How 2D & 3D Software Complement Each Other


2D software can create some great imagery. So can 3D. But when you combine them, your only limitation is your imagination. Read on and I'll explain why...

So that we're both on the same page, let me first clarify what I mean by 2D and 3D software. 2D software deals with flat images with no depth. Usually, a 2D image editor will allow you to adjust an existing image (such as a photo) or draw a new one using a variety of tools. You can move things up and down and left and right. But you can't move forwards and backwards.

Funnily enough, 3D software adds the ability to move in the third dimension, i.e. forwards and backwards. In more recent years, tools that are traditionally 2D, such as Photoshop, have added some 3D functionality. Whilst this adds some handy options, a dedicated 3D application is what you need for the ultimate versatility in your artwork.

When Do You Need 3D Software?


There are loads of times when 3D software comes in really handy. Here are some popular examples:

  • When you need to create an image of something that doesn't exist or is difficult to get hold of. For example, a prototype product, building or a spaceship.
  • When you need more control than you can have in the real world. For example, perhaps you're after a really clean glass look on a bottle. 3D lets you precisely control reflections.
  • When you want to avoid expensive and complicated photoshoots.
  • When you need to constantly adjust the scene. For example, if you wanted to show different materials on an object, such as different tiles on a wall.

Why Do You Need 2D and 3D Software?

It's well worth having both 2D and 3D skills, because each type of software is great at what it does, and each brings something important to creative image generation. Put it this way:

Anyone can take a photo. But a skilled photographer or image editor can create an awesome photo so long as they have something to photograph.

With basic training, anyone can make an image in 3D software and create something purely from their imagination. But a skilled 3D artist can make an awesome image.

But here's the killer reason for having both 2D and 3D software: If you are skilled in working with real images and those made in 3D software, you can create anything and merge reality with imagination. The end result? Jaw-dropping imagery, that truly captivates those who view your images. And remember, the same principle applies to animation.

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Can You Integrate 2D and 3D Work?

Absolutely. Although 2D and 3D use different software, there are loads of tools to help you merge the created images. Image editors, such as Photoshop, offer some 3D import facilities, which allow you to place certain 3D objects directly in the image you are editing. You can get specialised plugins that will let you manipulate the objects in various ways, including rotation, scale and colours.

The most popular integration, though, occurs when you want to fool the viewer of the image into thinking everything in the image is real. For example, you may have a photograph of a street where one of the buildings is actually a 3D model. This type of illusion is more difficult to achieve, because you need to match camera angles and lighting. Certain 3D software has specialised tools to help with that. For example, Cinema 4D has a camera matching tool that will help create a 3D scene that matches the camera angle used in an existing photograph or movie. Then, all you need to do is match lighting to make your object appear real. Again, Cinema 4D has tools to help with that. You can use HDRI images to simulate the lighting and reflections from a scene, and you can even export renders in layered formats to allow fine-tuning of the image in Photoshop or After Effects.

Is Working in 3D Software Harder Than in 2D Software?

Naturally, working in 3D software requires knowledge of new tools. And although there are loads of tools to learn, the same can be said of image editors, which also have hundreds of tools. It all depends on what you want to achieve. Just like 2D software, simple editing tasks are easy to do, whereas more complex work requires more knowledge and skill.

The massive benefit you get from adding 3D software is that you can create anything you can imagine, and once you've made it, you can use it again and again. You can also start off gradually. For example, creating 3D logos and text is a doddle and can be created in seconds, whereas creating a photorealistic 3D character and animating it can takes days or weeks.

One particularly interesting thing about 3D software is you don't need any natural drawing skills to use it effectively. So you can become a great 3D artist, even if you can't draw very well. Objects are modelled in a variety of ways, which don't require natural fine motor skills in your hands. Indeed, some of the best 3D artists aren't very good painters or sketchers.

3D software can feel intimidating when you have used 2D for many years, but let me leave you with this thought: I have met a number of amazing 3D artists who feel a little bit intimidated by the 2D tools you are using!

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  • What is 3D?
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  • 3D Disciplines
  • Types of 3D software
  • What to look for in 3D software
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  • Where to learn 3D
  • Jobs in 3D
  • 3D magazines and websites
  • 3D software recommendations for general-purpose, product design and architecture.

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About the MAXON Blog

Welcome to the official MAXON UK Blog. This blog provides the most up-to-date official information about MAXON, its products – in particular its flagship product Cinema 4D – and the Cinema 4D community. You can expect to see posts from a wide variety of MAXON UK employees.