Creating packaging and prototypes with Adobe Dimension
By Jon Vio Published October 8, 2019
Presentation is the key to success as a designer. The most outstanding designs fall flat if not presented well. It's why we build Semplice.com, to help designers present themselves and their work better. And now, it's why we're using Adobe Dimension.
If you're not familiar, Dimension is set to change the way designers use 3D forever. It's made 3D design accessible to those who may not have access to expensive 3D programs or technical knowledge to use them. (We already shared our beginner's 3D design tutorial using Dimension, and it's been awesome seeing what people are making with zero previous 3D experience.) The best part is, Dimension is included with an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
With Dimension, you can take a design, whether it's a logo or an abstract illustration, and put it into context for your audience. We've used it to mock up our product packaging, to prototype quick examples for a project, to visualize abstract concepts – basically, to bring any 2D work into 3D space and make it feel real. With Dimension, we can breathe 3D life into our designs.
3D hot sauce bottles we designed and created in Dimension to use in a Semplice.com demo.
A 3D rendering created of our Semplice product packaging, created in Dimension.
Our packaging and prototyping workflow with Dimension
It's surprisingly easy to get started with Dimension. It comes with lighting presets, 3D objects and realistic real-world materials you can use to quickly bring your work into beautiful 3D space. To show you my typical workflow for 3D prototyping and package design, I've created an example scene with packaging for a non-existent coffee company. So instead of presenting the logo and packaging design to this company on a flat page, I can mock it up as it's intended to appear: on the curved shape of a can.
Here is the flat artwork we will be applying to our 3D objects:
Here is the final scene, which we'll now re-create together:
When creating a 3D visual, I first place flat planes at right angles to create a floor and walls for my scene. You can use the 'Plane' model from the Models panel to add flat planes. I then arrange all of my objects within this space. In this case, I used the 'Beverage Can' model Dimension provides.
From there, I added cylinders and coffee beans for additional visual interest.
If you are looking for 3D assets to use in your scene, Dimension provides lots of options in the Starter Assets Panel on the left. You can find more Dimension-ready assets, both free and paid, on the Adobe Stock 3D website. Websites like CGTrader or TurboSquid also offer free 3D assets.
2. Setting the camera view
Now that I've placed all my objects, I'm going to set up my camera view. Dimension uses real-world camera attributes, and if you're familiar with basic photography principles you'll know that visual placement is crucial to a well-balanced visual scene.
Use the rotate (1), pan (2) or zoom (3) tools to position your camera within the scene and put your object in frame. You can use the Field of View to either reduce or increase camera perception and simulate lens distortion. For this scene, I've set my camera Field of View to 5 for a very isometric-like result.
3. Assigning materials
With my camera set up, I then assign materials to my objects. For my walls and structural objects, I've set a colored matte material. The matte material will serve to absorb excess light and reduce reflections in our scene. I've then set my floor to a ceramic tile material, and assigned custom colors to my tile in the material options. My cylinders have been set to plastic, with 35% roughness. Roughness just means how specular or reflective your object will be, so setting a roughness value of 35% will provide some glossiness to our object.
I've assigned my cans a metal material with a 30% roughness value. This metal material will serve as the base material for our cans, with our design being overlaid on top to allow the metal to show through. You could also easily use a vector graphic made in Illustrator.
4. Adding our designs
Now that we have assigned a metal material to our cans to serve as the base material, let's add a design to our cans. We will lay our artwork on top of the base material, and use transparency to allow the base metal material to show through.
We'll do this by adding our design as a graphic in our materials editor. I've created my flat packaging work in Photoshop and then saved them as transparent PNGs. The transparent areas of the PNG is where our underlying metal material will show through.
I will now add the PNGs as a graphic to my can. In the material options, look for the 'Add Graphic to Model' option. You can then use the graphic scale tools to scale the PNG on the 3D object, along with your cursor to re-arrange the placement of the graphic on the can. Lastly, I've set my graphic to have a roughness of 20%.
5. Setting our lighting
Great! We've built out our scene. Now comes one of the most important steps: our lighting. Lighting is key to creating photorealistic and visually pleasing results, and thankfully Dimension takes the legwork out of this step with its lighting presets.
You can choose from a variety of lighting presets depending on the mood and style you want. In Dimension, you'll first choose either image-based environment lighting or sunlight and adjust to your liking from there. For a nice studio look with soft shadows and even lighting, I chose Studio Light Pillars Dark A. I then used the rotate tool to change the direction of my lighting.
And here is the render. We have some very soft shadows and even light:
We can achieve a more naturally lit scene by choosing sunlight as the light source. This is our same scene, with environment lighting turned off and sunlight (with a height value of 45 and cloudiness set to 38%, and colorize set to white) as the light source:
Now that we've set up our basic scene, this is where the real fun comes in. You can tweak and experiment with various lighting techniques, object materials and camera angles to get a variety of images and moods.
For example, you can adjust the camera angles of your scene to get varying results. Here is a simple front-facing shot of our scene, with the camera Field of View set to 30 and 'sunlight' for the lighting. This is the equivalent of using a 30mm camera lens:
You can also turn on Depth of Field in the Camera options to achieve some nice focusing effects for those closeup shots:
In this example, I've set my Depth of Field to 56 with my Field of View at 12:
You can also drastically change the feel and mood of your scene with lighting. Here is an example where I've set the environment to Studio Color Stage A, with some soft sunlight colorized to orange:
Here is another example where I've used sunlight as the light source, with a low height value for some intense shadows and moodiness:
Lastly, playing around with the materials can also dramatically change the look of your scene. Here is one example where I've set the floor to valencia marble, and the cylinders to brass. You'll notice it's already given our scene different look and feel. You can find even more rich materials on Adobe Stock.
We can go even crazier and set all of our structural materials to metal:
When you compare a flat logo design with seeing a logo on a 3D object, the value of Dimension is obvious. Whether you're creating a brand identity, a simple mockup or detailed prototype, Dimension elevates your work and makes it more tangible.
I highly recommend checking out their support articles to get the basics on how to use the program. And if you haven't already tried out our 3D illustration tutorial, do that next. Start playing and creating with Dimension and it will quickly become an indispensable part of your design toolbox.
If you do create something with Dimension, be sure to share your designs to Behance, selecting Adobe Dimension under “Tools Used” in the Basic Info tab. On Instagram, tag #AdobeDimension and #CreatewithDimension. This allows the Dimension team to find and promote your work.