enter image description hereI created a puppy out of lines and shapes in Illustrator CC. It is rather flat and I am trying to make it somewhat more 3-dimensional, similar to the images created by Disney. Is there a way to do this manually, or is there a program (preferably free) that I could use?)

The I want to have my image of the dog I created have a similar depth of Disney's 101 Dalmatian Dog.

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    It's really all about shadows and highlights. Far too broad to cover effectively here. You might try finding some books or online tutorials on shading illustrations. How you'd add shading digitally greatly depends upon what application you are using. The gist is.... pick a direction of light source, then paint in opposite areas to indicate shadows. There's nothing I'm aware of which will do this automatically for you, short of using a 3D rendering application. Which is a whole different beast in itself. – Scott Apr 18 '17 at 8:03
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  • Realize that that Disney Dalmatian does not use any 3D Software. It's just a quality 2D illustration. – Scott Apr 18 '17 at 11:07

The method I would use to create such shading and highlights is to use gradient meshes in Adobe Illustrator. Here's an example showing the kind of effects you can get.

Example of shading using Gradient Mesh

This technique isn't quick or easy, but it's worth learning how to do it. There are's a good tutorial to get you started on the Adobe website: https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/illustrator/how-to/illustrator-growing-gradient-mesh-tomato.html

  • Thank you, I tried a little bit of that, it was a little confusing, but I guess I will look back into it. Thanks! – Christina Apr 19 '17 at 12:25

The essentials are already said in comments, but I can also show something coarse that can be achieved in Photoshop in few minutes. For Disney class results is needed a much more skilled and talented person, one who can imagine the wanted result beforehand. The rest of us waste the time in aimless wandering.

Your image was splitted in several layers (outline, face lines, brown body, black background; your image really had it altough it is invisible in the web browser)

First a dark shade was generated at the dege. A copy of the black backgroud was blurred and then cutted off the exessive part. Proper selection was generatd easily with the intact black background.

Then added a layer for manually brushed shadows and highlights. Very smooth brush was used to spray black and white. The layer has blending mode = hard light. The extras were removed by the eraser.

The result after 5 minutes struggle:

enter image description here

The story above imitates coarsely the methods from the time before the computers. Today the objects often are generated in 3D. For animation the 3D model can have built-in methods to move and deform its shape.

Wihout changing the method, there exists shortcuts. You can

  • draw solid black and white lines or dots to the centers of the shadows and the highlights + apply Gaussian Blur filter to get a smooth gradient, if needed. The exessive blur can be erased or deleted by a selection+DEL.
  • keep different major shadings in different layers to be able to adjust their opacity separately for different effect depths and for easy redoing in case of errors.

In 3D the shading comes from the rendering software due the selected materials and lights and it adapts automatically when the object moves or deforms its shape.

  • Wow! Thanks so much for the detailed explanation and example. This truly helps so much! – Christina Apr 19 '17 at 12:27

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