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| maxon Sketch and Toon review
There's no doubt that the main interest of 3D modelling lies in producing photo-realistic output and with Cinema 4D and its Advanced Render module, Maxon certainly delivers the goods. However there is another option. With the Sketch and Toon add-on module for Cinema 4D you can turn your scene into a technical drawing, a hand-drawn sketch or a fully-realized work of art.
And it could hardly be easier. Simply add a new Sketch Material and preview your scene and you'll see that a cartoon-style effect with strong outlines and simplified shading has automatically been applied. Open the Sketch Material's main tab and you can then choose from dozens of preset media styles such as air brush, chalk, marker and a whole range of pen and pencil effects. What really sets Sketch and Toon apart is that when rendered, many of these really do look as if they have been hand-drawn by a draughtsman or a creative artist.
Switch Sketch and Toon to Intermediate or Advanced Mode and you can begin exploring how each preset effect is produced and create your own. The level of power and control is awesome. In the Strokes tab for example, you can control whether and how line segments should be joined together into longer strokes. In the Distort and Adjust tabs you can then apply a curve to the stroke and set up offsets, overshoots, transforms and variations to give a more fluid hand-drawn feel to the line. Then in the Colour, Thickness and Opacity tabs you can set these all-important parameters and vary them according to a whole host of modifiers such as distance, position, length along stroke and angle.
As well as setting up the line style you also need to be able to specify where lines are applied and this is primarily done in Cinema 4D's Render Settings dialog. By default lines are applied to folds, creases and borders but you can also apply them to outlines, materials, edges, contours and so on. You can also set Cinema 4D's Editor View to display where lines will be applied which is a huge time saver and, crucially, you can also override settings on an object and even polygonal selection level using dedicated Sketch and Toon tags.
The Render Settings dialog is also where you set overall shading. Sketch and Toon defaults to applying a simple quantizing effect though you can also apply a custom colour, background, or a gradient-based simplification. Much greater control and power is provided by Sketch and Toon's four dedicated shaders. The Cel shader lets you take full control of Manga-style cartoon shading based on custom gradients. The Spots shader simulates halftone spots, or any other shape, based on brightness. The Hatch shader lets you apply any texture as a cross-hatching effect. And the Art shader lets you use an image of a textured and lit sphere that is then applied to an object based on its surface normals and with no lighting necessary. With Sketch and Toon the level of power and control that Maxon offers isn't just extraordinary, it's truly unique.
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PhotoSEAM is ideal for converting photographs into seamless textures.
The usual way to try and obscure these distracting grid lines is to use the Rubber Stamp tool to clone areas of the existing picture, and this is particularly easy thanks to PhotoSEAM's ability to simply paint over the tile's edges. You can also use PhotoSEAM's Texture Pick command to quickly create a seamless texture from a section of the image that you can then paint wherever you want (the program also comes with a range of preset textures or you can load your own). Best of all, is PhotoSEAM's unique Cross-Border Cloner. This remembers the areas of the image immediately outside the tile that you created on loading and enables you to clone them back in so that you are almost guaranteed naturalistic end results. It's another example of Roman Voska's brilliant lateral thinking and programming and worth the price of the program alone.
Building up a library of seamless textures is an important task for every designer whether they are working with photo-editing, vector drawing or 3D modeling apps. There are plenty free available on the Web, but there's relatively little quality control and it's difficult to find exactly the right texture you need for any particular job. The solution is to produce your own and that's exactly what PhotoSEAM does. PhotoSEAM is produced by Roman Voska, the creator of the excellent Real-DRAW Pro, and it's based on his work on another of his programs, the bitmap editor Photo-Brush. In fact PhotoSEAM is Photo-Brush but with a twist: whatever you paint onscreen is automatically seamlessly tiled.
The implementation of this is beautifully simple. The tile you are working on is presented in the middle of the screen surrounded on all sides by copies so that you can always see the overall patterned effect. The big difference is that you can simply paint over the edge of the central tile and this is automatically mirrored on its opposite side with all the visible tiles updated accordingly. In fact all the tiles are live so that you can freely paint anywhere on the pattern as a whole. It's not just simple - it's addictive. Especially as PhotoSEAM provides a good range of pressure-sensitive customizable brushes including PSP-compatible image hoses which make it child's play to produce seamless textures based on multiple bitmap images such as a forest of trees or a pile of coins.
PhotoSEAM is excellent for building seamless textures from scratch but it really comes into its own for converting existing photographs. The key to this is the two-stage Tile Preparation dialog in which you first select a suitable section of your photograph and then interactively fine-tune the size, shape and angle of your tile while seeing the effect of your changes on the resulting overall pattern in real-time. This enables you to create the best starting off-point for your pattern but, even so, visible seams are almost inevitable.
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