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I'm a cartoonist living in Portland Oregon.
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  • July 8, 2010 3:37 pm

    How to make a stereoscopic illustration

    I’ve gotten a couple requests to explain how I made the stereoscopic illustrations for my online comic named …yeah. So I thought I’d mock up an example to explain my workflow.

    I start drawing in a program that supports layers. For the comics I put up I used Illustrator but any program that uses layers could work.

    I draw the background layer first. All the objects that are the furthest away from the viewer go on this layer. In this example those would be the sky and the clouds.

    Next, on a new layer on top of the first, I draw the objects that are second farthest from the viewer. In this example it would be a couple of hills. (sorry about the crapy drawing. I created all of these sample images while waiting for the bus.)

    Then on the next layer goes the objects third farthest from the viewer (a house and the ground the house sits on.)

    And the last layer; objects closest to the viewer. (a pink tree)

    Now my beautiful illustration is finished and broken up into layers. Each layer can now be manipulated without changing any layer in front or behind it. The number of layers you use doesn’t really matter. The more you have the more control you will have over the 3D space later, but we’ll get to that in a second.

    The 3D Part

    Now the secret to 3D is that, since your eyes are a few inches apart from one another, each see things from a slightly different angle. Imagine taking a photo of a scene, then moving the tripod 3 inches to the right and shooting the same scene again, the photos would be just slightly different. So in order to fake the eyes into seeing 3D you need to have one image be what the left eye would normally see, and another image that is what the right eye would see.

    How do you figure out what changes need to be made to the second image? Well the way I did it is a lot less scientific than you would think.

    I took all of the layers and duplicated them right beside my original drawing like in this image.

    If I cross my eyes on this image it doesn’t look 3D at all, but if I grab the tree layer in the right hand image and move it a little bit to the right and suddenly the tree seems closer.

    How far I move the tree to the right dictates how close it appears. Moving the layers on the right hand image to the right make them appear closer. Moving the images on the right hand image to the left make them seem farther away.

    I do the same with the right hand house layer, moving it to the right a little less than I move the tree so it doesn’t look as close.

    I moved the right hand hill layer to the left a little and it seems to recede backwards in space. I moved the clouds layer a little bit more to the left than I’d moved the hills and they receded farther behind the hills.

    The more layers you use the more elements of the illustration that you can set apart from each-other, but that’s all there is to it. If you’d like to read my full comic or to see instructions as to how to view stereoscopic images in 3D without glasses click here.

    1. matthewbogart posted this