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Creating 3d renders: My 5-year journey

4th October 2022 by Frank West2
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In 2017 I was preparing for my first Kickstarter when I realised, I was going to need a 3d render of my game box. While I always like to learn new things, many of the 3d software packages are incredibly advanced and the learning curve was high for what should be a relatively simple task.

After a lot of searching, I came across some software called Boxshot, it wasn’t too expensive and seemed perfect for the job.

The results were OK but I wasn’t getting much further than just a box, everything else stayed 2d. As you can see below, the meeples, cards, and trays are all flat with shadows.

12 months later and I’m back to preparing for a new Kickstarter, my 3d skills hadn’t improved and I was left tinkering with settings. For example, I knew I wanted slightly curved corners on my boxes as it feels more realistic, but I ended up with something far too extreme.

I remember feeling annoyed at the time that I hadn’t learned how to do more than create a basic box and promised it would be the last time.

By the time 2019 arrived and The Isle of Cats Kickstarter was approaching, I had discovered Adobe Dimensions and was able to do much more than a box. Dimensions isn’t as big or complex as many of the popular 3d programs, it also doesn’t have anywhere near the level of controls – Yet for board game renders, it does the job.

The problem was, despite learning the new software and being able to do more, I still wasn’t happy. I was now able to make scenes and it was pretty easy due to my familiarity with Photoshop and InDesign, but my lighting and camera skills were letting me down, the 2019 Kickstarter launched, and I went back to practising.

It was in 2021 when I first started feeling happy about my renders, I was still using Adobe Dimensions but now I was getting the hand of the 3d settings.

In the image below the left side shows the 2019 meeples and right shows 2021.

It’s now 2022 and as I prepare for the Race to the Raft Kickstarter I wanted to push further and make my renders more believable. I looked into 3 things:

1) I started exploring surfaces on the Adobe 3d stock library and found an outdoor table that I really liked.

2) I also realised that my scenes were too perfect, in real life components aren’t perfectly straight, spacing is often slightly off, and these minor imperfections create a more realistic image.

3) In addition to full scenes I started to experiment with zoomed in angled shots.

Here are the latest results.

I’m really happy with my progress and look forward to seeing where I end up in the next 5-years.

If you’re just getting started, then I’d recommend Boxshot for simple box renders and Adobe Dimensions for moving into higher quality. Play around with different ideas, produce renders with various lighting settings, fiddle with shadows, and explore the software!

Frank West

Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!


2 comments

  • Wonmin

    4th October 2022 at 8:42 pm

    I had no idea Adobe Dimensions was a thing! Thanks Frank

    Reply

    • Frank West

      4th October 2022 at 9:37 pm

      My pleasure, it’s not been around for anywhere near as long as many of the other Adobe products but it’s pretty good!

      Reply

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