3-D Illustration: Space, Color & Texture skillshare originals badge

Craig Henry, Illustrator and Designer

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14 Lessons (2h 49m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Quick Welcome!

    • 3. Create Your Very Own Slice of Heaven

    • 4. Design Your Hangout

    • 5. Final C4D Touches

    • 6. Creating Your Environment

    • 7. Mood, Reflections, Stars and More...

    • 8. Rays of Light, Cave Doors, and Angling

    • 9. Lines and Textures

    • 10. Using Lines for Objects or Surfaces

    • 11. Smoke, Lights, Boats and Pipes.

    • 12. Blending Modes, Dodging, and Finishing Touches

    • 13. Cool Sites and Goodbye's...

    • 14. Explore Design on Skillshare


Project Description

Illustrate a 3-Dimensional scene

Laying Out The Land

  1. Using the landscape object

    In the first part of this video, we will focus on the Landscape object. Play around with the object properties until you find a look that fits your scene. Adjusting the pre-set 'seeds' or fine/rough furrows will make dramatic shifts to your landscape. 

    While creating your little strip of land, make sure you are aware of how it will look at the proper angles, and where all of your scene objects will sit.

  2. Add the 'Polygon Reduction' deformer

    Using this deformer, you will greatly reduce the polygonal count on your object. Try different settings until you find a look that fits your style. I generally use between 80-90.

  3. 'Phong' it

    Using the phong tag (to the right of your Landscape layer), you can adjust the phong angle (and polygon smoothing) to a level that fits your style. The lower the number, the less smooth your edges will look. Generally between 10-20 will create a nice low-poly look.


  4. Lighting

    In this step, we will add 3 light objects for:

    1) Moon (strong back-light)

    2) Horizon light (side lighting from sun/sunset)

    3) Foreground light (pulling out details)

    Remember to try different colors and stregnths for your lighting, but be sure they match the objects in your illustration. If the moon or sun is your strongest light source, make sure that matches the lighting in your scene.



  1. Modeling your pad

    In the first part of this lesson, we will do some basic box-modelling and create the framework for our hideout/house.


  2. Editable objects

    Once you have your basic main-level constructed, we will create our rooftop loft with some custom glass. The angled portion of the roof will require making your cube object editable, then transforming one of the faces to match the slope of your roof. Though it wont look like much now, it will really take shape in the next lesson when we discuss color/texturing.


Lights, Color, Action

  1. Adding materials to your objects

    In this step, we wil create custom materials to apply to our objects. Create as many materials you would like, but be sure to monitor how your colors and specular settings react to the light sources you created. If they appear to strong or too bright in some spots, you can adjust your lighting or material colors accordingly.


  2. Exporting your render

    In this step, we will set up your 'Render Settings' so your image is ready for Photoshop.

    1) Under 'Output', make sure your resolution is high enough for use in print. Generally I'll export at a width larger than 3000px.

    2) Under 'Save', make sure you set your export path, choose PNG, and check off 'Alpha Channel'.

    3) Under 'Anti-Aliasing', make sure you set it from 'Geometry' to 'Best'.

    4) Click 'Render to Picture Viewer', and after a hort time your render should be ready. Check your export folder!

    * Note: You may only be able to render out a preview of your scene in the Cinema4D DEMO. That's OK, just screenshot it and clip out the black in Photoshop, then continue as normal :) Don't worry about resizing for print.

Setting Up Your Scene Photoshop

  1. Getting ready for print

    Always try to work at high resolutions -- that way, should you want to sell your work as prints or create backgrounds/wallpapers, you wont lose any quality when resizing your images.

    For this artwork, we will set our document to 8x10" at 300dpi.

  2. Horizons

    In this step we will set up the basic elements of our horizon line and water. We will also cut out the base of our 'island' and give it a little depth so it rests nicely on our water.


  3. Lighting is everything

    Next, let's add some depth to our water by adjusting the shading, from foreground to background. We will also add in our moon, some moon glow, and some distant light over our horizon line. Last, we will be adding in our mountain range in the distance.

    For our mountain range, I like to use the polygon lasso tool and click around to get an angled look. For a smoother look, try using the pen tool.

    If you do use the pen tool, you'll want to click the 'Paths' tab and choose 'Load Path as Selection' from the base of the tab. This will select your path, and you can now fill it with whatever color you choose.


Setting The Mood

  1. Reflecting a bit

    In this step, we will add the reflection from the moon and mountains onto the water.


  2. Lighting details

    Next, let's create some soft spots and fog on the water in the distance. This will really help our water feel as if it travels a great distance. 

    Once you are happy  with your fog, we'll add some more emphasis on the glow around the moon and on the water.


  3. Edge lighting

    In this step, we will duplicate our render layer and create a nice border light around our hideout and the island. By simply duplicating our layer and moving it slightly, we can now create a bright blue edging, which really emphasizes the light coming from our moon.

  4. Star power

    Finally, let's add in some stars to the sky. Remember to space them out nicely, but also create tiny clusters that vary in size and brightness so that your sky has a nice sense of depth.


Moonshine and Secret Caves

  1. Sunlight, too?

    First, let's create a little bit of sunlight just peeking over the right side of our scene. This will also match the lighting we created in our render. Lightly brush in some reds and pinks over the horizon line, and make sure it fades as it comes closer to the center of your artwork.


  2. Rays of light

    In this step we will create some eminating rays of light coming from the moon. Using Illustrator, lets create multiple circle paths of varying stroke weights. We'll then import this linework into Photoshop and place it around the moon. To create a nice saturated look, set the Layer 'Blending Mode' to Overlay, and duplicate the rays a couple times.


  3. Light trails

    In this next step, we will lightly brush in some light trails into our scene. First using the brush tool, add in a few spots of color around the moon and around the stars. Next, use the smudge tool to move them around and create a really soft trail of light. This is especially effective around the moon.


  4. Add a cave

    Finally, let's add in a cave entry to our island. Using whatever shape you choose, draw in a nice cave door with your polygon lasso tool (or pen tool). Fill it with black, then add in some light on the surface of the cave floor. This will add some depth to area. Last, we'll add in some additional edges/ridges coming off from the cave, which will help it feel more unified with the island.



  1. Creating a water texture

    In this step, we will create some smooth angled lines (almost like wood grain) which will be used to add texture and depth to our water. 

    Once you have imported your line-work into Photoshop, try different layer blending modes and see how they react with your water layer. Try using 'Overlay' or 'Soft Light' to keep within the lightness levels of your water color. 


  2. Creating sky texture

    Next, we'll create even thicker lines in Illustrator. We'll want to be aware of our angle limits so that the ends of our lines meet at a sharp point.

    Once we are happy with our lines, let's move them into illustrator and set them to 'Multiply' (blending mode).

    From here, we can easily brush in some highlight on both the water and sky texture lines to create depth in our scene. 


Detailing Our Hideout

  1. Detailing your hideout

    First we'll want to use the line tool in Photoshop to add in some paneling and edges to our hideout. Carefully create parallel lines to match the angle of your structure. Don't be afraid to try vertical, dagonal or even odd shapes for your lines, as long as they appear to fit the dimensions of your object.

    Next, let's use the polygon lasso tool to add in some light sheens on our window. After you've selected the area you want to fill, softly brush in some light over the selected area, and (if necessary) gradually fade them out with your erasor tool to make them feel more shiny.


  2. Creating the ladder

    In this step we will head back over to Illustrator and create our ladder using only the pen tool. By shifting your individual lines in tabbed increments you will be able to quickly create multiple steps for your ladder.

    Next, back in Photoshop, let'stransform and skew our ladder so it fits the angle of our building. More importantly though, we need to make sure that each one of those steps feel in line with our horizon line (and perspective points). 

    Hitting Command+T (transform), then holding ALT and adjusting the transform nodes, we will be able to adjust each corner individually to match our scene.


  3. Final touches

    Next, using the polygon lasso tool (and be aware of our perspective), we will create a little secret door under the hideout. Once you are happy with your door, add in some light and luminance below it, to really create some interest in that area.

    And finally, we need to add in some posts to our porch. Again, using the line tool in Photoshop we can achieve this very quickly.


Lanterns and Chimney Smoke

  1. Lanterns, torches, etc...

    In this step, we will create some very simple wood posts around the surface of the island. Don't worry too much about making them perfect (I mean, it's probabaly just drift wood anyway), but pay close attention to position and try to balance out your scene.

    Next, by gradually brushing in touches of light, we can create tiny flames or lanterns for our posts.


  2. Chimney

    In this step we will create smoke coming from our chimney - almost completely out of triangles! Again, if you are going for the low-poly look, I highly suggest keeping your look consistent across as many objects as possible - and smoke is no exception. Again (using that damn polygon lasso tool) let's etch in some angle smoke trails. You can add some interesting depth to them by brushing in your smoke color. 


  3. Cruisin'

    In this step, we will build out the structure of our boat. Using the polygon lasso tool, lets create a small boat that's resting alongside our island. Be aware of the light as you add in the boat panels - and don't forget to give your boat a place to dock! We'll add in a tiny pipe/post to the water that you can secure your boat to.


Add Some 'Wow'!

  1. Messing around with blending modes

    It's pretty cool what solid layers of color can do to your scene! In this step, we'll play around with a couple blending modes and colors and watch how it changes our artwork.


  2. Dodging

    Essentially - by dodging, we mean emphasizing light. In this step, we'll create a new layer on top of our artwork and brush in some white spots of light. My changing our blending mode to 'Overlay', we can see dramatic changes in the brightness and saturation of our objects.


  3. Grain and gain

    Next, we'll add a little grain to our scene.

    Using the noise effect, choose a level of noise that suits your taste. Next, we'll apply a slight blur to that layer, then set the entire layer to around 50% opacity.

    Finally, we'll ue the 'High Pass' filter to create some really strong edges in our piece.

Promotion and Closing Thoughts

  1. Promotion

    The number one rule is exposure! Start sharing your artwork with the world. Every artist is constantly evolving and improving, so - no excuses! With a lot of practice, successes and failures, you will no doubt find yourself falling into your own unique style of art for everyone to admire.

    A few great site's for sharing your artwork are:





    Thanks to everyone who joined me in the course. I hope you had fun, learned a couple things - and perhaps even found a new passion for digital art. I can't wait to see what everyone creates :)


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