Speed effect on electrons – 3D

I’m preparing a cover image for a publication for a scientific journal. Instead of being scientifically rigourous, this kind of image could be more artistic and catch the reader’s eye while conveying the main scientific idea proposed in the article.

I’m looking for a way to show some electrons (which I’ll represent by simple spheres) moving at different speed. One set of electrons should move ballistically, that is, not be scattered or slowed down by obstacles, while the other ones should picture the idea of being slowed down or even completely stopped. It’s a still image, not an animation. The electrons will me moving above a plane of some carbon atoms.

Does any one have an idea on how to pass this idea through to the reader? I was thinking about having a long undisturbed trail for the ballistic ones, and having much shorter and more diffuse trail for the other ones. Something like what is often used in cartoons. But here it would be 3D. Any comment or other suggestion? How do you give different speed effects to objects in a still image.

I’m not an artist at all, I only have some experience doing very geometric things in 3ds max, which I don’t have access to any more. So I’m planning to do it in Blender because it’s free and especially because I have a script that allows me to import the other elements of the 3D setup from my code I’m using for my physics simulations…

Or should I do it using some other software?

Hope I’m at the right place to ask this question…


Your idea for showing the relative speed of objects in the third paragraph is absolutely spot on. Using different length trails to show speed is a well-established, easily understood device.

As to how the generate the image, that’s really a very open-ended question. What you are asking about is doable, but it’s not a trivial task and some planning will be required. Questions about 3D software are off-topic in Graphic Design, but I would imagine that you would be creating your core image (the electrons in 3D space) in your 3D software, and then using an image editing or illustration application (i.e., Photoshop, GIMP, Illustrator) to put in the finishing touches. I can think of several ways to approach this, and use of said applications could also obviate the need for 3D software entirely in the right hands.

If your skills aren’t up to the task, then I would suggest any of the following:

  • finding someone who has the skill set to do it for you
  • search through the myriad of stock image sites to find something that meets your needs, or at least comes close to; Corbis and Shutterstock are good places to start, even if only for ideas since they can be rather expensive, though you get what you pay for.
  • Give it a go, have some fun, and try to do it yourself. When it ceases to be fun, go with either of the first two options.

My company has people whose entire job it is to create cover images, so you’re in for an interesting, and likely very fun, challenge.

Source : Link , Question Author : Nigu , Answer Author : Philip Regan

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