How to make simple 3d images
June 28, 2013 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Hello Graphics Minded MeFiers. How can I (ungraphics minded MeFier) make a simple 3d image like the one posted below? I have spent a week or so with several programs but all have proven too complicated or look too ugly. Isn't there a simple program out there that I can "paint" 3d ribbons with like in the linked image? thanks all!
posted by 1inabillionmistake to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about Google Sketchup?
posted by dfriedman at 7:30 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

It depends. If you just want something like a ribbon structure of a protein or a cps or tube of a small molecule then you can easily do it using things like Pymol, Discoverystudio, Maestro, moe etc.

That "simple" 3d image is anything but simple. You ,given skill, could knock it out using blender, solidworks, autoCAD, sketchup, or 3dsmax or possibly even POV-Ray. They will be significantly harder to use because the 3d information is what you are trying to set. In the earlier case you're just taking 3d information and just making a nice picture.
posted by koolkat at 7:47 AM on June 28, 2013

I agree with koolkat, I'm not a 3d wizard but I've done enough to know that nothing is really simple.

Unless you're looking for a reason to learn 3d, I'd recommend creating your image in a 2d graphics program. You can simulate the third d with gradients and shading. It would be a lot easier, assuming a certain level of proficiency with the 2d tools.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:16 AM on June 28, 2013

If you describe exactly what you are wanting I could possibly knock something out for you. If it is actually simple I would do it, but if it would be quite a bit of work then I'm afraid I wouldn't have time.
posted by koolkat at 8:26 AM on June 28, 2013

Sketchup is a great 3D tool for creating simple shapes and forms. However, curvy tubes with lots of "paintability" would be pushing it to it's limits and not easy for a novice. I think you'll need to be more specific about what image you're trying to create.
posted by amanda at 8:51 AM on June 28, 2013

sketchup doesn't even really do "curves" it does polygons with a given number of segments (that can actually be controlled by the user). Depending on how nice and smooth you want something like that to look, it may not be ideal. I tried modeling Richard Serra's Double Tourqued Ellipses in the program once, and they came out looking more like circular saw blades than anything recognizably round. AutoCAD does sort of the same thing, but when you zoom in and regenerate a drawing, it will increase the resolution of the round parts and include more segments so that objects maintain their round appearance.

The image you're looking at doesn't necessarily have to be produced in 3D, unless for some reason you'd want to be able to rotate or orbit around it and look at it from another angle. Since the given image is really just a diagrammatic thing, probably only ever meant to be viewed from the angle provided, it could be reproduced in some sort of 2D drawing/paint program, as long as you have a decent grasp of perspective drawing and how much things will reduce in size with distance. Probably easier overall to model a few spheres in 3D connected by tubes, but having the program to do that would be overkill for the intention of the end product.
posted by LionIndex at 9:46 AM on June 28, 2013

The graphic you posted is not simple by any means. Spheres are easy enough to build, but ribbons like the ones shown in that graphic are a pain to construct even for intermediate 3D modelers. Create the graphic you need in a 2D program like Illustrator or Photoshop instead.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:17 PM on June 28, 2013

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