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4 Steps to create a 360 VR illustration / painting in Photoshop (with pictures)

4 Steps to create a 360 VR illustration / painting in Photoshop (with pictures)

For months, I’ve been researching a perfect way to create 360 virtual reality illustration, and I realised that there not much of decent tutorial out there.
So I am humbly sharing my approach on attempting the 360 degree art.
This tutorial is meant for Artists and Designers with basic knowledge of illustration, if you are new to digital painting or concept art this demo might not be as helpful.

The 360 Mapping Method
One of the most common method to create a 360 degree environment is by using Skymap or Cubemap and map it on a 3D cube. This method was widely used for Game Development in the early days. However, the method I am sharing today is using Equirectangular Image which looks something like this:
cpucl
Image above from http://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/73481/how-can-i-edit-equirectangular-images

Entering 2016, I realised that Equirectangular Image is now a common format for Youtube or Facebook to recognise as a 360 degree image. There are more platform than ever in displaying 360 art now. Algorithm in these platform process your Equirectangular Image and unwarp it into virtual sphere for 360 degree effect. We are not learning to paint our artwork on a curvature template, instead we are going to convert the curvature image into proper perspective image for easy painting.

Once you master the concept, you can create your very own Virtual Reality concept art!

Preparation:
Painting Software – I will be using Adobe Photoshop CC in this demo, I believe the same idea can apply to any version of Photoshop.
Equirectangular Conversion -The best plugin (that I’ve tried far) for these conversion is Flexify 2. I am using the trial version. This software can do variety of panoramic conversion, but for our case we only need Equirectangular to Horizontal Grid.
360 Preview – As a Motion Graphic designer, I am no stranger to Equirectangular Images. I often used it for my 3D production in Cinema 4D. If you wish to preview your 360 degree artwork during the production, you may try pannellum.org or simply upload your artwork to Facebook .

Step 1: Convert an Equirectangular Image to a Cubemap

360_tutorial_01

 

Prepare yourself an Equirectangular Grid like one below and begin converting it into Cubemap.
26363697850_e13bc538ff_b

Image above from http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmswart/26363697850
Begin converting the Equirectangular image using Flexify.

360_blog_1

Unfortunately Flexify 2 is not made for this purpose, upon conversion you will find these empty white spaces on both sides of your image, these white spaces may create a lot of troubles in future steps, so get rid of them by trimming the spaces.

360_tutorial_06

360_blog_4

Step 2 : Paint something on the Cubemap

Now you have a proper grid that are painting friendly, you may now begin to work on your magic!

paintit

SOME TIPS: Create a guide at the edge of each cube. Every time you draw something across an individual Cubemap, re-imagine your perpective into a new single point perspective. Always sees every Individual Cubemap as a new single-point-perspective-grid. Here is a simple gif that helps you to understand what I meant:

sample

SOME MORE TIPS: During the sketching stage, I exported the artwork into Equirectangular Image ( which I am sharing how in the next step ) and preview it in 360 VR mode with Cinema 4D by adding the Equirectangular Image as texture to a sky object. I came back and forth between both software countless time to ensure the 360 illusion is perfect.

Take your time to get use to the perspective confusion, once you got a hang of it, everything will progress smoothly like a T-rex running on butter.

Step 3 :Convert the Cubemap back to Equirectangular Image

360_tutorial_02

Begin converting your Cubemap back to Equirectangular Image that are virtual reality 360 friendly.

360_tutorial_04

Trim the top and bottom white craps to achieve a perfect 2:1 aspect ratio for your Equirectangular Image.

360_tutorial_05

Step 4: Edit the Metadata

360_tutorial_03

Now your artwork are fresh from the oven and ready to upload to you preference Virtual Reality platform. In order to trick those platform to recognise your artwork as 360 Equirectangular Image, we will edit the metadata of the image itself.

Basically, you simply download this XMP Template and edit the metadata under file info in photoshop:
360_tutorial_07

Detailed steps were perfectly described in Topher Mcculloch’s blog

Complete: Your Illustration in 360
That’s it, if you made it this far without confusion, please give yourself a cookie because you are obviously an advance user.
Check out the the completed 360 illustration of this demo here:

Send me me your artwork, I’d love to see how you inspire from this article!
Let’s have some discussion in the comment below if you have better method or ask any questions. Cheers guys, let’s just keep creating awesome work.

37 Comments Leave a reply

  1. uffin
    Permalink to comment#

    Great stuff. Nice and Simple. I need a crazy good website. Does that interest you? Cheryl Ng recommended you. If she recommended you, you must be good.
    If so, call me on 0178971966. David Duffin.

    Reply
  2. Jade
    Permalink to comment#

    Loving this! It’s so helpful. I am getting stuck in one spot: changing the metadata. I downloaded the .xmp, and imported the template into the raw data area, but Facebook still isn’t recognizing it as a 360 photo. Any tips or tricks for me?

    Reply
    • lai
      Permalink to comment#

      Maybe you can check on the aspect ratio that has to be 2:1, and make sure the image is in decent size too, mine was 3839 X 1920.

  3. David Swart
    Permalink to comment#

    Fantastic project – drawing on a cubemap is an awesome way to go. It seems to me that you can just skip step one by providing your cubemap grid straightaway.

    Also, I wonder if you’ve have you seen my take on drawing directly on an equirectangular map:
    https://dmswart.com/2016/06/28/drawing-a-panorama/

    Reply
  4. Claire
    Permalink to comment#

    This is beyond amazing! Thanks so much for sharing. What is inspiring is the creative stylised colourful illustrations. VR can come in all flavours!

    Reply
  5. songshen Yeh
    Permalink to comment#

    This is what I am looking for and thank you very much

    Reply
  6. Desca Refita Putri
    Permalink to comment#

    Thank you so much for the tutorial!
    But if there’s any chance I can make this in Adobe Illustrator? Because I recently draw in Illustrator and I don’t really best friend with Photoshop when it comes to drawing. I hope you read and respond my comment.
    Thanks 🙂

    Reply
    • lai

      I am sorry but this only applies for Illustrator, you can use AI for the illustration and Photoshop for the conversion though 😀

  7. kerfaou
    Permalink to comment#

    It’s the first tutorial I find in which it is suggested to work on a cubic map: this was my idea all along, you beat me to actually publishing it in a tutorial 🙂 thumbs up for the result! I’ll publish my own tutorial and results soon, and I’ll make sure to link to here.

    Reply
  8. Yukiko

    I must say you have very interesting posts here. Your page should go viral.

    Reply
  9. Dámaris

    Thanks for the tutorial, you’re saving my life.
    I’m from Venezuela and I do not speak English, I’m using the Google translator so please excuse the grammatical mistakes. All perfect except that my Photoshop (CC 2015.5) does not recognize the flexify plugin, I have searched tutorials on how to install it correctly but I have not managed to get the program to recognize it. Please help me! Many thanks.

    Reply
    • lai

      I am sorry to hear that Damaris! I’d love to help but unfortunately technical issues of Flexify is beyond my control. I wish you eventually fix that!

  10. ronald a. spinabella

    Great post, my name is ron spinabella and i run a great blog and twitter account. I’m going to repost it for my followers.

    Reply
  11. mink lashes

    I quite like reading through an article that will make people think. Also, thank you for permitting me to comment!

    Reply
  12. APOLISMS
    Permalink to comment#

    Simple steps! Thank you! We’ll need to create a VR piece for work and your blog is extremely helpful. Also, I love your artwork!

    Reply
  13. Joanacchi
    Permalink to comment#

    Hi there! I’d like to THANK YOU SO MUCH for this tutorial! I managed to make my first 360 illustration and I am SO happy, even though my edges are not perfect lined! THANK YOU!!!
    https://www.facebook.com/chibibatch/photos/a.732060410182297.1073741830.731665930221745/1433088423412822/?type=3&theater

    Reply
  14. claud
    Permalink to comment#

    Hello! I really like your tutorial and it helped me a lot to create my own work. I’m writing ask if i could translate your tutorial to Chinese and re-post it to Weibo.com for non-commercial use..I’ll keep all your links and credits if you think it’s ok~

    Reply
    • lai
      Permalink to comment#

      Sure! As long as you link this post as the original article. Do keep me posted on your translated weibo article, I will help you in social posting too!

  15. Danauva
    Permalink to comment#

    You’re the best! Thanks 🙂

    Reply
  16. Lorne Craig
    Permalink to comment#

    Thanks so much for the clear and accurate tutorial. I created my first 360VR cartoon, and hope to do many more! http://unicyclecreative.com/portfolio/360vr-cartoons/?id=1689

    Reply
  17. Luc
    Permalink to comment#

    worked like a charm, though i get some white lines forming a cube in the endpicture.

    Reply
  18. Sam
    Permalink to comment#

    Is there a reason I can’t just start with a cube map and then convert it to equirectangular? Converting it twice seems redundant, but technical stuff was never my jam.

    Reply
    • lai
      Permalink to comment#

      Yes you may start from Cube Map directly, I did it this way in order to properly preview and make adjustment accordingly.

  19. SALSAY
    Permalink to comment#

    Hey! What are the measurements for the rulers? I am new to photoshop, so I don’t know if im asking a stupid question… Is it in inches? and what are the dimensions? Thank you!

    Reply
  20. SalSAY
    Permalink to comment#

    Hey sorry i meant the canvas size, not the rulers… I hope you can answer my question!!

    Reply
  21. Micah Berkley
    Permalink to comment#

    I want to do this with Flyers like for instance a wedding or a nightclub? What would be a good start?

    Reply
  22. fifa coins
    Permalink to comment#

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who was doing a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner due to the fact that I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk about this subject here on your website.|

    Reply
  23. Gemma Pauwels
    Permalink to comment#

    Hi Lai, Thanks so much for this tutorial!
    Here’s a link of the 3d illustration I made with the help of your work! https://www.trouw.nl/redactie/lutherjaar/#/pano/luther/overzicht/werkkamer/

    Reply
  24. Chris
    Permalink to comment#

    Do you have a walk-thru doing this with photos?

    Reply
  25. DUke
    Permalink to comment#

    Great post!
    Thanks 4 share.

    Reply

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