Alex Varanese builds a deconstructed urban environment composed of 3D and typography.
Time needed 8-12 hours
-Envision layout and typography in 3D
-Use render passes and post-production effects in your 3D illustrations
-Approach design projects with a multidisciplinary perspective
The future of digital design and computer art lies beyond the boundaries that separate 3D illustration, typography and traditional image compositing. When these and other creative disciplines are merged into a single, seamless style, a fascinating new world emerges that straddles the line between tangible realism and boundless abstraction.
The barrier of entry into this future is rising, however, with increasingly sophisticated techniques for creating and manipulating imagery becoming the norm. This tutorial provides an introduction to this world with a tour of Urban Cartography, a multidisciplinary print series that I created to explore the theme of urban deconstruction in the style of San Francisco's Mission District.
The piece we'll be creating, 'The Glass Jungle', strikes a balance between textures composed of vectors and photographic samples, typography, 3D modelling and rendering, colour processing, compositing and different effects. With an understanding of how these applications and techniques come together, you'll have the perspective necessary to carve your own path into a challenging frontier that's as complex as it is rewarding.
01 I almost always begin design projects in 3D, as it enables ideas to form without constraints on concept, contour, or perspective. In this case the goal is to create a fractured cityscape by arranging detailed elements in loose, chaotic patterns. First, open 3ds Max and create those elements by modelling their geometry. I've tried to create as diverse a collection as possible, from blocky segments of buildings and roads to signage, streetlights and debris.
02 Now create a range of textures to give the models a final layer of realism. Merge different photographic samples of asphalt, bricks and city grime with vector art, typography and Photoshop brushwork to create everything from painted curbs and street signs to the labels on parking meters.
03 By this stage you should have a good collection of large, basic elements, including cube-shaped chunks of buildings and segments of pavements and roads. These will be used later in the process to flesh out the general shape and composition of the piece.
04 Create some additional selections of detail to round out the set: lamp posts, construction barriers, a halved manhole cover and the kind of discarded detritus that tends to accumulate around kerbs and storm drains. Capturing even some of a city's grime and grit is an essential step in striking the right tone.
05 The next step is to use these completed parts to cobble together a scene. My goal is to be as haphazard as possible, while still retaining the compositional coherence of a compelling design. Rotate, offset and delete entire chunks of the overall structure to create a sufficiently disjointed world. For additional surrealism we will insert a glowing effect during the compositing stage, so pick out elements at random for this. The elements I chose are marked with a circular gradient texture.
06 Switching gear a little, add a dense typographical element to push the abstract nature of the piece further and pit the 3D look against the feel of a more traditional print piece. I've started with a vague, stream-of-consciousness writing exercise, also known as 'pretentious blather', and picked out three visually contrasting typefaces to render it with an energetic sense of disarray: Avant Garde Bold, Trade Gothic Condensed Bold and Bodoni Condensed Bold Italic.