2D + 3D--critique needed

hi folks.

I’m working on a short and have created a set for it in a free 3D program, Anim8or. I’d like to use shots from the 3D as background in my Toon Boom movie, where I’ll be using my 2D characters.

My concern is having too much difference in detail and render style between the characters and the background, and having that be distracting. I’m hoping to avoid too much background drawing/painting. Most shots aren’t this wide, and I’m going to try painting this shot, but I’d still like to hear some thoughts on the look of the thing.

Hi Rob,

What I would actually do is to use a toon shader on the render so that your character blend in the background more easily. I am not sure if the software you are using have one but I know most of the know ones have this kinda of lens effect applied on the render.

Hope this is going to be helpful to you.

Best regards,


Hi Rob,

Pretty cool stuff!

Toon shading is a good technique but it’s not always available in 3D software (especially the free ones, I’m not sure if it’s available in Anim8tor).

Another idea is to render a wire frame view of you scene (if possible) and then use the import and vectorize function and paint your background in TBS.

That’s what I did when I was playing with google sketch up and it worked pretty well.


personally, i’d not try to use such environments. i’m not a fan of this sterile 3d-computer-look of a scene. this may work well for some kinds of animation, but i like the diffuse, foggy worlds better.

but it’s strictly personal. if the animation is witty enough, it may result in a great movie and who am i to judge a successful attempt :slight_smile:

show us a great entertainment, rob.

thanks everybody for your thoughtful opinions!

I started trying to paint in acrylic using this BG as reference. Having almost no painting experience, it’s looking pretty weak! ;D

I have also started the process of using lines rendered from the Find Edges filter in photoshop. Still, not a look I’m all that hip to.

I think what I’ll do is use this for reference, then “wonk” the heck out of it, make the building squishy, stuff like that. No wasted effort so far as I have a much better feel for the environment, and I’ll continue to use the 3D as reference for the whole deal, but I’d really like to see more character in the background.

this is the direction I decided on heading. more to do, but feeling groovy! ;D


Hi Rob,

Very nice results.

Keep up the good work.


I didn’t hate the first one or anything, but this looks a thousand times better. The garage has amazing depth & when i look into it I feel like Im about to walk into a fun house, with the slightly distorted walls & such. It will look awesome with a 2d char but it most definitely still has a 3d feel. I love it!


Great stuff …I look at your work and wonder why not just go 3D all the way dude?

Also I never heard of Anim80r before now …I since downloaded it and exploring the possibilities. By the way …I like the first image just as much as the 2nd and think it would work with 2D also.

Correct me if I’m wrong …I think when you try to blend the imported 3D stuff with 2D you run into problems when your 2D character have to move the 3D stuff. For example in the first picture …if your character wanted to lift the lid off the garbage can.

I’m glad you made this post cause I got several question for either you or Mathieu.

I made a post a few months ago regarding gettting image I created in Sketchup into TBS. My issue were similar (I’m using the free version by the way). At the time I wanted to create a few buildings in sketchup and import into TBS for an urban scene I was workin on. The problem was …I could create real-life looking 3D models …but the issue was even if I wanted to use the image I couldn’t get around eliminating the border background it exported with. I could change the colour …to white …but when imported into TBS it gave me problems because of this border.

I tried to do what Mathiue suggested in the above quote …but didn’t nearly have that success. The image was choppy …the lines very jagged and with the time spent cleaning up …it was just as easy drawing it directly in TBS.

But the possible efficiencies that could be had from using this powerfull 3D tool is alluring. Because what it could do is give the ability to change the angles on the image I create in it very quickly. While in TBS you either have to live with the single view or redraw a diffferent angle.

Mathieu can you expand a bit on how you do this from the TBS end?

what format was the wire file you import? Gif, tif …etc

I’m working on a scene where there is a concert scene. And I wanted to build the props for the musicians. Key to this is the drumset. I’ve actually downloaded a few picture of examples and was about to begin when I saw this post. I wanted to draw 3 angles of the set front, back and side …and wouldn’t it be great If I can do it once with sketchup for example and easily get the associated exact angle views. In addition I wanted each piece of the set to be seperate …so I can position the drummer and key frame and move the pieces independently for realism. (symbol vibration etc)

interesting throughts, tiger…

My hope with using 3D in the bg was as you say to keep from redrawing for each shot. hadn’t even thought about the garbage can lid, but I did make the drawers on the tool rollaway easy to open and close in degrees using a morph object.

In the end I just like the rough look of things drawn, and I like the wonky look I can get from a pencil.

One potential answer to the problems you have in jagged edges is increasing resolution on your outputs. Another is using Swift 3D to model in, as it outputs to flash so you can import your drawings to TBS.

My solution is actually pretty low tech, comparitively. I printed the shot I wanted to use, then sketched on a separate piece of paper, then imported that and traced it using the Polyline tool. You might try that with your drums.

If you haven’t already, you might play around with your vectorizing settings and see if you can get the jaggies to smooth out a little…

i was hoping you meant it this way.

what i like by the second picture is its cartoony, careless look of the shapes. in 3d you can’t cheat, everything must have its clear outlines, but you sure know this.

and then those shapes result in solid volumes to get them moved by the animator.
now there are the following choices: either we remain with 2d, or we have 3d backgrounds and 2d characters (possible even in pure 3d tools), or we try 3d characters and 2d backgrounds (mixing them in nle-tools), or we go all the way 3d.

and this is a fundamental decision, i guess.

Nice use of the “wonk” button. Have you tried Blender? It’s a 3D application and it has a toon renderer (as well as about a million other features - fluid dynamics, non-linear animation, particle systems, render layers etc.)
Best thing about it is it’s absolutely FREE!
The only downside is that it will take you a while to learn to use it Being so powerful makes it pretty complex. There are a lot of tutorials available though.
Modelling in Blender would allow you to "pre-wonk’ your sets accurately and possibly even let you make 2D characters interact with a 3D environment. It’s a pretty cool toy. You can download it from:



The program I did this modeling in is free also, Anim8or. I’ve tried Blender a few times, and I know there are some great results to be gotten from it, but I just never got my head around it. However, I recently downloaded it again to give it another go. We’ll see what happens.

I wasn’t aware it had wonking capabilities, but I suspected it had a toon renderer.

you mean the yafray renderer? as far as i know only for windows platform.
yeah, blender is already free for 9 years. the first issue i downloaded (v1.5 in 1998) had a terrible steep learn path. no tutorials, no help, a very strange interface, just from the netherlands game company, where it has been used as an internal tool.

now it’s much easier to use it :slight_smile:

I guess I’m out numbered …everyone else seem to like the 2nd picture better. I’m about even on both, even though I admit that the 2nd picture provides better consistency in a 2D environment.

But getting back my basic question regarding the 3D app. The piece I was working on would better done if I had several different angles . Right now I just surrender …and used a drumset model to trace over in TBS. But thats just one angle. The advantage of creating it in 3D would be that I could just easily rotate the model and import a different angle in TBS. But that was if I could do what Mathiue suggested with Google 3D Sketchup application for example… So far no luck. So for now …I’ll just do it he old fashion way until I find a better way.

Regarding the first picture …I take it that after imported in TBS …this can only be placed in the background of your scene. Like for example you had taken a regular photo image (jpg, tng etc) and imported it into TBS as an image element. Then place your animation on top.

How easy or difficult would it be to import just the garbage can for example Assuming everything else was done in tbs as 2D. Could you then create the garbage can in 3D import it in TBS and place it in your scene in such a way that it had layers before and behind it?

In other words (sorry for being long winded) …could you create stuff in 3D and place it TBS much the way you would draw an objebt in a particular drawing element and place it in the correct layer…and have it maintain it’s 3D look?

Sure you could do that! You just have to use a file format that supports an alpha channel (transparency). I’m glad you made me think of it–it might come in handy somewhere along the way.

As for a rotation, I’d suggest Anim8or or Blender. I took a look at the Google program and I have no idea how it works. If you can set up a camera in it and move the camera, all you really need to do is create a background color you can knock out. Anim8or, for example, could create an image series (a bunch of .jpg files, for example) that have the image and an alpha channel. Turn these into .psd or .png format for TBS support of transparency, import them to an image element, check transparency, and you have yourself a dynamic shot. I’m thrilled be thinking of this. I can use the heck out a method like this!

For the record I’ve had a few people think the first image was better.

Rob …not sure what your talking about. When I import my images they have a square background around it that I can’t get rid of.

I looked at TBS help section …but they may as well never included it …because it suggest to rid the image of this background in a 3rd party application before import. So whats the point?

I don’t have a 3rd party application to do this except Microsoft’s antiquated ‘paint’ application. And that requires traceing around the image to define it …not good. In fact when I looked at TBS help section about …“creating transparent bitmap” …the image of the dog look like its been traced around. Thats not what I want.

I was trying to follow your suggestion and I see where you said to …“check transparency” …I have no idea where your suggesting to check tranparency!

I had to go try this out to make sure I wasn’t talking out of turn here…

Third party applications include stuff like Photoshop, Fireworks, the GIMP (free!), Dogwaffle (also free!), and others. Some 3d programs can also export with an alpha channel.

Looks like you already read this in Help, but:

First thing I did was create some text in Fireworks (could’ve used Photoshop or the GIMP as well) in a document that has a transparent background. This, by the way, is what shows all those annoying little squares that you can’t get ride of. I exported this as a .psd file. TGA or TIFF would have worked also.

Then I created an Image element in my timeline and imported the file I created. The result was that the text showed up in front of my other images with no obstruction.

Next, I opened Anim8or, the free 3d program I lean on a lot. I made several basic primitive shapes in a hurry and exported a shot of them using Image + Alpha, anti-aliasing on to avoid fuzzy edges. I opened this in Fireworks and deleted the background. Again, I got those funny little squares that indicate transparency. I saved this as a .psd file and imported it to another image element.

Here’s my end results:


The jaggies on the 3D pieces are a result of low res (72 dpi) small imag size (400x300).

Again, I have no idea how the google program works. There’s some sharpies working at Google, so I don’t have any doubts about it. If you lack a third party application, try the GIMP, available for the low cost of zero dollars from http://gimp.org. Feel free to email me and we can work this out.

Mebbe I should make a tutorial or two on working with 3D in TBS. Gimme a few months.


Nope …never had fireworks nor photoshops. Now I downloaded GIMP and installed it (successfully I think) Played around for a while and discovered that the help files were not installed. Can’t seem to find it on the GIMP site . So after 2 hours of trying to guess my way through it … no luck. Just can’t seem to get to this “transparent background” you mentioned below. Every attempt I made has this square background that mask every thing behind it when imported in TBS.

This is no longer a TBS issue …so please e-mail me at lifo25@yahoo.com. Thanks!

Rob, I’m late to this party, but I’m still gonna give some input.

I liked both the 3D and the hand-drawn examples. I think you’ll find your characters will pop more if you tone down the colors in the background.

Check out how muted the backgrounds are here.

Try to keep the backgrounds where they belong … in the background.