The Magical And Often Gritty Imaginings Of This Artist Are Proof Of The Possibilities Of Practice

We first discovered 3D illustrator, Zigor Samaniego, while scrolling through Instagram. It was his icon, a toothy animated brain on legs, that first drew us in but it was the quirky, experimental illustrations that filled his page that really hooked us.




Zigor is all about exploration – when he isn’t working on projects for high profile magazines or designing for esteemed advertising agency, Ogilvy and Mather New York – he is expanding his craft. His latest project, FXXK YEAH, is a perfect example of his eccentric and at times, gritty, work. Individual, bright red hairs, twist and twirl into the word, YEAH. They possess a fluid, water-like, quality as if the animated hair of a Disney princess gone rogue yet the stray, split hairs scattered across the background adds a much less glamorous, realistic, quality.


Then there are the bizarrely endearing, and at times oddly gruesome, characters. Calavera Valiente, for example, the brave skull, clutching a sword and bearing a week, yet resolved, smile. Like, FXXK YEAH, the detailed imperfections on the image are subtle, yet once we get past the glowing skull, we notice it’s scratches – perhaps from previous battles – a little worse for wear but still standing. From an escaping glass of juice to a spider with a mullet, his characters are varied and thoughtful – they are believable within his world – one of magic and mystery, that inspires us to look a little longer, inspect a little closer.


Zigor’s distinct style and obvious talent for 3D illustrating is a mixture of natural ability and practice. Though inherent skill cannot be learned, lots of the techniques he uses can be, and so Zigor runs online courses on 3D lettering. “It takes about four hours”, he told us, “I explain my techniques and tricks to achieving a good, professional result and then the students, about 1000 of them, can do the course at their own pace”. You can book your own place on the course here.


We managed to grab a few minutes with the impossibly busy freelancer to discuss his creations, inspirations and the power of animation.

The Plus: Tell us about your latest project, FXXK YEAH, what inspired it? Talk us through the creative process?
Zigor Samaniego:
I create projects in order to explore and research new techniques and ideas – this is one of them. I always start with a pencil sketch then move to the computer where I experiment with it until I get a result I am happy with. I like to put special detail at the end by retouching it in Photoshop. Projects of this kind take me a while to complete because I do it in my spare time.


TP: Where do you usually take inspiration from for your personal projects?
I’m inspired by classic artists, like Picasso and Dali, and by the world of video games and cartoons, both classic and modern. Those that have most influenced me defined my childhood; I was a huge fan of the original Nintendo Entertainment System video games Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong, and the cartoon Dragon Ball. In school, my friends and I would have a blast imagining what it would be like to be the Dragon Ball character Goku. Nowadays, I enjoy Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, and a lot of indie video games like Super Meat Boy and Broforce.


TP: Explain Punk! to us?
Punk is a tribute to punk from 1980s; it is a part of a course about lettering that I have published on the web site Domestika. I wanted to do something completely different to punk image but remember concerts with many cables on stage. the orange is what energizes the final scene contrasts with the typical black punk

TP: What do you think makes your animations so powerful?
I think the color, I try to keep them simple with only a few colours, but spend a lot of time testing the final combination.


TP: What brands, companies or campaigns have you worked with/on?
I do a lot of work for magazines and advertising, my last big customer was the magazine WIRED

TP: What software do you use to create your illustrations/animations?
My current go-to programs are Cinema4D, Octane Render, ZBrush and Photoshop.

TP: How does texture play into your work?
I try to make the most real materials I can, I realized that the secret is to add dirt and imperfection, the reality is more imperfect than we think.


TP: What has been your favourite project to work on?
I’m most proud of my work for American Express; it was my first job for a big client, and I was very pleased that the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather New York chose me. It was a great experience, because they produce high quality work and are very clear about what they want. The only drawback was the short period of time I had until project delivery—I only had five days to complete the illustrations and so ended up only sleeping four hours a night!


TP: How do your animations reflect your personality?
I am 34 years old but often still think like a child, I think that is reflected in my work. I’m also a bit chaotic 🙂

TP: What’s your next project?
I’m doing some illustrations for a Mexican magazine about clean energy