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Designer Passport: A Sanity-Defying Composition of Color and Form

In this monthly series, we take the opportunity to spotlight great designers from around the world. Each month, Designer Passport brings you a new piece of art by a graphic artist we love (created from Shutterstock assets, of course), along with a step-by-step guide to how you can create it (or something equally awesome) yourself.

Pedro Veneziano is a freelance graphic designer and student at Universidade Estadual Paulista in São Paulo, Brazil. He recently spent a semester at Parsons, the New School for Design in NYC, where he continued his design studies. His passions include 3D, branding, motion, music, and rain, and his ideas for this edition of Designer Passport are grounded in texture-based design.

As Pedro explained, he wants this work to be accessible to anyone, regardless of their experience with 3D software. According to the artist, this piece, "I'm Losing My Mind," creates a joyful balance of composition between the text and the colors/textures. The tools and programs used in the making of this tutorial include Creative Cloud, Vray, and Cinema 4D. Read on to discover how it was done.

Step 1

The first thing we’re going to do is set a scene in Cinema 4D to position all the elements. To make the walls, create a cube (Create > Object > Cube) and set its X, Y, and Z sizes to 3000 cm. Then make it editable (hit the “C” key) and, using the Polygons selection mode, select the top and the two sides of the cube that won’t appear and delete them.

Next, create another cube, set it to 2000 x 96 x 960 cm, and position it close to the remaining corner of the first one. Check the Fillet box and set the Fillet Radius to 1 cm and the Subdivision to 5. That will slightly round the edges of the object to make it more realistic, so it’s something we’re going to do a lot. Finally, create a third cube (1000 x 1200 x 25 cm, with the same Fillet settings) and rotate it a bit in the Y axis so that you can lean that object on the wall, just like the image below.

Step 2

To make the “I’M MY” pieces, you’ll need to draw their paths using Illustrator first. Create a new A4-sized document in Illustrator and use your favorite tools to create the cube-shaped letters. You can do it straight from a pen, or start from primary shapes and use the pen and the pathfinder tools to cut the letters out. Once you’re happy with it, select the letters and go to Object > Path > Offset Path to create an inner shape that will define the thickness of the wood in the final piece. Here, I created a -2 mm offset path. Once that’s done, save the file. (Important: You have to save it as an Illustrator 8 file in order to open it in Cinema 4D.)

Step 3

Back in C4D, go to File > Merge. Select your Illustrator file and make sure that only the Group Splines box is checked. Once the paths are in your file, the first thing you’ll do is scale and position them, considering that it’s going to be the front face of the extrude. Secondly, make a copy of the inner path of the characters, except for the “I.”

Select all the original paths by holding Shift and Right-Click > Connect Objects + Delete. What you have to do next is extrude this new path; to do that, go to Create > NURBS > Extrude NURBS and throw the path spline inside the new Extrude object. With the extrude selected, set its movement to 400 cm, then go to Caps and switch both the start and end from Cap to Fillet Cap (5 steps and 1 cm Radius, just like the previous fillets).

Step 4

To create the inside part of the letters, duplicate the Extrude four times and replace their splines with the inner paths that you made copies of previously (one inside each extrude). Now play around with their positions and sizes. Move the second “M” to the front (around 20 cm) and the other characters to the inside. You can move them in different distances to create a more dynamic composition. As for the stairs inside the “I,” create a cube (125 x 45 x 100 cm, 1 cm, 5 segments Fillet) and throw that cube inside a Cloner (Mograph > Cloner). In the cloner options, set Count to 7 and play around with the position of the cloner and the distance between the resulting cubes (X, Y, and Z under the Amount option).

Step 5

Go back into Illustrator to draw the puddle that leaks out of the text. Create a new document and use the pen tool to draw it, whether it’s based on the image below or a custom shape. Once you’re done, save that as an Illustrator 8 file and merge it with your C4D file. Scale, rotate, and position the puddle next to the text and nearly touching the ground.

Once that’s done, throw the spline inside an Extrude NURBS, extrude it in the Y direction, and add 3 cm Fillet Caps to make it look like liquid. To create the “Mind” word, go to MoGraph > MoText. Type in the word and add 1 cm Fillet Caps. Play around with font (I used Proxima Nova, avaliable on Typekit), spacing, and scale, then position it on the ground, in front of the composition.

Step 6

Go back to Illustrator and draw the “losing” lettering. You can use the example below as a reference or sketch your own. If you choose to create your own, remember, it has to be a single line. Once you’re pleased with it, save it and merge it with C4D. Scale and position the lettering in front of the “I’M MY” text. Here comes the tricky part: in the Points Selection mode, move the “losing” spline points in the Z direction in order to make it more three-dimensional and to make sure there will be no overlaps.

Once you finish, create a 4 cm circle (Create > Spline > Circle) and throw both splines inside a Sweep NURBS (the circle must be on top), then add 2 cm Fillet Caps to make it chunky. As a final touch, duplicate the Sweep a few times and play around with the Start and End Growth values to create little fragments on the edges of the lettering. Group them up by selecting, then Right-click > Group Objects.

Step 7

Now you’re free to have fun with the composition. Add a 90 cm Sphere (Create > Object > Sphere) inside the empty space between the letter boxes, then many others, with different
sizes, wherever you want. Add a Cone (500 cm high, with a 200 cm bottom radius) and place it next to the room corner. Add some cylinders (15 cm radius, 300 height) and place them in the upper right corner of the back board, varying the distance between them to add some motion to the composition. Lastly, create some cylinders with different radius and height values to make a “rolling object”; group them and place it on the other side of the board.

Step 8

To make a broken ball: Create a sphere with a 90 cm radius and place it between the “mind” word and the cone. Make a copy of it and set its radius to 80 cm. Go to Create > Modelling > Connect and throw both spheres inside the new object. Then, create a cube and cover half of the sphere with it. Add a boolean (Create > Modelling > Boole) and throw both the cube and the Connect group inside it (Connect on top), in order to cut the cube out of the connected spheres. Now that you’ve created one half, duplicate the Boole and, inside its settings, switch the boolean type to A intersect B. Position both halves the way you prefer.

Step 9

Now that we’ve finished the modeling, it’s time to configure the render settings (Render > Edit Render Settings). First, in Output, set the size to 420 x 594 mm and 300 dpi. Switch the Renderer tab from Standard to VrayBridge. In the VrayBridge settings, go to the Indirect Illumination tab and turn the GI on. I use the 02_IR-LC_Very Fast preset, but you may choose your favourite. Then, go to the Color Mapping tab and change its type to Exponential and its Dark and Bright multiplier values to 2. After that, create a camera and, inside its Object settings, change the Focal Length to 50. Position the camera the way you prefer, and once you’re happy with it, right-click on the camera > VrayBrigde Tags > VrayPhysicalCamera. Inside its parameters, set the F-stop to 2 and the Shutter Speed to 100.

Step 10

Now for lighting: Create an area light that’s 600 x 1000 cm. Place it on the right side and slightly above the composition, then rotate it so that it points to your objects (you can use the image below as a reference). Once it’s positioned, add a VrayLight tag to it. Change its color to a slightly yellow tone and check the Enable Shadows box. Duplicate this light and place it on the other side of the composition, also pointing to the objects. Turn its intensity down to 0.3 and change its color to a slightly blue tone. This difference in the light colors will add a smooth atmosphere to your composition.

Step 11

If you hit Render now (Shortcut: Ctrl or Cmd + R), your result should be similar to this. If it’s not, make sure that all the render, camera, and light settings are correct. Also, if you think it’s too bright, remember that once you add materials to it, the brightness will naturally tune down. Take this chance to tweak the lighting and the objects a bit in order to get the best result.

Step 12

This is the fun part: texturing. You can download all the pictures we’ll be using here. We’ll start with the wood texture. Open the image in Photoshop and use Levels to make it darker (Shortcut: Ctrl/Cmd + L, Settings: 90/1,00/225 input, 0/225 output levels). Back in C4D, go to Create > Material > VrayBridge > VrayAdvancedMaterial. Load the wood Texture Map inside the Diffuse Layer of the new material and, once that’s done, drag the new material onto the extruded letters in the object panel. The last thing you have to do is click on the material icon that appeared next to the extruded letters (Objects panel) and change its projection to Cubic. Now right-click the same icon and select “Fit to Object.”

Step 13

For the textures on the first “M” and the “Y,” you’ll be using two different images: the sky and the flower pattern. You can open the flower pattern in Photoshop to add some contrast if you like. As for the clouds, using the Photoshop Crop tool, cut a square piece that you find interesting out of the image. In C4D, create two new Vray materials and add the new textures to each one, then assign each texture to the inside part of each letter (clouds for the M, flowers for the Y). Finally, set the materials’ projection to Cubic and fit it to the object, just like the previous step.

Step 14

To make the texture for the other “M,” create a new document in Illustrator (250 x 250 mm, RGB mode). Copy the inner path of the “M” that you created in step 2, paste it into the new document, and make it the same size as the artboard. Using the Offset Path, create a -5 mm inner path and delete the previous one. Set its color to white, no stroke. Create a black square behind the “M” and then a white 250 x 5 mm rectangle on top. Paste it several times to create a striped pattern, like in the image below. Once that’s done, export it as a 72 dpi PNG file and load that inside a new Vray material back in C4D.

Step 15

In Cinema 4D, select the inner part of the “M” and hit C to make it editable. That will transform the extrude into a group. Inside this group you’ll find something called Cap 1, which is the front cap. Assign the created texture to this cap, choose a Flat projection, and fit that to the object. Now create a black Vray material and assign it to the rest of the group. If you render that, this is how it should look:

Step 16

Create a 160 x 250 mm RGB document in Illustrator to make the apostrophe texture. Copy the inner path of the character and paste it with the size of the artboard. Draw two triangles inside the square part of the apostrophe (using the image below as a guide) with the following colors: 0-150-225 (blue) and 255-50-80 (red). Draw a yellow (255-240-100) rectangle in the background and delete the apostrophe, then export that as a PNG. Load the texture inside a new Vray material in C4D and assign that material to the apostrophe (Cubic projection, Fit to Object).

Step 17

Before we finish texturing the letters, let’s make a glossy texture for the puddle. Create a black Vray material and add a Specular Layer to it. Inside the Specular settings, use the following values: Transparency, 70%; Soften Edges, 0.1; Highlight Glossiness, 0.3; Reflection Glossiness, 0.9; Glossiness Subdvisions, 16. That will add a slightly blurry reflection to the material. Assign that material to the puddle and to the sphere in the middle. Then add a white material to the cone and, using Polygons selection mode, select stripes in it and assign the black glossy material to those (drag the material straight to the selection on the view panel).

Step 18

For the “I,” you’ll create a different material for each step on the stairs, in order to create a color gradient. The colors, from the upper step to the lower one, are: 255-130-140, 255-75-100, 205-35-80, 160-35-95, 705-45-115, 60-50-130, and 20-50-100. Once the stairs are done, use these color materials (and create others) to texture the remaining spheres. You can even play around with Specular layers or add more than one material by selecting their polygons.

Step 19

For the red base, duplicate the black glossy material and change its color to 180-30-50. In the Specular settings, change the Transparency to 85% and the Reflection Glossiness to 0.8. As for the “losing” letters, duplicate the red material and change the Transparency to 75%, the Highlight Glossiness to 0.9, and the Reflection Glossiness to 1.

Step 20

To create a texture for the back board, go back to Illustrator and create a 250 x 300 mm RGB document. Draw a pink rectangle (255-150-150), then use the Offset path to create another rectangle, 10 mm to the inside. Turn off the fill on the new rectangle and give it a black 14pt stroke. Export it as a PNG and load it inside a new material. With the board selected, hit C to make it editable and assign the wood material to it (Cubic projection, Fit to Object). Then, in Polygon selection mode, select its main face and drag the new texture to it. Make its projection flat and fit to the object.

Step 21

To add a wooden texture inside the lower piece of the broken sphere, assign a white material to the outer sphere inside the Connect. Then assign the wooden material to the cube that’s cutting out the Connect and to the inner sphere. Also, add some color to the other half. As for the rolling objects, assign the wood material to all of them and make the bigger one editable. With that selected, inside the Points Selection mode, hit K to use the Knife tool. Make sure it’s in Loop mode and make two cuts near the edges of the cylinder. In Polygon Selection mode, select the inner polygons and assign a color material to them. You can even select some polygons and add a white material to make stripes.

Step 22

Last but not least, the room textures: Download the wooden floor texture and load it in a new Vray material. Select the floor polygon and drag the material to it. Make it flat, but instead of fitting it, we’ll scale and position it. To do that, with the object (and its material icon) selected, go into Texture mode and hit L to enable Axis. Now set the material mapping the way you want it. As for the walls, load the brick texture inside a new Vray material and assign that to the respective faces. Instead of a Flat projection, make it Cubic, then scale and position it the same way. Once you’re satisfied, remove the brick image from the Diffuse layer and load it in the Bump layer. (By doing that, you’re giving the material depth instead of a plane texture.) Set the Bump amount to 30 cm and enable Invert and Bump Shadows.

Step 23

We’re ready to render! First, go to the Render settings and, inside the Save tab, choose a
name for your file and your Format choice (usually I render as a PSD file). Once that’s done, go to Render > Add to Render Queue, and inside the new window, go to Jobs > Start Rendering. When it finishes, open the piece in Photoshop and feel free to make any desired final adjustments, such as adjusting Levels, Contrast, or Noise (Filter > Noise > Add noise) for a special touch!

To see all the images used in this tutorial, check out the lightbox below »

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