Cutout Stylization

3D rendered text using MNPRX and the Cutout stylization

The Cutout Stylization brings real-time cutout rendering of 3D objects and animation within Autodesk Maya!

3D Cutout animation in real-time.

The Cutout style emulates paper cutout animation, with two sheets of paper layered on top of each other. Normally, the top layer is “cut-out”, revealing the bottom layer underneath. Nonetheless, this behaviour can be inverted to replicate simple, two layered paper-cut animation—as seen in the second example in the video above, where the purple goes to the background).

Main Features

  • Cutout or paper-cut styles with two different paper sheets
  • Canvas- and lighting-based effects for the perfect cutout
  • Specialized and simple cutout material to set colors per object
  • Silhouette is king, tell stories entirely based on cutout silhouettes

The style can be art-directed at each level of control with MNPRX and its custom built cutout material.


Style breakdown

Cutout animations are excruciating to create manually using scissors and hundreds of paper sheets, therefore, reproducing this style digitally presents a refreshing take, which can benefit from the flexibility given by 3D animation. No more trees or fingers are harmed during its creation and one can playfully compose and create the animation, taking complete advantage of digital tools and the 3D environment.

There are three fundamental elements within the cutout style which require to be controlled:

  • Papers
  • Cutout stencils
  • External lighting


The top and bottom layers of paper (canvases) are controlled respectively by the Main canvas and Alternate canvas attribute groups. There are over ten distinct canvas textures to choose from and these can be customized in color, scale, rotation, roughness, shading, and tiles. See the canvas documentation for a description of these attributes.

Cutout Stencils

The cutout stencils are created through the cutout material, which can easily be created and assigned using the material presets. Each cutout material automatically creates a stencil of the object it is assigned too. The cutout stencil can further be controlled and art-directed using PaintFX and NoiseFX.

Cutout controlled through NoiseFX.
Cutout controlled through PaintFX.

External Lighting

External lighting affects the cast shadow (drop shadow) and bevel of the cutout, together with the overall shading of the paper sheets (canvases).

Lighting is controlled globally through the canvas light defined by the Canvas Light Tilt and Canvas Light Dir attributes.

Only the two sheets of paper need to be lit within the style. There will not be any shading control within the cutout material assigned to objects in the scene.

Lighting affecting the Cutout stylization.

Style attributes

To refine and customize the cutout style, a series of global cutout attributes are provided within the style configuration node.

Style attributes
Style attributes in the configuration node


If checked, the cutout is inverted. This attribute is useful for emulating simple, two-layered paper cut animation, instead.

Inverting the cutout effect.


Distance between the two canvases (papers). A longer distance will increase the offset of the cast shadow.

Varying paper distance between 0 and 6

Drop Shadow

Intensity of the cast shadow.

Drop shadow between 0 and 6

Drop Shadow Radius

Radius of the drop shadow in pixels, modifying the shadow cast by the top canvas (paper) on the bottom canvas.

Drop shadow radius between 1 and 20

Outer Bevel Shadow

Intensity of the outer bevel shadow (paper curving away from the light).

Outer bevel shadow between 0.0 and 1.2

Outer Bevel Highlight

Intensity of the outer bevel highlight (paper curving towards the light).

Outer bevel highlights between 0.0 and 2.0

Outer Bevel Radius

Radius of the outer bevel in pixels. The outer bevel simulates the paper curving near cut edges.

Outer bevel radius between 1 and 25

Cut Highlight

Intensity of the cut edge near the bevel shadow (cut edge facing the light). A value of zero means that the cut edge is invisible.

Cut highlight between 0 and 1.0

Cut Opp. Highlight

Intensity of the cut paper edge near the bevel highlight (cut edge turning away from the light).

Cut opposite highlight between 0 and 1.0

Gradient Shade

Intensity of the gradient shading effect. The gradient shading is a lighting gradient overlaid on the image and oriented towards the direction of the light.

Gradient shading between 0 and 1.0. The gradient follows the direction of the Canvas Light attribute.

Cutout material node
The default cutout material in the Attribute Editor.

Cutout Material

The cutout stencil is generated by the cutout material, which needs to be set on all cutout objects. To assign this material on an object, select an object and load the “_cutout” material preset (see material presets).

The cutout material controls how objects affect the cutout stencil and the paper color. As with the MNPRX uber material, the cutout material is divided in optional Settings and Attributes.


Closed by default, once opened, each Setting allows you to customize what optional features the cutout material should have. Most of these settings are disabled by default, as to avoid unnecessary computations and clutter for artists. If needed, enabling settings will provide the necessary attributes to configure them.


Enables the control of stylization effects through the vertex colors. This attribute is automatically managed by MNPRX and is activated as soon as you start using PaintFX.


Overrides the color of the canvas with the color specified in the Color Tint attribute, which is generated when this setting is checked.


Only shows if the Colored setting is checked, allows to create transparent colored cutouts. The setting creates relevant transparency attributes, documented here.


Allows the use of alpha masks to modify the cutout stencil. The setting creates relevant alpha attributes, documented here.


Useful to add geometric detail, which can enhance the cutout silhouette. Displacement and its attributes are documented here.


The cutout material attributes modify the behaviour of the cutout material.


If checked, the material will make the object a cutout stencil. Otherwise, the object will not be cutout. This is enabled by default.

Cutout Mask

Cutout Mask is an black and white uv-map that defines what parts of the object should be cut-out and which parts should not. This attribute toggles the use of the Cutout Mask File.

Cutout Mask File

Specifies the file path to the Cutout Mask. In Cutout Masks, white is cut, whereas black is uncut. The path can be absolute or relative to the project root directory.

Color Tint

The color of the canvas is overridden with the custom color set by this attribute. This attribute is only available if the Colored setting is enabled.

Stylization (proc.)

When the NoiseFX tool has been used on the material, the Stylization (procedural) section will appear at the bottom of the Attribute Editor. This section contains all the procedural attributes that the NoiseFX tool creates and modifies. Therefore, you can mostly ignore these attributes within the material, unless you want to key and animate them.

Stylization (procedural) attributes
Some procedural stylization attributes created through NoiseFX.