View Full Version : Adobe Illustrator into Lightwave for Sign Design

11-18-2005, 07:09 AM


I have zero experience with Lightwave and I am in need of some input.

I design electric signs (monuments, channel letters etc) for a sign company and I use Adobe Illustrator CS2. My boss started this company and previously worked for a different sign firm. He hired me without any sign experience as he wanted to have everyone start fresh and run the company his way. At his previous company he says he saw designers take drawings from Illustrator, input them into Lightwave and "Boom" they would be 3D and look realistic and still be to scale etc etc.

I wrote Lightwave asking if this was possible and they said as long as the files are saved as version 6-8 of Illustrator.

Here's my question, does anyone have experience with this? How difficult is it to manipulate a 2D Illustrator sketch into 3D Lightwave? I know it cannot be as easy as...well, "Boom"...

Also, I use a CADtools plugin for dimensioning and I'm concerned about that translating into Lightwave.

Any tips, comments, suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated as I'm told my drawings are too "flat". 8~


11-18-2005, 07:30 AM
It is pretty much that simple - load the EPS and extrude it. Of course, you can get fancier, using Multishift to create routed bevels and such...


11-18-2005, 07:33 AM
Really! Wow...What about the depth of the sign? Is that easy to work with?

Also, is there a trial version?

Thanks for replying!

11-18-2005, 07:47 AM
Extrusion is what gives the depth of the sign. Contact NewTek to get them to send you a demo disc...


11-18-2005, 07:49 AM
Extrusion is what gives the depth of the sign. Contact NewTek to get them to send you a demo disc...


Thanks BeeVee!

11-18-2005, 09:46 AM
wow, and here i've been wasting all this time learning texturing, lighting and proper camera angles. :bowdown: :neener:

not to take away from lw, but you might want to look at formz also. if you're only interested in the technical aspects of making signs, formz has cad features and prints out with scale information.

there are demo versions of most 3d apps available from their respective websites.

11-18-2005, 10:28 AM
wow, and here i've been wasting all this time learning texturing, lighting and proper camera angles. :bowdown: :neener:

not to take away from lw, but you might want to look at formz also. if you're only interested in the technical aspects of making signs, formz has cad features and prints out with scale information.

there are demo versions of most 3d apps available from their respective websites.

Ok, thanks....

(Mind overload)


11-18-2005, 10:56 AM
Check your Private messages. :lwicon:

11-28-2005, 02:03 PM
Ok, I have my demo disc and I'm unsure how to import/load a file into Lightwave. I was told that as long as it's saved as version 6-8 of Illustrator it's ok. Do I need to flatten the transparency? Or any other tricks? Everything I try says "error".


11-28-2005, 04:52 PM
I'll try to do a little step by step tut for you here:

-Load the eps or ai file with the EPSF loader and set it to closed polygons and polylines. You might try enabling "auto axis drill" but that doesn't allways work properly. If the imported object doesn't look right, just hit delete and load it again with "auto axis drill" disabled. Most of the time "Standard" curve resolution will give you enough detail, if it doesn't you can up the amount of points by going to "fine" or "superfine".

-If you hit the "a" key modeler will focus in al all the geometry and in the wireframe view you'll probably see the wireframe of your object. If you have the perspective view set to something like "smooth shade" you'll probably see there's no holes in the object where they should be. ( like no hole in the letter o ). You need to do that manualy. This is what the "auto axis drill" feature is supposed to do. But it gets confused very easy.

-To drill holes in your object, Shift select all the polygons that should be holes in the wireframe view and cut them ( "c" key ), now go to a new layer by clicking one of the little yellow dots in the top right corner of the modeler window and paste them ( "v" key ).

-Set this new layer as a beckground layer, and the other one as a foreground layer by fully selecting one of the yellow butons ( foreground layer ) and selecting the right-lower half of the other one ( background layer )

-Now you have to find the Drill tool ( I customized my interface so I can't help you there ). It's probably right next to the Boolean and Solid Drill tool.
When you found it, activate it and select the right axis, probably the Z Axis, and select "Tunnel". If it's a very dense object with a lot of complicated polygons you might want to select the polygons you want to drill the holes into first, so Modeler doesn't do any calculations for the rest.
If it still gives you trouble, you can also drill the holes in several steps by cutting and pasting some polgygons from the background layer into another layer temporary.

-when you're done drilling all you have to do is hit the Extude tool ( if I haven't changed the key settings it's the Shift+e key and drag the mouse in the right, left or top view. To contrain your extrude axis you can hold the Ctrl key while dragging.

If all went as planned your sighn is 3D now. Rotate the perspective view and enjoy :-)

If you feel the need to go all the way, you might want to bevel the edges so they don't look so sharp. To do that, select one or all the front poly's, hit the "b" key and drag the mouse up and down to increase or decrease bevel-shift and sideways to the same to the inset. You can also hit the "n" key for the numeric panel if you want to type in some exact numbers.

you probably want the surface to look smooth and not all faceted, you can do that in the surface editor. But if you do, your front and backside polygons will probably look all funny. You can fix this by selecting all the front and back polygons either manualy or by hitting the "w" key which will make a nifty little widown popup called polygons statistics. Here you can see all kinds of information about all the geometry currently visible and select or deselect it. When you click the small + in front of where it states >4 vertices, it will select all polygons with more the 4 points in them. Which are all the front and back polygons.
If they are all selected, cut and paste them. This will prevent Lightwave from smoothing them towards the neighbouring polygons so they will look flat.

There are a lot of fancy bevel tools for modeler that make the edges rounder or prevent overlapping corner polygons like Bevel++ which is a commercial one and C-bevel an JettoBevel which are free ( http://www.pictrix.jp/lw/index2.html and http://www.3dfightclub.com/~jettocrack/lightwave/plugins/jettobevel/index.htm ) . So you might want to check out some. http://www.Flay.com is the best resource for free and commercial Lightwave plugins and news.

wow, that was longer then I expected :-)

good luck and have fun.

11-29-2005, 05:59 AM
Toonafish, thanks for the time you spent typing that out! It looks a little greek, but I will follow along as best as I can and see what I can do.

Thanks again...

12-05-2005, 06:23 AM
Toonafish - I have some questions...

-Does the ai image have to be flattened or anything else I should know?

-You said, "If the imported object doesn't look right...". Silly question, but how do I know if it looks "right". It doesn't look how it did in AI. I'll try to attach a screen capture here.

-I am pretty lost with the drilling holes topic...I will also attach how my original object looks.

12-05-2005, 06:30 AM
When I import into LightWave it looks like this:


Here is the Adobe Illustrator sketch:


12-05-2005, 09:15 AM
What comes with LightWave? How large is the manual? What are the best books for it? can you learn it with just the manual?

What is the learning curve for someone without any experience?

12-05-2005, 09:49 AM
I think you'll find that your LightWave version of the logo does indeed look pretty close to the Illustrator version - change the viewmode for the Perspective viewport at the top right into Texture.

As for what comes with LightWave, you get four CDs (1x program for Mac/PC, 2x Content, 1x third party stuff), a printed manual (optionally) and a security key. As for learning curve, well working in 3D on a 2D interface is already pretty mindblowing but I maintain that LightWave probably has the easiest learning curve of any of the major apps.


12-05-2005, 09:55 AM
Thanks BeeVee...

What is the cost? I looked at the pricing page, but I had heard drastically different. We only need it for Windows on a PC. We need one copy now, but will eventually need more. I'm not sure when.

12-05-2005, 10:01 AM
Looks like you used the auto axis drill and it worked this time. But with this sign you don't to need any holes :-) for the fonts in the sign I suppose. You'd need polygons with a different surface name so you can give them a blue and black surface. But you could still use the drill tool but choose "stencil" instead of "Tunnel" and type a name for the new surface.

Sorry if I wasn't very clear. What I meant by "not right" was that if you use the auto axis drill and there are holes where there shouldn't be any.
This happens a lot when you use 3 or more paths to define the shape. Like the shape of the sign, the holes for the text, and maybe a spline to define the thickness of the outline. Then the EPSF importer has a hard time figuring out what it should use to drill the hole.

The screengrab looks okay to me, but it could be that the part that should be dark blue is actualy a hole instead of a polygon, and I see some fonts are "overlapping" while it should be one shape. Also the "C" from "oceanside" has some weird stuff going on at the top of the font. But you can see it more clearly if you set the perspective view ( Top Right View ) to smooth shade instead of Color Wireframe.

The way to continue depends on what the final sign should look like. Do you want "oceanside" and "cabinets" to have thickness and stick out of the sign, or should it be flat as if it were painted on the surface ?

Lightwave comes with a PDF or a printed manual if you prefer that. But you have to pay extra for the printed one ( check the newtek website ). I hardly use the manual so I couldn't tell you if it's any good. I read a lot of good reviews about Dan Ablan's inside Lightwave books ( http://www.danablan.com/ )

I can't tell you about the learning curve for someone without any experience. Some people learn very fast others take a bit longer :-) But I suppose if most of the stuff you need to do with Lightwave is visualising sign designs you'll be up and going in no time. Lightwave has a great modeler which is relatively straight forward and the renderer will give you a nice output without too much effort. Besides that there are tons of tutorials and the LW community is very helpfull.

maybe you'll be able to find some tutorials that will help here: