I'm a beginner. I've been using Blender for about a month. I've done a couple of tutorials with C4D and Blender.

I'm really interested in using 3D to assist my 2D illustration. I'm having a hard time because I don't see a lot of tutorials covering materials, shaders, and lighting to produce stylized images. It's usually about modeling or making something look ultra-realistic.

What kind of setup did they use to achieve these effects? I'm thinking of things like materials, shaders, lighting, etc. Where would I even start?

The image shown uses C4D:

Art by Andrew Footit Art by Andrew Footit

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    $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome. Please use a title that reflects the content of the question. It should be unique and identifying and summarize what the issue is, so that visitors can at a glance understand broadly what your post is about from the question list. Please use the edit link below your post and avoid any emojis salutations or extraneous text not essential to the question. Remember, your title is the first thing visitors will see, and weights on their decision to open your question or not, so the number of answers you might get depends heavily on it. $\endgroup$ – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Apr 7 at 12:23

Personally, I think there is a combination of techniques in the Life-Saver image, some of them 2D. There may be more than one 3D render, with different materials, composited, or brush-blended into one another after rendering.

But just to look at a couple of possibilities:

The yellow and red hero life-saver looks to me to be a color-mapping of surface normals:

enter image description here

The leftmost Combine XYZ is an arbitrary vector.. you can think of it as the direction from which a magic light is shining. Where the surface normals are parallel to it, the dot product will be 1, and where they are opposite, -1. If we map that [-1 to 1] range to [0 to 1], that will fit in a color ramp, and we can decide what colors the surface will be, with respect to that direction. (The height-map is the one used to emboss 'LIFE SAVER' on the surface.)

The rather metallic looking life-saver linked to it could be just that. Here, I've surrounded it with colored emissive planes to reflect. For convenience, you can give your reflected objects this kind of material:

enter image description here

.. which means they will reflect in the surface, but be invisible to the camera, so you can put them where you like.

If you use EEVEE to do this kind of thing, then you have the Shader to RGB node, which lets you convert the light-response of a surface to colors, for further manipulation, further down you node trees. For reflections, you will have to set up Light Probe > Reflection Cubemaps.

Keeping the sampling low, without denoising, gives you some of that speckled texture.. but if you want 'official' stippling, then you could check out the answers here, which go some way towards it.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Hmm. Could have worked harder at those reflections. Will get back to them. $\endgroup$ – Robin Betts Apr 6 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, colored surface normals! Great technical break-down Robin, I feel kinda bad I didn't put more effort into my own answer :)) $\endgroup$ – Jachym Michal Apr 6 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Jachym NPR gets the bees in my bonnet buzzin'.. it always seems unnecessarily tough. 3DGFX is hard, so the mathematicians and programmers have been in charge. They have needed an unambiguous measure of success: realism/photorealism. So all the kit is geared that way. Even the big Pixar/Disney productions have a jarring, immature quality, for me. .. toon & photorealism awkwardly jammed together. They look to me like artists fighting/getting round their tools, rather than the magical 'something from nothing' you get when simplicty is embraced, limitations celebrated. $\endgroup$ – Robin Betts Apr 7 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah I agree - clever 2D illustrations (or early Pixar) make do with much less. And still look great after many years. That said - I do both and photorealism is a lot easier journey :). $\endgroup$ – Jachym Michal Apr 7 at 7:45

Yo guys. No more upvotes here, please. @ChristopherBennet and @RobinBetts both posted great answers below. Thankyouverymuch.

It looks like the color is based on viewing angle.

  1. Add the Layer Weight node
  2. Use the Facing output to drive a MixRGB node
  3. Adjust the Blend value to control the gradient

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Just to add - if you want to use more than two colors, just use a ColorRamp instead of Mix RGB node. $\endgroup$ – Jachym Michal Apr 6 at 19:04

Here's one example (kind of replicating one of the lifesavers). I used this example as it demonstrates a few things - For one, it shows that the raw vector output of a Texture Coordinate will produce RGB values (As blender will "accept" vectors as color data). In this case, the colors will "shift" based on the camera angle relative to the object and lighting (I used an HDRI for extra reflection detail). Also, you can easily modify the Hue and overall look of a color mix using a Hue/Saturation/Value Node.

The material itself includes all the "special pbr things that make cool effects". What I mean by this is that I tried to include many of the modifiers to achieve the overall look. The Ring has a slight metallic value (many would argue metallic is a 1 or 0 thing, but you are looking for "outside the norm", so this fits). I also added some Subsurface Scattering (low values often look the most "realistic", but again you are not going for realism), as well as some Transmission, and Transparency (Lowered the alpha). Lastly, I lowered the roughness slightly to make it "shiny".

I hope this at least gives you a good idea of what does what, so you can be free to experiment on your own and achieve the exact effect you are going for.

Remember that if using eevee, you much change your Blend Mode away from Opaque, if you are using transparency.



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