A Happy Holidays How-to from Adobe Dimension

3D designer Steve Talkowski shares how to make a holiday scene in Adobe Dimension.

by The Creative Cloud Team

posted on 12-05-2017

Dimension brings images to life through compositing 2D background images with 3D assets. In this post, we’re featuring 3D designer Steve Talkowski and a scene that he has created for the holidays using Adobe Dimension. He’s done all the heavy lifting by producing the 3D assets and making them available for you to tailor for your own projects. Download those assets here.

In this post, we’re going to let Steve walk you through his creative process, then we give you the Dimension scene and let you create your own images. You can use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator to create the wrapping paper for the Gift Bot, add your own logos as decals, and tweak the final result in Photoshop. We hope you’ll give it a try and share what you’ve made on Behance and Twitter using the hashtag #adobedimension. Happy Holidays!

Hi, everyone! My name is Steve Talkowski. As a character designer, the majority of my projects deal with compositing 3D-generated assets convincingly over a photographed background plate. Adobe invited me to take a look at using Dimension for just such a purpose, and I happily agreed to give it a try.

Coming from a design background filled with 3D apps, I was excited to see what Dimension could offer to me. Overall, my experience was very positive. I love that designers with a Creative Cloud account now have the ability to generate sophisticated 3D composites without having to use expensive 3D design applications and packages. Dimension presents a straightforward experience for importing your models, assigning materials and textures, setting up lighting, and hitting “Render.”

One unique component for my own design flow was being able to take advantage of the collaborative-sharing components of the Creative Cloud. It’s so nice to be able to save assets I created in Photoshop to my library and then see those assets show up instantly in Dimension. And it makes it a lot easier for me to switch between computers without the project missing a beat.

So, let’s get started. You can watch my process video above and then follow my step-by-step instructions to make your own project.

The theme for this project was holiday based, so I designed two original characters I felt would be appropriate — a “Gift Bot” and an “Ornament Bot.”

Each character was modeled, rigged, and posed in Autodesk’s Maya. Every piece of geometry had its UVs laid out to accommodate proper texture-map placement. UV maps determine how a texture will wrap and conform to a geometric object. Think of it as designing a flat label that will then be used to wrap around a bottle of water or your favorite soda.

As a new Dimension user, you won’t have to worry about creating UV maps yourself. When you work with a 3D designer — like me — to create assets for you, the assets will come properly set up with UVs, which allows the broader creative team to use Dimension to apply texture maps to get exactly the look you want. In this case, I’m providing you with Photoshop and Illustrator files for the Gift Bot. This way, you can create 2D images to the template that will perfectly wrap around the model.

An image search on Adobe Stock found the desired background plate. Once this was added to my Creative Cloud library, I could simply drag it into the main workspace and Dimension will calculate the camera’s FOV and do its best to match the scene perspective accordingly. It also calculates an HDRI reflection map and a Sunlight light source based on lighting information from the photograph. Further adjustments can be made using the “Orbit,” “Hand,” and “Dolly” tools to ensure the scene matches with the backplate. To say it simply, all of this means that Dimension looks at the light in your photo and puts that same lighting on your 3D object, so that it looks like the object belongs in the scene. And you can adjust the lighting further if you want to make more changes outside of what Dimension creates automatically.

It’s now time to import our 3D characters. You can do so by either using the “Import” feature, or dragging and dropping the .obj files directly into the Dimension workspace.

For the Gift Bot character, I assigned some default materials in Maya prior to exporting the .obj file. Inside Dimension, it’s easy to edit these previously-assigned materials, or, drag and drop new-material presets from the material library. For the wrapping paper design, I generated a repeatable pattern in Photoshop. This file is saved to my library, which automatically updates inside Dimension. I then assign the texture to the box’s “Base Color” channel slot. The texture can then be offset, rotated, and set to a repeat value. This is where meticulously-laid-out UVs pay off.

For the Ornament Bot character, we’ll take a short diversion over to Allegorithmic’s Substance Painter.

Substance Painter uses procedural “Smart Materials” that can be further edited to create some amazing grunge textures. Additionally, you can hand-paint textures with numerous brush and alpha variants that are included with the software. For the ultimate in integration with Dimension, Substance Painter provides a custom config selection that will export all of your maps along with an .obj file that, when imported to Dimension, comes in with all textures automatically hooked up.

Once both characters have been imported and positioned, I continue to iterate with materials and lighting, popping in and out from the interactive “Preview Render” mode.

I also enjoy the ability to further adjust and pose grouped geometry within Dimension, as sometimes, you need to tweak when all your assets have been imported.

One last detail is to add some decals to our Gift Bot. A .png file with transparent background makes a perfect candidate to drag and drop onto the box-and-ribbon geometry. You can easy scale, rotate, and position the decals using the onscreen widget.

To set up the render, choose the “Render” tab, pick from three “Quality” presets, select your “Export Path,” then click “Render.” Dimension saves out a layered .psd file that conveniently contains additional layers. One in particular — “Material Selection Masks” — makes it very easy to assign a few adjustment layers for “Hue/Saturation” and “Curves” control.

To further enhance the composition, I locate an Illustrator file on Creative Cloud that contains some snow elements. These layers are imported to Photoshop and each layer’s compositing mode is tweaked to achieve the desired look.

Final text is added and our composition is completed!

Now you’re ready to create your own projects in Adobe Dimension. You can download my 3D assets and use them to create your own unique take on a holiday scene. Remember that you can use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator to create the wrapping paper for the Gift Bot and add your own logos as decals. I’m excited to see what you create. Be sure to share what you’ve made on Behance and Twitter using the hashtag #adobedimension. And most importantly, have a wonderful holiday season!

Topics: Creativity, Design

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud