Translating Characters From 2D to 3D and Vice Versa | Linda Vuorenvirta | Skillshare

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Translating Characters From 2D to 3D and Vice Versa

teacher avatar Linda Vuorenvirta, Illustrator, Animator, Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

5 Lessons (49m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. The Basics

    • 3. 2D to 3D

    • 4. 3D to 2D

    • 5. Examples

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About This Class

2D and 3D styles are equally popular in animation, illustration, and other visual media today. Independent creators and big-name studios deal in both, and sometimes even rework old characters in a new style (Disney's done this a lot recently, as I'll talk about in the examples video!) How can this be done successfully, without compromising the integrity of the characters? They should be immediately recognisable as themselves regardless of what style and media are utilised. In this class, I'll try to pass on what knowledge I have of bringing 2D characters into 3 dimensions, or indeed the other way around.



TV shows and characters property of Nickelodeon, Disney, Cartoon Network, and applicable creators

2D to 3D

Harry Clarke, from Faust (by Goethe), 1925

Chas Robinson, from Lilliput Lyrics, 1899

3D to 2D


TV shows, films, and characters property of Disney and applicable creators

Meet Your Teacher

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Linda Vuorenvirta

Illustrator, Animator, Designer


I'm a creative type from the Helsinki area of Finland. I illustrate, design, animate, sew, craft, bake, cook, and just generally try to create something every day!

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1. Intro: Hi, everyone. My goal for this class is to share what knowledge I have about transitioning characters for any purposes for animation or illustration or any kind of media that has characters in it from three D to two D or two d to three D since both two D and three d R popular styles for characters now in the 21st century, when it and it is really accessible to do either, since you have free programs like free three D programs like Blender and all kinds of two D software that you can use. And I have some experience with both three D software and Judy software and I've Don projects with both and all of these projects that I've done more or less feature characters . And I have gained some knowledge and experience about going from one to the other without losing any of the essence of the character, any of defining features or characteristics that make you know that it is that character, and you believe that it is them, even if they're suddenly in three dimensions or suddenly in two dimensions. So throughout this class, I'll talk about the decision making process that I go through when turning a character from a duty illustration into a three D character or the other way around from a three D to two D. And I'll give some examples from popular media that you can look at to study how they have been done. So you get an idea of how it can look and have a successful it can be. So I hope you'll join me for this class and maybe even they got the project to turn one of your own character, Zahra character that you really like into two D or three d from what it originally is. 2. The Basics: a general rule of thumb. Here is the more realistic the features and proportions of a character are, the easier they're going to be to translate between two D and three D simply because there's fewer decisions for you to make. So a very stylized character like one was really stretched out cartoony proportions that doesn't really look realistic at all. It could be tricky because you don't have really world references that you can go back to, to tell you what to do or how to depict something from a certain angle. Like, for example, there are some very flat two D cartoons made in the style that were really popular around the two thousands. The routes, I think like the entire decade to thousands. This kind of really flats graphic style was popular since computers were becoming mainstream in producing animation, and we got programs like Flash that produced this kind of style easily. So I got really popular. But while these styles work perfectly well in two D, it might be difficult to translate them into three D like some features and body parts are drawn in ways that if you really think about it and you try to picture that body part or that feature in three dimensions and your try to flush it out. It's just kind of weird and kind of impossible, so you might have to end up making some compromises in this. Conversely, characters that are originally made in three D might rely on things like shading and, like other aspect of rendering that define some of their features. And these features would probably be defined by outlines into the animation or a different color. If you're using a two D drawing style that doesn't include outlines, and you have to make the same kind of decisions here that you would if you were making a line drawing off a real person that is actually in three D, so you have to translate forms. Dead are actually defined by light and shade into ones that are defined by outlines. And this is something that you could spend years learning how to do in art school. So it's not a very simple or easy thing, so don't don't get frustrated if this doesn't come naturally. It takes practice to figure out where to put these lines and, for example, a nose is a really good place to notice this. Two D noses look really different. They change the entire feeling off the face that they're on based on where, exactly a put lines where you put the outline and what the outline looks like. Is it like, Is it very stick? Is it very curvy? Is it jagged there? There's a huge difference in whether you, if you have a character with just a jagged L shaped nose, it's very different. If you rotate that L shape like even just a little bit, it gives off a very different impression. So just to hammer down this point on how different noses can look based on where you put the lines, I have drawn some examples based on a reference from a three D model marketplace site. It's a free model, and I've put the put a link to the source on screen right now and also it down in the description. So, yeah, As you can see, I I copied this three D character into two D, and all of the drawings are the same, except for the nose, so you can just look at how different the noses look. I'm using the same reference. I'm looking at the same three d character, but I'm putting the lines in different places and it really makes a difference. So in the following videos, I'm gonna use some examples, and I'm going to point out some different areas of consideration that you should keep in mind when you're going from from two D to three D and then from three d to two d. 3. 2D to 3D: What I've done for this lesson is take to public domain illustrations and create three D versions of, um, and I will go over the decision making process that I went through in creating thes illustrations thes three D illustrations. So what I first of all did is to take the original illustration, which waas either from the front or from the side. One of them was from the front. One of them was from the side, and I created a corresponding frontal view or side view, as you would for reference when you were creating a three D character from scratch with your own reference drawings. So I took these existing public domain illustrations and made a a second reference drawing that corresponded as well as possible to the original, so I would have to views to reference when sculpting or a modeling in three day. The 1st 1 that I'm going to show is this bust. Here it is from an illustration by Harry Clark. It is from the book Faust by Goethe E. From the year 1925. This is one of the characters in the illustration. I chose him because, like a lot of Harry Clark drawings. He has this very distinctive style with large eyes, very distinctive features, very, very distinctive type off mark making and shapes and line that Harry Clark uses in his characters. And I thought it would be an interesting, interesting thing to see in three D. You can see that his face is very angular and has prominent cheekbones, prominent high cheek bones. And then it comes down to a quite short chicken. But the chain has a class. The face widens to its widest point, which is dramatically wider than the chin. It widens around the eyes and eyebrows, and the eyes themselves are very deep, set into the face. Things like that are things that you start off with when you're making a general shape. So I made that here in three D. Make sure the face widened dramatically at the eye and eyebrow area and got very narrow around the chin. But the chin does have a little cleft in it. In the eyes, you can see if you look at it from the five, the either very deep set into the face. If you use some very dramatic lighting, I have done some rudimentary lighting to see the shadows in the eye sockets. You could push this even further. If I was using using this character in an animated film, I would probably pushed on lighting further and make it more dramatic and make it even closer to what Harry Clark had with the very deep, just pure black shading underneath the eyebrows and around the eyes to make it look like the eyes are really sent deep into the face. But I've already got shadows going on here in the eye sockets and the nose. The nose didn't have very much detail in the original drawing, or I could have it have enough detail, but it haven't been. It hasn't been shaded. It haven't been very strictly defined. I'm not getting what they as much as I am from the eyes. So what I can see is that the nose goes quite far down on the face. But the bridge of the nose is high up with the eyes, so it's a long nose and it looks because there's a bit of a vertical line going from from about above, one of the nostrils going straight up it it makes it look like he have quite a flat, straight up and down shake to the bridge of his nose. So that's what I gave him here, and the fact that they have drawn the shape that they have drawn the bottom of the nose with, where you can very clearly see the nostrils and you can see a line connecting the nostrils in the middle. It looks like there's a tiny bit of a hook at the tip of the nose, so that's what I have done. I curve the nose down ever so slightly there, and there's another thing that's visible best from the profile of you. The line below the lips on the chin shows that the chin likely would jut out a little bit. It's narrow but juts out a little bit here in the Y axis direction. So I've put that the rest of the features are pretty pretty easy. There's quite a lot of information for the lips to lips are shaded in in the original drawing, so I gave them some color. I made it, made the lips a nice natural pink kind of color that's also echoed in the water line on the eyes, since the eyes were still huge in this drawing around this character, there is room to put in more detail than you might if the eyes were really small, as you will see in the next character that I show. But there was room for detail in this character, so I put in a water line on the eyes, anything that worked pretty well. The hair is not particularly difficult here. I didn't add much complexity. Venus faras the shape, the overall shape of the hair, the overall shape of the hair has most of its complexity from this front view, where it widens at the same spot that the face does. And it has this bit of long fringe sleeping down over the floor head. So I copied that in here could also sculpt some more. The texture that I have on here is it's all right. I did it just with a bump map. We actually sculpt it or use more and more detailed bump map or normal map or something to get get it to look really like the individual hairs are defined at sea. Original drawing has, in any case, that is just of what I went through to make this bust, and I think it's, ah pretty good approximation of how this character would look if he was rendered in three d . I think it would look really cool if we did make a complex lighting system and have very like dramatic darks and lights. So you it will be similar to the original drawings in black and white, even if this is actually in color. If there's very dramatic darks and lights, all right, so I'm going Teoh open the other character that I'm going to show you. This is a little girl character from a book called Lily Put Lyrics. It's from 18 99 illustrated by an illustrator named Chasse Robinson. I wanted to pick something that had a full body that I could sculpt to show here I will. I will put this on rendered as well. Now this character does not have very much information in the face at all. Like I said, there are very tiny eyes that can't afford very much detail soon in a little bit and just a very, very simple mouth. And the only reason we even have any information for the shape of the nose is because this girls and profile in this picture or the other reference image for this one was a profile, so I had to draw the corresponding frontal view average. But the only reason that the original drawing has any any information from the shape of the nose is because she's in profile. And you, of course, see the contour of the nose when the characters in profile. So I haven't added anything to the nose. Very simple, just a little little bump getting out of the face. The only thing I've added is a little bit of Ah, blush on her tricks. I thought that would suit this kind of character. The most dramatic information in this character is in the large masses of roundness that we have with her dress and her hair. And both of those are, since they are very large and very distinctive to this character. I kept them round and big in 360 degrees. The dress and hair are as dramatic from the front as they were. You decide like they are in the original drawing. The only thing that I have not kind of echoed in the front is I haven't added any more detail to the hair or I haven't had it. I haven't added any asymmetry, for example, to the hair where maybe it sticks out with a cowlick on either side. I actually experimented with doing some asymmetry with the hair, but ended up thinking about this with just the basic teardrop shape and going up up in the middle to a point, which is this in the side view, I felt that was actually the best choice for this character here, since there is some detail in the silhouette of the hair from the side view, the dress itself very simple, but I had to make sure to keep it very wide and voluminous all around, angling all the way up to the neckline. There's no distinction of the waste on here. Ellen. Limbs are quiet, long and gangly. If the alarms are one thing to point out here is using this reference image. This is a place where you might end up not ignoring the reference image, but kind of fudging it a little bit have been not following it exactly, whereas in other places like the contour of the face, for example, I followed Precisely. I align Vertex is exactly with the reference image. But here, if I actually show this from a side camera, um, you could see that the legs on this character in three D are perfectly aligned with each other, unlike the original illustration, where it looks like her right leg is further back than the left one. And if I wanted to achieve that, precisely, I would rigged this character with a skeleton and used that to pull her right leg back to perfectly match that image. But I wouldnt sculpt it or model. It's like that to begin with. Maybe this is do to me actually doing animation and being used Teoh modeling characters in generic T and a poses and not doing any kind of dramatic positions or any kind of positions that differ from that generic pose until you get to the rigging. But I think it is a good rule of thumb to start with something very basic, and then it doesn't take much to put in a skeleton. And then you can movie limbs around, position to character in different ways. Do whatever needs to be done if you want to match your reference image exactly and then you have the ability to make quick, easy changes in the positioning. You can just move, repose a skeleton instead of having to fiddle with Berta sees and moving bits of the model . So that's my recommendation model characters in as generic, opposes possible and then use a skeleton to move them into more dramatic poses. But, yes, those are two characters that I have made three D versions off, and I hope that gave a bit of a bit of inside into the kind of decision making process that that I go through. When turning a original two D illustration into a three D illustration, you hopefully find one that is straight ahead or straight from the or directly from the side, and you draw corresponding straight ahead shot or a profile shot. And he used those as reference images within your three D program, and you maybe have to fudge some things have to make some decisions as to how you're edge flow is going to be what, what the most ideal way to bring the side view and the front together in three dimensions will be. But in the end, you can pretty successfully create a version off a two D illustration in three D that very much encapsulates the look and feel of the original. 4. 3D to 2D: for going the other way, going from an original three D character to a two D character. I have gone to some three D modeling marketplace sites where you can get we can buy models off pretty much anything that somebody else has made that is ready for use. I have taken a couple of free ones that were nevertheless really awesome, high quality models. The credits for these are, of course, I linked below and on the screen. But I have taken one bust of a character that is a little bit more detailed, a little bit more realistic and a full body, very cartoony style character. So I'll go over the bust of the more realistic character. First, it's an Elf character. She already has some very stylized features that are pretty easy to translate, like the hair is is already in chunk, so that's quite easy to translate into two D. There's if you can think of hair in general in like how it falls over the head and how it grows out of the head and how it how it falls around the head. Then you can probably translate this kind of hair from three D to two d or indeed, from two D to three D. If you are making a character like this, the facial features, how give you some decisions to make? And I chose this particular model because I thought she had really nice, distinctive facial features. They were not generic, and they did give me some decisions to make. So the first thing that a major to pay attention to of the shape of her face and the shape of her face is quite long. She has a pretty prominent chin that is not very pointy. It's it's quite rounded on the chin and then a high cheek bone and a hollow in like the contour of her face going from her cheekbone down to her chin. So I copy that into the two D two D depiction, and her nose is long and narrow, the noses pretty well defined like it's it's detailed. There's a lot of information in the three D model for the nose Here, though you get a distinct shape for the nose. It's pointed up a little bit, like if you were looking at this character from the side, you would see that the point of the nose is up a little bit higher than where the base of the nostrils are. That makes sense. In other words, you can see the nostrils when looking from from a front full frontal view. This is basically the opposite of the character that I made a three D version of in the last video, the the Harry Clark character where I said that it looks like he's got a tiny bit of a hook on his nose so you wouldn't be able to see the nostrils distinctly from a frontal view, you would have to go down a little bit underneath, and this character's knows is the opposite. It's a little bit upward pointing so you can see the nostrils clearly, and the bridge of the nose is quite flat up until it gets too right about the level of the eyes. And then it curves inwards towards the brow bone, the eyes themselves, you are narrow and basically go to the edges of the face. They are. This is not realistic how eyes will be, but it works perfectly well. On the level of civilizations is this character has the eyes are wide and they go quite far to the edges of the face. They are narrow, and there's a bit of not quite a hood since it's on the lower eyelid. But maybe like a bag under the lower are Lower Island on the brow, Ridge is prominent enough to cast a pretty distinct shadow, so those were some important features. The ears, um, are another thing that's relatively easy. There is not too much detail in them. The most important part is, of course, getting them the right lengths and getting them into that pointed elf shape. Oh, and the lips are actually pretty realistic as far slips go, so you can even look at some real human references for something like this. The They're pretty normal proportions. The bottom lip is larger than are thicker than the top lip. There's a defined Cupid's bow, but not extremely pointed, and the lips take about as much with of the face as they might arm on a real person. Well, maybe a little bit wider, but very close to a actual human being. So in cases where there is got very close, the war features are very close to being realistic. You don't have to make all of the creative decisions that you would if the features were very non realistic. So going back to something that I said in a previous video, the closer it is, the closer your character is to realism that easier. Actually, it is to make because you don't have to imagine what something would look like. You can just find a reference of an actual human being and copy it. You don't have to come up with everything yourself, OK, moving on to a character that is definitely not realistic. This is a cartoony man character. He got a very different feel to him, so the growing is going to look very, very different. There's very few, if any, hard edges on this character there. Everything is very soft and kind of kind of looks like he was. His limbs are kind of like pulled from taffy, something like and the little the legs, the way they're shaped like tapering down. And the fingers are like just cylinders. And yeah, there's there are no sharp corners. The sharpest corner that we get the where the hair parts, that's that. And then the hair, maybe on the like sideburns from this angle are a relatively sharp corner, but in his actual body shape and his clothing there is no sharp. There's no sharpness. There are no corners or jagged bits, is very, very soft. So focusing on that I use a lot of curves. And I also did something that I did not do on the Elf character. I colored the Leinart here. You could off course also do this without line. Are you? Could you are other of these without Leinart. I personally used Leinart, and my own two D drawing style does use Leinart. So that's why I've included here. And if you are using minored in depicting a character like this, maybe do what I did and coloring the Leinart so it looks a lot softer with the Elf character. There were there were some very jagged hard edges, so you can get away with using a black Leinart for that. But more character like this, I think it works really well, too. Color the Leinart too closely match. Whatever a part of the character, your coloring, it makes it look a lot softer and not as like, sharp and intense. I've used some, like soft, fuzzy Grady int shading put around the eyes. As you can see, there's a lot of, like blush spots on this character on the original character. His eyes are large and round, and it in this picture he isn't actually, his eyes are completely open. The eyelids aren't closed at all. But I closed, pulled his eyelid, supposes bottom islands up in his top islands down just to show a bit of like three dimensionality to his eyes, since in the three D model, have eyes do kind of pop out of the face, and his nose is another thing that I had to make decisions on. Since there is very little information here compared to a lot of information on the Elf character, I had to think, Where am I going to put the line? Because I am using Leinart here. Where am I going to draw? Draw my line? To define the nose? I decided to put it as I did, as you can see in the picture, underneath the nose, curving around just because at least with this kind of lighting, there is a shadow underneath the nose, so there's a little bit more weight underneath the nose on the three D model and a general rule of drawing. Leinart is in places that are very dark, like very heavily in shadow or places that have a lot of weight put on them. Like is somebody sitting down the curve of their thigh that's pressing against the surface that they're sitting on? That might have thicker line arts because there's literally weight pressing down. So the Leinart become sticker to kind of support that and show the sense of weight. And like I said, of course, if something is deep in shadow than the Leinart Canton reflect that by becoming thicker than Leinart, where there is a lot of light and mine are can and often should just completely taper off if there's a very bright highlight. So there are no very deep shadows on this character with this lighting. But the only shadow that we do get told me like really noticeable shadow that we do get on the nose is beneath it. So that's why I decided to put line to define the nose shape underneath the nose. Whereas you could also do a lot of things you could you could do like a, um turned this 180 degrees. That's been used a lot in cartoon characters where there's like a little nose that's pointing up like upturned nose. Um, you can do a C shape or a like flipped C shape all kinds of things that you could do it to make really simplistic, just round noses. Basically the choice you have in the cases, Where are you going? To what spot of the nose or you're going to outline. And that makes a big difference when you have this little information. So that's that's about it. On going from three D characters to two D characters in the next video, I will show some examples of characters that have been transformed from three D to two D or two D to three D examples that I consider really successful. So maybe you can get some inspiration from them. 5. Examples: in this video, I'll go over a few examples of characters made by, Well, they're actually all Disney characters, but anyway, characters from very well known films and TV series in popular culture, where I think that they have successfully been turned either from three D to two D or two D to three D, as in, Disney has done a good job in translating an original three D version into a two D version or an original two D version into a three D. So the first example that I've got here it is tangled, the film, which WAAS adapted into a television series that I think takes place, ah, soon after the ending of the film. And they've really gone for a big switch here. By the time Tangled came out that the film Tangled came out, Disney was well into doing all of their feature films in very Polish, really very good looking three D that was convincing on high quality and indefinitely was not fought in any way. So they've gone from that end of the spectrum to a very, very flat on style for the characters and for everything in They entangled Siri's and it's a big jump, but I personally I think it really books for these characters in particular. Because sometimes if you have Leinart on everything, especially Leinart, that is very uniform in very black can some time to give a sense of like, hard edged, jagged nous to to the image. And that's not really something that you would want to go for with tangled like. If you look at the original three D Films poster here, there's so much softness in it. There's the glowing light, soft water, um, misty atmosphere and sky with fluffy clouds. And it's overall very soft, with a lot of curves and not something that I would think definitely need swine art. So I think that they made a really good decision in choosing to do the TV series with this flat on and thought style with large fields of color, with only Leinart put into strategic places like the front leg on Maximus, the horse where that just needs needs to be there to define the shape of the leg from this angle and within Rapunzel's hair, which just shows how how the hair twists around itself and curves around and adds just a little bit more believability to the hair. But everything else is done in very flat shapes, and I think I really works. It's like a kind of Children's storybook type of feeling. And that is contrast ID by the two D style that was chosen for the Big Hero six TV series, which is shown here in the other images that you've been seeing on screen this whole time. And I did purposely choose thes two examples out of ones that I like because they did contract together. That three D style for Big Hero six and the three D style for Tangled aren't super different. They're both. They're both different films, and they're both in, um Disney three D kind of style, but the two D style for a tangled Siri's and the Tuti stopped for a big hero. Six. Siris are very different, like as you can see, Big Hero six. Siri's has the bold black minor that I mentioned when talking about Tangled. The thing that Tangled doesn't have, but it really works here. I think it's really looks good here, um, one of the big reasons why it probably just feels right on Big Harris Sixes it kind of, um, harkens back to the origins of Big Hero six as a comic Siri's. So Yeah, it started off in a comic book in a kind of a classic, um, style comic with with bold black inclines and returning to that with the bold black inclines and sharp corners. And yes, a very we rugged, um, jagged hard edge spiel works really well for for just a content of the Siri's, and I think that they Disney hasn't made really good decisions on both of these serious for treating the style. And they have also done a good job in translating the features of the character is the distinctive aspect of the character designs from the three D versions into the two D brings . And now we are going to go to translating from two D to three D. The example that actuals for this is one specific princess from the wreck It Ralph, too. They had most of the Disney princesses, and there on most of them were done really well, some of them more like they were good but not stand out good, since I mean, I'm a huge Disney fan, but I'm not gonna not gonna why they do, especially with their current three D style. They do suffer a little from making a lot of their female characters look very similar in the face. Thank you really have to study them if you wanna pick out differences. But one of the princess's, some of them look really, really good. And one of the princess's that looked really good, I thought, was Pocahontas agency here. The original Tooty style of Pocahontas already was really distinct, like she didn't look like previous Disney princesses that we've seen. There's take a particular like, um, angled hardness to the shape of her face and her features. You can have a very clear jawline. She has, ah, distinct face shape that's not very, very generic, like the kind of teardrop, um, shapes face that a lot of Disney princesses had before. She has a longer face with a defined jawline. She has angled blips along nose, and her eyes are gigantic, like Disney princesses often tend to have. And I'm not saying that any of these Disney princesses that I'm saying Pocahontas doesn't look like I'm not saying that those Disney princesses don't look good. Um, but it is is really nice to see something different every now and then. So I really like the design choices they made with Pocahontas both in the original film and in this version of her. And they translated them pretty well, like the three D Ever have Pocahontas here? Her eyes are definitely bigger than they were in the original version. But if you compare that to some of the other princesses that she's with in rocket Row, her eyes are definitely smaller than theirs. So they have retained that they've retained her face shape. They retained the shape of her jaw. They retained the long, narrow nose. So, yeah, I was very impressed with how they handled that. Some of some of the princesses were really good. Another one that I really liked was Jasmine. They translated her very well, and she had a very distinct face. Um, let's see what the Milan looked. Good. Um, yeah, Some of them were very, very well handled and even the ones that weren't super distinct, they were still really cute. So you work your it well, but Pocahontas was still, I think, my favorite translation from the original version into this wreck it Ralph style. So those are three of my favorite examples of characters that were translated from styles from style to style successfully, and hopefully you can see that it is very, very possible to do that. And maybe these will give you some inspiration to try and do it yourself with some of your own.