Johann Oswald – Digital portrait #18

Johann Oswald is a 3D artist from Germany, country of great cars 🙂

In fact, he’s really german, because he loves cars. And he also loves CGi, so that’s more than enough for me!

Johann’s fascination for automotive is a great starting point for creating great illustrations featuring a bunch of them with original compositions and colors.

I like the way he creates photorealistic shots and manages to magnify them. Johann Oswald is serious about modeling, materials, shading, lighting and post-production. So we have a lot to talk together 🙂

Let’s take the road with Johann! And don’t forget to download our free guide of the best tips & tricks from our 3D Artists interviews.


Johann Oswald – Digital portrait of an automotive lover/3D artist

  Hi Johann! Can you describe yourself for our readers?

Hi, I’m Johann, 36 years old, husband, father of a lovely daughter, living in Germany (Stuttgart), and I am a 3D artist/generalist.

After studying media informatics and electronic media, I started my professional career in 2009 at the post production studio Recom CGI where I did mostly high end still visualizations, mainly in the automotive industry.

Since 2015 I’m employed at an agency called A-M-T which is specialized in communication design.


  First of all, why do you like so much automotive?

I’m not really a car freak relating to performance and speed but I think cars are beautiful design objects. Cars shape the appearance of cityscapes and the everyday life of everyone. I don’t really know why, but they fascinate me.


Project 3D from Johann Oswald - Benz GLC project


  I was shocked by the photorealism of your renderings when I discovered them. Your last project Mercedes Class A is amazing. Besides its realism, I love the blue and pink tones which bounce on the white Mercedes, and the creativity of the background. Can you tell us more about that project?

Haha, thank you very much. In my opinion there is still room for improvement, but with every free project I’m learning more and more, step by step.

From time to time I’m caught of the idea to make a new portfolio project and this time I wanted to place a car on a basketball court. In the last years, I saw some really nice drone shots on Insta and I always had that in the back of my head that I want to use these graphical lines and contrasting colors in a project as a stylistic element. So I started with a basketball court, but soon realized that it wasn’t exciting enough. That’s why I added architectural elements – elements I saw in photographs of La Muralla Roja in Spain. With its minimalistic cubic architecture and its strong and punchy colors, I thought it could fit perfectly to the rest of the scenery.

I created the scene in 3ds Max, added some details in Z-Brush and rendered the whole stuff with V-Ray.

The whole project took months because I just worked on it in my freetime. But in the end, I’m really happy with the result. I love to play with hard light and shadows and the contrasting colors.

Project 3D from Johann Oswald - A Class - Render 01a
Project 3D from Johann Oswald - A Class - Render 01b
Project 3D from Johann Oswald - A Class - Render 02
Project 3D from Johann Oswald - A Class - Render 03
Project 3D from Johann Oswald - A Class - Clay render


  I can see « Concept, Shading, Texturing, Lighting, Rendering & Post-Production by myself ». Are you a control freak? 🙂 or do you like to master all the process all by yourself?

Hehe no, I’m not a control freak at all. As you can see on my Behance site, I also did some free portfolio projects in cooperation with great post production colleagues. But you are right, I really love to create a project completely on my own.

In my professional life I work with specialists on different projects: one is a specialist for concept, one for modeling, one for lighting/shading, one for simulations, one for animation, one for post production…



” When I see an interesting scenery,

it’s my first thought that I want to take a picture of it. “


At Recom, I was a 3d generalist and after the final rendering process a post production specialist took over the render passes, created the magic behind CG and I wasn’t part of it anymore.

Free portfolio projects give me a great opportunity to master the whole production pipeline from concept until post production on my own. As I mentioned before, these are the projects I learned the most.


Project 3D from Johann Oswald - Lights and Shadows - Render 01
Project 3D from Johann Oswald - Lights and Shadows - Render 02
Project 3D from Johann Oswald - Lights and Shadows - Render 03
Project 3D from Johann Oswald - Lights and Shadows - Clay render



  Which parts of a 3D project do you like the most and why?

Definitely lighting and shading 🙂

Shading is interesting to me because you can breathe life into 3d-objects. Even simple objects and shapes begin to look realistic when the surface has nice details, structures, irregularities, an interplay of reflective and unreflective parts. In combination with a believable lighting setup, it gets more and more interesting.


Project 3D from Johann Oswald - Jaguar - F Pace


  I’ve seen many personal projects on your Behance account. Do you work also only on automotive projects in your professional projects? And usually, for what needs do your clients call you?

I worked for six years at Recom CGI where I did automotive visualisations 90% of the time for several different automotive manufacturers like Daimler, Porsche, BMW, Lexus

Today, I mainly work on architecture and product visualisations and every now and then I miss working on a nice automotive campaign. That’s why I do these projects in my freetime 🙂



” Once a smart photographer said:

“The first 10.000 shots are the worst” “


  You’re saying that you’re also a photography enthousiast. Do you practice this often? What did you learn from that study for CGI?

I really love photography. I would love to practice it more often because it’s a big passion of mine. When I see an interesting scenery, it’s my first thought that I want to take a picture of it. It can be a everyday life scene with family and friends having fun, a special light, an exciting composition, colors, or special weather conditions like snow, rain, sun, fog, especially fog.

I think I learned a lot from photography. My first lesson was that it takes time until you get an output that you are happy with (at least in my case…). Once a smart photographer said: The first 10.000 shots are the worst. I know it’s exaggerated but it means that everybody makes many mistakes in the beginning. And that’s ok. You take a picture, you look at it at home, you conclude that you don’t like it somehow. At this point you start thinking about what it is you don’t like and what you want to change next time. You get better and better with every shot and you start paying attention to lines, shapes, special compositions in everyday life.

Another important lesson photography teached me is to understand light. On the one hand to recognize special light situations at all and on the other hand to use them as an instrument in a photograph. You understand which effect a picture gets when light comes from the back, from the side or when it comes from camera direction. You learn how to make objects disappear in the shadows and highlight them in the brightness.


  I think lighting for me is the most critical part of a 3D image. I can see many artist who fail on that part. How do you achieve those photorealism renderings? Do you use only HDRi? Do you make several renderings that you blend together on post-production?

Yeah, lighting is really a critical part. The best 3d model can look shabby when the lighting is boring or unnatural.

Light is such a strong instrument: light can be dramatic, it can lead your eyes to a certain point, can emphasize an object, can be part of the image composition.

Yes, I use HDR-Images but it depends on the scene how I use it. It comes to play for lighting an exterior scene like in my Mercedes A-Class project. In this case the HDRI is the main light source which creates the light direction, mood and reflections. Additionally will be used some area- or spotlights to emphasize the main light and to highlight specific design parts, like crease lines or curves. Then I use different reflection planes or HDRIs to create extra reflections. One to accentuate refractive parts like the headlamps, one for the rims, one for window glass, one for little highlights, etc…. To get the best flexibility in post I render all the lights and reflections separately.

In the end I start with one rendering as a base layer and all the other render passes will be added partially in Photoshop.


Project 3D from Johann Oswald - SL R107 - Render 01
Project 3D from Johann Oswald - SL R107 - Render 02
Project 3D from Johann Oswald - SL R107 - Render 03
Project 3D from Johann Oswald - SL R107 - Render 04

  Can you tell us more about your clients and which projects you mostly work on?

I work at an agency which is specialized in communication design. We develop trade show stands, events and retail architecture for temporary and stationary use.

It’s my job to visualise the ideas and concepts of our architects and designers.


  Which softwares do you use and why?

I mainly work with 3ds Max and V-Ray. Max is the software that I got to know fifteen years ago at the university when it all began. I made my first CG steps with it and it’s still my program of choice for modeling, shading, texturing, lighting, animating and rendering with V-Ray.

In 2009, in my last year at university, VRED came along. In that time VRED was a really young rendering software and not that common in the CG world. I did my master thesis in collaboration with Recom and my job was to proof and evaluate render quality, render times, usability and costs in comparison to the existing Maya and Mental Ray workflow of Recom. So as you can see I had the opportunity to test it a lot lot lot and got to know the software very well. The results were so impressive that the company switched their automotive workflow to VRED.Long story short, that’s why I use VRED. It’s a powerful tool, especially for automotive visualisations.

For post production I make use of Photoshop and After Effects.


  Do you have any resources to advise beginners?

Oh, I’m not really up-to-date on this topic. When I started with 3d we had some dvds with courses that we shared among each other. Really old school. I think nowadays it’s much easier to find tutorials and courses on Google, Youtube, etc.?


  Where do you find inspiration?

I like scrolling through Behance and Instagram to get inspiration and to see new visual trends. Especially Behance is a great platform for design, photography and CG on a professional level.

Furthermore in situations when I put my cellphone away and turn my head off. For example when I’m running, (if i ever find the motivation to), I get the best ideas and inspirations.


  Do you have artists that you admire and who inspired you?

Yes, Philipp Bauss, a good friend of mine. He showed me how important it can be to make your own creative stuff beside your job. He’s an excellent 3d artist and HE really likes to render cars 🙂 So have a look at his site and enjoy:

Philipp Bauss – Personal webite

Philipp Bauss – Behance


  And finally, anything else you would like to share? Or that I forgot to ask you?

Few months ago, I started working on a short animation with … drumroll … well … a car (Better Digital Artist: No way!). Surprise! So follow me on behance or instagram when you want to see some updates.

Thank you for the interview, thanks for reading!



See more of Johann Oswald works here: