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Experimenting with 3D Design

At HGA we love working with the latest software and clever technology solutions.

As Senior Graphic Designer in the Creative team, I have a special passion for 3D work which we use often for both our design work and for our event planning. I build sets and design ideas for events from Brand Activations and exhibitions to gala dinners and conferences – creating a realistic view of the sets, furniture and props but also the lighting effects, colour saturation and how we use the clients branding so they can really get a feel for what it will be like.

Maya Computer Animation and Modelling Software

The graphics software we use is Maya and this week I’ve been trialling some new features and experimenting with different effects. What better concept to put to the test than Halloween? So here’s a little behind the scenes preview of what a discovered…

I started with a real image – in this case of the HGA HQ building.

I rebuilt the structure in Maya using simple polygon shapes. I deliberately kept with the ‘low poly’ style that is so popular in design at the moment. With time and skill, you can make very lifelike creations using Maya but in this instance, I wanted to work with simple, almost cartoon-like design. I even added a slight curve to the sides of the building and altered the window shapes to add a ‘haunted house’ effect.

Adding textures

The next step involves adding some texture to the flat polygon shape. I used a mix of pre-made textures which you can find on stock imagery sites like Shutterstock, and some custom made textures I created to add depth to the image. The more detail you can go into at this stage, the better the effect at the end is. I also considered lighting effects – from the gloomy exterior to a spooky yellow light from inside.

Now that we have the main focus of the image sorted, I wanted to create some additional elements, to start to build up the image. I wanted to make the scene look like a little haunted village, with the HGA building as the main focus. So my next step was to create the additional little huts to populate the rest of the image.

I started in the same way as before, by creating a simple none-textured polygon hut, making sure it was simple enough to fit with the ‘low poly’ theme, but also had enough detail that it was easily recognisable as an old wooden hut.

Then came the textures…

Creating the landscape

The next step is to add the buildings to a landscape. I create a very simple hill with a subtle mountain range in the background. This allowed me to place my HGA building on top and start to build up my scene. The wireframe on the image below shows the waves of the hills.

I wanted to add some depth to the image, so I create a little path that travelled from the bottom left of the image, to the front door of the building. By adding a subtle glow to each of the lampposts, it starts to bring the image to life.

Poly ghosts

I wanted to make the scene a little bit spookier, so I decided to create a little low poly ghost to go into the scene. They are super simple, but as they will only be small in the image, you won’t see any imperfections. I populated the scene with a few different ghosts, at different depths to the camera. I also added a little bit more detail to the grounds of the main HGA building.

The back of the image was now looking a little bit dark and plain, so I decided to add some trees to flesh out this space. In keeping with the rest of the image, they needed to be really simple and low poly, so I simply built them out of a basic pyramid shape. On its own, it will look odd, but when you make a few different sizes, it looks quite effective.

The final addition to this image were the small huts I created earlier. I added five in total, with some of them coming almost off the screen. This adds the final touch to the image and really helps to set the scene.

Finishing touches

The last element to build was adding Depth of Field to the camera. Used in ‘real life’ photography and video work, it adds blur to the foreground and background of an image, so the main focus of the scene (in this case the HGA building) really stands out. You can create the exact same effect using the software and I am really pleased with how well this image turned out. It’s always useful to polish up on somMayaya techniques that I can implement on a day-to-day basis.

But a true designer’s work is never done, so then I added in a spooky moon using photoshoot afterwards –  a little cherry on the top!

We are currently recruiting for another Graphic Designer to join our creative team and I look forward to training this person up in how to get the most out of the software and to having another hand on deck when it comes to 3D work!

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