2D Artist's Perspective: Improving Workflow with 3D

Julia Kovaleva gave a brief talk on how she started learning 3D and mixing it with 2D in her artworks.


Hi, my name is Julia Kovaleva. I am originally from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but have been living in Russia for a long time. For more than 6 years, I have been working at Game Insight on mobile games. Initially, I had a traditional art education and moved to CGI only after graduation. I had to master Photoshop on my own to make at least a few pieces for a portfolio so that I could find a job as a 2D artist. It wasn't easy at the beginning.

Personal Art

Learning 3D

After getting a steady job, I still wanted to learn something new so as not to stand still.  Although there are a lot of different video tutorials, lessons, and books on the Internet, I did not have enough motivation to learn something on my own after a working day. That's why I decided to take courses that would come with a schedule, clear deadlines, and a certain amount of work. I think that when we pay for money for something, we take it more seriously by default. As I wanted to try myself out in 3D, I chose an introductory course that covered 3D basics specifically for 2D artists at Smirnov School. After finishing the course, I was able to make simple 3D objects and slightly expanded my skillset.

3D made my life much easier because it offers more room for choosing an interesting angle, trying out different lighting, and dealing with problems perspective-wise. For example, from one 3D blockout, you can make several concepts at once.

Modeling a 3D Base

When I start working on a 3D model, I always do a quick sketch either on paper or in Photoshop looking for interesting ideas and proportions. It is also important to create a moodboard with references that inspire you in terms of style, color, mood, and individual elements such as architecture or texture.

If I need some simple geometric objects, I use SketchUp. More complex shapes are made in Blender, and if I'm going for natural smooth forms, I use ZBrush. When all the blocks are ready, I assemble the entire scene in Blender. I do not work out the details of the scene at this stage because I can do it faster later in 2D. Also in 2D, it is easier for me to style the finished model. I just deform it in some places and then proceed to the outline. In the future, though, I plan to study 3D further and improve the workflow because it seems more real when you can look at a polished model in real-time from different angles.

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After that, I use color masks. Each mask is a separate part of an object in 3D. For example, a door, a window, glass in the window, and a door handle all use different masks. This way, I can work faster with colors when rendering.

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As for the choice of color palettes and textures, I try to constantly learn and expand my visual library by reading different articles and watch tutorials. Everything else comes with practice. The most important thing here is to work consciously instead of copying something thoughtlessly. Only then the practice will pay. If you like someone's artwork and want to learn how to do the same, you can, of course, recreate exactly that work for educational purposes. However, after analyzing it, I'd recommend creating something of your own based on the new knowledge in order to solidify it.

Get Motivated

I encourage you not to wait for inspiration. If you want to learn how to do something, just sit down and start drawing, and the rest will follow naturally. Each day, try to spend at least a couple of hours practicing, make it your routine, and after a while, you will see the result.

Besides, try to play different games, watch movies and read books to further develop your imagination. Take screenshots of moments in games, movies, and cartoons you like and replenish your stock of inspirational material. And most importantly, eat and sleep well! Without these simple things, you can ruin your health and lack the energy to learn something new.

Julia Kovaleva, 2D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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