The absolute high-end card available for the current Macs is complete overkill. It’s power goes mostly unused by standard 3D packages, which is why I opted for the basic 7300 nVidia cars at a greatly reduced price.


Speaking of which, what is your precise workstation set up? What hardware fuels all this good stuff?

My main workstation is an 8-core Xeon 3GHz MacPro with 5GB of RAM. I’m running two nVidia 7300GT cards, two 500GB internal hard drives, and two optical drives. A pair of 23-inch Apple Cinema displays are attached to all of this, giving me a lot of screen real estate.


I use a Wacom Intous 3 A6 wide tablet for all my navigation needs, since I prefer the feel of a pen and tablet to a traditional mouse setup. And I also suffer less RSI because of it! I also have a MacBookPro 2.16GHz and a G5 dual 2.5GHz, which are useful for additional rendering requirements.


Finally, I have a couple of external HDs for backing up everything, which is essential when your living depends on your data remaining safe.





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David Blanton

Picked the magazine up at the airport before a 12 hour flight from Dallas to Eastern Europe. Two hours into the flight I knew I had to drop you a note after landing. Your work in the Jan issue was just awesome. I am not an illustrator, a designer or even the least bit creative, but I know AWESOME when I see it ... very well done. We need to see your version of the iCar on the US market.

Keep cranking out the great stuff ... and thanks for I'm sure were 1000s of hours on the first issue of MacLife of the new year! .. I was blown away!



Adam Benton

Hi David,

Many thanks for your kind comments on my work - it was a really fun project to work on, and I am sure there will be more of this kind at some stage!

Warm regards