Lift-Off: Using Reference Imagery and Freehand Sketching to Create 3D Models in VR

Bret Jackson, Daniel F. Keefe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Three-dimensional modeling has long been regarded as an ideal application for virtual reality (VR), but current VR-based 3D modeling tools suffer from two problems that limit creativity and applicability: (1) the lack of control for freehand modeling, and (2) the difficulty of starting from scratch. To address these challenges, we present Lift-Off, an immersive 3D interface for creating complex models with a controlled, handcrafted style. Artists start outside of VR with 2D sketches, which are then imported and positioned in VR. Then, using a VR interface built on top of image processing algorithms, 2D curves within the sketches are selected interactively and 'lifted' into space to create a 3D scaffolding for the model. Finally, artists sweep surfaces along these curves to create 3D models. Evaluations are presented for both long-term users and for novices who each created a 3D sailboat model from the same starting sketch. Qualitative results are positive, with the visual style of the resulting models of animals and other organic subjects as well as architectural models matching what is possible with traditional fine art media. In addition, quantitative data from logging features built into the software are used to characterize typical tool use and suggest areas for further refinement of the interface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7383322
Pages (from-to)1442-1451
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 21 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 IEEE.


  • 3D User Interfaces
  • Immersive 3D Modeling
  • Sketch-based Modeling
  • Virtual Reality


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