Sketching in Create VR for Alias

Lena Le January 19, 2021 4 min read

Over the last few months, we’ve shared what Autodesk Create VR for Alias offers designers and 3D modelers: an immersive virtual environment that can speed the transformation from 2D concept to 3D model. Colin Smith’s posts and videos demonstrate some of what’s possible with this technology.

I’d like to share what this technology means for concept modelers and designers, as well as illustrators and concept artists. Essentially, if you’re someone who makes 2D concept drawings or someone who models from those designs, this technology is going to help you visually communicate your concepts in 3D and give you more control over your work.

Automotive design in VR
Original design by David Bentley

Trying to bring the concept art into a 3D representation that fully realizes the designer’s original idea, as well as the look and feel, is not always easy. Part of what I appreciate as a designer is how Create VR facilitates a clearer and more accurate digital communication and collaboration between 2D and 3D work.

When an artist or designer brings their sketch into a VR environment and extends their creative practice in that space, they’ve bridged a major gap between the 2D concept and the 3D realization. The amazing thing is that this work still looks and feels natural and expressive. I sketched this dragon in SketchBook Pro, and then imported the sketch as a reference image in Create VR.

Drawing in Create VR

We all know how intimidating a blank sheet of paper or an empty 3D environment can be. That’s why I wanted to start with a sketch—so that I wasn’t starting from scratch. I had the foundation to begin with, and I could draw out from there.

Using simple curve and surfacing tools, Create VR lets us explore shape and form while being fully immersed alongside a design. It’s really easy, then, to export Create VR models to screen-based applications such as Autodesk Alias or Maya for final realization. You can also import base models to use as reference geometry inside the application and start to iterate on designs. Here I’ve imported a model created by Mathieu Lesage in Alias into Create VR as reference geometry to use as a base for my car sketch.

The act of drawing in VR with your arms and hands is very gestural and expressive, so it feels really fluid and natural. It’s not unlike making sweeping strokes with a pencil or paint brush. For a clean and sharp inked look, I go with the Curve tool to create the line art, which allows me to place curves more deliberately and accurately. This is a model created from a sketch of a car design that David Bentley has created.

Making your sketch in a 3D environment also allows you to make use of the whole space—and that means you are saving a lot of time. If you think about how we would traditionally manipulate a model and switch between orthographic views on a 2D screen, it can become a lengthy and involved process.

But here, you’re able to manipulate it in 3D right in front of you and work on all of the different perspectives with just a few gestures. You also have the advantage of quickly grabbing a detail that you’ve just drawn and moving it to a different location while rotating the whole object, or you can resize it in the same motion. You can also adjust the curve of the stroke you’ve drawn by grabbing points to edit it without the need to redo the whole line.

Working in this kind of virtual environment is empowering as a designer and artist. I can visually communicate form and proportions in varying views with speed and clarity. That means I can sketch as I would on paper, but I’m not confined to the one perspective that I would usually work on first. I’m able to draw the next few views that would fill in the information of how this object will look from different angles, all in one go.

And because this kind of sketching is so familiar and intuitive, it becomes easy to learn and start creating right away. I can be fluid, I can be free, and I can iterate very rapidly. VR doesn’t compromise on this.

Car sketch in VR

Learn more about Create VR for Alias

If you’re new to Create VR, we’ve got some online documentation to get you started. And stay tuned, because my next post will be a step-by-step breakdown of sketching in Create VR, as well as an FAQ where I answer some of the questions we’ve been getting from artists and designers.

If you’re interested in seeing what my process looked like, check out this video. I start with my imported sketch and end with refinements.

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