No matter how small the job, I always learn a ton of stuff when I work in 3D! (I guess this is why I love it so much.) This time I learned that it’s possible to get really excellent results with a high-res displacement map in Cinema4D. In fact, a displacement map seems to be the best possible solution to this particular problem.
Previously, I would have traced the image and converted it to vectors in Adobe Illustrator. Then I would have lofted the resulting spline in Cinema4D. This works, but produces a mesh that is too clean with angles that are too sharp. Instead, a high resolution bitmap was blurred slightly and used as a displacement map. The blurred image produces smooth edges with a bit of a slope – a much more realistic looking result.