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IC3D Suite: Product & Packaging Design in Half the Time, Easy to Use as Adobe Illustrator

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Award-winning IC3D Suite is a powerful, highly creative 3D application built for product development, packaging design, presentation, and packaging manufacturing to save time and money while being as easy to use as any 2D drawing program.

IC3D Suite is arguably the most beneficial tool to come along for product development and package design professionals since Adobe Illustrator. It addresses three distinct but related needs better than any other tool on the market:

  • Slashing the development time between product idea and product manufacturing, dramatically speeding time to market.
  • Knocking the learning curve for 3D package design and mockup down to the essential skills designers already use in 2D design software.
  • Bridging the gaps between existing best-of-breed package design, presentation, and production software and systems to enable easy, hurdle-less collaboration and workflow.

What It Can Do For You

IC3D Suite is a single product with a single purpose—enabling easy, rapid development of product and package designs from concept to prototype with the highest level of creative quality, greatest ease of use, and most rapid development cycle possible. It is a tool with significant benefits to any workflow involved in product development, packaging design, and package production. Let’s look at some of the specific benefits for different workflows.

Brand Owners

Success or failure of a product is often decided by which brand gets it to market first. Once a product idea is developed the clock begins ticking. Is your lab the first to come up with the idea? Do you competitors already have the same idea? If so, how close is their version to market? Ideas are not as safe and unique as they once were, so you need every advantage possible to shorten the time between product idea and product launch.  IC3D Suite can cut development time down from weeks to days or even hours. Let your competitors vend out their 3D renders and use inefficient collaboration methodologies that rely on several rounds of file import/export between incompatible applications while you create in-house with IC3D Suite. Get your idea to market first and own the category.

Advertising Agencies

Your clients are the brand owners racing competitors to market. Give them the greatest possible retail advantage—and yourself the competitive edge against rival agencies—by halving creative development time. And, as development takes less time for each client, not only do you win the day by helping a client to market faster, not only do you become the hero with revision turnaround times measured in minutes instead of days, but you also free your art department to create just as quickly for a greater number of clients—without art department overtime.

Printers & Manufacturers

For you the speed of creative development is of little consequence unless you also provide design services. What matters most to you is reducing art errors and incompatibilities that will slow or halt prepress. IC3D Suite can help with that in a number of ways.

First, by encouraging your clients to design in IC3D Suite, you gain a predictable input format—actually, two. IC3D Suite can export to the industry-standard Collada 3D format. It also saves a press-ready Adobe Illustrator document automatically every time the native IC3D Suite project is saved. Thus, even you receive the native format project from clients, you can run with the AI file or export from your own copy of IC3D Suite to Collada. For standard packaging shapes you can maintain and share with clients models in IC3D Suite or other industry-standard 3D application formats. In this way you know in advance that the art you received matches product size and shape or label specs.

The second way in which the tool can ease your file prep burden is by making it easier for you to fix art errors. Models inside IC3D Suite are as easily edited as any 2D vector art in Illustrator, so they can be tweaked and fixed as necessary without hours of unexpected labor or kicking the file back to the client or agency. Presentation and mockups effects such as backgrounds, reflections, and rotation accidentally left on in the copy sent to you can be easily turned off with just a few clicks and drags, quickly turning a mockup into a press-ready design with little fuss or expense.

How It Can Save Time and Money

IC3D Suite speeds not only the development and presentation stages of the process, but all stages of package design from sketch to manufacturing.


The inclusion of a large selection of fully customizable models and templates enable design to start instantly on the vast majority of packaging types. Designing on unique container designs is almost as instantaneous, requiring only a simple import of the model in leading 3D rendering application formats.


Initial designs can be exported to numerous standard image formats, all standard 3D formats, and movies. In fact, merely saving a design in native IC3D Suite format automatically generates a matching Adobe Illustrator file. The always-up-to-date Illustrator version makes not only briefs and mockups easier to create, but also aids in presentation and review due to the fact that Illustrator AI files may be easily included as linked assets inside other Illustrator documents, InDesign layouts, and, as linked Smart Objects, in Photoshop documents.

Creative Development

Initial designs and basic mockups created in IC3D Suite can easily be edited, refined, and made client-ready without having to start over from scratch or rebuild models. Granular control over every nuance of model shape, color, texture, lighting, and environment means that each composition is always completely editable. The patented Smart Wrap technology in IC3D Suite quickly and easily maps labels and artwork to even the most complex models without the usual lengthy UVW texture coordinate mapping. Going from mockup to final rendering is a simple matter of building on the existing sketch with hot and cold foils, metallic inks, embossing and entaglio, holographic and lenticular art, real-time shadows, environments reflected on the product, the product reflecting on the floor or other environmental surfaces, filling containers with liquid, building separate versions of packets at various states of fullness and animation transitions between them, and many more creative features managed through standard toggle controls, sliders, and color pickers.

Even when ideation occurs outside of IC3D Suite the program eases and speeds the transition into full production with its ability to import from all other major 3D rendering applications as well as vector AI files, which are not only the file format of desktop versions of Adobe Illustrator but also a growing number of mobile drawing apps such as Adobe Illustrator Draw, Adobe Illustrator Line, and Adobe Shape.

Creative collaboration among team members and with outside agencies is made all the more easier by IC3D Suite’s robust focus on compatibility. First, of course, the native format project can be worked on by anyone with a copy of IC3D Suite. This enables team members to build resuable and highly customizable models and templates use the Image Based Lighting (IBL) model to calculate accurate and realistic model lighting from HDRI and EXR environments. Collaborators without IC3D Suite can also contribute by working with the concurrently-created Adobe Illustrator AI file and by creating models, textures, and materials in all industry-standard formats. IC3D Suite supports the import of models in Collada (DAE), Modo (LXO), CDS Max (3DS and ASE), Wavefront Object (OBJ), Lightwave (LWO and LWS), Milkshape 3D (MS3D), and Stereo Lithography 3D Printer file (STL) formats. Materials contained in those files are also imported, but IC3D Suite includes its own materials editor for sophisticated, real-time materials creation and modification.


In addition to speeding all the other steps of creative development, IC3D Suite can even make the presentation and review process faster and more informative. Its built-in ability to render realistic 3D products and to place those objects into photographic or 3D environments, complete with environment-appropriate lighting and reflections means that clients, sales people, and anyone viewing digital or print proofs from IC3D Suite see the complete picture, with no imagination necessary. Products can be presented alone in full detail as well as in believable, realistic placements on store shelves or POS displays.

Creatives can export from IC3D Suite as standard screen-, print-, and PowerPoint-ready 2D graphics, and 3D PDF. High-resolution PSD exports can even include alpha channels for easy separation of models from their backgrounds. For truly impactful presentations, products and environments can be rotated and animated into a movie that can be exported as QuickTime Movie (MOV) format for direct presentation on a laptop, iPad, iPhone, and other mobile devices, or for incorporation into larger presentations in After Effects, Final Cut Pro, and other video editors.


Following presentation and review, when revision requests come through, is when IC3D Suite really accumulates the time and money savings. Just as going from ideation to brief, brief to presentation was sped along by IC3D Suite’s easy-to-use granular design refinement abilities, the fact that all aspects of the mockup, from the shape, color, texture, contents, labeling, and rotation of the model to the lighting, reflections, and background of the model’s environment, are completely editable make in-house revision a breeze. Because the application is so easy and fast to use, and because renderings to screen take so little time, many revisions can be done live, while the client or product manager watches.

Prototyping and Manufacturing

Upon approval of the final product design, sending to physical prototype and manufacturing are a simple matter of exporting container or label to standard 3D application or Adobe Illustrator format straight from IC3D Suite.

Employing an outside agency to render 3D mockups causes delays during ideation, brief, development, and revision that are simply unnecessary in a world that now has IC3D Suite. IC3D Suite is as easy to use as any 2D illustration application creative teams are already using. Such a shallow learning curve means rapid incorporation of the tool into existing workflows with minimal downtime. More importantly, adding IC3D Suite to the workflow means an immediate time and cost savings on the very next project and every project thereafter.

Creative Edge IC3D Suite is available from for $12,500. IC3D Carton Edition, a version specifically tailored to the needs of carton designers and packaging professionals, is now available for $2,950

Pariah Burke has more than 25 years experience in design, print production, prepress, and both print publishing and epublishing. He apprenticed at presses and design shops before PostScript, PageMaker, and Photoshop, and then rode the Desktop Publishing wave into ownership of design agencies and prepress bureaus. He has designed packaging, containers, and point-of-sale displays for a number of brands including Playboy Sun. Pariah is the author of 8 books (and more than 450 articles) on InDesign, Illustrator, and other creative professional tools and workflows. He is also a world-recognized public speaker and consultant to creative, production, and publishing workflows. Reach Pariah on Twitter @iampariah and on the Web at http://iampariah.com .

Full Disclosure:  Creative Edge Software paid me a nominal fee to write this article. I accepted the assignment because, after deeply examining IC3D hands-on, I believe strongly in the product and the benefits it can bring to the workflows above. I stand behind my assessment regardless of compensation.