Services & Case Studies

Production Guide

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3D Illustration

A general guide to our 3D illustration process. We say general because 3D illustration briefs can vary greatly and each project usually requires an individual approach to some degree. This guide attempts to explain the typical processes which are common to most 3D illustration projects.

A simple image may only require a single draft before the final image is produced, whereas a complicated and detailed scene my require 4 or 5 draft images for approval of various stages before completion.

Agency Layout and Brief

The starting point for most 3D illustration projects is usually a scamp or layout from the agency.

In this example:

Art Director Claus Stangl produced this detailed hand drawn scamp.

briefs for 3D illustration projects usually include one or more of the following:

> Simple to highly detailed hand drawn concept images.
> Rough or detailed photoshop comps.
> Storyboards.
> Moodboards.
> Written descriptions/specifications/treatments.



3D Modelling Scene Production

3D Model Making

The good news here is that pretty much anything is possible. The way in which we make 3D models depends on the subject. Different briefs require different approaches. Something modular in its nature is likely to be built that way in 3D. A virtual building will be made up of lots of separate objects and components. Continuous organic forms such as dripping paint or chocolate may be sculpted from a single object as though it were made from a block of clay. Water, fire, smoke and flowing fabrics may be created by running virtual simulations to generate natural and realistic effects. 

Virtual model making is similar to making physical objects in the sense that you typically start with a rough form and progressively refine and add detail. With a simple scene, it is likely that we complete the model before issuing a WIP for approval of this stage. With more complicated and detailed scenes, we may issue 2-3 WIPs for approval as the model making stage progresses.


Camera Angle and Composition

Whilst the subject and modelling process may vary greatly from brief to brief, we do always aim to establish the overall camera angle and composition as early on in the process as possible. This ensures that we maximise time spent detailing only the objects which will be seen in the final shot. Small scale adjustments to the camera angle can still be made at later stages in the process.


In this example:

A modular scene composed of many intricately detailed objects.
In some cases we will supply a matt grey render as shown here but it is also common that we will add basic materials at this stage to help legibility and clarity when reviewing the scene.


3D lighting is largely based on real world physics and principles.


3D studio style shots are lit in a very similar way to real world studio photography. We will typically use lights that behave and look just like softboxes, kinoflows, spots, etc. We build cyclorama backgrounds, use reflectors and have all the control and more of studio photography.

Natural Daylight

Outdoor shots can be lit with physical and geographic accuracy down to a specific hour on a specific date (in the future or the past) and in any location in the world.

Image Based Lighting - HDRI

We also shoot and create spherical HDR images to light scenes to match elements or environments that have been photographed on a physical shoot.


3D Materials (what we call shaders) are also designed and built with a high level of physical accuracy. Nearly all real world materials can be created in 3D to a photographic level of realism and detail.



Rendering is pretty much the 3D term for pushing the shutter release - only it takes a bit longer (usually a few hours for a high res image). This process could take as long as a day on a single machine but we speed up the process by dedicating a number of servers to this task (this collection of hard working computers is usually referred to as a render farm). 


Whilst rendering does take a bit longer than clicking a shutter, it does have a few advantages. The rendered image can be separated into individual layers for a very fine level of control in the post production process. For example an object's reflection can be rendered separately from its base colour/texture. This means that things like reflectivity can be increased or decreased in post or the colour of the object can be changed dramatically whilst leaving the colours in the reflection completely unchanged.