Create a 3D Typographic Illustration
Please download the following assets before beginning work on this tutorial.
- Cinema 4D Concrete Material
- Wood Texture (Far left)
1.Creating the Studio Setup
Open Cinema 4D, create a new file and go to render settings, applying the settings shown below.
Select the > Bezier Spline.
Change the perspective to a lateral view and draw a spline like the one shown below, we’re going to create a ‘C shaped studio so the light can bounce on the ceiling.
Duplicate the original spline
Create a Loft NURBS and drag both the splines to it’s inside, select one of the splines and move it parallel to the other until you get a wide shape like the one below
This step is optional, I usually create some basic lighting at the beginning of a new project in order to get an idea of how the lighting will work, create 3 Area Light objects and place one of them in the top part of our studio, make sure it’s in the inner side.
Now move the other 2 Area Light objects to both sides of the studio
Create a Camera right in front of our studio, you can change its H rotation to 180º to get a perfect front view, this will be our camera setup. Remember you need to activate the camera by clicking on the check box right next to it, also remember to uncheck it every time you need to move around, make sure it’s black before you change the view.
Create a new material (Create > New Material or simply double click on the background of the Materials box) and use the following settings, apply it to the studio by dragging directly to the studio object and that’s it, our basic studio setup is done.
2.Creating the Basic ‘B’ Shape
Open Illustrator and type a letter using a typeface of your choice, convert it to Outlines (right click > convert to outlines) and save the document, make sure you select the Illustrator 8 version when you save or you won’t be able to import the paths to Cinema 4D. You can also use the vector shape I provide if you prefer.
Go back to Cinema 4D and open the AI file you just saved, copy the paths to your scene and place them in the center of the view.
Create an Extrude NURBS and drag the ‘B’ path to it, change it’s z axis movement until you get a nice depth, I’ve used 300 cm.
Now go to the Caps section of the Extrude NURBS Properties and apply those settings, make sure you’re using an Engraved Fillet Type.
Select the spline inside the Extrude NURBS and duplicate it, we’re going to need it later so in order to hide it just click on the two small circles right next to it until they’re red, meaning this object won’t be shown on the scene and on the render.
In order to model the ‘B’ we need to convert it to an editable object so select the Extrude NURBS and the spline inside of it, right click and click on Connect Objects + Delete, this will give us a single object that can be edited.
We’re now going to make our ‘B’ hollow, select the ‘B’ and click on the Use Polygon Mode button, this will allow you to select the faces of our object so go ahead and click on the front face of it, right click, select Extrude and drag your mouse until you get something similar to this.
Remember the spline we’ve hidden on step 5? Unhide it by clicking on the circles until they’re grey, now create a N-Side Spline with 8 sides, lower it’s size a bit until you get something similar to the picture below, create a Sweep NURBS and place the N-Side Spline inside of it.
Now place the ‘B’ Spline inside of the Sweep NURBS as well, just below the N-Side Spline and move the ‘B’ Spline on it’s z-axis a bit until it is placed on front of the other ‘B’. You can adjust the thickness of this tube structure by increasing or decreasing the radius of the N-Side Spline.
3.Detailing the ‘B’
Select the Polygon Mode tool and select one of the inner faces, I’ve selected one on the bottom.
Right click and select Extrude, extrude the face a bit.
Now select the Edge Mode tool, select the top edge, right click, select the Bevel tool and drag it until you get a concave shape like the one shown in the image, make sure you select Concave in the Bevel tool properties.
Select the Polygon Mode tool again and select the side face of the new shape, right click and select Extrude Inner, drag your mouse until you get something similar to the image.
Now Extrude it inwards.
In the next steps we’re going to model the scaffolds that will surround our ‘B’, let’s start by creating the wood planks, create a cube (Create > Object > Cube) and change it’s size until it fits the inner area of the ‘B’, you can activate the Fillet to make it look a bit more detailed.
Repeat it until you have four planks, feel free to rotate them a bit so we can have some variety.
Next we will create some wood boards that will cover some areas of the ‘B’, start by duplicating the ‘B’ spline inside of the Sweep NURBS and place it inside an Extrude NURBS (Create > NURBS > Extrude NURBS), give it a small depth, 20 cm should be enough. Now select both the Extrude NURBS and the Spline inside of it, right click and click on Connect Objects + Delete.
Select the Polygon Mode tool, select all the faces (Select > Select All or Command/Ctrl + A) and select the Knife Tool.
Now we want to make several cuts, in order to do this you have to click and drag anywhere you want to cut, if you want to make a transversal cut you click outside of the shape, if you want to make smaller cuts just click in any point inside the shape and drag it to any other point.
Select a group of polygons at your choice, right click and click on Split, this will separate that group of polygons, creating a new object.
Repeat the same process on another group of polygons.
And repeat once again.
Delete the original object that we created on Step 8, by now you should have 3 separated objects.
Select the 3 objects, select the Polygon Mode tool, go to Select > Select All and use the Extrude tool, extrude them a bit, I’ve used the value of 20 cm.
Now select some polygons and extrude them a bit, this will add details to the wood planks, repeat this process on all 3 objects.
We continue the detailing, this time select the Sweep NURBS we created before and go to the Object tab on it’s properties, in there you will see the Start Growth and End Growth options, these options control where the Sweep starts and where it ends, giving us the chance to add more details.
Let’s start by creating the first segment, play with the Start Growth and End Growth values until you get something like this.
Now duplicate the Sweep NURBS object and change the values again, this time we want this new Sweep to start where the previous one ended so play with the values until you get that result.
Duplicate once again and repeat the same process, you can also select the 3 objects, go to the Caps tab on their properties and change the Start and End to Fillet Cap, both with 2 steps and 2 cm radius, this will give them a nice rounded finish. By now you should have 3 ‘Sweep NURBS’ which will be our neon lights, feel free to rename the objects to neon 1, 2 and 3.
Let’s continue with the modeling of the scaffolds, this time we will model the metal tubes, go to Create > Object > Cylinder, change it’s rotation segments to 12 and play with the Radius and Height values until you get an object resembling a metal tube, we will use this tube to create the whole scaffold structure so move it around and make it connect two planks, feel free to rotate it a bit, it will look boring if it’s a straight 90º tube.
Now it’s up to your imagination, keep duplicating that tube and placing the copies in different positions until you get a structure that looks like a scaffold, use smaller tubes to create intersections and other structures that support the planks, take your time.
To save some time we can duplicate the whole scaffold structure and use it in other positions so select all the objects that belong to the scaffold, including the planks, group them (Right Click > Group Objects) and duplicate the Group 2 times, resulting in 3 groups.
Move the groups behind the ‘B’ and play with their positions until you get a nice composition, take your time rotating them and refining the position of each individual object, you will probably need to make some changes in order to make everything look right.
Let’s go back to the ‘B’ object, select it and then select the Polygon Mode tool, go to Select > Loop Selection and select the following areas.
Right Click and select Extrude Inner then drag your mouse until you get a result similar to the image.
Go to Select > Loop once again and select the bottom loops of the ‘B’
Right Click and select Extrude, extrude the selected polygons a bit.
Next we will create the front glass panels of the ‘B’, to do this duplicate any of the ‘B’ splines that are inside the ‘Sweep NURBS’ and create an ‘Extrude NURBS’ with it, to do this go to Create > NURBS > Extrude NURBS and drag the ‘B’ spline to it. Don’t make it too thick, 5 cm should be enough. Now make it an editable object, select both the ‘Extrude NURBS’ and the ‘B’ spline, Right Click and select Connect Objects + Delete.
Now create a Cube (Create > Object > Cube), make it a rectangle by changing it’s width value and position it like shown in the image, it’s very important that it goes through the ‘B’ we created on the last step, as you can see in the Top View it goes through the ‘B’.
Create a Boole (Create > Modeling > Boole) and place the drag the 2 objects from the past two steps inside, make sure the ‘B’ is on top of the Cube, if everything went as expected you should now have a structure similar to the one in the image, you can move the Cube around and it will cut the ‘B’ accordingly.
Let’s continue detailing the scene, this time we will create the some bolts, start by creating a Cylinder (Create > Object > Cylinder) with the following settings, move it to the wood boards we created earlier and place like this.
Duplicate it several times and place the bolts around, making them look like they’re fixing the wood boards.
Keep duplicating the bolts but this time we want them to go through the Glass panels so elongate them a bit and place them around.
Repeat the same process but this time for the top panel.
In order for our ‘B’ to reflect interesting reflections it needs more than flat surfaces so what we are going to do now is create rounded edges, to do this we need to make sure the ‘B’ is optimized, start by selecting the main ‘B’ object and going to Mesh > Commands > Optimize, now select the Edge Mode tool then the Loop Selection (Select > Loop Selection) and select all the outer edges.
Select the Bevel Tool (Right Click > Bevel) with the following settings, drag the mouse a bit until you get a nice rounded edge.
Repeat the same process but this time apply the Bevel to the inner edges.
Now we’re going to fill the scene a bit more by adding a cable, it’s really easy to do, change the view to a top perspective and select the Bezier tool, if you’re familiar with Illustrator’s Pen tool you’ll feel at home. Draw a Spline like this one, I made mine coming from behind the ‘B’.
Now create a N-Side Object (Create > Spline > N-Side) with 8 sides, decrease it’s size, since it’s radius will dictate how thick the cable will be you should keep it small.
Now simply create a Sweep NURBS (Create > NURBS > Sweep NURBS) and drag both the N-Side Object and the Spline to it, move the Spline around until it sits right on top of the floor. If your Sweep NURBS looks flat just change the N-Side Object Plane to XZ.
We could have stop by now but let’s make the scene more interesting and dynamic, select one of the neon tubes and move it forward, feel free to rotate it a bit.
Select a view with a side perspective then the Bezier tool and draw a Spline like the one I did, our objective on this step is to model the cable that will hold the neon structure. After drawing the Spline repeat what we did on Step 38 and 39. Make sure the cable starts outside of the camera view.
Repeat the same process but this time create another cable for the other end of the neon structure.
Let’s add even more bolts but this time we will use a new technique, instead of duplicating a bolt endless times and placing them manually on the scene we can do this automatically by using clones. Start by duplicating one of the ‘B’ splines that we used to create the Neon tubes, select Point Mode then right click and select Create Outline, apply a negative distance until you get 2 different splines with some distance from each other.
Now delete the points of the original spline, leaving just the inner spline, use the Live Selection tool to select the points and simply press delete.
Duplicate one of the bolts we created earlier on Step 30 and create a Cloner Object, place the bolt inside the ‘Cloner Object’ and use the following settings, in order for the bolt to be cloned along the spline from the previous step you need to link the ‘Cloner Object’ to the spline so make sure you change the Mode to Object and then link to the spline by clicking on the black arrow within the white circle then click on the spline (you can also select the spline by clicking on the drop down arrow). You can decrease the size of the bolt, the smaller it is, the more clones you have space for. If the bolts aren’t facing forward just go to the Transform tab and adjust the Rotation until it faces forward.
Move the spline next to the ‘B’ until only the top part of the bolts is shown.
4. Texturing the Scene
From now on we will focus on the creation of the materials and textures of the scene. If you have Cinema 4D Prime version or above you have a wide range of materials available for you to use, to access them simply open the Content Browser (Window > Content Browser) then browse through Prime > Materials > Basic and select the first concrete material. If you don’t have the Prime version you can use the stone material I provide instead. Drag the material to the Materials Tab. If you use this material don’t forget to copy the files inside the ‘tex’ folder to your scene ‘tex’ folder, create one in the folder you’re saving the C4D file if there’s no ‘tex’ folder already.
Apply the material to the ‘B’ object, simpy drag the material directly to the scene then go to the material properties, right next to the ‘B’ object, change it’s Projection to Cubic and select Seamless.
Now we will create the material that will be used on the metallic tubes, create a new material (Create > Material > New Material) and use the following settings, no need to change anything on the Color and Specular options. Name the new material ‘Chrome’ and apply it to all the the objects that you want to be metalic, I’ve applied it to all the tubes and bolts.
The next material will be the glass, create a new material and use the following settings, the Fresnel is a simple black to white gradient. Name the material ‘Glass’.
Apply the glass material to the glass panels.
What follows next is the wood material, create a new material and use the wood texture provided on the Tutorial Assets.
Now we will create the Reflection and Bump texture maps, let’s start by the Reflection texture, open the original wood texture on Photoshop, convert it to grayscale (Image > Mode > Grayscale) and then go to Exposure (Image > Adjustments > Exposure) and apply the following settings. Save the image as JPG and name it ‘parquet_reflection.jpg’
Open the original wood texture again in Photoshop, convert it to grayscale (Image > Mode > Grayscale), invert the colors (Image > Adjustments > Invert) and use the following Exposure values (Image > Adjustments > Exposure). Save the image as JPG and name it ‘parquet_bump.jpg’.
Go back to cinema 4D and to the wood material properties, use the following settings, name the material ‘Parquet…
Apply the material to all the wood objects, don’t forget to change their Projection to Cubic and select Seamless, like we did on Step 2.
Our next material is the Neon one, create a new material (Create > Material > New Material) and use the following settings on the Color tab.
When you’re finished name the material ‘Neon’.
Apply the neon material to the neon tubes.
Now we will apply a material to specific zones, adding a bit of a variety to our ‘B’, select the main ‘B’, then, with the Polygon Mode tool activated, go to Select > Loop Selection and select the following areas, then apply the Chrome material to them by simply dragging it to the selected yellow area.
The material for the cables is our next step, create a new material, name it ‘Cable’ and use the following settings.
Then apply it to the 3 cables on the scene.
5. Lighting the Scene
Start by deleting all the temporary lights we created at the beginning and create 3 cubes (Create > Object > Cube), they will be our light sources so place them like shown in the image, one on each side and the other one on the front, slightly on top of the others, make sure it goes behind the camera.
Now create the luminous material, which will make the cubes emit light, create a new material (Create > Material > New Material), name it ‘Lights’, apply the following settings and apply it to the 3 cubes.
By now I realized the studio object was too small so I increased its size, doubling it.
I also realized the material of the studio object need a small tweak so I changed it’s Color properties, using the following values.
In order to create some nice hard shadows we will create a Spot Light and place it like shown in the image, make sure the light is placed in front of the ‘B’ and on top of it, that way it will project the shadows we want.
Create another Spot Light object and place it directly behind the ‘B’, apply the following settings.
Here’s the side view to make it easier to understand where both lights are placed and the proportions of the studio object, try to have something similar and make sure the Spot Lights are placed in the inner area of the studio object, otherwise the studio will block the lights.
Now all we have to do is render the scene but first go to Render Settings (Render > Edit Render Settings), click on Effect and add Ambient Occlusion and Global Illumination, those features will greatly increase the quality of the scene. Apply the following settings and hit render (Render > Render to Picture Viewer)
Wait for the render to end, it might take a long while, and save the image as TIFF (PSD Layers), name it ‘Raw’.
6. Post Processing on Photoshop
Open the TIFF file on Photoshop, go to Select > Color Range and click on a red colored zone with the Eyedropper cursor, press Ok.
Copy and paste the selection, right click on the layer and select Blending Styles, activate the Color Overlay option and change it’s color to red. Convert the layer to a Smart Object (right click on it > Convert to Smart Object), rasterize the layer (right click > Rasterize Layer) and change the blending mode of the layer to Linear Dodge (Add).
Apply some Gaussian Blur to it (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur), 5px should be enough. Then go to Blending Styles (right click > Blending Styles) and use the following settings.
Now we’re going to do some color correction, start by creating a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast) and use the following settings.
Create another adjustment layer but this time a Vibrance one (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance) and use the following settings.
Now we will create a vignette, create a new layer and select all (Select > All), decrease it’s size to around 90% (right click > Transform Selection), go to Select > Modify > Feather and use a value between 50px and 100px, invert the selection (Select > Inverse) and fill the layer with black. You can erase some areas of the vignette if you want.
We’re almost done, finish by creating yet another Adjustment Layer, this time go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation and decrease the Saturation to 0, making the image grayscale, now select the Gradient Tool, make sure you have Black as your Foreground Color and start painting gradients on the layer, everything you paint black will show the colors beneath.
Finish by flattening the image (Image > Flatten Image) and applying an Unsharp Mask (Filter > Sharp > Unsharp Mask) with an amount of around 50%.
My objective with this tutorial was to provide you with the basic creative and technical tools necessary for the creation of an illustration based on a 2D shape, by now you should be able to turn any flat vector shape into a 3D illustration. Although this whole process might seem complex, you might have noticed that most of it is based on simple techniques so feel free to experiment and go further from what I’ve covered by adding new details and changing the forms, materials and lights in order to get different and unexpected results.