Taking the Leap from 2D to 3D Art

Taking the Leap from 2D to 3D Art

Enter Another Dimension with 3D Artist Anna Natter

Recently the bold, vibrant compositions of Anna Natter came to our attention, and we knew immediately that we should reach out to learn more. Luckily, she was super generous and walked us through her background and work with graphic design, animation, and 3D art – and even shared a video breakdown of her process! Plus, she reminds us why it’s never too late to start working towards your dream. This is an interview you won’t want to miss. 

crystal castle by anna natter

KitBash3D: Hello Anna, thanks so much for joining us today to share your story. Let’s go back to the beginning; when did you first start down your career path?

Anna Natter: I was 14 when I first started my art studies (traditional animation and art), which I continued on through College. Technically I was taught to be a high school art teacher, but I didn't pursue that career. 

In 2005 I started as an intern at RTL, the leading commercial broadcaster in Budapest, in the News Graphics team, where I ended up spending 8 years in a full time position. I loved that job: I was doing live TV shows and working with a real time 3D rendering software specially made for TV production. I also learned a lot about After Effects, video editing, general 2D graphic design, and the basics of 3D.

It was a tough job and it educated me on work ethics pretty well. It taught me to always be on time and get myself together no matter what because the "show must go on." The News aired every day at 6 PM no matter what, so being late wasn't an option. We had to keep track of a huge inventory of assets and basically we were expected to do a miracle every day in a quite limited software.

KitBash3D: Haha, nothing like a tight deadline to keep you on your toes and push your skills to the next level, right? What happens next?

Anna: After that I went on a maternity break for 2 years because I had twin daughters. I also left my home country not long after – I moved to the Netherlands with my Dutch husband. 

After the kids started kindergarten, I began to freelance for all kinds of things, mostly in video production, 2D animation, and general graphic design. And around this time all of a sudden we moved to the Czech Republic. Don't ask, expat life.

leaving for a destination by anna natter

Anna: It was exciting, but soon after I found myself in the situation where I didn't have a focus on my future career. For a while I was a bit undecided about what to do. I gained a lot of knowledge during the years about a lot of things, so that didn't help me decide either. I was busier than ever though, freelancing was going really well. But one thing I just couldn't get over was that deep inside I always wanted to work in 3D and become a ‘real’ 3D artist. I just didn't know how to do it as it was something quite overwhelming, complicated, and expensive at first sight, but I started to learn step by step and slowly the client projects also followed.

KitBash3D: Congratulations on taking that leap! It can definitely be intimidating. So how did it go from there? What helped you get started? 

Anna: Well one day in 2017 I discovered Adobe Dimension and from that moment I spent every day rendering something new in it. It was love for the first sight as the app was so familiar to me for some reason and so easy to use. I created quite a lot of personal projects.

Untitled by Anna Natter

Anna: After that, I started to have more and more client projects in 3D and I discovered other softwares like ZBrush, Blender, Cinema 4D, and Substance. I think I'm not intimidated by this profession anymore, and I consider that an achievement by itself. 

It was very difficult for me to grasp ZBrush, for example, but I figured things out – although it took me 6 months to get some decent results. I'm not a quitter and that is useful for someone who wants to get better at 3D. As we know, it's not going to happen overnight.

KitBash3D: Very true! What program do you find yourself using most now and has that affected the work you’ve gotten?

Anna: Although my horizon is expanding, my love for Dimension didn't change and it's still my favourite app to create my artworks. My Dimension renders have a certain style that I really like, and that partially comes from the characteristics of the software itself. 

I’ve created stylized 3D illustrations and interiors for virtual events, and visuals for global brands that I never expected. I'm happy where I am in my career today. Too bad those are under NDA so I can't post them anywhere. I actually recently stopped freelancing too. I'm now working in a full time position in Germany as a 3D designer, so basically I achieved what I wanted to in 4 years, and I found the focal point in my professional life which is the best thing that could happen to me.

Dream Factory by Anna Natter

KitBash3D: Really happy to hear that you were able to accomplish that goal, and great to see the 3D world bring you so much happiness! Are there any non-NDA-protected highlights that you can share?

Anna: I think one of my favourite moments was getting an email informing me that Adobe will run my picture on the Dimension splash screen for a year. That was a jaw dropping moment. It’s something I never imagined would happen. When I opened the app for the first time to see it, I was just looking at it with eyes wide open and it was so unreal. 

So many great things have happened ever since. I started to print my artworks on canvas and I had my first tiny exhibition last year. After life gets back to normal I hope I can exhibit my art more. I had a session about Dimension at Adobe Max last year too. That was the highlight of 2020 for me. It was amazing to have the opportunity to share my 3D passion and story with people. 

Adobe Dimension Splash Screen by Anna Natter

KitBash3D: Congratulations on all those achievements! Very well deserved. What ways would you say your personal artwork differs from your client work? Have the two started to merge?

Anna: There is a huge difference between my client projects and my art. My artworks are heavily inspirational – whenever I see something interesting that triggers an emotion or a memory, I’ll transform that into a concept. I have a photographic memory just like many other artists/designers who consume a lot of art and other visual information. 

In my art I don't really plan anything upfront, they are just the projection of my imagination. But in my client work, I always do thorough research, make an artboard and create sketches, and work from there. These processes couldn't be more different and that's the beauty of it. I could not survive mentally on client projects only, I need something more where I can let loose and just roam free.

No Place Like Home by Anna Natter

Anna: I often get the question where I get the inspiration for all these things I've done. My inspiration comes from other places outside of 3D. I follow many traditional artists, architects, interior designers, ceramic artists, fashion designers, museums, make-up artists, and entertaining crazy people who create some sort of art, etc. The only specific tip I can give is that if you feel like 3D is burning you out, stop doing it and look somewhere else.

KitBash3D: That makes sense. Are there any inspirations, stories, or emotions you’ve wanted to convey in your art that come to mind?

Anna: Right now I'm living in my 4th country in Europe, and I was far away from my home country for a while. To live abroad is already a different state of mind. People get homesick sometimes, and I did. Covid didn't help either, as I couldn't visit my friends and family for a long time since they’re scattered all over Europe. All these emotions come back filtered through my artworks. Creating helps me process my emotions and it’s my self healing process. The elements in my pictures are always symbolic, especially the people. I try to tell stories with my renderings that make people wonder. I think art is good if it makes you feel something.

No Place Like Home by Anna Natter

Anna: One example is when I saw your Steampunk 3D assets, I was reminded of my home town. There are quite a lot of art nouveau buildings there. Many little details in that building set were somewhat familiar to me, so I created these renders of flying cities with them to represent my home. The colors are in harmony but it's an isolated island far from everything up in the clouds. 

In one I combined ruins from your Aftermath 3D assets with the Fairy Tale kit to symbolize in my own way how war is destroying cultural heritage.

Heritage by Anna Natter

KitBash3D: Wow, these look really great. Can you elaborate more on how these pieces came to be and how our kits became involved in your process?

Anna: I discovered that I could use assets in Dimension that 3D designers were already using in different softwares, like KitBash3D kits for example. So your building models became my "go to.” I'm obsessed with the details, and with the Steampunk and Fairy Tale sets especially. When I found them for the first time, I already saw in my head the pastel colors and how I could use them in my "parallel universe". (Parallel Universe is the collective title for the series of images I create about all kinds of different surreal things and stories.) I think your models are very versatile, even when they have a theme. I really like to play around with them, retexture them, and try to completely change their appearance.

For this image, I wanted to give the impression that the buildings are connected with each other and embedded in rock. In Budapest there is the Fisherman's Bastion in the Buda Castle, and this piece reminds me of that place. 

Crystal Castle by Anna Natter

Anna: I always use the same trees in my personal artwork too because I think they look a bit unusual; there is a hint of "fairy tale” in their appearance. The big rock the castle is sitting on was created in ZBrush, and I used a material on it that I created with Adobe Capture when I was walking in the forest and found an interesting rock wall. I snapped a picture of the wall, Capture transformed it into a 3D material, and I imported it into Dimension and recolored the base color map a little bit to match the color palette I had in mind for this render. I always stick to a color palette in my artworks, so I never choose my colors randomly. I always collect color palettes with Capture as well. Whenever I see something interesting, I save it and use the colors later in my art. 

For this flying island, I also added some birds in post processing so it seems like there is still some sort of life there despite being isolated. And clouds of course, along with particles and dust. Dimension doesn't have this. so I always add these in post.

I made a project walk-through for another piece called "Dream Factory" to show my whole creative process. You can see that here:

KitBash3D: Thank you so much for putting this together! I’m sure our community will appreciate you sharing your knowledge. We certainly do. Before we go, can you share what drives you to create art and any shoutouts you want to make?

Anna: I grew up in a family of artists, and I was encouraged to express myself as an artist from a very young age, but I didn't have a certain style for a long time. I knew there was something that would surface one day. Slowly during the process of learning 3D, I found my voice/style and unconsciously I turned into a "3D artist", although I didn't think about it like this for a while. It takes confidence to say that you're a 3D artist and I didn't have that confidence for a while. Maybe because I have so much respect for all the people who have mastered this very complicated art form. Basically I only registered myself as a 3D artist when I was standing in front of my own pictures at the exhibition. 

I was a late bloomer when it comes to 3D. I was around 35 when I realized that I don't want to do anything else for the rest of my life. I left behind everything related to 2D animation, branding, etc., and completely changed my career to become who I was supposed to be in the first place. I also encourage people around me and in my "study group" called “Adobe Dimension Enthusiasts” that they should not be afraid of a career change no matter how old they are. I created that artist community so we can support each other by sharing knowledge and assets we make. I also create tutorials for 2D artists who would like to transition to 3D but they don't know how to start. 

The conclusion I came to over the years is don't ever give up on your dreams, because you will regret it. So if there is anything you would really like to do, whatever it is, just go for it and don't wait.

About Anna Natter

Anna Natter cinniature

Anna Natter is a Hungarian graphic designer and 3D artist currently working as Head of Design for Meetingbox. She is the creator of the Adobe Dimension Enthusiasts support group for those interested in making the jump from 2D to 3D or learning more about Adobe Dimension. For more of her amazon work, visit her website, or you can follow her over at Behance, Instagram, and ArtStation.

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