The Art of Pixel Painting in 3D

Or “a painter at the 3D”
by: Sebastian Márquez Cladera

This article will attempt to introduce you into the fascinating land of 3D painting, certainly a quite new media in the world of computer art. I know there are many good 3D artists around already; still I find most of them dealing with creations for the film movies, advertisements and other commercial applications. There are many science fiction related or computer games related scenes in the 3D galleries. Not so bad really, if it is a base of inspiration for many young artists-to-be, somewhere must you begin, and I remember how I used to paint pictures out of Superman comics as a child! I do not know many ”fine art” (I know, I know, who isn’t a “fine art artist”?) artists using this media and (even if the number of digital artists, painting in 2D, is increasing all the time in the Internet world) this is one of the main reasons why I am writing this article: Because there is a vacuum, or at least a very reduced group of painters in this specialty, and I love 3D art and to introduce and encourage other artists to paint in pixels and 3D.

Unlimited possibilities

Whatever you can imagine as a creative artist, whether you are a traditional artist or an abstract one, you can bring to life using a 3D software. You can create 3D paintings including objects and subjects of any type, rendering scenes that allow you to obtain high quality pictures that you can print or use for the WEB.

This article is intended firstly for intermediate or advanced 3D software users (Or any other graphics software), I used 3dsmax4 myself, but even If you've never used a 3D program before, the simplicity of this tutorial will allow you to learn the skills allowing you to get started very soon.

The question I often get, both from fellow artists and other art interested people is: what is the point of painting traditionally with a computer, if you are a traditional media artist, shouldn’t you use traditional media too? what can be easier and give better results than the real oil, tempera or watercolor?

We can take a look at these considerations:

Real media from the art store is better because...

  • You can touch it with your hands.
  • You can physically interact with your work.
  • You can feel the interaction of the medium and the paper or canvas.
  • Wider range of interaction with the media.
  • Infinite range of color.
  • Infinite tonal range.
  • Infinite contrast range.
  • Infinite resolution.
  • Smudges beautifully.
  • You can work just about anywhere.
  • Easier to create large works.
  • Everything you do is an original.
  • Finished work can have a three dimensional look, where the appearance of the work is affected by how it is displayed,Illuminated, and viewed.
  • Your tools are much simpler and they don't need electricity.
  • Wider range of physical media.
  • Up to $82 million for a single work of art.
  • You can go to the art supplies store and hang out with the artists.
  • Your work will be exhibited in museums.
  • Your work will be displayed against a plain white background.
  • Art critics and art historians will write about you.
Real media on the computer is better because...
  • Your hands don't get dirty.
  • No mess for you to clean up
  • **** UNDO ****
  • **** UNDO ****
  • **** UNDO **** (Sorry, got carried away)
  • Less intimidating and more approachable because media can be re-used and mistakes and accidents can be undone.
  • You can have a teeny weenie eraser, as small and sharp-pointed as a pencil.
  • "Dial-a-hardness" pencils.
  • You can have a black, a white, a red, and a blue pencil that all draw, smudge, and erase exactly the same.
  • Access to many different kinds of media.
  • Easier to experiment.
  • Dries right away.
  • Doesn't get accidentally smudged.
  • Can't wear out media by repeated reworking or erasing.
  • You can zoom to higher magnification for working on fine detail.
  • Easier to fix, adjust, and change things.
  • Media gets cheaper as the technology gets cheaper.
  • Media gets better/faster as the technology improves.
  • Media evolves to remove limitations.
  • Media can be made to violate physical laws that bind real media.
  • Media can exhibit idealized behavior.
  • Perfect masking and friskets.
  • Doesn't drip or run (unless you want it to).
  • Doesn't deteriorate, warp, fade, crack, peel, discolor or turn yellow.
  • Can be transferred easily to another place.
  • Can be scaled and resized.
  • Can be viewed and distributed by computer without first having to be digitized.
  • Brush strokes can be recorded in one medium and played back in another.
  • Easier to explore -- you can take the same piece of work down several paths.
  • You can make variations of the same work.
  • You can make as many copies as you need.
  • You'll never run out of paint, canvas, or materials -- just disk space.
  • You can vary color, tonal range or contrast at will.
  • A copy can be stored elsewhere for safekeeping.
  • You can create a new medium or modify characteristics of an existing medium to suit your requirements.
  • Easier to do 'special effects' (this may not actually be a feature).
  • You can go to the computer store and hang out with the nerds.
  • Your work will be seen on web sites.
  • Your work will be displayed against a heavily textured or weirdly colored background.
  • Wired Magazine will write about you.

A way of “seeing”

About the motive: Keep always in mind that we are going to”paint”, we can, for example, consider the 3D objects as our drawing sketches before the painting. We shall later step back many times and change parts of our painting as we advance in the final composition.

The size of maps should allow as many details in your pictures as your system allows.

One of many possible final renderings of our scene