In the past, 3D design was a complicated and time-consuming process that required experts with specialized level knowledge. You needed someone for 3D modeling, shading and lighting. It was difficult to find generalists who excelled in all of these areas.
The Adobe Substance 3D ecosystem brings significant change and makes 3D design accessible to everyone. Substance includes an extensive library of customizable premium 3D assets so you can find sophisticated shaders, textures, and models online that you can simply drag and drop into your scene. This way you can compose much faster and you don’t have to be an expert in all individual categories. Substance provides a shortcut that speeds up the entire 3D design process and opens it up to many more people.
I am a technical 3D artist with over 15 years of experience in VFX and animation. I’ve worked on films for Pixar and Blue Sky Studios, shading characters, sets and materials. Now I’m a demo artist at Adobe because I really enjoy showing others how to use Substance tools to make their lives easier.
I love the combination of art and math you get in 3D, and my passion lies in creating high quality technical 3D shaders. I’m pretty good at creating lighting but not necessarily at modeling, and working with Substance I don’t have to worry about making models.
In this article
- From brief to final 3D rendering in one hour
- The effectiveness of using Stager
- How to Respond to Stakeholder Design Feedback
- Understand and interpret feedback
- 3D is now at the heart of product design
From brief to final 3D rendering in one hour
First, to be able to tell a story and set the context, you need a brief and a target. I tend to collaborate with the art director and find out as much as possible about the target image, the target audience, the color scheme I should be following, and how to put the composition together. These are the key skills of a designer.
I then interpret the requirements of the art director, which includes determining how to stage a product and make it look good. I think about the composition of the scene and the kind of story we want to tell with the image. I don’t even necessarily need to have 3D experience for this part because if you have existing artwork you can just start putting all the ingredients together.
I then browse the Substance 3D Assets library, and can find some possible options for background images on Adobe Stock, for example, to explore what is possible and how I will place the product. I also need to know what objects I’m working with, so I can start populating the scene. I don’t have to decide everything in advance, because I can just repeat it in Substance 3D Stager.
The effectiveness of using Stager
I also use Stager to quickly create stage lights for a first pass. Now I’m starting to get an idea of what the object looks like. I can then start positioning it, and if it doesn’t look right, I’ll go through some background images and different lighting scenarios, which is pretty easy to do thanks to Stager’s AI.
Once I have the background set, I work on positioning and product placement before moving on to setting the lights. You want to make sure that you showcase the product in a way that draws attention to the right places. Whatever surface properties are required (is the product glossy enough, for example), I can adjust it with the lighting at the same time.
It may take a few rounds of iterations, but with Stager I can try out different concepts in minutes. I sketch it until I get the placement right, then I refine it. I might want to work on the camera or make some color adjustments, for example. At this point, I’ll decide if I’m going to create the final finish in Stager or if I’m going to add some extra finishing touches in Photoshop. If I go this route, I’ll swap out the backgrounds, adjust the levels, and make other color changes. It’s really easy.
How to Respond to Stakeholder Design Feedback
Once I have an image that works for me, I share it with stakeholders to get their feedback. I can do this through Stager using the Share 3D Scene feature for review, or I can create a final render in Photoshop and then export it as an image and email it.
As an artist, I always work from rough sketches to the finest details. That way I can make sure my idea is exactly what the art director or other decision makers have in mind and we’re all on the same page. Especially when creating my own background image, it’s also good to have a few options lined up to show different directions. Sharing early and often ensures that I don’t invest hours in one direction to have to redo everything. Showing everyone a rough cut is so much easier.
If I need to get approval from non-designers, it’s important not to leave out aspects that won’t be understood. Designers understand the process, but other people are often looking for a final image. In this case, you want your image to be in great shape before you share it. Aligning the direction before you start, then showing it to non-designers as an image as close to the final version as possible is much more effective than showing them rough cuts of the process.
Understand and interpret feedback
If the feedback is vague, I try to understand the intent. I look at the big picture to decide which elements make the stakeholder react that way and what I could do to improve the process. If I don’t really understand what they mean, I will ask more questions. Over time, you develop working relationships with your stakeholders that help you understand what they are looking for. As an artist you are the person most familiar with the process and you have to trust that you know which part you can adjust to get where they want to be.
The famous “make it pop” usually means that the product doesn’t stand out enough from the background, so the story isn’t highlighted enough. In this case, I need to find a way to change the contrast of the image, reduce the occupation of the background, change the colors or adjust the lights. There are several methods, but I would just change one aspect and then offer different options if stakeholders are still not convinced. If these options take too long, I’ll ask more leading questions to get to final approval.
3D is now at the heart of product design
Nowadays, everyone expects high fidelity images. Previously, we had to paint an image to make it look photorealistic, which was time-consuming, but now designers have the tools to create full 3D scenes, with physically accurate lights.
Tools like the Substance 3D collection make iterating on an image so much easier. You can rotate images and get to the right concept much faster: just place the product in the scene, change the lighting, and deliver five images in an hour. It has dramatically shortened the time to create 3D images.