Published: 9th February 2021
Andre Caputo shares his thoughts about building a career in 3D art and developing a personal brand, as well as walking us through the creation of some of his favourite projects.
Andre Caputo is a freelance graphic designer and an art and digital image director, living in North Vancouver, Canada. His portfolio of subject matter is wide-ranging, but Andre has a real gift for creating mouth-watering images of food, combining drama with a sense of playfulness and fun.
Impressively, Andre became a professional illustrator at just seventeen years old. “I was inspired to become an artist because of my love for art, illustration, design, images and life observation. When I was a kid I always loved to draw, to observe things and to paint. Since then, I have been working with colours and shapes. To improve my skills I started to study in a traditional illustration school - later, I graduated in Graphic Design.”
After his graduation, Andre worked for agencies in the graphic design and advertising market. “I had the opportunity there to learn 3D illustration. It was fascinating for me because I could add this technology to my traditional illustration and graphic design skills. It was perfect. Eight years later, working in a different agency, I decided to dedicate my life to the CGI industry and apply all of my skills.”
Finding the right vision
Starting and developing a career in the 3D industry can be difficult for many artists, but Andre was able to successfully navigate his way from the beginning.
“It was not hard to get into the 3D industry, because it was the right time for me to do it: I was prepared to start this journey, feeling confident and safe in my own work and potential. The biggest obstacle was keeping the gears spinning in terms of workflow. I overcame it by networking and making contacts. The opportunities were coming in and the gears kept spinning constantly.”
Andre’s career plan included developing his personal brand, finding his unique path as an artist.
“Over the years I’ve been gathering references and learning how to get my own art identity. I always liked to think outside the box and make things in different ways. I really love themes like fantasy, magic, majestic, fantastic, etc. The projects that excite me most are chocolates, candies, product design and food overall. I think that these themes excite me because it is part of the essence of my personal brand.
“In my opinion, the most important thing is to train the look. The way you see the image you're working on makes all the difference. If you have the right vision for each job and know how to apply it, there is no way to go wrong with the result. Many people know how to make complex scenes with monsters, spaceships flying, skies full of clouds, wet ground, mountains, cars, etc. but when they go to light a box or a simple sphere, they get lost. The image is flat and boring. When you fill an image with elements and many things are happening at the same time, it is easier to ‘trick’ the eyes of ‘inconsistencies’ that occur in the image, such as lighting, proportion of objects and merging with photos. Summing up, the 3D artist should improve their ability to see.”
Tools and approach
Like many other artists, Andre’s process might begin with a commission from a client and a brainstorm of ideas.
“I usually start by taking a look at some references on what I should do. After I think about where I want to go, I basically follow the natural 3D image creation process: modelling, shading, lighting, render and post. I think what has improved over the years has been the organisation of the files, adding new softwares to my workflow and learning how to extract all the necessary information from the client before starting the work. Time is very important when we work as a freelancer.”
Andre’s tools of choice for 3D and CGI design are Modo, Photoshop, HDR Light Studio and Illustrator.
“My favourite software is Modo because it fits very well into my workflow, although its performance is slow in some types of jobs. Also, in one-hundred-percent of my works, I use HDR Light Studio associated to Modo. They work very well together. I used to say: ‘You must not change the players when the team is winning.’"
“HDR Light Studio is always in my workflow. I think the first time I heard about it was in 2009. I considered using this powerful tool when I noticed that it had a high quality of render. The software allowed me to create my own environment and also it was easy to work on. It improved the quality of my work and allowed me to get the best results faster."
“Using HDR Light Studio allowed me to understand how the different kinds of lights behaved in a 3D scene. It was a long learning journey, today I’m very familiar with the tool.”
Lighting the image
Andre still recognises the challenge of each new project. Below, he shares with us his vision for three of his favourites, along with his experience of lighting the images with HDR Light Studio.
“I always struggle on a project. It usually happens when I have to create a new texture or modelling, but textures are the biggest challenge for me. I won’t be satisfied until I get where I want to. Again, our eyes are our judge.”
The Majestic Watch
Expertly lit, Andre’s personal project extends from sketch to 3D animation. Andre’s goal here was to create dramatic light and give it some “thriller”.
“HDR Light Studio was perfect! I could animate the HDR maps generated in HDR Light Studio for each scene. I just used one directional light and the HDR maps for the scenes. That was my favourite work ever!"
Chivas Regal Ultis Whiskey Bottle
For these exemplary images, Andre chose a combination of bold tones and a unique camera angle.
“I was looking to make dramatic renders. Something unique, special, sophisticated, modern and fancy.”
Glass is notoriously difficult to light, but Andre managed to achieve realism through his lighting choices.
“For the glass, I extracted the best that Modo can do. For the still images I made two renders of the bottle - one with the liquid, and another one with the empty bottle - and then I mixed them up in Photoshop. When I rendered the empty bottle, I could extract the maximum details without the interference of the liquid. This is just a trick to get better results when the software does not give us a good result in only one render. I don’t usually use presets, I usually create my own textures, lights and models.”
In this personal project, Andre used dramatic lighting to create an intriguing atmosphere.
“This was really nice work to do. I wanted to give a real feeling to this image. There are many important parts of the process when you are creating a scene. In my opinion, the lighting is “the cherry on top”. Light is the emotional part of the job. In a 3D scene it is like the music in a ballet show. If you make good modelling and textures, the light will give life and soul to the scene.”
A balanced life
Andre is fast approaching his eleventh year working as an independent CGI illustrator and designer. He takes pride in his ability to balance hard-work with family life.
“When you are a freelancer, you need to be the best you can be because ultimately success depends on how fair and excellent you are with your work. The advantage of being a freelancer today is that the whole world can be your client and not just the country or city you reside in. I’ve been working with almost thirty countries throughout the world. It’s fantastic how dynamic the freelancer life is! It’s the best life I could have. I can work to my own schedule and I live my life freely with my family."
“The most important thing is to be responsible and excellent in what you do. The life of a freelancer is a life of ups and downs, especially at the beginning. After some time you will gain space in the market, people will get to know you, indicating you to someone else and ”magically“ people will find you.”
As the new year begins, Andre is making plans to advance his personal brand. “My goal in 2021 is to develop new personal artistic projects. I intend to develop my personal brand and my artistic concepts.
“There is a lot to explore and define as an artist. I have worked for many companies, but my dream is to have my own brand, sold through my own projects."
“2021 will be the year that I separate my personal artistic life from my freelance life and I am very excited about that.”