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  • Writer's pictureArkify Team

Prepping and Posing Apparel Items For 3D Scanning

How our studio prepares our two most commonly requested apparel items, shoes and hats, for 3D scanning

Ever wonder what kind of prep work goes into a professional 3D scan? How someone can take a floppy item, like a beanie, and make it look like it's being worn on an invisible subject's head? Or what small changes to a shoe's laces can elevate the quality of the scan? In this article, we'll be laying out a few of the steps our team takes when preparing apparel items for 3D scanning. Shoes and hats, two commonly requested items, will serve as our primary examples.


Step #1 - Add Stuffing

When preparing a shoe of any kind for 3D scanning, we first stuff the footwear with a soft material such as bubble wrap or newsprint (pictured above). The stuffing serves as a makeshift foot inside the shoe — filling out concave areas and helping the shoe stand upright. Stuffing also helps reinforce the shoe's shape from the inside, preventing any changes in shape while being moved to change scanning positions. During the processing stage, we digitally remove the stuffing so it doesn't appear in our final model.

Step #2 - Prop Up The Tounge

If the shoe has a tongue, it's a good idea to prop it up with a small dowel (pictured above). Just like stuffing the shoe, this will help the tongue stand up straighter and give the illusion an invisible wearer has their foot inside. Propping up the tongue will also make any design or logo on it more visible, something you'd most likely want to be displayed in your final 3D model.

Step #3 - Straighten Up

Here's where attention to detail comes into play. Spot the difference between the two shoes in the photo above. As the line drawn through the left shoe illustrates, each part of the shoe is lined up with another. The knot is aligned with the center of the tongue's embroidery, laying flat underneath it without hiding it from view. Additionally, the subsequent laces below are all laid flat and in line with the knot. This alignment gives the left shoe a much cleaner and more streamlined appearance than the shoe on the right. Unless we're trying to achieve a specific stylized effect, it's important to ensure all components of a shoe are lined up with each other to produce a more polished-looking final mesh.

Step #4 - Reduce Shine

As an optional final step, we may lightly dust any reflective areas with a small amount of talc powder to ensure they are accurately captured by the scanner. The dusting of talc is light enough that it does not affect the color of the area it was applied to and is easily wiped off after scanning is complete. Common shiny areas that require powder could be; any reflective metal components such as aglets or eyelets, metallic logos or decals, and particularly reflective pieces of leather.


Step #1 - Use A Mannequin Head

Hats and other headwear, such as bandanas and headbands, are significantly easier to scan when placed on a mannequin head (such as this one from Amazon). A mannequin head acts in the same way as the stuffing in our shoes—it holds the hat up and fills out any concave areas to make it appear it's being worn.

Why not stuff the hat with newsprint or bubble wrap like we do with shoes? The mannequin head provides a few advantages:

  • The head holds the hat high enough off the scanning surface that we can capture both the top and bottom of the hat in one scan—this makes the construction of the final 3D mesh much easier.

  • The head fills out the hat in a much more believable way than stuffing— which can sometimes appear lumpy when used with the thinner material of a hat.

During the processing stage, we digitally remove the mannequin head so it doesn't appear in the final mesh.

Step #2 - Straighten Up

Once the hat is on the mannequin head, we check to make sure all lines are straight. As you can see in the photo above, each component of the hat is in line with the mannequin and each other. The horizontal seam follows the line of the back of the head while the vertical seam follows along the line of the top of the head. The rim of the hat is also folded to the same height the entire way around the hat. Just like in our shoe example, this straight alignment gives our model an overall cleaner and more symmetrical look.

Step #3 - Stylize

As an optional final step, we like to an in a few artful wrinkles and folds (while still maintaining our adjustments to the hat's alignment) to enhance the hat's style and natural "being worn" look. Just as in our shoe example, if the hat has any buckles or reflective metal embellishments a light dusting of talc powder can be used to eliminate the shine.

These techniques can be applied to almost any other apparel subject such as bags, gloves, and accessories. Interested in starting a 3D scanning project with us? We'd love to work with you! Reach out through our email at or via our Contact page!

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