maxon Sketch and Toon review

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Unique non-photo-realistic rendering power.

sketch and toon

There’s no doubt that the main interest of 3D modelling lies in producing photo-realistic output and with Cinema 4D and its Advanced Render module, Maxon certainly delivers the goods. However there is another option. With the Sketch and Toon add-on module for Cinema 4D you can turn your scene into a technical drawing, a hand-drawn sketch or a fully-realized work of art.

And it could hardly be easier. Simply add a new Sketch Material and preview your scene and you’ll see that a cartoon-style effect with strong outlines and simplified shading has automatically been applied. Open the Sketch Material’s main tab and you can then choose from dozens of preset media styles such as air brush, chalk, marker and a whole range of pen and pencil effects. What really sets Sketch and Toon apart is that when rendered, many of these really do look as if they have been hand-drawn by a draughtsman or a creative artist.

Switch Sketch and Toon to Intermediate or Advanced Mode and you can begin exploring how each preset effect is produced and create your own. The level of power and control is awesome. In the Strokes tab for example, you can control whether and how line segments should be joined together into longer strokes. In the Distort and Adjust tabs you can then apply a curve to the stroke and set up offsets, overshoots, transforms and variations to give a more fluid hand-drawn feel to the line. Then in the Colour, Thickness and Opacity tabs you can set these all-important parameters and vary them according to a whole host of modifiers such as distance, position, length along stroke and angle.

As well as setting up the line style you also need to be able to specify where lines are applied and this is primarily done in Cinema 4D’s Render Settings dialog. By default lines are applied to folds, creases and borders but you can also apply them to outlines, materials, edges, contours and so on. You can also set Cinema 4D’s Editor View to display where lines will be applied which is a huge time saver and, crucially, you can also override settings on an object and even polygonal selection level using dedicated Sketch and Toon tags.

The Render Settings dialog is also where you set overall shading. Sketch and Toon defaults to applying a simple quantizing effect though you can also apply a custom colour, background, or a gradient-based simplification. Much greater control and power is provided by Sketch and Toon’s four dedicated shaders. The Cel shader lets you take full control of Manga-style cartoon shading based on custom gradients. The Spots shader simulates halftone spots, or any other shape, based on brightness. The Hatch shader lets you apply any texture as a cross-hatching effect. And the Art shader lets you use an image of a textured and lit sphere that is then applied to an object based on its surface normals and with no lighting necessary.

With Sketch and Toon the level of power and control that Maxon offers isn’t just extraordinary, it’s truly unique.

Ease of Use
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ratings out of 6

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System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP

Tom Arah

December 2005

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