I have a cartoon character (a lion) that is part of my business logo that I want to put into Blender and animate it somehow. Is there any way I can take a flat picture (JPEG) and transform it into a 3D image and then animate it in Blender?

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    $\begingroup$ Hi, of course, there is a way, but not "few clicks solution". You need make 3D model manually. Or you can animate them as 2D image. Given the fact how you asked, you are no every experienced about graphics, so you can prepare to few months of learning and gain experiences. Because as I wrote: there is no work for few clicks and explain everythig from modeling, throught materials, animation and rendering to compositing is for a book or series of tutorials. $\endgroup$
    – Shubol3D
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ If you are starting with blender please look at this page of resources for blender $\endgroup$
    – user1853
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 1:15
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much, I DO have some knowledge of how graphics work but I was wondering if someone here at the Blender forums has found a way to configure vectors for a single dimension image to be transformed into a multi-dimensional image, I do believe it is possible, just haven't figured it out yet. I work with graphics all the time, so, to me, this would be awesome to figure out. I also have a program called Muvizu for animation which is an awesome program but they do not have the option to submit your own images for characters. I will keep on looking for more tips for Blender. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ guochengqian.github.io/project/magic123 $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ The question is seven years old, and the two answers are almost as old, so it's time for an update. The answer is now that there is a very easy way to do this. See the new answer I've added below. $\endgroup$
    – NewSites
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 13:07

4 Answers 4


You may do it using the Transformers add on. It'll transform every flat textured plane into 3d model.
enter image description here

Activate it in User Preferences. Then go to a Tool Shelf and choose a desired transform option. enter image description here


There's no such way to do it fast. If you manage to invent a tool that may do such thing automatically you'll be probably a millionaire :). While there's a very simple way to transform 3d model into 2D image (using e.g. shapekeys), reverse process is impossible (at least right now :)).

As @Shubol3D said there are no shortcuts. You'll have to master a lot of skills to create your lion model. It's very time consuming process, so if you like to save it I suggest you to go to Blenderartists.org forum and make a paid job offer there. There are a lot of super talented people, who may do it for you.

But if you still want to do it by yourself...

Here are some ultra basic 3d model production steps:

First of all get familiar with this topic: Resources for Blender It's super useful for the blender beginners.


You should start from setting up the reference images for modelling:

First add a cube. Use Toggle Quad View option (Ctrl+Alt+Q) to split the screen into quarters and set separate background images for each one. Adjust their positions, so they fit the cube position in Top, Front and Right 3D views. enter image description here

To make the modeling workflow faster use a Mirror Modifier:

Divide the cube into two identical parts with Ctrl+R and delete one half of it (X). Add a Mirror Modifier to it. Now you may model just one half of the mesh and the other one'll behave symmetrical.

Enter Edit Mode and start modeling basing on the background images you set:

There are few buttons which are very helpful in modeling: G- for grabing/translating vertices, edges and faces, S- for scaling them, R- for rotating, E for extruding and F for filling the holes. You may also subdivde the desired faces using Ctrl+R shortcut.

Start with extruding the cube to create a basic shape that fits the background drawings. Then subdivide it successfuly to add more and more geometry and details. enter image description here

Thanks to quad view you may control the shape of the mesh in every view at once. Fit it to the background drawings as accurately as you can. enter image description here

Finally you may add a Subsurf Modifier to make your model smooth. Go to the Modifiers header, activate it, set the desired subdivision levels and smooth it even more with Smooth shading option in Edit panel of the Tool Shelf. enter image description here

I think that in your case this tutorial may be a good start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mlGT6T9bfQ It shows how to create a 3D animal model based on the 2D images.


To unwrap your model properly you may need to make seams for it:

Select the edges you want to put the seams on and press Ctrl+E-->Mark Seam. Now select the whole mesh (A) and press U-->Unwrap. enter image description here

Now you want to put the texture on your model. Though there are many methods to do it, I prefer the texture painting with Stencil method:

Select your model, set up the shading type to Texture and go to Texture Paint mode. Add a new Paint Slot-->Diffuse Color in a Tools bookmark of a Tool Shelf (T). Add a new texture in the Texture panel on the left, then go to the Texture header on the right, select Brush and open a texture, which will be used as a stencil for painting. Paint the texture and save it. enter image description here

Now add a material to the object and assign a newly created image texture/textures to it:

Go to the Material header and add a new material (click New button). enter image description here

IN BLENDER INTERNAL: Go to Texture header to assign a texture to it. Add a new texture, set its type to Image or Movie. In Influence panel check the Color checkbox. Set the viewport shading to Texture to display it on model. enter image description here

IN CYCLES RENDER: Go to Node Editor, check the Use Nodes checkbox and set up nodes as pictured below. enter image description here

Basic tutorial showing how to UV unwrap an animal model and apply a texture to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4ngVoGIj1Q


Now you have to construct the rig (skeleton) and parent it with your model:

Add a single bone (Shift+A-->Armature-->Single Bone) and extrude it (E) in Edit Mode creating a skeleton. Limbs can be mirrored from one side to other using Ctrl+M command. enter image description here

When your skeleton is ready you may you may parent your mesh with it. In Object Mode select your model, then your armature and press Ctrl+P-->With Automatic Weights. It'll automatically create specific vertex groups for the specific bones. enter image description here

Finally you can animate your bones:

Select a bone in Pose Mode, translate it using R,G or S and press I to keyframe it. Go to the next frame on the Timeline, translate it again and keyframe again. Press Alt+A to play the animation. Adjust your keyframes spacing in Dope Sheet Editor. Control every aspect of your animation using curves in Graph Editor. enter image description here

Very, very basic tutorial showing how to make the skeleton for your animal and how to animate it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr6-_NT_olo

  • 35
    $\begingroup$ that first gif is awesome. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 0:38
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ Will the addon also make auto-rigging and export to youtube with a single mouse click? $\endgroup$
    – user1853
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ Pack your things boys, this site can now officially be closed. Possibly one of the best answers of BSE ever. This basically answers every question about Blender ever made in the past, or that may still rise in the foreseeable future. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 2:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Duarte Farrajota Ramos LOL. $\endgroup$
    – Paul Gonet
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ @ARadish I've just scaled (S-->0) Suzanne, then did some tweaks to create a rectangular plane, keyframed the shape key and textured it (Project from View). Then animated the transition between textured diffuse and color diffuse shaders. $\endgroup$
    – Paul Gonet
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 16:36

Use Photoscan,and if it didn't turn out like you wanted then you can use the shapes to make it,but I reccomend using MakeHuman or the Manuel Bastioni Laboratory. I'm making a FNaF fan game with human characters,and when I finally found out about this,I used the sliders to make the character exactly like I wanted to. This is your answer. But if it's a lion you're talking about,I highly recommend that you use reference images to sculpt the anatomy of the lion without mane first,then you model it using the sculpture as a base,then use the Subdivision.

The Subdivision Surface modifier will increase the polygon number,I also recommend you to use image textures from the internet to trace the shape and for symmetry,use a mirror modifier for one side,then when you apply it,swap the weights with their opposites. Then you can detach a limb,one by one and parent it to the armature set with Automatic Weights. Then add mane using hair particles and go to the Blender Guru's site to learn how to make realistic fur.

  • $\begingroup$ Why is everybody down-voting me? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 2:25

The question is seven years old, and the two answers are almost as old, so it's time for an update. The answer is now:

Yes, there is a way. A very easy way.

I don't know if this is the only way, but I found a very easy way in a YouTube video by Nik Kottmann:

  • Go to the free online tool, Monster Mash.
  • Import the picture.
  • Draw lines around the segments of the object, such as the body, legs, and ears of an animal.
  • Click "Inflate" to magically turn the picture into a 3D object.
  • Click "Animate" (not to animate the object, but just to turn on the option for the next step).
  • Export the object as a glTF (.glb) file.
  • Import the glTF file into Blender.
  • To see the surface textures from the original picture, change Viewport Shading to "Material Preview".
  • Switch to Edit Mode to reveal the vertices of the object and modify the object as desired.

The video runs through all the steps for doing the above. Nik takes a picture of a rhinoceros and turns it into a 3D object in Blender in a few minutes. I ran through his steps with a picture I generated in Leonardo and got the same result.

Pretty amazingly easy!

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for writing the up-to-date answer! It will probably get very old very soon, as better algorithms exist already: guochengqian.github.io/project/magic123 and in the case of Monster Mash, where no fancy stuff is being done to the texture (just a projection from view), anyone with moderate experience in modelling will be able to produce better results within a short span of time (as Paul Gonet's answer shows). Still, this technique could save some minimum amount of time for a basis shape for modelling (paired with quad remesher for good topology)... $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkusvonBroady - Re Magic123: That does look way better, but it appears to be only available for linux. Do you know anything about when it might be available for Windows or online? $\endgroup$
    – NewSites
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkusvonBroady - Re "anyone with moderate experience in modelling": I'm new to Blender and to animation, but experienced in computers, so not afraid of learning new tools. I was impressed by the extraordinary detail of Paul Gonet's answer, but it seemed it would take a long time to learn what he was teaching. When you say "better results within a short span of time," would you think that I should be able to follow his instructions and get up to speed in the techniques if I give it a solid focus for a day or two, or should I expect a longer learning curve than that? $\endgroup$
    – NewSites
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 17:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've been using Blender for 5 years and there's still a lot new things I could learn, so I'm not going to lie a single intensive learning session is all you need; however the blenderguru's donut tutorial teaches a lot and can be finished in a day or two. Then just start working on your project and google a problem whenever you have one - also once you get some familiarity with the basics, go through this video to find out about which features you missed: youtube.com/watch?v=1jHUY3qoBu8 ; as for Magic123, I didn't try it, but you can use WSL on Windows. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 17:58

We're finally here! I wrote in multiple places that the AI tools are extremely limited and can be replaced by a very basic modelling skill. This changes with...

1 www.meshy.ai

  • Click on the green "Get Started" button
  • Register new (free) account
  • Click on "Image to 3D"

  • Drag an image in this field:

  • Click the green "✨ Generate" button

Here's my test: I started with a PNG file.

I actually used 10 times (in each dimension) bigger image, but new BSE limitations didn't allow me to upload it. I don't know if having a high resolution image was beneficial... It's a logo of an armadillo. It's flat - monochromatic: blue/transparent. The background and features of the armadillo share a color (transparent). It's abstract - it isn't an actual real photo traced into an illustration, it doesn't have proper shape of an armadillo nor proper perspective. So it's a very tricky input. Here's the result from Meshy:

It successfully differentiated the features from the background (as opposed to making holes in the face), as well as figured the shape just about right. Well, "about" is the keyword here, let's look at the topology:

It looks like playdough shaped by a 6 year old kid. If you thought it is created by a human, you wouldn't be impressed. But because it's created by AI you are impressed... It kind of looks like low poly, but is high poly.

Meshy also allows you to download the file, with one of the formats being .blend!

In the right panel, you have an option to decimate and to convert to quads as well!

Low poly hides the imperfections, however it still looks like a very shoddy job because it's asymmetric:

As a comparison, here's what I modeled manually (before even knowing about Meshy, so it didn't affect my work in any way) in a few hours:

The topo of ears is weird, because at some point I applied subdivision and sculpted, so before taking the screenshot I added a "decimate: unsubdivide" modifier. So the topology could definitely be further improved if a better workflow was used. The coloring was done by casting a shadow from the original image in Cycles, and then baking it into a texture.

It begs the question, however, what if I took the render of my work as an input for Meshy?

The ears are asymmetric by design (they are asymmetric in my model):

It seems the AI Doomsday is still not going to happen tomorrow, but perhaps Meshy is a good tool to use to quickly prepare a base shape + texture for further sculpting. You will end up, however, with a topology that doesn't have some logical connection with your shape and isn't symmetric.


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