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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  • Sean Dove

    Hey thanks for the tutorial, all your work is amazing
    – A little bit stumped with this one unfortunately, and I feel it would be a rather simple fix. Each time I play with the cel shader I end up with a very pixelated result

    Would this be a result of the lighting? the model itself? or something completely different?

    • EJ Hassenfratz

      Is your Anti-Aliaising set high? Usually I go for a 1×1 Min & 8×8 Max. It may also be your model, apply a Subdivision Surface and see if that helps, or adjust the Phong tag angle to a higher value so you get smoother shading. Hope that helps!

  • Ananggadipa Raswanto

    Oh my, learn so much from this, many thanks!

  • adamfilip

    I wish there was a way to export from C4D to a vector format with all the shading fill colour maintained.

  • bob bell

    Brilliant tutorial. Just one question – I want to map an image onto the paper. I tried to do this using the laptop screen texture, but that doesn’t seem to accept the shadows. How would I need to go about this?

    Labels: Cel Shader BarCode 2D Style 3D Objects Cinema 4D

    • eyedesyn

      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.

  • THiNK Video (@ThinkVideoInc)

    Love this tut! Wondering though if you know if there’s any way to use an R15 file in AE using Cineware, and have it render the Cel Shader? Textures don’t come out when I have the Cel Shader on.

    • eyedesyn

      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.

      • Ananggadipa Raswanto

        so glad I found this answer!

  • Ricardo Martínez

    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.

  • grog

    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)

  • Daniel

    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.

    • eyedesyn

      That is correct, unfortunately. Cineware doesn’t support Cel Shader either. Hopefully there is an update soon that fixes that!

      • Daniel

        Thanks. Excellent Tutorial, I enjoyed it. Your catchy graphic design of your “Ahoy” logo caught my eye, glad I found this.

  • Steve Hardaway (@SteveHardaway)

    This is great and very practical. Definitely going to use these techniques in an upcoming ‘2d’ project. Thanks again!

  • remmac3D

    Hee EJ, Great Tutorial, Thanks!

    • eyedesyn

      Thanks, Rem! Really appreciate that! :)

  • Jorge D. Villamiel (@sickmonkeys)

    Super cool tutorial!! Thanks for it 😀

    • eyedesyn

      Glad you liked it! Thanks Jorge!