Trend Exploration: Assets with a Purpose
This month, as we explored images that put purpose before beauty, we started thinking about some humble, but in-demand, stock images — the ones that don’t seek attention for themselves, but provide the perfect raw materials for designers’ compositions. Think textures, patterns, lone objects on a white background, and 3D models.
Textures with a higher purpose.
When designer Jing Zhang wanted to create an infographic homage to architect Zaha Hadid, she relied on simple images for shapes and textures that would evoke the feeling of Hadid’s structures. She searched through stock to find metallic surfaces, patterns, and the texture of concrete. In her final composition, you have to look closely to pick out the individual stock snippets, but they’re critical elements that tie the piece to Hadid’s work.
Giving stock another dimension.
Digital graphics expert Jesús Ramirez works with stock to create 3D images. Just like Jing, finding the right textures is a key part of his process: “If the image is meant to be used as a texture, meaning it’s going to wrap around a 3D object to give it its appearance, then I look for images that are close-ups or images that I can create seamless textures from. I can tell images will work if they have consistent lighting, they’re sharp, they don’t have extreme angles, and they have good detail.”
Regardless of its role in the image, Jesús says that finding the right stock image is often about trial-and-error, so he likes to experiment with preview images first. And even when he finds the components he needs, there’s still work to be done. “There is always something you need to do to an image,” explains Jesús. “It could be removing an object or adding an object, color correcting, or doing other types of retouching.”
Among his 3D composites, one of Jesús’ favorites will definitely get your attention. He used Adobe Fuse to model a grasping, bloodied zombie, then took it into Photoshop to animate it, apply 3D retouching, create custom textures from his own photos, and put everything onto a stock background. Together, the pieces create just what you’d want in a zombie — something strikingly un-lifelike.
Assets with perspective.
While Jesus works with 2D stock to create 3D-looking images, Project Felix (currently in beta) takes a chunk of the technical complexity out of the equation by letting designers start with a 3D model, then apply materials, lighting, and backgrounds to create photorealistic 3D scenes.
Early adopters are using the tools in practical ways, like creating pre-visualizations for clients or showing how a logo will look on a box or bottle. There’s also a growing trend of abstract and creative work.
Justin Patton, the creative director for the Felix team, hopes to see more members of the community developing and offering models through Felix. “We’re stoking the fire, and we hope that soon we’ll see more members of our community contributing. We think the collection will grow naturally based on what really interests artists and designers.”
For designers interested in creating 3D models, Justin says there is demand for all kinds of blank objects that artists can really make their own. When it comes to sheer creativity and exploration, his favorites are metallic and mechanical objects: “As the designer, you get to experiment with how the light interacts with them, and how they reflect the environment.”
“A high-quality 3D model also needs to be strong on the technical aspects, Justin explains: “For a good model, there are some critical basics that have to be done well, like the resolution, the quality of the input maps, and the build of the mesh. There are also important artistic aspects—does the model pay attention to the subtleties and capture its original reference well? Will it be useful and look attractive in different compositions? We’re looking at all these things as we build the collection.”
So what will designers be doing with these new 3D raw materials? “I think the technology is going to become so easy that people who never imagined themselves as 3D artists will be able to grab 3D programs, search through a growing library of assets as their starting place, and create some genuinely amazing compositions.”