Colors! 3D dev diary – painting in 3D

Welcome to the first hopefully many Colors! 3D development diaries. In the time left to the release, I will try to give some insight into what’s gone (and goes) into the development of this… game-app-play-thingy. Yep, we are not really sure how to categorize it either, but that’s ok – that’s one of the things we like about it.

But first, I know that many of you are asking. We still don’t have a release-date or a price. This is the first time we are releasing something for the Nintendo 3DS eShop (well, duh), and there are still things we haven’t figured out. We are feverishly working getting things ready, but there is still a little bit to go before it can go into Nintendo’s submission.

So first off, I wanted to talk about this crazy notion of painting in 3D. This is obviously the key ingredient with our plan to bring Colors! to the 3DS. As far as we know, it hasn’t really been possible for people to paint in 3D – digital or otherwise (except for painting on layers of glass, that is).

Key to us was to keep Colors! as a pure painting app. We didn’t want to make it complicated or technical just because we added a third dimension. So, our solution to that was to reuse the idea of layers in 3D. Layers are something that most people who have used commercial image editing programs should be familiar with, so it didn’t seem like a stretch to find a good way to implement this.

We gave each layer a depth, so by choosing which layer to paint on, you chose which depth it appears at. Simple but powerful (and comes with the added bonus  that if you just want to paint in 2d, you can still use the layer functionality because of the depth slider on the 3DS).

But, rather than trying to explain things, let me just show you instead. Here’s a painting that you might recognize:

This painting, painted by Munin, was painted in 3D. You can view it by downloading the MPO here, put it on your 3DS’s SD card and view it in the Camera app. If you don’t want to use your 3DS, you can find a wiggle version here… but it is way cooler on the 3DS. If you look closely, you should be able to see the individual layers. Colors! 3D supports five layers, which were about as much as I could cram into the memory at the 854×512 resolution you will be able to paint in.

I’m very happy how the whole 3D thing turned out and I can’t wait until 3D paintings start appearing in the gallery. As always with Colors!, seeing all the cool stuff being posted there is the reason why I love working on this project.

47 thoughts on “Colors! 3D dev diary – painting in 3D

  1. I’m with Davey. The more info I see on Colors! for the 3DS, the more excited I get. Munin has a great gallery. I bet he takes his copy of colors! everywhere he goes.

  2. A 2011 release would be great, this is the perfect complement to Nintendo’s Letter Box application, especially if members can send saved photos (from Colors! 3D, natch) to other 3DSes via the Letter Box.

  3. It seems like a pretty neat application.

    Just wondering, how much memory is available for use by e-shop developers on the 3DS?

  4. Thanks everyone!

    @Someguy, Due to our NDA with Nintendo, I can’t really talk specifics about the 3DS hardware, software and processes. Sorry.

  5. @Jens

    Ahh, dang it, I thought so. Well, thanks for replying anyway. Painting in 3D sounds fun, so I might get this.

    Right now I’m guessing that dev kits before launch had access to the full 128 MB pool of RAM for the 3DS (or at least 96MB), and that current dev kits have anywhere between 32MB – 64MB of access due to part of the RAM being reserved for future firmware update features, and Nintendo isn’t sure how much needs to be reserved. I’m only basing this off of some of the leaked pictures before launch and some of the dev kits leaked to E-bay.

  6. I believe it’s going to be a big hit for sure, I don’t care about the cost i want this app for my 3DS, i wanted the DS version but i wasn’t able to download at the time, so I’m not getting left out from this one, and i hope you take your time to create it, I’m really excited on how your create it, and quite amazed on what this app can do, i know it won’t be $100 for this app, but I’m willing to spend this much for this portable drawing app.

    and all the best

  7. Pingback: The first dev diary for Colors! 3D (and a glimpse at a 3D painting) | Nintendo 3DS News
  8. Pingback: The first dev diary for Colors! 3D (and a glimpse at a 3D painting) | Nintendo 3DS News
  9. Thanks for the awesome response everyone!

    @Manoel, yes, the Colors! 3D most definitely has the playback feature, for 2D and 3D paintings alike. And there is full undo functionality as well, along with tons of other new features.

  10. I am very happy this is coming out. I like that this was actually DS homebrew first (had that, never got old), shows that Nintendo recognizes talent/potential to homebrew developers. Looking forward to the day when Nintendo fully supports homebrews creativity in some way or another (obviously flashcarts wouldn’t work thanks to those who pirate :)

  11. @Mat, pressure-sensitivity would obviously have been my top feature request from Nintendo, but we won’t be able to do that in Colors! 3D as it’s not available on the 3DS.

  12. I love the idea of this so far. It’s a shame that (due to the shapes of the brushes being pretty integral to the technique) it would be unlikely that wet-on-wet technique (pioneered but not created by a certain Mr Bob Ross) doesn’t get much digital representation. I wonder, is this a technique that you guys considered at any point in the development, or was it ‘dry’ canvas the whole way?

    Either way, I can’t wait, it’ll be great seeing the kind of innovative, imaginative artistic effects that 3D layers will inspire. Ooh, that brings up an interesting question – Is there any kind of function to see foreground layers as a transparency while working on background layers (or any other way of using closer layers as guide layers)? I ask because this would really allow for freedom of creativity when painting spontaneously.


  13. Pingback: Colors! 3D Developer Diary and 3D Painting Released - Pop Arma
  14. Beautiful, beautiful. I loved it so much on the DS, and I’m absolutely getting it for 3DS when it will be available.

    I think the part that I like the most is the whole community thing, especially because this time it’s going to be accessible directly on the 3DS itself (like the Colors! Magazine on the DS).
    Not to mention the better resolution of 3DS screens, the real 3D vision, the collaborative painting!

    Even so, here’s my two cents;
    Initially I tought depth was defined by painting a greyscale heightmap, wich would have been the best choice (in my opinion) since you could paint something like 128 or 255 grades of depth. And it would require only to store 2 images in vRam: painting+heightmap.
    Honestly I’m not so much into the whole layers idea, I find it a bit restricting because every painting will end up to look like a paper diorama, but I clearly understand your point on ease of use (I’m one of them who use layers everyday in Photoshop). And however I like paper dioramas a lot. :3

    Keep up the great work! I see on the official site there’s “Coming Q4 2011” written, I can’t wait! :D

  15. @Danjel, Thanks! We did look into doing 3D the way you were suggesting, but discarded the idea since we felt it was too abstract/technical. I think it would be too different from normal digital painting to be a good fit for Colors!.

    Also, one of the coolest things with the current implementation is transparency. Having semi-transparent layers for environmental effects like fog and god-rays can create amazing results. This would not be possible with the height-map approach. But you are right that it often is a little bit like a paper diorama, something I’m personally a fan of as well. :)

  16. @Paul B, wet-on-wet is something I’d love to experiment with in the future, because who doesn’t love Bob Ross!

    There are a couple of modes for how you treat foreground layers while you paint. You can have them
    1. Always on, which is good to create the composition
    2. Show the current layers and the ones under them, which is good when you work on details
    3. Only show the current layer, which is good to make sure there are no stray paint where you don’t want it.

    Also, there are a couple of tricks in play, like when you press the scroll/pan button, all layers temporarily fade into view. All in all, I think it should work well.

  17. @Jens, right, transparency! I completely forgot about it. Fog, god-rays, smoke, water… Well, the use of layers instead of an heightmap now makes completely sense. I approve it! :)

    I love how homebrew developers like you managed to get permission from Nintendo itself to develop for the new console. Let me say it, but I think Big N wanted to rival the iPhone version of Colors!, hehe!

    Hmm, I’m an iOS developer too, maybe one day I’ll be developing my dream game for 3DS… Who knows! :D

  18. I absolutely love painting! I see the picture above is quite detailed. How small of a brush can you use? Also will there be a blending tool? Love it! Will buy when it comes out. Yay!

  19. Any word on the status of the application yet? :) I’m really pumped up about this drawing app and Q4 is almost over.

  20. I’m on the same boat with Eric. I’m eager for some news since the year is almost out.

    Take my money already, darn you! *hands over 40 dollars*

  21. Hey, Jens! There are thousands of 3DS users impatiently waiting (like me) to get their paws and styluses on your innovative software. Are you still planning a Q4 launch? We would sure want to know!

    Also, I am very interested in your Colors! apps. It’s unique! I mean, it is as simple as Microsoft Paint is, but makes as professional-looking drawings as with a drawing tablet! I was thinking about buying a Wacom tablet, but as newbie as I am in drawing, I don’t really want to spend hundreds of bucks right off the start… Your application is the perfect compromise. Not only it is simple to use, but it also is portable and we can actually see exactly where we draw, instead to draw like a blind person! Not forgetting the 3D feature that, by looking at the preview images on my 3DS, make me hungry. I am quite sad though that pressure sensitivity won’t be available, since it made the DS homebrew app even more natural.

    To resume, your application is going to be one of the most important softwares of the eShop, so please take care of it.

    I wish you a nice success for all the efforts you are giving on this,

  22. @jens

    just got a question, is it possible to draw a sphere and make look like a sphere, cause i know that is’ on layers but is there any like graduate blend from back to front??? i hope you understand by what i mean, assuming that it’s layered i don’t think so but i don’t know if you made it possible to actually makes it possible to make a complete sphere look completely round..

    sorry for any confusion…

    just waiting for it to pop in eshop so i can buy it and download it ^_^

  23. @wei, the sphere example is one of those situations where the layered approach is not ideal. Depending on other things you might be able to use transparency successfully to make it look alright, but it’s hard to say. I’m expecting to be surprised myself of what people pull off once this things is released. :)

  24. Thank you for the confirmation, i do have some ideas on what i can use the 3d layers. just waiting till it on Eshop, currently stocked on on credit =]

    hopefully $36 is enough hahaha

    is there a confirm date when it’s coming out so i can countdown to the day?? =]

  25. @Matt, still no real update from Nintendo after we sent in the submission, so January release is looking very unlikely.

  26. I don’t know if this question has been asked, (not an Parent, just an Adult with concerns)

    How does the gallery be able to keep “inappropriate” content from the gallery? i understand as a parents POV that you would never want your Child be able to see Nudity, gore, violence till he is able to reach a reasonable level, but also what can be classified as art? for example Adam and Eve are always naked and sometimes people will recreate it, it’s art but it also depict nudity in a form of art, also how can you be sure of the safety of someone drawing constant “good” drawings as they completely starts drawing “inappropriate” content then change back to “appropriate” content, as i don’t think you have people checking every drawings as that is anti-productive and really not cost-effective, and also have a computer generate banning also might not help as pictures are all different, (impossible to ban all “inappropriate” content) Also including inappropriate words?

    There will be people that will troll and will display inappropriate images to people, this drawing has been collecting lots of fans willing to download and get started with drawing. but there will be always be people who ruins fun for everyone.


  27. @wei, good question. We actually do manual screening of every painting that is uploaded to the site, but to help us we also have a process in place that seems to have worked well over the last years. It’s briefly outlined here:

    It’s not fool-proof, but I think it strikes a good balance between allowing artistic freedom as well as making sure that the site is welcoming to everyone.

  28. @jen, that seems pretty fair, and reasonable, very effective, let the community deem what is appropriate and what is not. very smart, as you have said not fool-proof, but it’s the most effective and best solution at this current time, well planned =]

    thanks for the heads up


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