Bringing 2D into the Next Dimension

by Nic Rady

Ask Joe ImageAs part of GoEngineer’s re-branding campaign from a few years back, the technical support team gained a face: Joe Engineer.

Being a company that provides SOLIDWORKS and Stratasys products, services, and support, I recently decided to use these tools to take Joe from 2D to 3D.

Imagine taking a flat 2D drawing of a cartoon character and trying to bring it to life! How? Well, the answer is one face at a time (pun intended)!

Fortunately, Joe was originally created in Adobe Illustrator, which means he was able to be brought in to SOLIDWORKS as a sketch. This helped make the process of getting his face profile just right while creating his glasses, eyes, nose, and mouth to look exactly like his 2D profile.

As for scaling, taking a look at a range of values for different features of the human head from an anatomy textbook worked great. Placing the sketch of Joe on the front plane and offsetting planes for specific facial features, one surface at a time, he started to resemble a human head with the frontal shape of Joe.

With the outline of Joe’s head fully established, the split lines feature worked to project the sketch of the mouth, nose, and eyes. Using a few more surfacing techniques to trim and knit them together, the amorphous blob of Joe’s head started to resemble an ear-less 3D version of himself.

Joe 3

I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, and at this point have already overreached my comfort zone as can be seen in that butchered excuse of a chin on Joe’s face. So, when it came to modeling the ears, I searched the internet and found an STL that someone had already made in a program more adaptable to such geometry. Besides, the 2D sketch of Joe had almost no information on his ears, so I imported the STL, moved it into place, and merged the bodies together.

Joe 4

Now with ears to hold them, modeling his iconic glasses was a breeze. Taking the original sketch from Adobe, a simple extrude for the rim and bridge, with a sweep for the temples, and the glasses looked like something I would wear!

Joe 5

The only thing missing from Joe was hair. Apparently, anyone in the gaming/cartooning business knows the troubles of hair modeling. Again, the mechanical side of me took the same front sketch and did a few revolves to create a Joe style. From the front, it looked just like the 2D Joe, but the smallest rotation of Joe’s head and the impression of Joe did not match his cool persona.

So, after asking a friend who is in the gaming industry, he came back with one word: anime. Little did I know that hair is a much discussed topic in the human modeling world. Come to find out, Joe has a prominent hair style for characters from Japan with very popular design techniques. I’m learning something new all the time!

After watching a few videos on how this type of hair is created in other programs, I applied them in SOLIDWORKS to create the final version of Joe’s hair. This time, Joe had the feel of a young engineer on the go.

Joe 8

Currently, Joe is off being printed on a variety of machines with different materials; and will be revealed in my next blog post once he comes together.Read JoeEngineer Goes 3D here.

Meanwhile, as always, Joe is available to happily answer your technical questions on SOLIDWORKS, 3D printing and more. Ask Joe a question at or call 800.688.3234.

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