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3D Design Foundations

What is 3D Design, and what makes it so different from 2D Design? Through this chapter, you will be introduced to the concepts, language, and principles of 3D Design, and explore translating a 2D drawing into a 3D object.

3D Foundations Textbook Intro

3D Foundations Textbook Intro

Visual composition is important for both 2D and 3D artists because composition is the way in which the viewer sees and interprets an artwork.   Creating a composition that best represents the artwork and makes the viewer understand it as easily as possible is crucial. Culture is what determines a “good” or “bad” composition.  Culture, in fact, decidedly determines what is typically considered “good” or “bad” in most areas of life. In art, culture during the Renaissance considered realism painting to be the highest form of art. Nowadays, fine art is always changing and there is less of a focus on painting.  Digital art is increasingly popular as technology evolves. Standard 2D composition elements include line, shape, color, value, texture, space. In contrast, material, gesture, proximity, location, pattern, texture also are added elements to 3D work.

Concepts like emphasis, harmony, unity, and balance are both useful and at the same time, confusing.  These concepts are all a bit more abstract. Emphasis can be useful to create focus on a particular part of a composition.  Harmony describes how everything comes together and interacts with one another, but it can be hard to describe. Unity and balance are also tricky because someone can think that a piece is unified and balanced, while another viewer could disagree.

When working with composition, the goal is to create something dynamic.  In order to create a dynamic composition, diagonals are one’s best friend.  Parallel, perpendicular, and straight horizontal/vertical lines/shapes/etc all tend to look static.  In addition, overlapping objects/shapes/lines generally looks dynamic. Pushing the contrast in value, weight, size, and color all contribute to creating a dynamic composition.  This contrast creates hierarchy, helping the viewer understand what the focal point of the composition is. Repetition can also help, as it can guide the viewer’s eye through a piece.

The thing is- these ‘rules’ are to create a dynamic composition.  These rules only apply if your intent is to create something dynamic.  If your intent is to create something static, the way you approach a composition will be very different.  Once you know the rules and how they work, you can use them to create something with a different intent.


Textbook Introduction

Textbook Introduction

  • Talk about why visual composition is important for both 2D and 3D artists.
    • Makes a work interesting
    • It makes the difference in what you may convey or
  • How does culture figure into this?  Give a specific example of how culture plays a role in determining the style and how this changes over time.
    • What colors are to be used
    • What patterns would be in the work
    • What’s currently happening politically could influence how things are laid or what’s in the photo.
    • Influences what the artist is trying to convey
  • Talk about the difference between standard 2D composition (list them) and our 3D list of composition.  How do you think concepts like Emphasis, Harmony, Unity, Balance are both useful and confusing.
    • 2D composition
      • Balance
      • Repetition and Rhythm
      • Focus/Emphasis/Dominance
      • Unity/Harmony
      • Scale
      • Proportion
      • Contrast
      • Movement
      • Depth
    • 3D Composition
      • Color
      • Scale
      • Size
      • Form/shape
      • Texture
      • Material
      • Pattern
      • Gesture
        • The direction of 3D art.
      • Proximity
      • Location
      • Intent

3 Forms

Form in 3D

Using these definitions of Linear Form, Planar Form, and Solid Form as a guide, locate an image of an object and make a hard copy and bring it to class.  You will need one image for each definition.  The objects can be anything but should fit the definitions and be a real object (not a drawing).


A general definition of Form:  Form refers to the visual and physical structure of an object.  It is three-dimensional.  Form cannot exist without space, and space is an aid to the perception and appreciation of form.


Linear Form–  It has been stated that a one-dimensional object is nonexistent in the environment.  However true or false this statement may be, let us assume that a linear form is one which possesses an exaggerated dimension, that of length; it is considerably longer that it is high or wide.  In linear form, space is articulated with a minimum of mass, by a long thin element.


Planar Form– When width is added to length, and thickness or height is still a minor aspect, planar form results.  The planar form is composed of long, wide, and thin shapes that articulate the space.  For our purposes, we will not adhere to a mathematical perspective that defines the planar form as a flat surface.  Any curved or otherwise irregular surface that has two exaggerated dimensions may be classified as a planar form.


Solid Form–  When space appears to be excluded from the form– when length, width, and thickness or height are near equilibrium– a solid form exists.  A solid form is completely surrounded by space; that is, it is defined by the space.  It may exist as a monolithic form, a uniform mass not penetrated by space.  In addition to the pure monolith, forms that contain concave and convex and negative areas may be categorized as solid forms as long as the proportion of mass is greater than the space penetrating the form.



AR 1065 Design & Meaning Handbook Copyright © by Phil Lonergan. All Rights Reserved.

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