Claudio Saavedra is an artist from Chile whose passion for drawing and painting has contributed to his expertise in 3D character modeling. In the following article, Claudio will breakdown a few of his tips for transforming 2D concepts into 3D designs, a task which many artists know is often much easier said than done. Check it out: 

1. References

One of the biggest problems when making a 3D model from a 2D concept is keeping the essence of the concept. With 2D designs, the artist has the freedom to “fake” a lot of things with the goal to achieve a more attractive look. But when trying to implement this with real volumes, we find some obstacles. The most common example is the pose. An attractive pose is not always necessarily functional. In 3D, we have to deal a lot with this problem.

There are a few very important concepts to consider, including the balance of the pose, the weight, the muscular tension, what you want to express.

To obtain the best parts of the original concept and add the benefits of 3D, one of the techniques that I use frequently is to take references of myself in the same pose (or as close as I can if the pose is too extreme). Also, I usually use a lot of videos and images from the internet with similar poses and facial expressions. I have a lot of collections in Pinterest, like “poses”, “human anatomy”, “animals”, “animal anatomy”, “cloth”, etc (you can find them here). In this point, I have to say that references, for achieving a good interpretation of the pose, are fundamental.

To make this elephant, I had to search a lot of references, and I learned many things about the differences between the African elephant and the Asian elephant principally.

Another thing I recommend is to paint over on the 3D design to correct things that aesthetically are still not looking dynamic - this is an effective and fast way to make corrections:


By working on facial expression, we come across the same problem I mentioned earlier, but now we need to be even more accurate because any part of the face that is poorly achieved can completely change what the character transmits.

2. Facial Expression

Symmetric facial expressions generally are unattractive and boring. The parts of the character's face should work together, otherwise the facial expression will appear disjointed and unnatural. Since all the muscles of our face are directly related by each movement, we must also think that this should complement and enhance the pose so that the character can transmit more attitude.


In addition to applying these aesthetic principles, it is fundamental to know the anatomy of the face in each expression. For this, Gary Faigin`s book “The Artist's Complete Guide To Facial Expression” helps to understand and accurately apply the face anatomy.

3. Silhouette

Another thing to have in mind in order to be sure that our character’s shape is working, is to look at its silhouette. If it has a good silhouette, that means we are on a good path.

Even if the character has to look good from different angles, we should try to make it even more appealing for the camera angle that we are gonna use. To make silhouettes more appealing, we should try making them more dynamic by bringing asymmetry and always make sure they are are as clear as possible.


The silhouette of our character must give as much information as possible without losing their clarity. To achieve this, we must find the best angle to see the pose and take advantage of the elements that our character has. This will make the silhouette a much more powerful element and will help to show our work in a best way.


Another important thing about the silhouettes is how we can balance the character. This can make the pose much more attractive. In this case, the character is crouched, making a balance between the hip and the rib cage, each one in an opposite direction with respect to the axis of the character. But if the character was standing upright, it would balance, but it would also be a static pose and without much attitude.

4. Less is More 
I’ve seen lots of people struggling to make their character look as “realistic” as possible, as if this would make them look better, but the truth is that in most of cases where people try to do this it usually ends in failure. The level of synthesis in character’s aesthetics have a lot of studies and fundamentals behind, and in my opinion this should be taken into account to not fail in putting extra details where they are not strictly necessary and where it might hinder the character's own visual language.



We'd like to thank Claudio for taking the time to provide these valuable tips. We hope this inspires you to create!