3D trends move closely with the entertainment world, but here the focus is how they relate to motion design.

Hot off the heels of the 2D Motion Design Trends post, here is a quick look at emerging trends in the 3D.

Now admittedly, I am not as in tune with the 3d scene as 2D. Hardcore 3D heads will doubt scoff at me trendspotting. Fair enough.

It's not about copying each other, but I think it is better to know and observe trends, to be ahead of the curve for personal growth. No one wants hegemony in motion design. Also, clients dictate a lot of what trends thrive, so from a business perspective, it's always good to know what is selling.

We're going to start this off by covering the few that crossover w/ 2D trends. Without further ado.

3D Motion Design Trends 2017

1. Gouache-D

Gouache is a thick water-based paint made famous in the 60’s illustrations. Lots of dry brush techniques and layers of colors. This video by Art & Craft for the National Lottery illustrates this style. There’s a bit of mezzotint grit on some of the scenes, but also heavy on the painted edges.

You can see the 60’s influence on the design of the simplified trees as the runner dashes past and transitions to the next scene. It all looks painstakingly illustrated and beautiful, and what better way to say “Thank You”. ( Covered in  2D Motion Design Trends )

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2. 3D and 2D

2016 seemed to me to be the big year of 3D & 2D combos. It was everywhere you looked. There were loads of tutorials showing how to render 3D with a cel shader to get a flat 2D look, and also how to use renders from C4D seamlessly inside of After Effects.

This example is from Apple Films and it uses soft realistic 3d with colored shadows which is another trend that is on the rise. Covered in ( 2D Motion Design Trends )

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2. Vinyl 3D

This look has to do with making everything look like hard shiny vinyl toys. I've also seen this combined with a fake stop-motion to really take the effect to the next level. There's a certain artificial feel to this and it removes you a bit from the story and maybe lowers the stakes and emotional attachment to the content.

However, the other thing this look does is amplifies the fun and whimsical nature of the design, therefore making it much more engaging and wonder-filled. When you are looking for that childlike wow-factor, this is a good place to start.

The examples I have here are @Kibookied, an awesome Instagram, and WIZZ & Flying V & Fixx - The Mermaid. The latter is a bit more a blend of the Pixar house style and the Vinyl look but still looks distinctly toy-like.

A photo posted by Kibooki (@kibookied) on

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4. Hyper-surreal World

Hyper-surreal takes basic photo-realism, combines with fantastical imagery and mechanics, then adds complex details that are almost impossibly sharp and may somewhat defy the typical lens work of something that is filmed.

This gives it an otherworldly quality that's difficult to describe. Through extraordinary actions, colorful designs, and particle-based world growth, Honda's "The Dreamer" by Roof Studios is the perfect example of this style.

Look closely and occasionally you'll see foreground elements that are sharp when they should have the depth of field.

Paint peeling effects have little motion blur. Leaning heavily on the strength of CGI imagery, the selective crispness keeps it illustrative and dreamlike, but never jarring or gaudy.

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Another take on this style by the same studio takes us into a distinctly Magritte / Rube Goldberg direction.

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5. Retrofuturism

The word retrofuturism, combines more recent ideas of nostalgia and retro with older traditions of futurism. An early use of the term was in the title of T.R. Hinchcliffe's Pelican book Retro-futurism - Penguin, 1967. A recent neologism, the actual term retrofuturism was used by American Lloyd Dunn[3] in 1983,[4] according to fringe art magazineRetrofuturism, which was published between 1988 and 1993.[5] - Wikipedia

Retrofuturism has been kicking around for a long time, so is it really trending right now, or is it just an established style at this point? For me, one of the most breath-taking pieces I've seen in 2016 was "Lost Boy" by Post Panic. That thing is hot and people are bound to be influenced by it and its' 80s Terminator vibe.

There's plenty of Frank Miller's Ronin and other cyberpunk nods in there as well. Another 3D artist that is famous for this style is Beeple. I think he really hit his stride last year with a lot of his dailies looking like covers of Omni magazine from the not too distant future.

I think retrofuturism is both an established style and a trend on the rise. While retrofuturism of the past may have been based on designs from 40's - 60's (like Man In The High Castle & Iron Sky), I think the style that is happening right now is influenced by the late '70s thru the late '80s and is deeply rooted in the sci-fi aesthetic of that era.

There's usually a bit of filter and lush lighting effects in the renders and in-world digital elements are pixelated with a warm glow. I know Beeple does a lot of his renders via Octane



A photo posted by beeple (@beeple_crap) on

You can check out some behind the scenes for lost boy here: lostboyworld.com

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6. 3rd Party Renderers

The last trend is not so much about a visual style but the tools used to render that visual style. 3d programs have long since had 3rd party renderers, but now that GPU renderers have been introduced, it's lowered the cost for entry because it's not reliant on CPU cores. Renderers like Octane, Redshift, and Furryball all fall into the category of GPU renderers.

Depending on your 3D software package and hardware set-up, there are various solutions out there. Of course, there are more traditional 3d party renderers like Arnold, Renderman, and V-ray as well and each has its own set of pros and cons. But that's a post topic for another time.

So there you have it, that's my list of 3D Motion Design Trends for 2017. Let me know what you think and if I missed anything in the comments section below. Now powered by Disqus! Hopefully, that works smoothly for everybody.

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