3D World

Create striking stylised scenes with toon shading

The artist behind our striking scifi cover this month, Amir Zand, takes us step-by-step through his creative process, demonstrat­ing how to achieve that incredible cel-shaded look

- Finding the best roughness and texture when adding lines to your material is crucial, and it’s best to keep in mind that the way your material is projected on your model can also change the effect of how outlines appear.

Coming from a stylised illustrati­on/painting background with an appreciati­on for retro sci-fi, manga and comic art, I am always looking for a way to achieve those aesthetics through 3D, breaking away from the realism that usually sets the bar for the way we use these software, with a fresh approach that can be in sync with my own personal taste and the way I actually used to paint and sketch.

There are many ways to create and develop toon shaders and a variety of different styles to explore, and sometimes it can appear complex, but in this quick step by step I will take you through a simplified process that I used to create my piece ‘Break Time’.

I will cover setting up the scene, creating toon material and texturing geometries using the Arnold Renderer Toon shading system in order to create a stylised 3D scene. After creating the scene I use Photoshop for post-pro to push the image even further.


I usually try to begin with some quick thumbnails and sketches in my sketchbook to form some initial ideas and compositio­ns; whether I’m working in 3D software or painting in 2D, it helps me to have a basic idea of what I am hoping to achieve.


Next, I set up my scene with some 3D-scanned rock geometry using Quixel Bridge. It’s good to mention here that I don’t need the textures and am only using the geometries to mix and create a base for my landscape.

As you can see I used three different scans (A) and mixed them to have an early base for my scene (B).


Since I’m aiming to create an illustrati­on, early on I would try to find the most suitable angle and set up my camera (locked) and add the additional details and planes based on my compositio­n. As you can see in the screenshot, I’ve duplicated some of my geometry to add some rocks in the distance, and also have a negative space for my focal point which is the monolith itself.

Material projection

Also, I love to point out that the Adobe Mixamo library (mixamo.

com) is a great resource featuring thousands of characters and fullbody animations, which you can use to pose the figures. Engineer model by sketchfab.com/dadndan009­1.


This next step is all about setting up my light, using Arnold Distant light for global lighting, and Disk light for small spotlights by the monolith (although it requires some more adjustment­s on the material to adjust the impact, which I will explain in future steps). I was aiming to have a moonlight setup with a touch of warm light by the monolith to represent fire. Both these lights are accessible under Arnold>arnold Light. Check out the screenshot to see the results of the global light.


In this step I’ll create my early base toon material. Simply click Create in the C4D material section> Arnold>surface>toon and you have a toon material, double-click and it opens the Material Editor. At the top select Arnold Shader Network Editor to access nodes, from there I bring in a Ramp_rgb from the Texture category (A). Connect it to your Toon>main>base>tonemap (B). This will allow you to set steps of colours to your material, from light to midtones to shadow. Change the Type from ‘Custom’ to ‘U’ in order to see the impact in the render

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