3d to vector questions
December 3, 2010 4:42 PM   Subscribe

I am an artist and need technical help on how best to manipulate a 3d image of a human spine then export the image as a vector into Adobe Illustrator.

What I am trying to do is:

Manipulate a 3d image of a human spine then export the image as a vector into Adobe Illustrator. From there I will further manipulate the image and then have that image laser cut onto wood or acrylic medium.

The main issue I'm running into is figuring out which of the many different 3d rendering applications will best fit my needs? I've looked at 3d Max, Adobe Softlight, Daz, Poser, Sketchup and many others.

What I am envisioning doing is:

1) Import/open a detailed 3d skeletal model within (whichever) 3d application I end up using.
2) Remove all skeletal structures I don't need. For example for this piece I am only interested in the spine.
3) Manipulate the 3d spine until it is posed the way I want it.
4) Export the 3d image as a 2d vector.
5) Import that 2d vector into Illustrator.
6) Manipulate and modify the 2d vector image as needed.
7) Send that image to the lasercutter. (This is actually a few steps but I've simplified it here)

I plan on purchasing a 3d skeletal model (as my 3d modeling experience is very slim) however I want to make sure, before I spend the $100 to $300 on the model (not to mention the price of the software) that I will be able to:

A) Easily remove all pieces of the skeleton I do not want.
B) Export the 3d image as a vector (I know this last step may require a few hoops as I doubt there is a direct 3d to vector solution...though if there is, that would be huge).

Does anyone have any experience or recommendations for this process and which software to purchase?

Some additional notes:
-I prefer using a 3d model as this is just the first in a series of pieces I plan on making, each of which will be unique. The 3d model lets me play with the structure without having to redraw 2d images.

Thanks in advance for your time.
posted by ogunther to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a lot of experience with 3ds Max and Erain's Swift 3D MAX plugin (http://www.erain.com/Products/Plug-ins/)

Swift 3D MAX can product some very nice vector exports, within limits. Shading, outlining, colors, reflections... there are a host of issues that aren't always worth the headaches, especially if you are starting with a complex mesh.

Sometimes it is easier to use the 3d software of your choice, render a raster version of an image at high res, then trace it in Illustrator to get the look you want. Use blends and such to refine gradients and shading. Just a thought.
posted by FrotzOzmoo at 5:06 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

And by trace, I mean manually trace, as opposed to using Illustrator's automated feature. Since you are going to send this to a laser cutter; you'll need clean curves. Swift 3D and tracing automation can make a huge mess when you start looking at the individual control points.
posted by FrotzOzmoo at 5:09 PM on December 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks FrotzOzmoo; I'll definitely look into that pluging.

I should also probably provide a little additional information (in case it matters):

My main desire is to be able to have the outline of the (individual parts of the) spine outlined. At a minimum this would be what I would like to be able to export via vector (I am trying to avoid having to do any tracing, though, if there is no other solution I can definitely do that). Ideally, I would love to be able to not only export the outline of the different pieces but also some of the different meshes (like the wire mesh) within the vector as well. I think they could look very interesting lasercut into wood/acrylic in the context of what I'm envisioning.

posted by ogunther at 5:16 PM on December 3, 2010

I've only played around with Maya's toon rendering and like FrotzOzmoo says, the black contour lines never seem to look "slick", no matter how much you futz the inputs. 2nding that tracing may give you the most useable results.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:29 PM on December 3, 2010

Best answer: It sounds like 3ds MAX + Swift 3D MAX might be right up your alley, budget withstanding. Basic outlining of objects is easy enough with Swift, and you can do a series of exports for individual vertebrae if you need greater control.

As far as exporting meshes, Swift can do that as well: http://www.erain.com/products/plug-ins/features/exportoptions/ (See "Mesh outlines")

If you have more questions, feel free to MeFi mail me.
posted by FrotzOzmoo at 5:39 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks again, FrotzOzmoo. I am downloading the demos of both the application and the plug-in and will let you know if I run into any other questions. This definitely looks very promising.
posted by ogunther at 6:39 PM on December 3, 2010

Response by poster: I originally tried the Swift 3D Max plugin as you suggested but (most likely due to my inexperience) was unable to figure out how to make it work from within 3D MAX. I then tried the standalone Swift 3D application (importing my 3D Max files into it) and that has worked perfectly! Thank you again for the suggestion.
posted by ogunther at 10:28 AM on December 4, 2010

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