In this tutorial we’ve teamed up with the online creative community Curioos to show you how to transform a brand’s logo into a 3D work of art. This can be very useful when pitching work to potential clients, and is yet another tool you can add to the shed. Creating custom artwork based off a brand’s identity opens the gates of opportunity for potential promotional designs including: t-shirts, coffee mugs, print ads, magnets, stickers, and anything else you can imagine!
So sit back, relax, and enjoy this in depth, multi-program tutorial.
Programs Used: Adobe Illustrator CS5, Maxon Cinema 4D R13, Adobe Photoshop CS5
Estimated Time: 15 – 20 hours
To begin, open up the logo you wish to transform in Illustrator. (Must be in vector format) Save the file as a “.ai”, and when the options for the file pop up set the version to “Illustrator 8”. This will make it possible for the paths to be recognized in Cinema 4D.
Open up the Illustrator file in Maxon Cinema 4D, and apply these settings to the import.
This is how the file should look once the paths have been imported. If you are not familiar with the UI of C4D don’t panic! It can seem overwhelming, but isn’t too bad once you get the basics down. In the upper right of the interface we have our objects panel, which is similar to the layers panel in Photoshop. You will notice that each path is a child of the “curiooslogopaths” parent, and the paths are peers.
Here are the relationships among among parents, children, and peers. (No relation to the birds and the bees!)
• Parent – Controls actions of objects linked to it at lower levels. (Similar to a Group in Photoshop.)
• Child – Object 1 hierarchal level down from another. (Shown by a line & indentation) Parented to the object the line leads to. (Similar to a Layer in Photoshop.)
• Peers – Multiple objects at the same hierarchal level.
Click + hold the “NURBS” icon, and create 8 individual “Extrude NURBS”. (One for each path.) Be sure to not let go of the click until the menu appears.
Make each path parented to it’s own Extrude NURBS, so that every child has it’s own parent and the NURBS are all peers. You will notice that the paths are no longer outlines, but actual solid objects.
Now we’re going to see some alternate views of the scene by clicking the square icon in the scene tab.
This will separate the camera angle into 4 different views: Perspective, Top, Right, and Front. In the top right corner of each you can use each icon to move, zoom, and rotate the camera angle. (This will not move the objects.)
Using the Move, Scale, and Rotate tools we’re going to start playing around with the positioning of the elements.
To select what object you want to reposition click on the parent, and move the object to where ever you like. Try and focus on making small adjustments that add depth & a bit of perspective.
After repositioning the objects a bit click the “-” button to the left of each parent to hide its child, click the top parent, then hold shift + click the last parent to select all of the objects. Then in the panel below increase the movement of the Z axis to add more depth to the objects.
Now we’re going to add a sky to begin to create an atmosphere. Click + hold the floor icon, and when the menu appears select the sky object.
Go to the material panel in the bottom left, then click Create > New Material.
Double click on the material thumbnail, and apply the following attributes:
Click + hold the light icon until the menu appears, and select the area light.
In the bottom right of the screen go to the light attributes & set the Shadow to “Area”. This will produce a realistic shadow on the objects. Move the light object above all the elements so that it is pointing down at the scene.
Now that we have a sky & lighting its time to create a studio backdrop. First, Click + hold the Spline icon until the menu appears and create a rectangle.
Apply the following attributes to the rectangle to increase its size.
Convert the spline into a polygonal object by clicking the convert icon. This will make the spline editable.
Now we need to round the edge of the bottom corner a bit. Do this by selecting the bottom right point in the “Right” camera view with the live selection tool, go to Mesh > Spline > Chamfer, and set the radius around 900 depending on how round you want it to be.
Duplicate the rectangle spline, then in the “Front” camera view move the duplicated object 2 large grid squares to the right, or however long you’d like to make the studio.
Click + hold the “NURBS” icon to bring up the menu, and create a Loft NURBS.
Create a new material with these attributes, and apply the material to the studio.
Reposition the elements at this time so that the logo is in the middle of the studio and the light is slightly angled & in front of the logo. Expand the Perspective view to full size, and press the render preview icon to see what things look like so far.
Compare the rendered preview with the original logo to see the progress you have made so far in the exploration. The 3D elements still need some fine tuning & materials added, but we are on the right track because the brand is clearly recognizable.
Apply these adjustments to all of the Extrude NURBS, besides the ones that contain the typography. After these fine adjustments are made, carefully reposition each triangular element so that they appear to be equally spaced from each other.
We now need to apply materials to the elements to give them color & make them pop a bit. Create a new material, apply the following settings, then repeat for each color.
Place each material on the corresponding element to match the original logo, render a preview, and you should now have something that looks like this.
The render has now been recreated into an aesthetically pleasing 3D form, but we’re not done yet! Now it’s time to cross the threshold & apply some imagination to the subject. Add some shapes from the object panel, and place them within the triangular elements. I used the pyramid & tube shapes, and imported the paths for the “X” from Illustrator the same way we initially imported the logo.
Apply materials to the shapes corresponding the what element they are in, and render a preview to see how it looks.
Now we’re ready to export the render, and work a little Photoshop magic. However, before we export the render we need to prepare it so that it is high quality, and separated from the environment. First we are going to separate the logo elements from the studio & sky. Do this by selecting the studio & sky in the objects panel, right click and go to “Cinema 4D tags > Compositing”.
In the settings of the Compositing tag uncheck the “Seen by Camera” option. This will make all the properties of the environment still effect the materials without it actually being visible. There will still be a black background when you render a preview, but we will be able to create a separate channel for the objects in the render settings.
Before we export the render we need to edit the render settings. Click the render settings icon, and apply the following attributes.
Make sure you don’t forget the Alpha Channel! This will make it possible to easily separate the render from the black background.
Click the “Render to Picture Viewer” icon to export the render and once it is complete go to “File > Save As” and save the .TARGA render at 300 PPI. This process may take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours depending on how powerful your computer is, so make sure that there are no flaws before you render to the picture viewer and most importantly be patient!
This is how the image should look once it is finished rendering, but the actual resolution will be much, much larger as we set it to be in the render settings.
Now you’re probably wondering “What about the environment?!” We are going to render it separately from the logo so that we will be able to layer them on top of one an another in Photoshop. Group all of the logo elements together (click the top element in the the object panel, shift + click the last element, then press alt + G to group them together & make them all peers.) Delete the Compositing tag from the sky, and move the one on the studio to the group containing the logo elements. This will hide the logo in the scene, but make the studio, sky, and shadows still visible.
Render the scene to the picture viewer and you should end up with this. Save it as a .TARGA as well at the same size as the logo.
Photoshop magic time! Open up the .TARGA logo file in Ps, then go to “Window > Channels” to open up the Channels tab if it isn’t already in your default layout. CMD + Click the Alpha Channel & that will load the selection of the logo, then press CMD + C to copy the logo.
Open up the .TARGA environment file, and paste, CMD + V, the logo in. To get rid of the awkward white space at the bottom, press ALT + CMD + C to change the canvas size from 24″x18″ to 24″x16″, then move the background & logo up a bit.
To enhance the colors of the logo a bit, make sure you’re on the layer of the render and go to “Image > Adjustments > Curves” (CMD + M) & drag the line down a bit as shown in the picture below.
Time to jazz up the background a bit. We’re going to add a subtle “crystalized” effect to compliment the shapes in the logo. Begin by selecting the Pen Tool (P), and make sure the settings are set to “Paths” in the top left. In the Paths tab (Window > Paths – if it isn’t already next to the layers tab) create a new path to work with. Following the edges of the shapes of the logo create a large triangle, then load the selection of the path by “CMD + Clicking” the path.
Create a new layer above the background & behind the logo render, select the Gradient Tool (G) and set it to “Radial Gradient”. Fill the selection with the gradient by clicking near the center & dragging your cursor to the edge.
Repeat this process to fill up the entire background, and invert (CMD + I) a few triangles to switch things up a bit. Be sure to erase any parts of shapes that overlap onto the floor. To group all the layers together select the top layer, SHIFT + Click the bottom layer, then press CMD + G to group them all together.
Set the group blending mode to “Overlay” & lower the opacity to 30%.
Select the brush tool (B) & apply the following settings in the brush panel, Window > Brush.
Set the Flow of the brush to 60%, create a new layer above the background triangles, and using the Eye Dropper Tool (I) select colors from the logo render & brush some floaty circles around the edges of the logo elements.
It’s starting to look fun now, but we need to add something to give it the WOW factor. To begin adding some pizazz to the composition we’re going to start pouring some paint into the logo elements & have some dripping off as well. Select the Pen Tool, make sure it is set to “Paths” like in Step 27, and create a new path in the Paths tab. Start creating the paths of the drips by clicking to create an anchor point, and dragging out / adjusting the handles by clicking & dragging them to where you’d like them. Make the bottom of the drip curve out a bit to make it appear viscous.
Just like in Step 27 click the thumbnail of the path to load the selection, create a new layer, and use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to select the color closest to the edge of the element to fill the path with.
To add some depth, apply the following Blending Options by right clicking on the layer in the Layers Panel.
Repeat the process on each element & be sure to make each drip unique in shape.
Using the same method in Step 29, create some additional drips dripping onto the typography to unify the elements. Be sure to fine tune these paths extra well & create new layers to add some additional shadows in the circled areas.
Almost done! To add a finishing touch we’re going to add some lighting. Start off by creating a new layer. Set the blending mode to “Soft Light”, lower the opacity to 50%, then above the logo render, CMD + Click the logo render thumbnail to load its selection. With the Rectangular Marquee Tool, subtract the selection of the type so that just the geometric shapes will be affected. With the Gradient Tool, select the “Reflected Gradient” setting, then click in the center & drag the gradient to the top. Create a new layer, and repeat to intensify the lighting on the type as well, but subtract the selection of the geometric shapes instead.
Create a new layer above the floaty circles we made earlier, set the blending mode to “Soft Light”, lower the opacity to 50%, and select a soft round brush about 1200 pixels in diameter. Using the Eyedropper Tool (I) select some colors from the render & brush some color into the background to give it an ambient glow.
For the final finishing touch create a new layer above all of the others, set the blending mode to “Screen”, and select a soft round brush around 800 pixels in diameter. Use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to select some colors to add a glow illuminating from the geometric shapes of the render.
Now we’ve reached our finished product, and you now know how to transform a logo into a stylish work of art ready to be used as a print ad, t-shirt graphic, coffee mug, or anything else you can think of! If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.