Using the Cel Shader to Apply an Illustrative 2D Style to 3D Objects in Cinema 4D

Since presenting for MAXON at NAB 2014, I’ve received a bunch of requests asking me to go further in depth on how I used the Cel Shader in a client spot in my presentation.  In this tutorial, I’ll show you just that:  how to create and apply a cool, stylistic, flat, illustrative 2D look to 3D objects in Cinema 4D. We will achieve this look by using the often overlooked Cel Shader & Spline Shader. Learning how to leverage C4D in your 2D workflow is critical when it comes to saving time creating elements and animating. If you’ve ever tried to make something look 3D with 2D objects, you know how painstaking it can be to sell the 3D depth using flat layers.  I’ll also show how you can use the Cel Shader to apply shadows to objects with 100% luminance.  One final note, be sure when you render to turn up the Anti-Aliasing settings as well as using a sharper Filter than Animation; such as Cubic (Still Image) or Sync so you have nice crisp edges in your animation to sell the 2D style.

Here’s the tutorial I mention in this video that shows you how to create the text material using a Spline Shader that is applied on the ribbon element:

Using the Spline Shader in C4D to Create Text as a Material

And here’s my MAXON NAB 2014 Presentation where I go over many ways to use Cinema 4D in a 2D workflow:

My MAXON NAB 2014 Presentation

And here’s the scene file I used in this tutorial that you guys can mess around with:



If you want to learn more about how to use Cinema 4D in your 2D workflow, check out my Mixing 2D & 3D with Cinema 4D & After Effects course where I go over some creative ways to use the tools in C4D for a mainly 2D workflow inside of After Effects.

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14 thoughts on “Using the Cel Shader to Apply an Illustrative 2D Style to 3D Objects in Cinema 4D

  1. I am using the Broadcast version of C4D (v15). I have a feeling the cell shader you are using is part of “Sketch and Toon” (which I do not have) is that correct? I can’t find it listed on the drop down so I am assuming that is why.

  2. Great stuff, thanks for sharing! I tried to emulate your cool file in Blender, hope you don’t mind. It does not have C4D’s mograph tools but I like it a lot, here’s a file if you are curious enough to check it -B3D is a free and small download- (hope the link shows)

  3. This was great, I also saw on your tumblr that you applied this shader to a lightning, and it looks very very cool. How did you do the lightning? this shell shader is kind of a wild animal, you can get a lot of results with it! anyway, thanks for the great effort on this.

    1. Yes! You have to make sure your renderer is set to the Cinema 4D R15 app file and not the Cineware renderer that it’s set by default. To do this, go to your Cineware effect and hit the Options button and you can choose the Cinema 4D R15 app path instead for both the renderer and viewer.

    1. If you want to use an image, you’ll need to create a Layer and multiply or overlay the texture on top of the Cel Shader layer for the shadows to pick up.

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