Photoreal 3D illustration for a magazine ad

The problem and the goal

While working with Notan3D, we were commissioned for a magazine full page ad illustration for Dotz - a credit card loyalty program.

The brief asked for "stacked elements" that would go with the text explaining on how "your rewards could stack up over time".

After some brainstorming, instead of creating realistic looking objects, we came up with the "hand-assembled paper models" concept.

An early test showing that it is possible to make real-looking CGI paper models

My role

Modeler, designer


Objects modeling, rough lighting, camera blocking


February 2013

I was responsible for modeling home appliances. A literal heap of home appliances for a retail store. And shoppping carts full of groceries for a supermarket.

Although it is pretty easy to add detail with great precision when modeling in 3D, in order to make them look more real, I had to actually do the opposite; I had to remove details, and add imperfections like dings, creases, and bumps.

Starting off • Composing

Art directors usually have a clear image of what they want to see in the final image. So the first step is to interpret the material supplied by the agency - rough layouts and sketches - to try and filter the essence of those resources.

Early rough illustrations supplied by the ad agency

Camera angles

Before texturing - or applying different materials simulations, it's good practice to test position the camera at different angles, using a number of lenses. This allows for rough position blocking and overall lighting options.

Camera, objects placement suggestions

Improvements • Next iteration

Refining and texturing

Once the AD chooses which elements and camera angles work best for his vision, our next step is refining the models adding textures - making them look like paper, and including little imperfections. Since anything made in a 3D application comes out at first 100% pristine and symmetric, this subtle and important touch sells the final image as real.

Final render • Delivered images

Conclusion • Learnings

Design is a ongoing learning process. The technical expertise to mimic CGI paper models turned out handy when a few months later another job (for a different ad agency altogether) called for this visual. A coincidence.

The gauge that measures a good work delivered is whether the client (ad agency/ art director) commissions a next job.

They did.

Let's connect.

Looking for a digital designer with solid graphics background, strong sense of ownership, and always curious to learn more?

Let's see if we can work together!