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Welcome to The

3D Art & Design TM

The world of 3D art and design continues to be one of best places in which to express artistic creativity. As the possibilities are almost endless, 3D artists have the opportunity to design and create whatever they want, as long as they have the inspiration. The 3D Art & Design Book Volume 2 provides that inspiration with a variety of step-by-step tutorials and comprehensive features covering six key aspects of a 3D artist’s portfolio. From characters and arch-vis to vehicles and environments, these expert guides will help educate and inspire you to create your best ever designs. And if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also included a free CD packed full of textures, 3D models, video tutorials and source files to help you finish many of the tutorials found in the book.


3D Art & Design TM

Imagine Publishing Ltd Richmond House 33 Richmond Hill Bournemouth Dorset BH2 6EZ ☎ +44 (0) 1202 586200 Website: Twitter: @Books_Imagine Facebook:

Head of Publishing Aaron Asadi Head of Design Ross Andrews Production Editor Dan Collins Senior Art Editor William Shum Design Rachel Shemilt Photographer James Sheppard Printed by William Gibbons, 26 Planetary Road, Willenhall, West Midlands, WV13 3XT Distributed in the UK & Eire by Imagine Publishing Ltd, Tel 01202 586200 Distributed in Australia by Gordon & Gotch, Equinox Centre, 18 Rodborough Road, Frenchs Forest, NSW 2086. Tel + 61 2 9972 8800 Distributed in the Rest of the World by Marketforce, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London, SE1 0SU. Disclaimer The publisher cannot accept responsibility for any unsolicited material lost or damaged in the post. All text and layout is the copyright of Imagine Publishing Ltd. Nothing in this bookazine may be reproduced in whole or part without the written permission of the publisher. All copyrights are recognised and used specifically for the purpose of criticism and review. Although the bookazine has endeavoured to ensure all information is correct at time of print, prices and availability may change. This bookazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein. Photoshop is either a registered trademark or trademark of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries and is used with express permission. The 3D Art & Design Book Volume 02 Š 2013 Imagine Publishing Ltd ISBN 978-1909372283

Part of the

bookazine series


©A ndr zej Syk ut

08 50 3D art tips & tricks Character

Architectural visualisation

Photorealism 126 50 tips for ultimate 3D realism


50 tips for better characters


Design and model a robot


Master arch vis

132 Learn to create photoreal 3D


Animate characters in modo 601


Visualise architecture using Blender

138 Achieve fantastic 3D realism

Create a high-res creature


Apply the finishing touches

36 42

Sculpt an epic beast



48 Design striking characters 54 Design and create an exosuit 61



Sculpt folds and fabrics


Create a mythical beast


Master Weta character design

6 3D Art & Design

143 I made this… Sphynx Cat

100 Create superior interiors

144 Visualise realistic products in modo

106 Design interactive interiors

149 Gallery – Taha Alkan

110 Build unique arch-vis assets

150 Make realistic food

116 Fantasy arch vis: concept design

155 Gallery – Rod DeWeese

118 Fantasy arch vis: 3D illustration

156 Model and render a photorealistic watch


170 42






162 20 steps to better environments

200 Model vehicles for animation

232 Learn to animate a bouncing ball

169 I made this… Rue de Seine

206 Rig vehicles in Maya

236 Realistic character rigging

212 Texture a realistic vehicle

240 Learn to animate a walk cycle

170 Underwater landscapes

214 Model a luxury car

244 Animate a character lifting weights

175 Gallery – Dennis Kaya Iversholt

219 I made this… Black Drone

176 Create a desert landscape 181 I made this… Under the Southern Highway

220 Sculpt a space vehicle

248 How to animate a jump 252 Animate action moves

226 Create vehicles with opensource software

182 Create trees in Unity 184 Futuristic cityscapes 190 Sculpt beautiful terrains 192 Design an epic Vue landscape 197 Gallery – Lee Griggs

3D Art & Design


3D art tips & tricks

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8 3D Art & Design

&tricks Pieces of expert advice to help improve your work and your artistic standing within the 3D community

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50 3D art tips

3D art tips & tricks


hether you’re seeking some guidance on rendering and postproduction, or how best to promote yourself and your work, help is at hand. We’ve tracked down a group of pro industry artists with exceptional portfolios to ask them for their top tips on composition, copyright and everything else in between…

Improve your images » Composition


Mostly I place a raster on my image with nine squares – three in height and three in width. Then I try to find a balance between the viewpoint of the character and that of the viewer. You can push the viewer to a desired direction with depth-of-field efects and vignettes. Maarten

The rule of thirds plays a big role in image composition and leading the eyes into the image. Maurice



It’s more to do with personal taste here, but I like to play with slightly shifted vibrant primary colours and their complementaries. But there are tones of palettes to test – be imaginative and look around on the web. I always look for new inspiration. Pascal

Introducing… Our panel of experts

media department of Guanajuato University, Mexico, Carlos specialises in 3D illustration, modelling and texturing.


Learn the basic theories and observe why they work – then learn how to break SHAPES them

» Colour

An drz ej S yku t

Thumbnail sketches are the best way to establish composition Artist: Andrzej Sykut and lighting. Draw them small and in Website: black and white to start with, keep them Bio: Lighting is what full-time freelancer Andrzej likes to do most. He also enjoys simple and abstract, and draw at least riding his mountain bike and photography four iterations. Once you have a solid in his spare time. composition you can then move on to colour thumbnails to establish your Artist: Carlos Ortega Elizalde main colours and lighting Website: Bio: A self-taught 3D artist working in the scheme. Richard LEARN


Journey Continues © Andrzej Sykut

Cr ab ©

I like triangular compositions – they are very efective and always create powerful pictures. Avoid presenting characters in a T-pose – there’s so much you can express [with a] nice dynamic posture… try to push it. Pascal


Even if it is a very colourful scene, it’s good if the atmosphere tints the whole scene colours at least a bit – just like in real life. Carlos

Twisted Dolls: Mistress Lili © Rebeca Puebla

Andrzej Sykut

Artist: Maarten Verhoeven Website: Bio: Maarten is a CG sculpting/design artist with a passion for anatomy, film and monsters in the toy, VFX and game world. He has a Master’s degree in animation. Artist: Maurice Panisch Website: Bio: Maurice started out with grafti at a young age, going on to add Photoshop and 3ds Max to his arsenal. He works as a senior 3D artist at Sehsucht in Germany. Artist: Pascal Blanché Website: Bio: French artist Pascal lives and works in the UK. He’s worked in the videogame industry for many years and is currently employed as an art director for Jagex. Artist: Rafael Grassetti Website: Bio: Rafael specialises in traditional sculpture, 3D modelling, digital sculpting, texturing and assets for feature films like Star Wars, cinematics and toy design. Artist: Rebeca Puebla Website: Bio: Spanish creative Rebeca excels in modelling and texturing characters. She’s worked in the game, film, television and advertising industries for eight years. Artist: Richard Yot Website: Bio: Richard is a professional illustrator specialising in character design with a taste for the quirky and contemporary. He likes to create weird characters and worlds. Artist: Sven Juhlin Website: Bio: Sven lives in Stockholm, Sweden. He has been working as a freelance character artist for three years, creating characters for games, cinematics and movies. 3D Art & Design


3D art tips & tricks » Lighting


Truth is, I don’t take many risks when it comes to lighting. I try to create a look similar to that of fashion THREEphotography, with global POINT LIGHTING illumination and two or Having a noticeable primary three area lights. source of light helps to avoid a flatRebeca looking image and better define the

volumes and depth of the subject and scene. I always complement this with some opposed fill lights or a rim light to contour the main subject of the scene. Carlos


Have some good reference pictures of nice lighting on your screen so you can get the right help inspiration needed BRANCH and to make your render OUT pop. Sven ADD Start with the basic threeSHADES point setup (key, fill, rim) and Put some colour in your dissect it – find out why it works ambient lighting and so well so often. But don’t be shadows; in any case, get away constrained by three-point from the grey! Even the best lighting – it’s just a useful photorealistic renders have shortcut, after all. subtle touches of colour Andrzej bouncing here and there. Pascal

Irulan © Pascal Blanché

Hy pe rac tive Alie n©C arlos Orteg Elizalde a

Rendering layers for

the final composite What are the most helpful passes to render out? I will usually render out a pass for each light and composite them in post – that way I can relight my scene in Photoshop without having to render again. I don’t tend to bother with diffuse/specular/ reflection passes, though; I finalise my materials in the render. Richard


» Rendering and postproduction The most important rule is ‘knowing when to stop’ – don’t destroy your fine work with bad compositing or by painting out nice details

For every single image I create, I always render a depth pass and a matte or the subject/object of focus. The depth pass helps to add depth of field in postproduction, which is faster and more manageable. It also helps to SAVING define the scale of the scene. TIME Carlos If some things can be made faster and better An alpha pass is a must-have looking in postproduction, to isolate your subject; apart I usually go for it. Unless, of from that, depending on the course, it’s something I’m needs, I make two or three trying to learn in the 3D package. Carlos versions of different shaders and mix them during post, or isolate some objects for masks. Sometimes I isolate the specular too. Pascal

10 3D Art & Design

Maarten Verhoeven


I don’t render out any passes any more – though I used to render out an occlusion layer – but it is definitely a good method if you want to tweak the render and it’s much easier to get the result you want. A separate spec and AO pass are essential if you want to postprocess your image. Sven

In Photoshop I tend to create tons of layers any time I need an efect and then erase it where I want to tone it down. When the comp becomes a bit messy I create a copy of the collapsed layers, but always make sure I keep them around in case they’re needed. Pascal


Experiment, use Curves a lot and, most importantly, use adjustment layers everywhere. Don’t tweak levels for the whole image – apply a Levels adjustment layer instead. You’ll be able to go back easily, mask it, drop it into another image, thus saving yourself a ton of work. Andrzej

3D art tips & tricks Keep the faith

Promote yourself » Get feedback and get noticed

Do it for yourself first, not for a community. Keep yourself happy with the art you create, then acceptance to the online forums will be confirmation of all the hard work you’ve put in.


It’s important to show work online in several communities and get comments from people who aren’t your family or friends. This feedback is mostly true and raw but it is real. It’ll prove more helpful than a ‘nice’ or ‘great’ from your mum! Maurice HELPFUL

If your image doesn’t get accepted, just keep plugging away. It takes work to get to where you want – sometimes a lot of work. Richard


We all have rejected works from galleries and colleagues – it can be disappointing at first, but it is also a good motivator to seek advice from the community to find out how you might improve. Carlos

You’ll quickly learn to be selective about the critics; who’s constructive and who isn’t. I personally like to show my work as a finished piece – that way no one interferes with the process and, once it’s completed, anyone can say whatever they want. Rebeca

If you like what you’re doing and want to make a living out of it, continue till you get there – make it happen!


Centaur © Maarten Verhoeven

BMW Interior 1er Coupe © Maurice Panisch

Pascal Blanché


What to do if your image doesn’t get accepted by online forums and galleries


I love ZBrushCentral – lots of professionals drop by to check out each other’s work. Most of the guys and gals are also very helpful if you have questions. It’s a good place to get positive feedback. Maarten

Learn to accept critique and grow a thick skin. It’ll come in handy again and again when it comes to commercial work. Andrzej

CGTalk and CG Channel are still the best places. deviantART has a huge community and is a great way to reach many people at the RAISE same time. When you have some YOUR PROFILE good pictures, submit your work to Your blog/website must be the CGHub and magazines and best place for people to see your cross your fingers to pass work, but you need places where people the selection. Pascal can access your website. Forums are a

great start, but unless you receive front page or an award it’s hard to get noticed. You need clients to see your work and the best place to do that is by creating portfolios on websites that ofer that possibility, such as CGHub, CGSociety, deviantART and so on. Rafael

» Portfolio tips

Do what you’re best at. Work on your weaknesses as well, but only Th put your best work in your portfolio eF lea © – be ruthless about that . Ca rl Richard Yot

e ald liz aE

os Or te g


In my case (I’m slow and busy!) I try to keep it to a minimum of three pictures a year, but a good portfolio could have just three to six good pictures for starters. Pascal


It’s always good to show your workflow and workin-progress on forums. You have to keep your mind open to other artists’ comments. Rafael


I try to create at least one personal piece per month, when time allows it. It helps me to optimise workflow from previous projects to use later when tight deadlines show up in real work. And, of course, it’s a great way to show the community you are still actively practising and learning from mistakes and hits. It helps keep the stress away too. Carlos 3D Art & Design


3D art tips & tricks » Portfolio tips (continued) REFRESHING WORK

Update your portfolio as often as you can. It’s a lot of fun to do stuf for your portfolio since you can do whatever you like. Don’t rush it though: two really good images are always better than ten semi-good ones. Sven


You need to know what type of industry you want to work in and focus your portfolio on this. If it’s the game industry, do at least three finished characters; if it’s for statues and prototyping, focus your work on ZBrush and high-res models. Rafael

Photography is a great addition to a portfolio – as long as it’s good. It’ll make you grow as an artist and help with your lighting, framing and composition skills Andrzej Sykut

Just have your best work in your portfolio – it’s about quality STRONG not quantity FOUNDATIONS

It’s important to first show a solid base of work before you go on and show diversity. That’s not to say diversity isn’t good, but high standards are the first thing a client or company wants to see. Maurice

Rebeca Puebla


Find something you’re comfortable with – a technique or style – and just show of your skills. Try to show something new every time – something that pushes your skills to a new personal level. Don’t be afraid to be diferent and try out your own ideas. Maarten

VW Passat © Maurice Panisch & Markus Hanke



While most people can feel flattered looking at work derived from their ideas, some artists can take it in a bad way. The best thing about the internet is that it’s easier to get in touch with the original artist than ever before. Drop them an email asking for permission, explain the clear purpose of using their concept and, of course, always give the appropriate credit(s). Carlos


Always apply a signature, credit and email address on your finished images. Images get lost on the web and no one will know it’s yours if you don’t have a name on it. Rafael

12 3D Art & Design

In the case of very recognisable characters, you can enter them into the ‘fan art’ category and interpret the character how you like. Although you can’t legally exhibit them without permission from the copyright holder. It’s complicated. Rebeca

You could benefit and learn a lot more if you do your own concepts. That way, come the end, you can say it’s 100 per cent your own work and not copied or reworked from another Maurice Panisch


I usually post images bigger than 800px and smaller than 1,600px – it’s a high enough resolution for people to appreciate your work online. People can take advantage of high-res images and make a profit out of it; it’s flattering to know your work is good quality, but it’s unfair without your Dinoblues © consent. Carlos Pascal Blanché

3D art tips & tricks

Protect yourself BACK UP

g© bu y d La

I’ve got my work backed up tons of times – I’ve even hidden some high-res images online just in case. I had my PC stolen ten years ago and I lost some work – you can never have enough backups. Pascal

Why would you want to publish your high-res images online? Screen resolution is often enough Andrzej Sykut The Greatest Show On Earth © Richard Yot

An dr ze jS yk ut

» Ensure your work is secure


Mecha © Rafael Grassetti

Be honest about the references and textures used in your projects. Names and links are most often enough. Andrzej


CGFeedback is by far the best feedback site. There’s a lot of good artists there and you’ll definitely get a lot of good comments… Sven Juhlin

I like to create my own characters because I have lots of original ideas. This also avoids any legal problems when you come to exhibit work. Rebeca


Creating the design is the best part of CG to me, since it’s the most creative job. The rest is just execution. With design you can really express your own point of view and make something unique. Richard


CD/DVDs are worthless – you can’t read them after a few years. HDDs, and now cloud storage, are the best ways to make sure you don’t lose your work. Andrzej

You should back up your work every day – both to a local hard disk and to an online service such as Dropbox Richard Yot Yeti © Sven Juhlin

Think ahead Paul Hellard is editor of CGSociety, manager of CGJobs and is artist liaison at Ballistic Media from his home in Melbourne, Australia. With a varied career as an artist, cameraman and production manager in film behind him, Paul has a passionate interest in the internet, cinema and digital arts and is a font of CG knowledge. What is an ideal size to work at to ensure images are good enough resolution for the web? And how about for print? I always urge artists to work on their images at as high a resolution as possible. You never know – you may create something that everyone will want to see as a big print! You can always save a 72dpi RGB for uploading to your CGPortfolio on CGSociety, and a 300dpi for that high-end art book you submit to, like Exotique 7. When it comes to working in RGB or CMYK, what’s best if I want to submit to an online gallery? And what about for a book? The colours on display on a computer screen are generated in Red, Green and Blue (RGB) at 72dpi. The pixel info in your image instructs each pixel of the computer screen to illuminate each colour light to a certain strength. These three colours mix to the perfect value. Same with print, though there is more information for the book press, at 300dpi. Why does my image look different from one monitor to the next, and then again in print? How can I make sure my image will look as intended when I submit it to an online gallery or to a book/mag? The quick answer is that monitor gamma and colour settings vary considerably. Studios should have their monitors calibrated regularly. For Ballistic books, we prepare all received images on a monitor with sRGB colour response and a gamma value of 2.2. We then convert them from RGB to CMYK using the latest stochastic screen processes for printing. 3D Art & Design


Character Master the essential art of the human form 16 24 30


50 tips for better characters Advice for improving your characters

© José Alves

Design and model a robot

da Silva

Hard-surface modelling techniques

Animate characters in modo 601

Taking a closer look at 601’s toolset

36 42 47 48 54 61 62 68 74

Create a high-res creature

Taking you from concept to the final render

Sculpt an epic beast

Capture intense creature expressions


Nathan Boyd’s Firebomb

Design striking characters


A fun and vibrant character creation

Design and create an exosuit

The workflow of a mechanical design


Maciej Kuciara’s Alien


Sculpt folds and fabrics

Use ZBrush to design a stylised character

Create a mythical beast

Luiz Alves takes us through his workflow

Master Weta character design

Use ZBrush to create a fantasy character


14 3D Art & Design



We will essentially be taking a simple 3D primitive through the stages to a complete polished bust 42

3D Art & Design


16 3D Art & Design

Zhang Chen

Yang Guang

Titouan Olive




Tiago Idalino

Mohsen Fallah

Matej Hradsky

Luis Santos


José Alves da Silva

Jorge Lopes

Eric Spitler

Dmitry Cheremisin

Carlos Ortega

Arda Koyuncu

Alex Huguet

Andrew Hickinbottom

© Andrew Hickinbottom


CHARACTERS I Whether they’re realistic, stylised or just plain out there, here’s some advice to help you improve your CG characters

n many ways, character creation is one of the toughest elements of CG work. We all have a pretty good idea of what a human looks like, so even the smallest errors or inaccuracies will stand out as clear as day. To help you overcome these troubles, we talk to some of the top artists in the field of character creation to gather 50 tips and tricks that will help you instil your characters with personality!

50 tips for better characters

Even with cartoon images, depicting the correct anatomy can be key: “I put the main bony landmarks of the arm in place – the epicondyles of the humerus, the olecranon and the styloid process of the ulna – then added muscles based on those landmarks,” explains Spitler

Getting started

Starting right is often the most crucial part of the process…


“Strive for originality. The 3D market is becoming quite saturated now [so] new ideas are hard to come by. Look for things for inspiration – your favourite cartoonists, real-life moments you experience, film, illustrations. Save any inspirational reference you find and keep a record of ideas that come to you.” Andrew Hickinbottom

© Eric Spitler


“Create more than one sketch. I always start by sketching several of my ideas down on paper. I then choose the one I prefer. If you’re using photo references then select them carefully – use images with a similar focal length, sharpness and exposure to what you wish to achieve.”


Quick T-pose sculpt

Retopologised in 3D-Coat

Blocking in PolyPaint

Transposing & DynaMeshing


Titouan Olive


“Do research. To capture the essence of realism in your artwork, you must study what it is you want to create. For instance, if I’m texturing a character, I like to do a lot of research into the character’s age and profession, and collect reference material accordingly.”

Arda Koyuncu


“You need to pay attention to detail. Decide your character’s sex, age, physique, occupation and environment, and then collect reference information that will complement your character. They must be high-resolution images of excellent quality, with the right lighting and correct angle. You can find such images on or Google, or [shoot] them yourself with a model.” Dmitry Cheremisin

Detailing in Photoshop

© Titouan Olive

05 “Lighting is one of the biggest challenges,” Olive says. “I usually render my images with mental ray. I often use an HDR Dome coupled with Final Gather. I also create traditional key and rim lights”

“It’s never a good idea to wing it. I have a full-length mirror where I work, so I can pose for myself. I start out small – maybe just working on the bust of a character, or even an arm, leg or torso study. You might also want to try posing one of the free models that comes with ZBrush rather than making one from scratch.” Eric Spitler 3D Art & Design


Character Important first steps

For Carlos, the very first thing he needs to consider – before even thinking about exploring poses or sketching ideas – is the back story of his image. He explains: “I always take into account the character’s attitude, the emotions or feelings I want to convey and the background story, if any, of the character. Sometimes I even start thinking of the atmosphere I want for the final image. Thinking of the mood you want to convey helps you to narrow your options and speed up the process.” When it comes to posing, Carlos believes it’s better to think about broad shapes rather than precise positioning. “I look for an attractive flow of shapes between the elements on the scene and balance whether it’s a static or a moving pose,” he says. “In a static pose it will avoid a stiff look in the character, and in a moving and dynamic pose it will tell the viewer where the elements are moving and where they come from in space. Always try to guide the viewer from one element to another.” Finally, as always, reference is key. “I suggest you use as many references as you can when starting out, as it helps you to learn how a body reacts and balances in different positions. [Whenever] I can I look for anatomical and artistic references, while taking a few moments to analyse what makes me feel comfortable or disturbed by looking at them. Most importantly, look outside for real-world reference at all times! The more info you have about how people react to movement, the more intuitive and fun it becomes to re-create those poses. Know their limits and even go beyond them!”

Ortega believes that real-world references still apply to cartoon characters as well as realistic ones, but you can push those limits to get even more attractive, graceful and believable poses

18 3D Art & Design

© Carlos Ortega

Carlos Ortega talks us through the initial stages of this stunning image, The Weeping Woman

50 tips for better characters

Pick the right software Find the right tools that work for you


“My preferred software is ZBrush. It really ofers you the freedom to create what you want. You can freely add or remove whatever you want, when you want. It’s a lot like traditional sculpture in that sense.” Mohsen Fallah

“It all depends on your experience with the software. I’ve used Maya and ZBrush for modelling, sculpting, shading, lighting and rendering for years, so I have no reason to change my tools. As reptology can be a really time-consuming process, I use tools like 3D-Coat [for that].”

Mohsen Fallah


“I stylise my characters directly in Mudbox. I prefer to work with it because it’s a straightforward piece of software. Its toolset and interface enable me to reach my goals in an intuitive and fast manner, meaning I have more freedom to experiment instead of having a painful experience of interface juggling. Find something that’s comfortable for you in this way – that’s what really matters.”

© Mohsen Fallah

Luis Santos

09 “In terms of textures, it depends on what I’m trying to make. Sometimes I use projection and paint over that; other times I feel I should paint some skin tone. It depends on what I’m looking to create,” says Fallah

“Most of the time I feel most comfortable modelling the base mesh in Maya and posing the model by adding a basic skeleton. It can serve as a dummy to explore silhouettes, store diferent poses on the timeline and block a

Expert stylisation

José Alves da Silva reveals the tools he uses to create his professional stylised characters


“Exaggeration is about giving more relevance/expression to parts of the character – broadening their shoulders to give information about their physical strength, for example, or modelling a high forehead to transmit intelligence.”


“While modelling exaggeration, I mainly use the Move tool in ZBrush to redefine proportions. The Inflat tool is also good for expanding/contracting certain areas and testing their impact.”


Simplification, meanwhile, is less about pronouncing elements and more about making their shape readable. “It’s about transmitting the idea in a very clear way,” says José. “I like to use curved lines versus straight, which contribute to a dynamic design for stylised characters. This will often lead to characters with sharper shapes than in reality. To achieve this sharper or harder-edged look, I tend to use the Polish, Flatten and Trim Dynamic brushes in ZBrush.”

good camera angle and focal length to keep a nice composition for the final frame before moving forward.” Carlos Ortega


“For organic modelling, I prefer Maya over 3ds Max due to the Artisan tool and the easy setup of the Soft Selection. However, both are equally capable and the tools I use are quite basic – extrusions, brushes to paint and relax topology and so on. I tend to use Maya and 3ds Max for creating a base mesh to further sculpt in ZBrush and texture in Mudbox.”

Alex Huguet


“With each new release I’m finding it possible to do more of my work in ZBrush. I am experimenting with ZSphere rigging and having some positive results. If I’m creating a character that will need to be animated, I will sculpt my model in ZBrush in a base pose, then pose the mesh in 3ds Max and transfer all the sculpted details using Displacement or Normal maps.”

Eric Spitler

© José Alves da Silva


Exaggeration is a key tool when creating stylised characters. It helps create a pronounced image around the kind of personality you’re looking to convey 3D Art & Design



Modelling & posing

How the physicality of a good pose is just as important as your character’s aesthetics


“When using Maya, set some basic image planes with some of your reference pictures to help with proportions. It’s important to place those image planes in perspective views, not in orthogonal (front, side) views, because the perspective distortion will mean you will never get the model right.” Alex Huguet


“Convincing character movement is incredibly important, from the bone movement limits to the way the muscle shape is formed by force and angles. Good anatomical knowledge is important in shaping a convincing sense of movement and selling the viewer on your premise.”

Yang Guang


“I model the base mesh in a neutral and slightly relaxed pose to keep control of proportions such as the limbs’ length and body volume. Then I start exploring diferent positions. It helps me to try to re-create the same pose myself and see which things work and which don’t. Yes, sometimes you’ll look ridiculous, but that’s one of the fun parts of the process!”

Carlos Ortega

18 19

“What I like to do is create a highly detailed base geometry in 3ds Max. You can then put your mesh and your reference next to each other in Photoshop and match the proportions. Creating the final base geometry is important, because when you get into the rendering process your base geometry needs to hold up the overall shapes and retain the detail you sculpted via Displacement maps or something similar.” Arda Koyuncu


“Exaggerating your character’s features is important when adding personality and keeping away from a generic-looking character. You must balance such features if you want to achieve a rich character without going overboard, though… experiment to see what works, and keep in mind that there are such things as happy accidents – don’t underestimate the power of chaos!” Luis Santos

20 3D Art & Design

© Arda Koyuncu

“Pushing and pulling on the mesh is important… once I have the base head geometry, I can make adjustments with Symmetry and Soft Selection, or even use ZBrush to re-proportion the model and experiment with looks, shapes and configurations. Once I’m happy, I clean up the image then add detail and definition.” Andrew Hickinbottom


“ZBrush has multiple tools that give you design flexibility: ZSpheres enable you to block a character’s silhouette fast [and] DynaMesh opens the possibility of modelling the base of a concept without having to worry about polygon stretching or lack of polygons. The latest tools in ZBrush 4R4 even permit welding diferent geometry parts together… It also adds the QRemesher tool, which generates automatic topology.” José Alves da Silva


“Once satisfied with a pose, start recovering the missing volumes and deformations the sculpting software can’t re-create, such as the elbows and shoulders on a bending arm, or knees and hips on a bending leg, which are better to adjust separately without any Symmetry settings. Having constant details like this along the body helps to keep the piece at a certain level of stylisation.” Carlos Ortega

“I avoid using too many or too few difuse lights because they tend to make it more difcult to create believability,” says Koyuncu


“When I’m trying to finish up a pose I’ll look at it from extreme angles that I haven’t been paying attention to; I’ll move the lights around in ZBrush and I’ll squint my eyes to blur it. I’ll often look at the pose upside down, and I find it very helpful to look at a mirror image of the pose. Looking at your work in these ways can help you to see it with fresh eyes and highlight some of the errors you couldn’t see before.” Eric Spitler

50 tips for better characters

Textures & materials

You won’t be able to sell the audience on your character unless they believe in its appearance!

© Luis Santos


Realistic skin

Luis Santos talks us through the process of texturing lifelike skin “If you have a traditional painterly background, this will definitely help with this process,” says Luis of creating true-to-life skin textures. “Instead of relying only on photo sampling and projection, I prefer to manually paint on my characters. The results are unique and allow for stylisation. “I start off with broad strokes of colour and gradually include smaller details,” he continues. “Real skin is a stack of layers, so it makes sense to paint it accordingly. I paint several passes of layered skin tones and details while fiddling with different opacity values. Please avoid using Mirror, as it may kill your work’s sense of authenticity, making it look dull and unrealistic in essence – remember, we are not truly symmetrical!” When it comes to materials it all depends on the style you’re aiming for: “Photorealism will lead you towards referenced materials, while illustrative works will often lead to rule bending,” says Luis. “Sometimes, you’ll be constrained by client requirements, [and] other times you’ll have context considerations and sometimes – hopefully – it will be entirely up to your taste, and you’ll be able to experiment in order to achieve the desired amount of stylisation in your textures!”

“Try to eliminate unnecessary steps in the process. For example, I sometimes won’t UV my character, and will just use PolyPaint to texture in ZBrush. Sure, it will probably look better with a full set of textures and rendered in V-Ray, but sometimes taking too long on a project can see you can get tired and quit. I see so many artists start projects but never finish them!”


“If I’m trying to create a realistic character, I like to use texture projection to create a solid base. After I get a clean projection, I like to hand-paint on top of that to get more interesting colours and variety that fits with the character I am trying to create.” Arda Koyuncu


“In terms of textures, it depends on what you’re trying to make. I really like Photoshop and BodyPaint 3D, as I’m comfortable with them. I can use pretty big textures with many layers, simultaneously paint many channels, project diferent photos and paint over and over again until I’m happy.” Mohsen Fallah

“Materials play a big role in the stylisation of characters. You can force the specularity to create a more plastic look or exaggerate the reflections to get a shinier and visually appealing character. Toon shaders and materials that render lines at the character’s edges create a cel-shaded look. By mixing regular materials with flat-shaded materials you can achieve a comic-style look. Your imagination is the only limit.” José Alves da Silva



Eric Spitler


“When working with stylised characters, simplify! Having a cartoony character with photorealistic textures can look strange, so think about how you can stylise textures and reduce detail to complement the model’s look. Many people opt for cel shading when producing cartoony images, which can look cheap if handled without reason and restraint.” Andrew Hickinbottom


“Photoshop has a fabulous toolset to create painting brushes. Mastering brush creation is important when you paint textures by hand – which happens very often in stylised characters – as you can create brushes with specific purposes, like adding noise, dirt, texture, stitches, patterns and so on. You will be able to work much faster.” José Alves da Silva

“When texturing, I use ZBrush to do the base painting and [create] the occlusion maps, cavity mask, difuse and bump. I work with these maps in Photoshop, building the composition using photographs and a little painting. The tip here is to composite textures in Photoshop, along with cavity maps, photographs, and some hand-painting to give volume to the maps.”

Tiago Idalino

“If you don’t have a good light setup it could ruin everything you’ve done up to that point. That said, a good lighting setup can also save a job that wasn’t as successful earlier in the process,” Idalino advises


“I use ZBrush with PolyPaint to create the main tone and colour directly on my model. When this base is done, however, I use Photoshop for the finer details. I try to work with larger textures, as it’s always possible to reduce the resolution later, but the opposite is not possible.”

29 Santos uses Mudbox for his textures due to the software’s ability to paint layered textures in a Photoshop-like manner while also being able to keep sculpting and texturing tied closely together

“When creating Sub-Surface Scattering maps for realistic-looking characters, try to be as objective as you can. It’s always really cool to add tons of SSS to your renders, but try to push it just to the right level – if you overdo it, it can be easy to end up with waxy-looking models.” Alex Huguet

© Tiago Idalino

Titouan Olive

3D Art & Design



Light your characters

Why setting the scene is almost as vital as populating it


Light intensity will help pinpoint the parts of the character that you want the viewer to see first, and establish the path that their eyes follow when interpreting the image. Intensity and sharpness between light and shadow can also convey a darker or comic-book look, while softer lights establish a cuter or lighter look.” José Alves da Silva


“When I’m doing stylised rendering I mainly use soft shadows and don’t put too much contrast in the picture. Global illumination is my friend, and I like to use higher settings for the primary GI bounces. It also helps to use higher values for ambient occlusion and to add some warm colour to the lights.” Matej Hradsky

Cheremisin is a fan of MARI: “It’s easy to implement the process of projective texturing; it allows you to create shaders and it contains a set of masks. The benefits are innumerable”

© Dmitry Cheremisin

When posing a character you must look for references of dynamic, real-life characters. Do not fall into the cycle of endlessly studying anatomy, though – study art!” Guang says


“I light most of my work in mental ray with mr lights, but sometimes for pre-vis I use GPU-based renderers like FurryBall or Maya’s Viewport 2.0. Even when they don’t give you full physically accurate lighting, it saves me a lot of time by providing real-time feedback. Sometimes I start to light the scene at the same time I’m exploring poses with rough geometry, as it helps to plan my workflow and see what areas I need to take more care on.”

Carlos Ortega

“Be sure to study lighting in advance, just as if you were directing a photo shoot. Pay close attention to how lighting afects your specular, bump and other channels. If you’re aiming for a stylised/cartoony look, you have more freedom regarding multiple light sources, straight separation between character and background, depth illusions and colour exaggerations.” Luis Santos


“I always try to add a bit of contrast [to] the final render, a little rim light and so on – nothing too complicated. I tend to place a couple of V-Ray lights and play with the intensities, sizes and positions until I find what I’m looking for. I often do a lot of tests too, tweaking the lights and shaders to get the desired result – which can sometimes take longer than the modelling and texturing!” Alex Huguet


“Try to use soft shadows, as they look more realistic. Also pay attention to the work of professional photographers and how they set up their lighting. You can find a lot of information in books about photography. I often use VrayPhysicalCamera, as it has settings [like on a] real camera.” Dmitry Cheremisin

22 3D Art & Design

© Yang Guang



“Depending on the mood of the piece, it’s good to get nice, bright and clear lighting with some strong, sharp rim lights to show of the silhouette – providing your character design and pose has a strong silhouette to begin with. Weak lighting can ruin the impact of the characters, so it’s best to think about whether you want soft or sharp lighting; dramatic or flat; bright or dim; warm or cold.” Andrew Hickinbottom


“A good light setup – such as the reliable three-point lighting – can give the viewer enough information to read the whole piece if it’s for showcase purposes. For a diferent kind of feeling you can go for a more dramatic approach – varying light types, temperature and intensity will help to immerse the viewer in the character’s atmosphere without losing its silhouette.” Carlos Ortega

Lopes uses PolyPaint to create textures, which gives him a broad idea of what the finished image will look like before adding details in Photoshop © Jorge Lopes

50 tips for better characters

Rendering advice

The final steps of the character-creation process can often be the most important


Hradsky was inspired by the “dirtiness” of Rango’s textures for this image. He used overpainting, gradients and contrast on the textures for the final version © Matej Hradsky

“For me, the most important V-Ray render element passes are VRay Difuse, VRay Raw GI, VRay Raw Light, VRay Raw Reflect, VRay Raw Refract, Reflect Filter, VRay Refract Filter, VRay Specular, VRay Self Illumination and VRay Background. The final render is the sum of these diferent render elements (render passes). We can achieve the same result in Photoshop, like in the VRay Frame Bufer. For this, we just need to put all passes in Photoshop and set each layer to Linear Dodge (Add) – excluding the VRay Background (this must be Normal and below all other layers). “GI (VRay Global Illumination) is a complex render element: we can take it from the Render Elements menu, or we can multiply VRay Difuse with VRay Raw GI. The result will be the same. It’s the same for the Light pass: just Multiply VRay Difuse with VRay Raw Light. Here’s an example: • GI = Difuse*Raw GI • Light = Difuse*Raw Light • Reflect = Raw Reflect*Reflect Filter • Final render = GI (Difuse*Raw GI) + Light (Difuse*Raw Light) + Reflection (Reflect Filter*Raw Reflect) + Refraction (Refract Filter*Raw Refract) + Specular + Self illumination + Background.”

Dmitry Cheremisin


“Render passes and render layers are really important when creating something special and realistic… I like using ambient occlusion, a Fresnel pass [with] fur, hair and shadows. Sometimes I prefer to render lights separately.” Mohsen Fallah


“With stylised images, once everything is done I often try to put one more Difuse pass on top of it all. With blending modes (in Photoshop), I play a little; using transparency/the Eraser gives a painted, cartoony feeling. I think it’s good to play with ideas like this, as you can hope for a magical happy accident.” Matek Hradsky


“I try to render major things in one pass and create masks for the diferent elements – like the character, the background, depth of field or the efects – so I can separate them or put them together later on in Photoshop.” Arda Koyuncu


“I always render a Depth pass for atmospheric and lens-blur purposes. I use an Object ID pass to have enough masks to work with and to adjust colour values on individual objects. I add a Normal map pass if I need to re-light areas for composition or aesthetic purposes, and a Specular Reflection pass – just in case!”

Carlos Ortega


“I render separate passes to save time if I need to make adjustments on materials or fix distracting artefacts without having to go back to render everything again. It gives you more control over the final image – not to mention the chance to create efects in post-production.” Carlos Ortega

Quick rendering tips

José Alves da Silva offers four quick tips for rendering


© Zhang Chen

“The Maya skin material is a priority in material selection… You need to spend a lot of time adjusting it and comparing it to other materials,” advises Chen

“I use render passes to force non-physically correct light situations (that look right) to enrich my images. For example, sometimes I’ll want to emphasise a character’s silhouette, even though he’s against a wall… I create a separate pass of the rim light – without any shadows – that I can composite later with physically correct lights.”


“Rendering specular highlights and self-illuminated objects in separate render passes is a trick I use to easily boost the highlights and create bloom/glow effects in post-production.”


“I often render an Occlusion pass to enhance the connection between the various scene elements and help define the character form, using the Linear Burn blending mode with a low fill value to composite it with the original image.”


“Importantly, I render a pass with masks that will enable me to easily select different objects in Photoshop and make colour corrections to each part of the image very quickly, then fine-tune the colour temperature, contrast and saturation.” 3D Art & Design



Red eye 2012

Niles Doubleday

A robot design created for practise and to demonstrate some helpful hard-surface modelling techniques Niles Doubleday is an environment artist at Airtight Games


f you love robots or sci-fi and want to turn some of your ideas into 3D, this step-by-step tutorial will give you a great start. We’ll begin by going over some of the basic design techniques involved in coming up with balanced thumbnails. Once you’ve got an idea you’re excited about, you’ll then be able to turn your idea into a fully-fledged

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Artist info

Design and model a robot 3D model. We’ll go through the basic workflow I use when hard-surface modelling in 3ds Max and then render in KeyShot (look out for my mental ray tips on the opposite page). If you’re already a modelling pro I’ve included some hard-surface tricks for 3ds Max, before we finish of with a few quick steps to make your render pop in Photoshop.

Personal portfolio site Country USA Software used 3ds Max, KeyShot, Photoshop Expertise Niles enjoys all aspects of 3D, but specialises in props and environments for video games

Pre-production Plan now, save time later – the most important step! This is what my initial thumbnails look like – not exactly cohesive!


Customise your modifier sets and drop down a plane with your image for reference


01 Develop a concept

The key to concept development is to draw all your ideas – even the bad ones – as you never know which direction your design may take. Grab the elements that you like from one sketch and then apply them to another in a diferent way. Just throw down a bunch of ideas without worrying about polishing them or thinking too hard about it. Details can be as loosely represented as random lines; once you have some general volumes you like, then you can take some time to deconstruct it and detail those parts individually a.

02 Set up a scene

I usually take one of my key concepts and put it in the scene on a plane aligned to one of the axes. I always use an Orthographic camera, but it’s especially important at this stage. The Orthographic view makes it a lot easier to make shapes accurate to your concept when you start modelling. I’ve also added some common modifiers to my Modifier box on the right. I strongly recommend setting up this UI element to support your most-used functions b.

24 3D Art & Design

Design and model a robot If you prefer mental ray… This tutorial was created using Keyshot, however it’s possible to easily achieve great results right in 3d studio max using mental ray. Start by using the arch and design materials found in the material editor, choose some of the presets for the materials you need, then adjust the colors to your needs. Then hit F10 to bring up the render settings and switch the preset to photometric, mental ray, next turn on final gather in the indirect lighting tab. Next throw in some basic lighting, use a couple of mr Sky Portals found in the photometric lights, adjust there color and brightness. I use draft setting to get the ballpark settings, then for the final switch over to higher quality.

Software used in this piece 3ds Max



Concept My initial concept was a heavy, low-to-the-ground robot about two/ three-feet tall. I am really playing with the idea of a 20:80 ratio of detail versus overall shape

You can download the following source files from http://tinyurl. com/cp26lps: • Final_Model_01.max (2011) • Final_Obj.obj 3D Art & Design



Begin modelling

Analyse the blocked-out model

It’s time to define the shape of your robot c


Some things to remember when blocking in: • Gaps in shapes are fine – you can worry about these later • The goal is to get a feel for the shape of what you’re making. Hide your concept and ask yourself design questions • Is your concept working in 3D? Does the 3D model look like something you want to spend another week or so working on? If any of these answers are no, experiment with what you have; try some new shapes or scale what you have diferently.

03 Block in your base shapes

Using the plane as a reference, start blocking in your key shapes. I create the torso first and make it the most detailed. Once that is done, I start adding in other pieces such as the legs and pipes in the back. This robot is going to be nearly perfectly symmetrical for most of the process, so it’s important to only really work on half of it, you can mirror and weld it later. That being said, it’s not a bad idea to copy what you have across to check out the proportions on the full piece as you progress c.


04 Detail the blocking shapes

Pick a core mesh and hide the rest of the model. Start to detail out the mesh and get in some supporting edges so that it holds its shape when you apply the TurboSmooth modifier. When you approach subdivision hard-surface modelling, you will spend a lot of time looking for pinching and odd shading. To help you spot these errors easily, apply a base material with a high Specular and Glossiness setting. This material will enable you to get a better idea of how the forms will look when rendered later on d.

05 Add basic edge supports

The most challenging part of hard-surface modelling is getting interestingly-shaped surfaces to subdivide correctly and derive a clean form. The next couple of steps will cover some geometry solutions I use for some common scenarios. In this example, you can see the shading along the crease of the surface in the red box has a shadow along the edge, the surface in the green below doesn’t. The diference is due to the extra supporting edge added around the actual cut. This provides more support and flattens the surface quicker when smoothed e.

c Block in the basic forms to decide if your concept works in 3D

d Apply a shiny material to help you spot errors when subdividing

e Support your edges to get nice clean bevels

g Edge Constraint is one of the key hard-surface modelling tools

Niles Doubleday

Currently living in the state of Washington in the United States, Niles spends his days working for Airtight Games and his nights modelling to the sounds of dubstep. When he’s not busy at the computer screen he enjoys riding his trusty bicycle and hanging out with good friends.

26 3D Art & Design

Cryogenics facility 3ds Max, Photoshop, Unreal Engine (2011) This is a game resolution project Niles created to practise bringing the sci-fi themes of his personal work into the Unreal Engine

Sci-fi diver 3ds Max, Photoshop, KeyShot (2011)

This image was created as an exercise using the same workflow Niles is demonstrating in this tutorial

Design and model a robot

Add form and functionality Place large and small elements for believability g

Ending edges on flat surfaces in the middle of polygons is fine


06 Avoid extra work

It’s always important to model cleanly, however there are exceptions to every rule. In this case, since the side of this leg segment is perfectly flat, it’s okay to leave edges ending in the middle of polygons. You can see that it still smoothes out fine in the right-hand image. When you have edges end in convenient places, rather than carrying them all the way into an Edge Loop, this saves a lot of time and keeps the model a little easier to manage f.

07 Constrain edges

Most important is the ability to easily move a vertex along an edge. Turn on Edge Constraint under Constraints on the right, found in the Edit Polygon modifier. In the image I have a vertex that is interrupting a smooth flow on this bevel. To fix this issue, turn on Edge Constraint and slide it to one of the end vertices, then slide it back along that edge to the correct location. Now it’ll be in line with the intended surface and won’t create any odd bumps g.


The Inset and Collapse command are more weapons in your arsenal

Surface type

08 The Inset and Collapse tools

The Inset tool is very useful for adding Edge Loops to support edges and add detail. Sometimes when you add an inset it creates overlapping vertices in sharp corners. This doesn’t work all the time, but most of the time just collapsing that will enable you to keep your sharp corner and smooth surface without noticeable pinching. Easily navigate to Collapse by right-clicking and finding it on the pop-up menu h.

i Alien spine ZBrush, Photoshop (2012)

Inspired by the Alien franchise, Niles made a quick ZBrush sculpt before rendering the diferent elements in ZBrush with various MatCaps and compiling them in post-production using Photoshop

An edge-supported mesh with some larger detail added

As you continue to model, defining surfaces and details, keep in mind what kind of material the pieces are made out of. If you add really sharp edges and flat, smooth surfaces, the material will appear to be much harder. Rounder edges with big bevels and a more supple surface will appear softer. It’s important to have a couple types of surfaces in your model. I like to have the sub-surface feel softer, with the exterior pieces being hard plastic or painted metal.

large details 09 Place and new forms

When supporting the edges and defining the design further, I always start to add large-level detail, such as big vents or tube connections. As you add the detail, make sure the new shapes fit in with your existing large shapes. As an example, here is what the underside of the body looks like with the four leg-attach points and the vent underneath. Details such as this add an extra layer of believability and display function. The more the viewer can relate the forms to real-world things, the more believable your design will be i. 3D Art & Design



Polish the model With all the basic meshes complete, bring your creation to life j

10 Fill in the gaps

Now that you have all the major forms nailed down, there are probably some gaps still left between pieces. Now is a good time to fill those gaps. Use the same workflow as the other pieces to make a sub-surface. Block in some base shapes that intersect with the large forms you’ve got. Try to make these new shapes match the design of the existing ones as much as possible. In my case I have matched the arch of the rear tubes with a rear guard j.

feedback and 11 Get adjust accordingly

Show your model to the client, or friends whose opinion you value, and ask for feedback. In my case it became apparent I needed to better illustrate a face and show more character. I started blocking out some shapes to see what would fit in with my existing structure and provide a more interesting focal point. It’s okay to make big changes to your model, even at this late stage in the process. I push the main lens out and add some representational plating, as well as a couple of spline-based hoses. These add mid-level detail by externally attaching them to the body of the machine k.

After I defined the face, it became apparent that the shape would be very time-consuming to model in its curved form while still avoiding errors when subdividing. This is a perfect case for the FFD modifier. To use it efectively, model out your form flat to a world axis where you can get the mesh to subdivide easily. Next, reference that mesh and drag it to the location it’s needed. Once your flat unsmoothed mesh is in place, use one of the FFD modifiers to bend it into shape. Last, go back to your on-axis mesh and use TurboSmooth l.

l The last phase of modelling is where you really get to add some life to the model. Take elements that you think need another layer of detail, subdivide them, then apply another Edit Poly modifier. In the new modifier, start adding some insets, bolts or seams in key places. Another method is to select a bunch of faces and Shift-drag them of of the mesh to create a new sub element. Add a bit of thickness to this new element to create a layering efect m.

Extract another layer of detail from the model with insets and more elements

Design your fine details Fine detail of the model is what really makes it come alive, taking it from a 3D model to something believable. The really important part is to use the detail to add hints of construction and fine seams where the plating comes together or is attached. I’ve also added little divots to suggest vents or attach points. Use this opportunity to better support the large forms. With the plate, for instance, I’ve added highlights to the slight curve of the front as well as conforms to a new vent along the side.

28 3D Art & Design


12 FFD modifier

Use the FFD modifier to easily make complex shapes

13 Final detail pass

You can still make changes late in the game


Design and model a robot

Pose and render It’s time to make that model into a polished image


Set up a hierarchy

At this point your model is all finished and you need to put it into a cool pose for rendering. To make that posing easy and avoid making a full bone rig, set the pivot points for the meshes where the joints are. Parent the meshes in the way you would expect the robot to bend. For example, in the screenshot I’ve shown the foot plate being parented to the lower leg n. j Fill in any gaps that may have appeared between the forms n Parent the meshes to one another at the joints to make posing easy p The base render and sub-surface render



Rendering in KeyShot KeyShot, formerly known as HyperShot, is a really great piece of rendering software. I like to use it because it enables me to focus on my model without worrying about spending lots of time setting up an HDRI and complex shaders. I’m actually using an old version, so I have to break up the diferent materials into separate meshes to import it into the program. With the latest version (a free demo is available) you can import your MAX file straight in. This enables the material IDs from 3ds Max to be transferred and makes material selection and organisation very easy!

Pose the model and set up the scene


Build up the scene Switch the Rotation to

Local and start rotating the base into position. All the legs and head should follow if you’ve parented them. Next, rotate the legs and head to suit the camera and the scene. I’ve set up a bunch of boxes to give the robot some context, but sometimes a flat plane works. I generally play around with a few diferent camera angles and poses o.

2e0a+ tion time hours



tion: Image resolu25 ,8 3,200 x 3

16 KeyShot rendering

I’ve chosen KeyShot to render this scene, but any renderer that gives you easy access to a broad range of materials will work well. It’s a good idea to try out diferent materials and colours until you find the best results. I knew that I wanted some chipped-away paint that would reveal a metal surface underneath, so I make an additional render that is entirely metal. In Photoshop I take the metal image and add more contrast using the Levels adjustments p.

17 Move to post-production

In Photoshop I start by copying the base render onto a layer above the metal layer and painting a mask where I want scratches, so the metal shows through. Other important elements are Bloom and Sharpening. For Bloom, copy the merged layers onto a new layer and use Levels to drag the darks almost all the way to lights to clamp it. Use the Gaussian Blur filter (6-10 pixels) then set the Blending mode to Screen. To sharpen, copy the merged layers and apply a High Pass filter with a low pixel count and set it to Overlay q.

The final composite and the accompanying Photoshop layers

q 3D Art & Design


Character Software used in this piece modo



Artist info

3D artists explain the techniques behind their amazing artwork

Richard Yot

Personal portfolio site Country UK Software used ZBrush, modo, Photoshop Expertise Richard is an illustrator who specialises in quirky character design.

dragon tamer.mp4 karate kid-2.mp4

30 3D Art & Design

Animate characters in modo 601

Animate characters in modo 601

Modelling Textures

Dragon Tamer 2011

modo 601 can now do full-blown character animation. We take a closer look at the new toolset Richard Yot illustrator


he modo 3D modelling software continues to go from strength to strength. Many new options are featured but characteranimation tools are the most significant. Developer Luxology has not contented itself with just copying features from established applications, but has approached the workflow from its own unique perspective with the aim of making the tools accessible and enabling users to get results very quickly. Ease of use and quick workflows are at the heart of modo, and in 601 there are tools that enable novices or those working to short deadlines to set up characters for animation extremely quickly. It also enables more advanced users the ability to create powerful custom rigs with extremely complex and versatile controls. For those who have ever spent frustrating hours setting up a basic character, modo 601 is breath of fresh air. Bones can be placed intelligently inside your mesh, saving hours of time tweaking them into place. Binding and weight painting is painless and you can use the new Pose tool and the Actors and Actions groups to start animating without any of the usual problems.

Create detailed assets

Use modo’s new features to build textures and more

01 Initial modelling

The initial modelling was completed in ZBrush using ZSpheres to block out the basic form of the character. I prefer to sculpt the initial stages of a character rather than deal with polygons so that I can concentrate on finding the forms without having to worry about topology. It’s also much easier to revise and tweak a design in a sculpting package since the mesh is so much more malleable a.

02 Use new retopology tools a

With 601, modo is now among the very best retopologising solutions on the market


In its latest version, modo has introduced some substantial new retopologising features. There is a dedicated Topology tab, a new Background Constraint type and some new tools, of which the Topology Pen is the most important and innovative. With this it is possible to retopologise extremely quickly by extending edges, creating new loops and merging vertices all without ever dropping this one tool. Having tried all of the specialised retopologising packages on the market, I can say that modo 601 is among the very best because of the fast workflow it ofers and the way in which this one tool combines so many useful features b.

03 A new improved paint engine

601 has a much improved painting engine compared to earlier versions of modo, and I used this in conjunction with Photoshop CS5’s 3D features to create all of the texture maps for the animation. By using the Brush settings to create chaotic and varied brushes, I was able to make the worn wood and paper textures that are used throughout the set. The Procedural brush in modo is particularly useful for this as it can create very natural results. The character was also painted this way, and the Image Ink brush was used to add details such as fingerprints on his virtual Plasticine face c.

Concept The concept was based on an existing digital painting of mine. There was a nice atmosphere with a blend of spooky and funny that seemed like a good starting point for a simple short film. a Finding the initial forms is much easier in ZBrush, where you can concentrate on design without worrying about topology


c Using modo and Photoshop’s brush engines enabled me to create natural and convincing textures 3D Art & Design



Set up the scene Now that the assets are created we need to prepare them for animation

04 Add shading and materials

Once the textures were painted, the diferent materials were defined in the Shader Tree. In order to create the handmade look that I like to use in my work I made heavy use of SSS in the character to simulate the look of Plasticine. The materials for the set were also designed to look handmade, so the floor used displacement to portray wood, the walls used a matte material to look like stained wallpaper and the blanket used bump and a tiny bit of fur to create a convincing fabric. I also sculpted some folds into the blanket, pillow and sheets d.

05 Light the set

Because my intention was to mimic a physical stop-motion set I could make use of quite theatrical lighting, using a spotlight shining down on the character in bed. The little bedside lamp created some context for the light, but it was actually placed far above the character to single him out from his environment. Monte Carlo global illumination was used throughout the animation despite the added render times, because of the added realism it creates e.



Lay out the bones With the assets all created, it was

then time to move to the rigging stage. Luckily this is very straightforward in modo and can be done quickly. The tools are flexible and set up in such a way that it is still possible to make modelling changes without breaking the rig. To add bones to my character it was a simple case of drawing them over the mesh in the new dedicated Setup Mode. Modo takes care to intersect them with the geometry of the model, so once drawn they need little or no tweaking into position f.

07 Apply binding and weight painting

With the introduction of bone-based deformers, modo has also introduced several automatic binding algorithms as well as allowing the paint tools to edit weight maps. Alternatively the weights can be edited with the same Weight tool that is used to crease SDS models. It is possible to create everything manually using Weight Containers, Deformers and the Schematic View, or to use an automated option and then edit the results manually. The automated results were very good in this case and only needed some minor adjustments to create nice deformations g.

Character design problems and solutions There is a big diference between stills and animation when it comes to creating and preparing assets. When working on a still it is possible to cut a lot of corners – topology doesn’t have to be perfect, meshes can be very dense, textures might not be seen close-up and so can be lower resolution. When making an animation, however, every stage of the process is going to take longer: a mesh that needs to deform must have good topology, an animated character must also have a manageable mesh density for fast playback in the viewport. Textures might need to be seen in close-up as well as from far away, so every asset needs much more thought and preparation for it to hold up under every possible situation you might require in the animation. This means that as well as all the time spent animating and rigging, you generally need to allow for more time when it comes to asset creation. This means you get the best outcome that you are capable of. In this case I spent just as long on the assets as I did on the rigging and animating. Three weeks were spent building the set and characters and another three weeks on the actual production.

32 3D Art & Design




Animate characters in modo 601 the new 08 Utilise Pose tool

The Pose tool is a really great feature for anyone who needs to animate a character quickly. It is essentially a very flexible and powerful tool for posing your skeleton without having to build any rigging controls. I was able to use simple kinematics to rotate joints in the normal way, and then by activating the Pose tool I could have on-the-fly Inverse Kinematics (IK) in any part of my skeleton. It’s also possible to add real IK and use it in conjunction with the Pose tool, but it’s not strictly necessary. This tool saved me many hours of rigging work, making this a relatively short-term project h.

Create the set texture



09 Go to the Actors and Poses option

Another nice workflow tool is the Actors and Poses feature, which enabled me to store poses and recall them later. I defined actors by selecting the rig for my main character and another one for the dragon, then I could set up the key poses for the action and reuse them in later sequences. This was particularly useful for repetitive actions such as the wings flapping. I was also able to set up smaller selection sets as Actors, which I did on the hands so that I could reuse hand poses throughout the animation i.

d Using modo’s excellent Render Preview makes material creation very quick e The lighting was intended to mimic a stop-motion animation, with the character isolated by a spotlight positioned above him f The smart bone positioning in modo ensures that your bones are always placed correctly inside your mesh g Weights can be adjusted with modo’s paint tools, or with the Weight tool


Morph map workflow Once the basic poses had been

blocked out the next step was to create morph targets for both the facial expression and for corrective modelling on some of the deformed poses. With modo you can model and sculpt in pose space, making the task of creating corrective morphs very straightforward and in the Deformers List you can organise the order in which morphs and bone deformers are triggered. This way facial expressions can be fired before the skeleton poses, but corrective morphs afterwards. This gives animators a lot of flexibility with their use of morphs j.

I wanted the set to have a handmade feel and look like a stop-motion set. In order to do this I downloaded some photographic textures from www.cgtextures. com. I used both modo and Photoshop to handpaint extra layers of grime using custom brushes to simulate scratched paintwork and stains of various kinds. For the tinfoil moon and stars I sculpted some wrinkles and created a metallic material with some additional bump maps for extra creases. The key to creating convincing textures is mostly patience, time and attention to detail. I spent more time on the textures for the set than I did on the modelling, because in this particular case the textures create the vast majority of the details. In order to further reinforce the stop-motion feel I used very shallow depth of field to make the results more photographic, and the fact that the focus is sometimes briefly of also helps to create the illusion of a real camera. The final touches in postproduction to add some glare around the highlights and a tiny bit of vignetting were also aimed at increasing the photographic feel achieved in the film.

h With the Pose tool you can animate a character with minimal rigging or setup time i With the Actors an Poses feature, you can define a motion to be used repeatedly


j Morphs can be used for facial animation and for corrective modelling on deformed meshes 3D Art & Design



Character control Fine-tune the rough animation Richard Yot

I am an illustrator that specialises in making quirky characters and quirky little worlds for them to live in. I like giving my CG work some of the charm of handmade things and use photorealism with a twist to create something a little imperfect.

Morph fallofs can be animated to add an extra layer of subtlety to your facial animations

Think pace and contrast

k Rufus modo (2011)


This bad tempered little mutt is part of a family of not-really wooden characters. He’s noisy and irritating, like any selfrespecting small dog should be.

One way of helping a story along is with pacing and contrasts. The start of the animation is deliberately slow to reinforce the idea that the character is sleepy, the final section is paced much faster as a deliberate contrast, the diference between the two helps to tell the story. The editing was also instrumental in this, with slow dissolves used in the first part and fast cuts in the second to emphasise the change in mood. l Workflow in modo frees you up to spend more time on content rather than technical aspects m A simple rig for controlling eye movement, that can also be overridden when necessary


Vinyl monster ZBrush, modo (2012)

If he had some brains, he would be scary. Part of a series of virtual vinyl monsters created for 3D Artist magazine.

11 Morph fallofs

Most deformers can be attenuated with fallofs and this applies to morphs too, adding another layer of control and subtlety. I was able to model quite extreme versions of my character’s expressions and then use Spherical Fallofs to modulate how and when they appeared over his face. This enables for much subtler morph map animation and also for more movement. For example I animated the gulp by creating a simple morph map of the throat but created the movement by animating the fallof which made the throat move as it flowed over the morph map k.

12 Aim for emotion Vlad modo, ZBrush (2011)

A virtual pâpier maché monster with a big mouth and even bigger tongue. He’s not as scary as he thinks, and being pink doesn’t help.

34 3D Art & Design

With most of the technical work done and the basic poses and expressions blocked in, the most important part of the work could then proceed: the performance. Animation is essentially about conveying emotions and maybe humour and it’s important not to lose sight of this. Because modo enables such a rapid workflow with the Pose tool and the minimal rigging, I was able to spend more time working with the character and his emotions rather than spending time on technical tasks such as building rigs or setting up IK l.

13 Animate the eyes

With this particular character design (although this is true of almost any character), most of the expression had to be conveyed in the eyes. The big mouth lends the design a lot of humour and quirkiness, but is limiting in terms of animation since it doesn’t have the realism of a less-extreme design. This meant I had to take great care animating the eyes and I used the lower lids extensively to convey the character’s emotions. I made a basic rig using locators and direction constraints and another really simple rig to control the eyelids m.

Animate characters in modo 601


Final animation and edit

render tim e Resolution 1,920 x 1,08 : 0

Once the final touches are complete, it’s time to edit the film n


14 Place cold sweat

In the sequence where the boy wakes up suddenly, I needed to create many little beads of sweat forming over his face. These were done with a replicator system that used the face as a point source and a map was painted to control their placement. Then it was simply a case of animating their size over time to create the illusion of the character breaking into a cold sweat n.

15 Use the Graph Editor

The final step in the animation process was to tweak the Curves and the timing by manipulating the Curves in the Graph Editor. The Graph Editor in modo also has some useful controls for setting up repeating actions such as the dragon’s wings in flight. I could animate them once and set the action to repeat o.


16 Render the animation

Because the raw animation was almost two minutes long at full HD it was rendered on a commercial render farm, taking a few days to render out all the sequences. In order to keep things manageable, I broke the animation up into short sequences that could be rendered separately. Each sequence was rendered with extra footage at the start and end so I could have some space to work when making my final edit p.

17 Final composition and edit

Finally everything was put together in After Efects. Magic Bullet Photolooks was used to add some bloom and vignetting. All of the depth of field efects were created in the raw modo renders rather than post as this gives much more realistic results. Audio was added at the edit stage and all the final decisions on timing and pacing were left until the very end. I began the editing stage with some rough viewport renders while the animation was in the render farm to save time q.

Ideas and story The story ideas were being revised all through the process and I didn’t settle on an ending until the animation was almost complete. I had initially started with a darker direction that was potentially funnier, but it wasn’t right for this project so I toned it down. But then I wasn’t really happy with the ending so I kept storyboarding diferent ideas right up to the eleventh hour when I settled on the final version. This is a normal process with any animation, because if there’s even a small chance of improving the work before it’s too late then that chance is worth taking.


n The beads of sweat were created with a replicator that was animated to increase gradually over time

p The new, improved render window in 601 is much more user-friendly than seen in previous versions

o The Graph Editor can be used to quickly set up repeating actions as well as for tweaking timings

q All of the final editing, compositing and efects work was done in After Efects 3D Art & Design



Software used in this piece ZBrush


mental ray


Create a high-res creature Desert creature 2012

With this project we wanted to create something a little different, so we mixed a few different creature styles together. We had a vision of a desert-dwelling creature, but a Daniel Crossland is a senior character artist desert from another world that was dry but cool


he aim of this tutorial is to give an overview of how to go about taking a concept and translating that into a finished render. In my job I have the great fortune of working around really talented people, so I asked Daniel Baker, a senior concept artist here at Ninja Theory, to help

36 3D Art & Design

create this creature. We were keen on the idea of a desert-dwelling creature on the side of cute but still grotesque, much akin to some of the creatures from the recent film John Carter. After taking Daniel’s concept I made blockouts in ZBrush to check the concept translated well

into 3D. I will now show you how to go about making an asset to be shaded, lit and finally rendered in Maya. I’ll also cover how I optimise my scenes for more streamlined rendering when memory can be an issue, and how to composite the final scene.

Create a high-res creature A

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Daniel Crossland Username: Pteropus Personal portfolio site Country UK Software used ZBrush, Maya, mental ray, Photoshop Expertise Specialist areas include character design, concepts, high-detailed sculpts and 3D modelling

Sculpting Texturing Lighting

We started by discussing the direction for the character and, knowing Daniel’s designs, I knew it was going to be something unique. After exploring a few ideas we both liked the louse concept

appendages I prefer to make a basic ZSphere rig. This approach is far better then modelling a base in 3D as I can pose the rig, make global changes to the proportions and easily make an Adaptive Skin mesh to lay my basic forms down a. b

Work with DynaMesh Daniel provided me with some silhouettes of the creature. A strong silhouette can inform the design and is enough to make some design sculpts in ZBrush, so from this point on I make an Adaptive Skin from my ZSphere rig, providing a new ZTool to start sculpting on. With this done I hit Use DynaMesh under the Geometry panel and started to sculpt. I spend a couple of hours at this stage just playing with the forms. These will act as conceptual meshes for you to base the final model on. Having a workable asset early on makes projects run much smoother b. c


a A ZSphere rig can quickly lay your model out ready for basic sculpting

b Here we aim to block in major forms. Only a strong and accurate foundation for the work will ensure our success to clean the mesh and sculpt the basic volumes ready for refining

Use a ZSphere rig Because the character has many

02 Concept

c Using DynaMesh, we need


It’s essential that the concept sketch translates well into 3D

The digital sculpt process Digital sculpting with DynaMesh is now very much like working as a traditional sculptor. I like not having to worry about topology so I can just sculpt and let the model grow organically. You always have enough resolution with DynaMesh. If you choose when to tessellate the model, by hitting Cmd/Ctrl and dragging a box outside your model it will update the mesh with new geometry to work with. I keep my meshes low and really simple. Once basic feature planes are blocked in, I then refine the sculpt’s main masses into definite volumes that are polished with the hPolish brush. The modelling process for me is mainly to retopologise my DynaMesh tools so they can go to a refine pass, which cleans any artefacts c. 3D Art & Design



New topology Transfer the sculpt to clean topology d The model with polished major forms


e The final character pose f The louse after a detail pass


Refinement pass At this stage I work up the sculpt to a refined state. All the main muscle masses and the skin quality are built but not in high-frequency detail. If we were to detail with too many wrinkles and too much noise early, we could lose the primary masses. Without these smaller details we don’t have structure to keep the model together. For this pass I use my favourite brush, Clay Tubes, to place muscle. The Pinch brush also tightens areas and inflates at a very low setting to add volume where needed. I work each area of the face, smoothing as I go along. To tighten the primary wrinkles I switch to a high-specular MatCap and with the Dam Standard brush to go over the model, adding criss-cross marks to make only the major wrinkles. I polish these afterwards by stroking the hPolish brush lightly over the entire model, one area at a time, to complete the refinement d.



Remain flexible In my day job, the ability to be flexible to change is of the utmost importance. We tried lots of diferent poses using the Transpose tool in ZBrush, and Dan worked some pose silhouette thumbnails so we could explore further. In the end, we fixed the pose to be more hunched over, where the character is slightly turned to look at the viewer. Once the stance was fixed I did some corrective sculpting around the joints. It’s best to fix this before going on to high-frequency detail. You are safe to then concentrate 100 per cent on those final details, assured that your pose will work for the final angle of the shot e.



High-detail pass Once I’m around Level 6, I divide

my mesh using HD sculpting. This takes my model to ten million polys per SubTool. By hitting the A key over an area of the sculpt, I go into HD mode. The main reason I’ve recently started using HD sculpting is because then I can also use HD PolyPainting, which makes creating texture maps much quicker. As long as I sculpt the detail into my model, it’s all there for making masks and painting. For detailing I use a combination of the Standard brush with the modifier set to around 30. This will use the Push and Pinch functions, which work really well for the wrinkles. Additionally, I usually tighten them with Pinch and steady strokes, with some more Dam Standard brush thrown in to deepen the crevices f.

Daniel Crossland

My fascination with art started at the age of four and it continues to fascinate me to this day. I’m currently senior character artist at Ninja Theory and in a lot of my work I like to focus on traditional art skills by looking at anatomy and real clay sculpture. I find this keeps me focused on pushing my art. I try to replicate the same level of realism and quality in my digital work.

38 3D Art & Design

Fetal skull Maya, ZBrush (2010)

I modelled this skull as part of some learning sculpts, to improve in sculpting and the development of form

Udasaur Maya, ZBrush (2011)

I sculpted this creature based on one of the creatures from The World of King Kong natural history book. This creature didn’t appear in the film so I took the chance to realise it in ZBrush

Create a high-res creature

Create UV maps

Problems and solutions

Prepare the model for lighting and texturing g



Steps for setting up UVs To set up my UVs I use UV Layout Pro. Switching all my creature SubTools to Level 0, I export my meshes and load them in for unwrapping. By marking where we want our seams, we can extract those meshes into pieces for flattening. Once I have clean UVs with no distortion, I import them back into ZBrush over my original meshes with these new UV versions. This updates the tools so I can now bake and paint my maps g.



Eyes, claws and spines Once the main body is

resolved I add additional geometry to the eyes, spines and claws. I model these in Softimage and add them as a separate SubTool. Using the same workflow I add UVs and do a sculpt pass to add some details h.


Bake maps Next I bake out the base maps that I will

Once I have my refined sculpt I prepare the model for rendering. This means making some new topology from which we can make UVs for texturing. I currently use Silo at work to create new topology, but there are many other options to create new meshes, as long as you have the ability in your program to draw polygons and get them to snap to your high-res source. Keep in mind the direction and flow of the polys you draw, as good directions will facilitate your sculpting and also optimise your model for the rendering stage. After making my new mesh I can now project my DynaMesh sculpt onto it. There are a few options to get this to work, but assuming the models are pretty well surfaced, each should be fairly straightforward. In short, you need to bring in your new mesh, subdivide it four times and then go to Project to get the detail from your DynaMesh. Usually there will be a clean up of this mesh where the projection has broken, such as under the arms. I clean this then move to the polish phase of the sculpt. g Distortion-free UVs

use later for textures. To set up my textures in ZBrush I set my resolution under the UV section, choosing the highest map bake of 4,000 and maximising the edge bleed to 16 pixels so I have no issue with seams on my normals. I then drop down to Level 0 and use a multimap exporter to bake out my Normal map, Displacement map and PolyPaint in one go i.

h Additional features i The ZBrush multimap exporter at work

j Texture map bases j

Corpus ZBrush, Maya (2011) This piece was created for a 3D print. Eventually it will be cast out in bronze


Paint the bases Painting the bases is pretty simple. I like to roughly match some basic

SSS colours so the model will give a good appearance of skin when I come to render. In this step I block in Photoshop colour by filling with basic skin values using the Paint Bucket tool. In this case the skin is quite cool, so I add a blue Overlay layer on top of my bakes from ZBrush and balance them so they’re not too strong. I make a map for each slot that includes an epidermal, subdermal, backscatter, Difuse and an Overall map. Making these basic block-ins will give me a good idea of how to treat the skin and the feeling of the work before getting into fine detail j. 3D Art & Design



Move into Maya

Take the model and lay a foundation for the light rig


Export meshes from ZBrush Exporting meshes has

never been easier. I use GoZ to export all my meshes out for light tests at the same time. I always build my models to real-world scale so the SSS setting will be relative and won’t cause any issues with my skin shading. I set Maya to centimetres, import my OBJs, and in the Object Properties set my Geometry to Visible In Reflections and In Refractions. This is necessary when bringing in meshes from ZBrush k.



Pre-visualise light Dan and I had a brief discussion on how the character should be lit and felt that we would like to avoid the typical warm earthy tones. Instead we both felt a cooler palette would look a little more sinister and also convey a strange landscape. This would bring an almost twilight feel, like the character was lit by moonlight. I did some basic lighting studies before I set up the final lighting l.


Light the scene I always apply my lighting in another

Maya file so I can better concentrate. I use a low-res proxy mesh of the creature to do my light tests. I have two key lights and one back light; additionally I use some bounce cards with incandescence only to add bounce light when using final gather. I use area lights with the Mia Portal shader plugged into them, which gives bounce light efects so you can take it easy on final gather samples and speed up render times. In the portal light attributes, I tick Enable Sky Portal and tweak the Intensity multiplier until the image is the correct brightness. At this stage I also plug the MR photographic shader into the lens of my camera, along with a blackbody node that will simulate real work values. This will enable me to essentially take a digital photograph of my model and make use of realistic camera efects, such as bokeh. I build up efects such as depth and bokeh in another pass, which I blend later in Photoshop as they can take time to render m.




Subsurface scatter Here I add the SSS shading

networks to the body shell and eyes. I begin by blocking out each component of the SSS efect on its own by switching of the backscatter and subdermal scatter. I concentrate on Epidermal Weight and Radius values, going through each element in the same way before finally adding them together and doing test renders, balancing the efect as I go. I like to get the SSS looking as good as possible before plugging any maps into the channels. Once the correct values have been achieved for the skin, I polish these shaders with maps n.

k Use GoZ to export out of

m Taking numerous light tests

l Lighting can make or break

n Add SSS shading before

ZBrush for light tests

is an essential stage

an artwork, so be careful


plugging any maps in



40 3D Art & Design

Create a high-res creature

Skin shading in mental ray Set up the skin in Maya



render time Resolution: 4,000 x 3,000



Texture refinement To make textures I use ZBrush and PolyPaint. As mentioned, for high-res sculpting I switch to HD. I also do my PolyPainting at HD levels so I have plenty of pixels to play with. By masking my model by cavity I can isolate the raised parts and begin painting some light colours into each cavity of the mesh. This works really well and gives you a really detailed map to use in your rendering. I usually paint lots of splatter and noise into the map, adding veins and other imperfections to really sell the image. Scattering the brushes with an alpha and spraying strokes adds great depth to your maps. I use this along with a spotlight to blend imperfections from real photographs into the skin o.


Final thoughts



Build the final render scene For rendering I add all

the OBJs that make up my creature at a mid-level mesh. I use Level 3 so I don’t have to displace to any great detail, as displacements can soon eat up lots of memory if used to displace the high-frequency details. For this model I use a combination of Displacement and Normal maps. I use a Displacement map on the body and shell to take the model up to a smooth result, then Normal and Bump maps for fine details. This is faster for your machine when it comes to rendering and gives you great control of the details as you add them into your model. I then check that everything is working with a test render at small dimensions, to make sure there are no nasty surprises before I hit the Render button p.


Finalise the image The image took me about a week

of balancing the SSS shaders with the scene to get the result I wanted. Test rendering constantly at small dimensions is essential, and using the Render Region tool to focus and refine areas before making any decisions gives great flexibility. Because of using a streamlined workflow with no high FG samples, I could make as many changes as I needed without bogging my computer down. I composite the final image in Photoshop and render it as a separate pass. Daniel made a background plate of the environment that was composited and graded into the render. This was then dropped in behind the model along with images of dirt to add a grungy feel. With further balancing of all layers, I colour correct the main passes to finish the image q.

o Build up the skin

using HD PolyPainting for an impressive efect


p With all the elements

added we can start the test render process Finishing touches

I think when creating a character like this the design is really important. You have to feel good about what you are producing, otherwise I find it doesn’t flow as well as it should. In this industry we have really open critiques, which helps push design further than it might usually go. Making concept sketches or a digital sculpt sketch is now possible, and I feel has really opened up more creative workflows. As a result we can now see just how a model will look before going into full production. I feel this is a great advancement and has benefited my workflow tremendously. I have always felt that studying traditional art is the best recipe to follow in creating successful artwork, and that remains true. There’s a lot to cover in a short space on the entire breakdown of this character, so if you have any specific questions feel free to contact me via my website. Good luck with your own artistic endeavours! 3D Art & Design


Character Sculpting Texturing

Software used in this piece ZBrush

42 3D Art & Design


Sculpt an epic beast

Sculpt an epic beast Pteroscent: The Blue Hour 2012 Jamie-lee Lloyd Is a character artist for Rockstar North


Jamie-lee Lloyd Personal portfolio site Country UK Software used ZBrush, Photoshop Expertise Jamie-lee is a videogames character artist, currently working for Rockstar North. He specialises in character design, digital sculpting and real-time assets

n this tutorial we will cover the process to create a creature from scratch using the new tools in ZBrush. We will mainly focus on DynaMesh and its ability to enable free-form sculpting without the constraints of topology. We will take you through the stages of sculpting and show how you can quickly extract, append and duplicate parts to improve your design in no time at all. The most enjoyable aspect of working this way is the ability to keep the creative ball rolling and never having to leave the zone. We will essentially be taking a simple 3D primitive through the stages to a complete polished bust, without having to fret about jumping between packages or hitting any snags. We’ll touch on posing and PolyPainting the creature before hitting BPR and preparing for the final illustration.

©2012 C.Huante.

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

The attention to detail and anatomy in Carlos Huante’s flawless work is inspiring! Here we’ve tried to capture the intense creature expression he does so well, in a ZBrush sculpt


Carlos Huante’s creature concepts are insanely detailed and very well thought out. The powerful pose and facial expression of this vampire bat really bring this bust to life! The details and bone structure are a great reference point, and the silhouette is very appealing to me. I compiled a mood board of some of Huante’s other creature sketches as reference for the sculpt. One of the challenges was to keep control of the design – it would be easy to make a mash up of all the diferent designs and end up with a something inconsistent.

Pull shapes to create form Create the base mesh and block in shape

01 Block from a sphere

Go to Lightbox>Tools and select PolySphere. Navigate to the Tool>Geometry menu and click the DynaMesh button. This will activate DynaMesh mode, but at this point we’ll keep the DynaMesh resolution quite low so we can pull things around easier. Move the Resolution slider to adjust. Use the Move Elastic and Move brushes, with Symmetry turned on, to pull the sphere into shape. Change the brush sizes to target smaller areas, like pulling out the neck. By holding Cmd/Ctrl and dragging outside the canvas you can refresh DynaMesh and always have topology to work with. Pull the mesh around to get a rough bust shape then use the Curve Tube brush to drag out the arms (the size of the brush determines the thickness of the tubes). Once dragged out, the bust will automatically mask itself, enabling us to move or rotate the arms to fit them into place. When it looks okay, clear the mask and update DynaMesh. You will see the arms have been included in the mesh A. To create the big ears, mask a section on the side of the head, invert it, then use the Transpose tools to move and rotate them into place. Update DynaMesh as you pull out the ears – they require more topology to work with b. A Pull the sphere around to create a simple bust shape B Update DynaMesh with Cmd/Ctrl-drag to build the ears


b 3D Art & Design



Build up the forms Continue blocking in your character

02 Block in the forms


the mouth 03 Open and make a pose

We want to go for a similar pose to the original Carlos Huante bust, but before that we’ll try to get a better idea of the mouth and jawline. By thinking about the mouth area at this early stage we’ll make it easier to nail the open scream when posing. Start by adding a bit more resolution to the DynaMesh and begin blocking in the brow bones, nose and cheekbones. Then paint a mask line across the lip area, invert it and use Transpose Move to push it inside the head. Update DynaMesh and push things around inside – this will be our basic mouth d. Next we’ll begin the posing. As our DynaMesh is still quite low-res, we can blur masks pretty well, enabling smooth transposing. With Symmetry still on, use the Mask Lasso tool to select parts of the bust you want to efect. Blur the mask to get a nice smooth flow of topology when you’re rotating them. We’ll try to rotate from the areas where the bone would actually pivot from, for example rotating the jawbone to open the mouth e. Push the bust forward from the stomach, rotate the arms back and lift the head up. We’ll pull the neck forward slightly, and drop the shoulders before using the Move tool to adjust small bits like the area around the mouth. You can mimic a pose in the mirror – it helps to get the lines right and pick up on subtle details but just make sure no-one walks in on you f!

44 3D Art & Design


Next use the Move and Clay Buildup brushes to start roughly blocking in the shape. At this point we’ll keep the proportions quite human, just to get an idea of things. Use some anatomical references at this point, but don’t get too carried away with the details. Using the Polish and Flatten brushes will help give an idea of some basic shape and forms. These harder-planed areas will act as reference points in the next step when we start to pose the bust c.



c Roughly add simple shapes to get an idea of proportion and form d Rotate from the jaw pivot to open the mouth

04 First pass

Begin again by adding a bit more resolution to the mesh and start working in the medium forms relative to the new pose. With the same method used in Step 1, pull up the nose flap and adjust the ears. Again, with the Clay Buildup and Standard brushes, work in a rough idea of the underlying bones and muscles while defining some fleshy areas. You can also push the mouth area inside and adjust the cheeks around it g.

e The rough, blocked forms sculpted earlier should help with reference points to make the posing quite relative, and keep the proportions intact


Sculpt an epic beast

Create the teeth and gums Append spheres and duplicate to shape the mouth

05 Extract gums and teeth

To get a better idea of the expression, we’re going to need teeth and gums. Hide everything but the mouth area and paint masks where we want the gums. Click the Tool>Geometry menu and select Extract. Our mask is extracted into geometry on a new Subtool. You can adjust the Thickness of the extract with the slider – click Accept to keep it. We’ll then use DynaMesh on the extracted gums to move them into place. For the teeth we use the same technique as in Step 1, append a sphere, scale it down and position it in the mouth, then duplicate it and move one inside the mouth. We’ll form a tooth out of the first sphere and use the second to create the tongue. By activating Transparency and Ghost modes, you can adjust the tongue through the face and position it easily h. We duplicate the teeth and then move/scale them into place. Work in a rough pass to get them looking decent, then adjust the whole mouth area to get the expression working i.

h i

parts 06 Duplicate and add a mesh

We want to add large shapes to the back to help the silhouette, so duplicate the main bust and hide the rest. Start by choosing Slice Curve (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift from the Brush menu) and draw around the ear – hit Opt/ Alt to curve the line. When Polyframe is selected, you’ll see that the Slice Curve has created a new Polygroup for the ear. With Select Rectangle highlighted, press Cmd/ Ctrl+Shift and click on the ear – isolating the Polygroup. Select Del Hidden from the Geometry Subpalette to leave just the ear, which we place over the original bust and position using the Move brush. Adjust it to make a breathing duct feature on the character’s back, then merge it down onto the bust. With the bust and the new back detail as one Subtool, continue to add the skin flaps – a really nice feature of Huante’s work. Choose the Curve Tri Fill brush and draw the flap shape across the chest and arms. We’ll then use the Move brush and Transpose tool to position the flap. Deselect the mask and activate DynaMesh to remesh the bust, back details and skin flaps into one j.


the 07 Complete second pass


Now the main forms are in place, deactivate DynaMesh and begin the second sculpting pass. It’s good to have room for further subdividing now DynaMesh is of – but if you don’t, you can always turn DynaMesh back on with a lower resolution selected. Use the Clay brush to work in the muscles and bones, and the Standard brush to emphasise tendons and fleshy areas. At this point we’ll append a sphere to the bust, place it in the eyesocket, use the Clay Buildup tool to push the socket back and build up the lids around the eyeball. Use Select Rectangle to isolate the eye area to get in close k.

h Turn on Transparency and Ghost to adjust the tongue through the entire face

i Scale the teeth and mouth into place to capture the extreme expression

j Use Polygroups to build up details and enhance the silhouette shape

k Press Mirror and Weld in the Geometry Subpalette to flip the bust around 3D Art & Design



Refine and paint your creature Add the final details and PolyPaint your masterpiece Since we’re using ZBrush to render we’ll use PolyPaint to colour the bust, as no UVs are needed and we have enough resolution to get great results. Merge the bust with the other Subtools and apply a rough base colour to the whole model (Color>Fill object). We’ll then use Transpose Move while holding Cmd/Ctrl to mask separate elements like the teeth and then fill them with their own colour. Repeat this for the eyes, gums and the tongue. With Symmetry activated, start painting some tonal variation with the RGB Intensity set to around 30. Add warm tones to the fleshy areas and darker desaturated tones to cavities, such as where the pectorals meet and behind the collar bones. Deactivate Symmetry and add subtle tonal variations using the Spray brushes. Apply warm shades to break the contrast and give it a fleshier feel, then add lighter tones where the bones push against the skin. Finally, use the DragRect stroke with various alphas to add patterns onto the skin and give a sense of underlying veins. Rotate the head and drop a shoulder to break up symmetry and use the Move brush to make subtle changes by ofsetting features m.

08 The refining pass 09 PolyPaint and asymmetry At this point, we use the highest subdivision level to refine the details. Pick the Clay Buildup brush to add subtle fibres to the muscles, and the Standard brush to define the taut and loose skin, paying attention to how it stresses and relaxes around the pose. Use the Dam Standard brush to cut wrinkles, followed by the Inflat brush to build up the skin – especially around the eyes and the bridge of the nose, where the expression forces the skin to fold up. Add a new layer with custom Alphas to add high-frequency details l.



Now the bust is ready for the final illustration, open a new document, click Double Size twice and hit the AA Half button. Draw the model onto the canvas and find a suitable view. We decided to use a dramatic front-on view with eye contact. For this we will ramp the perspective up to about 150, which with the depth of field should be quite intimidating. Pick a suitable MatCap shader to complement the PolyPaint. Go to Render>Render Properties and turn on the passes you require, the quality settings for each pass is located underneath. Experiment with various settings, mainly adjusting the BPR Shadow and BPR AO Rays. Press the BPR button in the BPR render pass to start rendering. When you’re happy with the results, click on the various pass icons to save them to a file on your desktop. We’ll also render custom LightCaps and some standard MatCaps to experiment with. Composite the render passes in Photoshop. Applying the Mask pass enables us to paint the background with colour washes that set the mood. Paint in layers of smoke around the bust to add atmosphere before applying the depth of field. Paint over the final result, adding details and specular highlights n.

10 Rendering and presentation


l Skin pores and impurities are added using custom alphas with the Standard brush and Drag Rectangle

46 3D Art & Design

m Use DynaMesh to create the lines of saliva in the mouth. Pull them out from the middle to suggest a powerful exhale of air

n Experiment extensively with Overlay and adjustment layers to wrap it up

Artist info


Nathan Boyd

Nathan is a texture painter at Sony Pictures Imageworks and loves films, art and computers Personal portfolio site Country USA Software used Maya, MARI, Photoshop, ZBrush

Work in progress…

I wanted to make a portrait-style image focusing on the textural detail of the mask. I attempted to maximise the contrast and dramatic effect of the image with Chiaroscuro lighting. Caravaggio’s Tenebrism works were a great Nathan Boyd, Firebomb, 2012 inspiration and guide 3D Art & Design



Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Kurt Papstein Username: Ikameka Personal portfolio site Country USA Software used ZBrush, Photoshop Expertise Kurt specialises in digital sculpting, creature design, and all kinds of character creation using ZBrush

Design striking characters Leona 2012

A fun and vibrant character creation that’s a little different to my gritty or hyper-real works Kurt Papstein is a character and creature artist working at Turtle Rock Studios in southern California


his tutorial will demonstrate how to go about concepting a full character in ZBrush. We will take this piece all the way to the end of the pipeline, starting from a sketch, which we’ll translate into a 3D concept to build our final character from. After exploring with digital clay you’ll end up with a detailed 3D figure. We will first go over how you can start translating your ideas using DynaMesh, then we’ll take advantage of Mesh

Insert brushes to block in the proportions and body parts of the character. We will also cover how to create all of the props and accessories with the new Topology brush. Each step in this tutorial will have something for everyone and will be focused on sharing some of the newer features of ZBrush 4R4. This tutorial is just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully it will inspire you to take your sculpting further – and to be more creative with your tools.

Concept with DynaMesh Build a rough sculpt to guide the modelling process

01 Define the body

We’ll start the project by constructing the main body in DynaMesh. I’m using a concept sketch as a guide. We want to accomplish two things here: first we need to lock down the character’s core proportions, which is why we start with the torso and the head. Having them in place will make it easier to build out the limbs. The second goal at this stage is to establish a solid foundation to build the clothing, props and accessories on a.

02 Use Mesh Insert brushes a

To build out the rest of her body, we’ll use a lot of the default tools and Mesh Insert brushes located in ZBrush. Using IMM BParts in your Brush menu, you can drag out some quick arms and legs onto your character. Once placed, you can further sculpt on them and refine the proportions. We’ll also change DynaMesh’s Blur setting to zero and activate Polish in order to have a more accurate and clean-looking concept sculpt b.


Finish the concept We should now have


48 3D Art & Design

everything blocked in. We have all the major shapes (the body) and medium shapes (the suit) sculpted roughly onto the model. We also currently have one SubTool, with everything on it. It’s a little dense in topology, but that’s okay for what we need. The point of this completed model is to act as a blueprint for us to build new assets. Some of it will be saved in the end, but for the most part it will be disposed of before we’re finished c.

C a Starting with a DynaMesh sphere at a resolution of 12, we can proceed to block in the character

b Use the default body parts

Insert Multi Mesh brush to flesh out the body

c Major and medium shapes are defined on one SubTool; smaller details are saved for later

Design striking characters

• KP_Bags.ZBP • KP_Buckles.ZBP • KP_PackBuckle.ZTL • KP_Polybag.ZTL • KP_Spacegirl.ZTL

Concept I wanted to revisit an older character idea to experiment with some of the new features in ZBrush 4R4. Creating this character in 3D has been a really fun challenge, which has pushed me as an artist.

Software used in this piece ZBrush


Kurt ofers his top workflow advice for helmet creation on page 51

3D Art & Design



Piece it together Use the Topology brush to build SubTools

04 Topology brush basics

This is where we start building all the separate pieces, with our original sculpt as a guide. Select the Topology brush in the Brush palette and begin drawing edges on your model to define a piece of the armour. Wherever the curves intersect, a vertex will form. By using Symmetry, the curves will automatically snap to the centre. To delete a curve, hold Opt/Alt and draw over it with another curve. This function will also clear any unused curves if you hold Opt/Alt and draw on an empty area of the model d.

Model using PolyGroups and Transpose options Using masking and PolyGroups we can do some precision modelling with our Transpose line. I use the Move Transpose line to universally inflate the PolyGroup I have selected through masking. If you Ctrl/right-click inside the outer handle and drag, the Transpose line will do a universal inflation to the mesh. I do this for the inner PolyGroups as well, to push them in further and create more of an edge. E


05 Create the mesh

In order to turn our orange preview mesh into an actual piece of geometry, we have to adjust a few things. First we want to adjust our brush size, as this will directly afect how thick the model we’re creating will be. A value of 100 will create a very thick extrusion of geometry from our topology curves, whereas a value of 0 will create single-sided polygons. Then all you need to do is click on the mesh to generate some new geometry from the curves e.

Sculpt the suit Once the body is blocked in we can start sculpting all of the suit details onto our surface. If you don’t feel comfortable sculpting on your model, you can always duplicate it in your SubTool list and continue working on the duplicate. For this step, I use my organic sculpting brushes like Clay Buildup and Dam_ Standard to build the forms and carve in the shapes. I say shapes rather than details because at this point you shouldn’t be worried about the small stuf. You only want to construct the shapes and think about the overall design. d Use fewer curves to keep the topology low

e The new geometry that’s

created from our Topology brush curves

f The new geometry is now

split into a SubTool using the new Split Hidden feature

g Using the Move brush and

Clip Curve to adjust vertices at a low-poly stage

50 3D Art & Design


06 Split the model

Currently our new geometry is combined with the original sculpt. We want to split this mesh into its own SubTool so that we can easily control it in the later steps. To do this, simply hide either the sculpt geometry or the new Topology mesh and open up the Split sub-menu inside the SubTool menu. Notice now that there are hidden meshes, Split Hidden becomes active. This is a new feature in ZBrush 4R4. By pressing this button, anything hidden will be split into a new SubTool. Be careful you aren’t splitting any of the new geometry apart f.


07 Work with low geometry

At this stage it’s really easy to manipulate the geometry to be exactly how we want it. To move vertices around, we use the Move brush. By turning its brush size down to 1, we’ll be able to move only one vert at a time. This is extremely useful, as this way you don’t accidentally move other vertices around it. The brush size is very similar to a soft selection in a program like 3ds Max. You can also quickly clean up these faces by using the Clip Curve tool to manipulate multiple vertices along the same plane g.

Design striking characters 08 Edge creasing

Edge Crease is ZBrush’s way of managing smoothing groups. A crease defines a hard edge, so even when you subdivide your mesh with Smt turned on, those edges will remain hard. Open the Crease drop-down under the Geometry sub-menu, located in the Tool menu. To quickly crease the object, click Crease All. You can also control your creasing by hiding certain parts of the mesh and clicking Crease or Uncrease. This is an easy way to keep areas rigid, without sculpting them manually later h.

Pro tips for helmet design Here we have my three-step workflow solution for great helmet designs. This is a simplified version of the character tutorial, showing you how you can take the same steps and apply them to a simple object or prop to enhance your character creations

Concept with DynaMesh H

To begin, I simply append a sphere into my tool to act as the helmet. I move it into place on the character’s head and turn DynaMesh on. Because of its size in space you may need to turn the resolution of DynaMesh up to get the information you need. We still want to keep it as low as we can, because we only want to capture the general shapes. Just like the body armour, I use brushes like HPolish, Clay Buildup and Dam_Standard to define the design.


09 Edge looping

For this step, we’re going to use the outer PolyGroups to create additional Edge Loops on the model for some mechanical details. By hiding the outer and inner shells, we are left with the side PolyGroups. Once they are hidden, open the Edge Loop drop-down in the Geometry sub-menu and click the Edge Loop button. By default it will create four additional loops and PolyGroups. You can adjust this with the Loops slider. Now we have new PolyGroups to mask with. You can inflate them using the Deformation menu or your brushes i.

DynaMesh with Groups

I turn Groups on in the DynaMesh drop-down menu so I can add more meshes without fear of DynaMesh fusing them together. This is a really powerful way to stay organised in your SubTool palette, by keeping things together with PolyGroups, without sacrificing the freedom of DynaMesh. I apply some additional shapes using Mesh Insert primitives, like the cylinder and the cube, then cut them into shape with Clip Curve.

Finish up


10 Clean up the mesh

We’ve now defined our mesh with additional Edge Loops, then creased and finessed it into place with the Move brush and Clip Curve tool. Next we’ll start subdividing our mesh and smoothing some of the details out. You may notice some of the creasing afecting areas you don’t want it to, or that areas are just too crisp and jagged-looking. Divide your mesh more so that the Smoothing brush will have a smaller impact on your geometry. Begin brushing some of these imperfections out to make a clean surface without destroying the form j.

Once we’re happy with the design and the overall shapes we can commit to it. Turn DynaMesh of, and begin subdividing the mesh if we need to. I will now add detail with the usual sculpting brushes, as well as alphas. This is also a good time to use some of our other Insert Mesh objects to add more technical details, like plugs and straps. h A combination of i Edge Loops are Crease and Uncrease when hiding areas to get hard edges

used to create great additional detail in your base mesh

j A subdivided

mesh will enable you to iron things out without losing the overall shape 3D Art & Design



Add some detail Sculpt the small pieces to bring everything to life

11 Mesh Insert objects

We now have all of our meshes, complete with subdivisions and creasing. They are finally ready for some additional details, so we will now go through each SubTool one at a time to add any Mesh Insert objects that they need. Things like rivets, straps, buckles and plugs are perfect candidates for this step. First you will want to duplicate the surface that needs these Insert Meshes and delete its subdivisions. This will act as a temporary surface to place your objects on. When you are done, simply delete using Delete Hidden in the Modify Topology drop-down under Geometry k.


12 Mechanical creasing

With our smaller objects in place as a separate SubTool, we can go back to our larger shapes and begin sculpting some mechanical edges and details. For this step we’ll use brushes like Dam_Standard once again, and the Pinch brush to create clean cuts. To better control your brushwork you can turn on the Lazy Mouse feature in the Stroke menu. This will then average your hand movements out, making the detail come out much smoother. You can adjust the efect of Lazy Mouse by turning up the Lazy Radius slider l.


The little things Using DynaMesh and Transpose modelling techniques, I’ve created some custom Insert brushes (supplied with this tutorial). By staying in Orthographic mode, you can easily manipulate vertices and cut through your DynaMesh objects with precision. With this tutorial you will find an Insert Multi Mesh of unique bags, as well as buckles. These assets can be used on just about anything, complete with PolyGroups for further customisation to better suit your needs. I’ve used these objects on the character, along with some existing Insert Meshes like the IMM_Zipper to add further interest and detail to the character. k Create duplicates of the

SubTools using Insert Meshes as placeholders to draw on without subdivisions

l Use brushes with Lazy

Mouse to create smooth and even strokes

m Dragging out alphas onto

the surface to create subtle mechanical details

52 3D Art & Design

13 Use alphas

Having a large collection of alphas at the ready is a must for any digital sculptor. If you don’t have any at hand, you can grab a bunch from the Pixologic Download Center ( zbrush/downloadcenter), or you can create your own. It’s best to create a unique look with your own alphas, but there are plenty out there to choose from. Here we’re using the Standard brush, with DragRect as our stroke. This enables us to drag out the details we want in a very precise way m.


Design striking characters

Finishing touches

Wrap up the character for its final presentation

14 PolyPaint with Masking

To add some colour, start by turning ZAdd or ZSub of from your brush and turn on RGB. Once you have filled your mesh with a colour, by either painting it or going to the Color menu and clicking Fill Object, you can then add some more interest to the PolyPaint through masking. Open your Masking sub-menu under Tool and cycle through the diferent types. You can invert these to afect other areas of the mesh. Use Mask By Smoothness to pop details n.

4 8 hours crea

tion tim Resolution e 1,252 x 2,016: pixels

15 Custom materials

As the artist you can use any combination of materials or MatCaps that you want. In this case, we’ll stick to using SkinShade04 from the Material list. Make slight modifications for rubber, metal, cloth and skin materials. The primary slider that we’ll adjust is the Specular slider, and the Specular curve. The general rule of thumb is if the slider goes down, then the curve will be more towards the centre, making the speculartiy more subtle and broader. Also play with the Wax Modifier for each material to suit o.



16 Pose your character

Using Transpose Master we can move all of our SubTools at the same time. By clicking TPose Mesh in the Transpose plug-in under the ZPlugin menu, all of the SubTools are merged at their lowest resolution to be adjusted together. This is why it can be really helpful to have low-poly base meshes. Through Masking and Transpose rotations you can pose your character. When finished, click TPose to SubT to transfer the pose to the high-poly model. With Layer turned on before transferring the pose back, the new changes will be applied as layers on all your SubTools p.

17 Rendering and presentation

For the final presentation, take advantage of all the BPR filters to pull out the best in your work. Some of the most applicable include Sharpen, Orton and Blur. Each filter has settings that will change which part of the image it will afect. Blur works best with its depth sliders tuned to simulate lens efects. It’s good to use Orton to brighten the lighting, excluding the shadows to create more contrast. With some careful adjustments to the filters, and some additional efects in Photoshop like Render Lighting and Curves, you can finish your piece of in a really professional way q. n Mask by Smoothness, and

Mask Peaks and Valleys to fill the unmasked areas with colour

Light with LightCaps LightCaps are a great way to control your lighting. You can also use them to capture and render new lights from an HDR image by loading them into the Background sub-menu under the Light menu and clicking the LightCaps button. I try to keep it as simple as possible and will use ZBrush’s default light with one LightCap. This LightCap will usually be backlighting, with blue colouration and shadows turned of.


o Fill your meshes with your

material using Color: Fill with M turned on your brush

p Using the Transpose Master plug-in with the Layers option turned on will enable flexibility

q BPR Filters and Photoshop Q

compositing can be used to enhance your renders

3D Art & Design



Design and create an exosuit Cricket Exo-Suit 2012

Explore the 3D and post-production workow of this mechanical design, based on the aesthetic of the Roach Exo-Suit concept Matthew Burke is a senior concept artist at id Software based in Richardson, Texas

Download outdoor furniture models by going to http://

Software used in this piece 3ds Max

54 3D Art & Design


Artist info

3D artists explain the techniques behind their amazing artwork

Matthew Burke Username: MBurke Personal portfolio site Country Texas, USA Software used 3ds Max, Photoshop Expertise Matt specialises in mechanical design and hard-surface modelling

3D Art & Design



Concept I was asked to create a new exosuit to show my workflow when designing mechs in my Exosuit series. So my goal with this image is to apply similar elements and style to one of my other concepts: Roach Exo-Suit.


his tutorial will illustrate my personal process of concept design, using only the tools inside 3ds Max and Photoshop to create a mech exosuit model. Throughout this tutorial you may find yourself asking ‘Why didn’t he just do that?’, ‘Wouldn’t it make more sense to do this instead?’ Well, gentle reader, if this proves to be the case, I recommend listening to your gut and following your instincts. My technique is a rat’s nest of online tutorials, a jumble of advice from my peers, added to hours of desperate frustration. You don’t need to travel in my exact path, but perhaps you’ll find a kernel or two of wisdom from my unconventional experience. At the very least I hope you’ll pull out a few tricks to apply to your own workflow. Essentially we will be tackling my personal favourite subject: designing a mech. We’ll start with the rough-poly concept, move to detailing the model, apply some mental ray shaders, then tackle our lighting. From this point I’ll be able to walk you through my post-production process in Photoshop and, with any luck, we’ll end up with a killer concept. So let’s get started!

Explore your ideas Let’s kick things off with the concept


The essence of low-poly designs

First of all we need a rough foundation, so we’ll create a low-poly block-out of the mech design. However, before your pencil hits the paper, or you move a single polygon, you need to establish a general theme or idea to work from. Are we creating a lumbering, impregnable war machine or a nimble and agile mech? Is it fully automated or manned? How futuristic do we want to go? This example is a quadruped mech with some motorcycle overtones that would be able to climb rough terrain and fire on enemies from miles away, since it’s not overly armoured A. a Quickly rough out a low-poly concept to lay the foundations of


your design

Matthew Burke

Matthew grew up in an incredibly small town in Iowa. Desperate for entertainment and a job outside of the agricultural industry, he turned to a career in art. After college he managed to land himself a concept artist role at a small studio and he has been successfully avoiding farming for 12 years now.

56 3D Art & Design

Roach Exosuit 3ds Max, Photoshop (2012)

A manned combat exosuit designed to leap great distances and release an arsenal of weaponry on enemies. Here it’s shown in an inactive stance

Roach Exosuit 3ds Max, Photoshop (2012)

Here the same combat exosuit is presented in an action pose to showcase his arsenal of weapons and help get the idea of the mean machine across

Design and create an exosuit 02

Base materials and shaders

Convert your model to mental.ray.daylighting in your renderer presets and then create three to five base materials for your model. First, convert your standard materials to mental ray Arch and Design materials. Then apply an appropriate template for the aesthetic you are looking for: dark, dull metal; reflective, coloured metal; white metallic; chrome or coloured striping – you can always add more further down the line. For my base brown reflective material I have chosen to go with a Brushed Metal template with the Reflectivity at 0.9 and Glossiness at 0.86. Don’t forget to turn on the Round Corners option in the Special Efects category b.


Lighting base

Now we need to create a mental ray Daylight System under Lights. After applying a generous ground compass, angle the DaylightAssemblyHead towards an area of interest on your mech. This will be adjusted later, but it will serve our purposes for test renders during our concept’s development. If you know the environment your mech will appear in, you may want to adjust the ground colour accordingly under the mr Sky Parameters as well c.

Balance form with function As we start defining our design, keep in mind that a healthy balance of form and function is needed to inspire the imagination. To begin, I take one of the predominate shapes from the rough geometry and start working on its general shape. In this case I decide to begin with the contoured head of the mech. Focusing only on the form, I usually start a fresh piece of geometry and shape it into the general direction of the concept. Once I have a solution, I apply a TurboSmooth filter to iron it out. Next I place an FFD (box) over the piece and, using the control points, begin to mould the object into something bold – but completely undetailed. From here I repeat another shape that I will lay over the original rough and form something that supports an interesting design. Now I have something with potential, I need to balance the form with some function. This means detailing parts and objects with a clearly defined purpose. c

b b Establish your material

foundations using mental ray settings and options in 3ds Max

c Apply your settings in

the mental ray Daylight System to capture an initial lighting setup

Sphinx Infestation Vehicle 3ds Max, Photoshop (2011)

Here we have a mighty, interplanetary, pest-control vehicle that has been designed to exterminate alien enemies of all shapes and sizes

3D Art & Design



Finalise the design We can now finish the design and render out passes for post-production


Detail the ugly geometry

We’ve finally got to the part where we don’t need to be embarrassed if someone looks over our shoulder, so let’s detail the geometry! This is easily my favourite part of the process and where the concept really starts to develop. The most important things to keep in mind throughout this process is positive and negative space, and detail pacing. We want our silhouette to read clearly, and elements from the foreground, middleground and background to be easily readable. When detailing, remember to let the viewer’s eyes rest in spots, keeping in mind that adding details without purpose quickly kills a composition. You want large areas of simplicity with small, intricate details in small pockets. In this case, our armoured casing is the rest area and the mechanical functionality is the detail d.

Complementary details The trick to successful detailing and design is guiding where and when the viewer’s eyes will travel in the piece. Regardless of whether it’s an epic environment painting, a character, or even a simple prop asset, having a clear read on the image’s flow is often an overlooked step. Breaking a design into both form and function will help its readability; however, spacing the detail out in breathable areas is just as important. Complement the existing shapes and define a synchronised rhythm that enables a smooth transition from one area to the next. Here I’ve tried to complement the rounded shapes of the mech’s top with the contours of the driver’s back. Move down to the large, circular shape in the centre of the design, then to the curved, moulded armour. To illustrate this even further, in each of these forms there are additional shapes

adjacent to them that suit their form. The hull on the top has an inset shape that conforms to the driver’s shoulder. The operator’s curves are mimicked in an almost mirror-like reflection in the padding shape under him. The large, circular engine has suitable forward-facing plating and the bottom piece is arched upwards to ease the viewer’s eyes back into the composition.

d Define forms and

functionality in your mech concept

e Our final geometry

with shader materials and an initial lighting setup in place

f Diferent passes at material renders

g Layer your render passes in Photoshop

h You can show of your d

details with the Poster Edges Filter



Conclude the geometry

The hardest part of this step is realising when enough is enough. Deciding what can be left for Photoshop, what to define and what is necessary to model is the diference between hitting a deadline or working long hours at the weekend. Have you noticed that our character model hasn’t changed since the beginning of the tutorial? Photoshop will be able to handle this easily. At this stage we should have nice, unfaceted geometry and our shaders should all be applied to the appropriate areas. Once our lighting is finalised, we can pump out a big render and save the image as a 32-bit TGA file e.

58 3D Art & Design

Design and create an exosuit

Rendering & post-production Render out the design and bring it to life in Photoshop!


Make your render passes

From our fixed camera angle we will be rendering several diferent versions of our model. Aside from our original final geometry model, we will be rendering a base grey, a shiny reflective, a dark-grey matte and a bare difuse colour pass. These will be layered on top of one another in Photoshop to give us control of all the aspects of our concept f.


Layer in Photoshop


Import all the TGA files into Photoshop and use Channels to select the ground plane with the shadow on its own layer. Render the TGAs into the scene and remove the mech from the background. Order your layers as follows: grey background; ground layer with shadow in layer one; the original fully coloured render in layer two; layer three is your shiny reflective with 100% Opacity in the Overlay option; next it’s the dark matte for layer four at 35% in the Multiply option; and layer five is the shiny reflective again, but at 37% with the Pin Light option. Open the Difuse layer on top and separate each colour into individual layers g.




Make those details pop

After adjusting all the layers to something that feels like a good starting point, grab only the mech in Photoshop and hit Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+C to bring all the layers into one layer. Once this is pasted into the top layer, go to your Filters tab and open Poster Edges in the Artistic channel. Change the Edge Thickness to 0 or 1, the Edge Intensity to 1 and the Posterization all the way to 6. Once these settings are applied, your details and line work will be far more pronounced. You may want to lower the Opacity on the layer to around 20-30%, so it doesn’t overpower the image h.

Render setup tips To begin, change your render presets to mental. and load the default settings – make sure that all your mr Arch and Design materials are assigned to their selections. Create a Daylight System light in your scene, drag the compass out to cover the entire area, and then drag again to build the sun. Go to your Common tab in the render setup and switch your Output Size to HDTV (video). Start small for your test draft renders but go large for final renders. Go to Environment under the Rendering tab and change your Environment map to mr Physical Sky. Make sure your Exposure Control is on Photographic Exposure Control. Below that is the mr Photographic Exposure control, where you can switch the preset to Outdoor Lighting, Clear Sky. Throw up a quick Render Preview under the Exposure Control tab and adjust the Exposure

value to an appropriate setting. Under Image Control, adjust your highlights to a low setting – here I have set it at 0.02 – and tweak your shadows to a level that isn’t overpowering (I chose to apply 0.79). You’ll want to toggle through your Midtones until you find a realistic value for your render (1.27, for me). Select your Daylight in the scene and change the Position to Date, Time and Location. Hit the Setup button followed by the Get Location button. Here we have a choice of locations all over the world: time of day and month of the year. This is a fantastic tool that, with some time-consuming experimentation, can give you fantastic results. In my render I have decided to go with Seattle, Washington. This opens up the Control Parameters file and under Time I have chosen to go with Hours at 15 and Month at 1 (choose your own settings and adjust the hours to have control

over your shadows and highlights, though). Now go back to your Daylight Parameters, change your Sunlight to mr Sun and your Skylight to mr Sky. Finally, we can now adjust the ground colour to a low, saturated value. Be sure to hit Final Gather in your renderer. Now you can simply adjust the previous settings.

3D Art & Design


Character 09

Material overlays in Photoshop

Using your Difuse colour levels that have been separated into layers, you can apply a large photo material to each layer, giving it a new level of believability. Apply a low-level metal texture to appropriate areas, then scratches and dents in others. Adjust the levels and opacity of the layer until they are just right and you can barely even notice they’re on the model. I get all of my photo reference from – it’s a resource that I can’t recommend enough. Apply warning stickers, logos and even overlay some mechanical photos on areas that need some additional definition i.

Wireframe render tips for mental ray

There are a couple of ways you can create awesome-looking wireframes of your models to help spruce up your portfolio


Original mental ray render

3 0 + hours cre


ation t

Resolutio ime 9,722 x 5,4 n: 6 pixels 9


Polish to perfection

The concept is close to being wrapped up at this stage, so pick a complementary palette for the background that highlights and doesn’t distract from the mech. Add some atmosphere and shadows to help push and pull the elements, then as a final stage add a blue-green Overlay layer at 25% Opacity over the top of the piece. This will help unify all the colours. Flatten the image then play with the Levels, Color Balance and throw in an additional Sharpen filter if needed j.

i You can help define a

material’s qualities with photo overlays

j The final concept

complete with postproduction edits

60 3D Art & Design

Technique 1 Technique 2 finds hosts many wonderfully high-quality textures that can help you add detail to your artworks. Here is a selection of images that Matthew finds useful when bringing his exosuits to life!

TECHNIQUE 1: The first technique is incredibly simple:

just select a Standard material of your choosing and apply it to the entire model. Under Shader Basic Parameters check the Wire and 2-Sided boxes. Then, in the Extended Parameters channel, adjust the thickness of your wire to your preference. A friendly warning: this is extremely taxing on most computers so try to apply it to your model just prior to your render.

TECHNIQUE 2: The alternative method just requires a

few additional steps. Select a material and change it from a Standard to a Composite shader. The preset setting for the base material is a Standard material and its colour will define your mass area in the render. In this case I’ve changed its Difuse to a solid white colour. Go back to your original parent group and select your Material #1, just below the Base Material. Click on the Channel box and keep it a Standard material. This material will define the Wireframe Overlay. In this example I have used a solid black in the Difuse colour. Next, check the Wire selection and then down below in the Extended Parameters channel adjust the thickness of your wire. For this teapot I have it set at 3.

Artist info


Maciej Kuciara

This concept designer has recently worked on Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us videogame Personal portfolio site Country USA Software used ZBrush, Photoshop

Work in progress…

[I created this] Alien head concept to practise and learn the basics of sculpting and rendering passes in ZBrush, with the ultimate goal to use this software in film and videogame production. Having a 3D sculpt allows [you] to assess your design problem areas much quicker than with a Maciej Kuciara, Alien, 2012 standard 2D paint or sketch 3D Art & Design



Software used in this piece ZBrush


Concept The idea behind this illustration is to create a unique fantasy character – I’ve decided to concept a female spirit of a tree. I want to achieve a very sculptural, stylised look to the image, inspired greatly by ancient Greek mythological character sculptures.

62 ●3D3DArtist Art & Design

Sculpt folds and fabrics

Sculpt folds and fabrics

Dryad – Spirit of a Tree 2012 The goal of this image was to create a stylised, sculptural, fantasy character with a focus on showcasing the dress folds, the hair and the tree branches in the design and creation process

Andrzej Kuziola is a freelance illustrator and 3D artist – and he loves it! Besides illustration and 3D work, he also writes tutorials and training material for artists


n this tutorial we will explain the design and creation process of a fantasy character showcasing the features in ZBrush. We’ll explore various ZBrush tools and show how helpful they are to visualise ideas and achieve great efects. ZBrush gives the freedom of creation in any workflow, enabling you to experiment and visualise ideas.

Artist info

3D artists explain the techniques behind their amazing artwork

Andrzej Kuziola Username: ak666

This tutorial will explain how to design and create a character from scratch, showing important considerations along the way while explaining the workflow and various techniques used. We will focus mainly on sculpting the fabric of the dress, the character’s hair and some stylised tree branches to finish.

Personal portfolio site Country Scotland Software used ZBrush, Photoshop Expertise Andrzej specialises mainly in character creation, from concept to render, and detailed 3D model creation

Create the body with ZSpheres Let’s begin by creating the character in a neutral pose

03 Detail the face

Pay the most attention to the face design, especially the eyes and lips. Switch the model to a high subdivision level, then sketch the shape of the eyes and the lips with the Pinch brush. Create eye sockets with the Clay brush and shape an interior with the Smooth brush. To sharpen eyelid edges use the Pinch brush with a very small Draw Size. To create eyeballs, append a sphere as a SubTool, adjust its size, position and then mirror it to the second eye socket. With the character base mesh active, use the ZProject brush on the eyeballs. Thanks to that we’ve now got spheres projected into the eye sockets, so we are able to delete the eye SubTools C. A When working with ZSpheres you can preview Adaptive Skin by pressing the A key



B Block in the main muscle masses and establish the character’s proportions

Establish your base mesh Using ZSpheres, create an

initial armature and block in the shape of the character. In these early stages we won’t draw ZSpheres in place of the eyes and mouth. Primarily, we’ll focus on proportions, as this will give us more design freedom in the later stages. When happy with the result, change the rig to Adaptive Skin, then press the Make Polymesh3D button A.


C Use Slash 1 and Clay brushes to add details to the lower lip

Why model the whole body?

Sculpt the body Modify the shape of the mesh with

the Move Topological brush and start defining masses with the Clay, Clay Tubes, Simple and Smooth brushes. Work gradually from the lower subdivisions to the higher levels, subdividing the mesh when necessary and trying to get as much detail as possible on the lower polygon densities. Focus mainly on the head and hands, because the rest of the body will be covered with clothes. As we’re going to create a stylised character, change proportions by exaggerating the head and elongating the limbs. Do this with the Transpose tool and the Move Topological brush B.



I’ve chosen to create whole body anatomy – even though most of it will be covered with cloth – for two reasons. The first is so I can reuse the model in my future projects. Keeping a repository of base meshes and models gives a huge advantage when a deadline is short and you don’t have enough time to create something from scratch. The second reason for creating the whole body is that the clothing process is much easier with body armature underneath. Besides these, it’s always good to practise sculpting human anatomy when you have the opportunity. 3D Art & Design



Design and composition Establish composition and block general forms for further development

04Pose the character

Pose the character with the Transpose tool and then fix deformations with the Move Topology, Clay and Smooth brushes. In this case it’s not necessary to adjust body distortions in some areas due to the fact that they will be covered with a dress, but here we’ve done it for the purpose of the tutorial. We want to create a neutral, balanced and relaxed pose. This is a framework for the cloth anchor points and will help us establish interactions between the body and the clothes D.

05 Create the base of the dress


To create a base for a dress we’re going to use DynaMesh. As a starting point we want a mesh that matches the shape of the legs as much as possible. This will help us establish interaction between the fabric and the body later. To do so, first duplicate the character, then extract the bottom part of the mesh by partially hiding it with Cmd/Ctrl+Shift, the Delete Hidden and Close Holes options. Convert it to DynaMesh and start reshaping it with the Move Elastic brush. For smaller areas, use the Move Topological brush. Also start to use the Standard brush with a large Draw Size to sketch the direction of the folds E.


06 Refine the dress

Principles of good design There are a few golden rules that you need to follow if you want to create a really impressive illustration. First of all you need an interesting focal point to pull in the viewer’s eye. You also need to design and place elements in your image in such a way that the viewer’s eye will flow around the various details. Creating rhythm and variety in your image to keep it balanced is important. Always think about positive and negative space, and also about the relationship of light and dark.

Activate the DynaMesh function by clicking its button. This creates a new uniform topology with the density defined by the Resolution slider. Make sure you always start with a lower resolution and then adjust it to achieve the desired result. Each time polygons become stretched after adjustments to the mesh, recalculate DynaMesh by hitting the Cmd/Ctrl key and then dragging the cursor onto an empty canvas F. D Use the body as a framework for cloth anchor points E Start shaping the dress with the Move Elastic brush F Always start with a lower resolution and then adjust it to achieve the desired result


Andrzej Kuziola

Andrzej is a self-taught digital artist who is currently based in Scotland. He originally qualified in dentistry, but decided to give it all up for a career as a freelance illustrator and 3D artist. Z Brush, CINEMA 4D and Photoshop are now his daily tools to help him create realms that would otherwise exist only in his mind.

64 3D Art & Design

Wild at Heart ZBrush, Photoshop (2012)

This illustration is inspired by a woman blessed with a truly wild heart and a passion for nature. It’s a very personal image, packed with symbolism

Tattoo Goddess ZBrush, Photoshop (2011)

A T-shirt design created for Rock’n’roll Tattoo and Piercing studios in Scotland. The image was also published in EXPOSÉ 10 by Ballistic Publishing

Sculpt folds and fabrics 07 Move to the top

To create the top of the dress we’ll use DynaMesh again, but in a slightly diferent way than previously. Mask the area that you want to use for a new SubTool. Go to SubTool>Extract, adjust Thickness and choose Accept Extraction. This is a good way to create a mesh around a complex shape. Now start to reshape a new mesh, using the Move Elastic, Move Topological and Standard brushes to add volume and block large folds. Remember that DynaMesh needs some thickness. When you get artefacts after re-calculation, undo the action and work on the area with the Inflate brush G.

08 Design the tree

Create a curved tree trunk with ZSpheres, adjust its shape with the Move Elastic brush, then transfer it to DynaMesh and start adding branches with the Curve Multi Tube brush. This is a great tool for elongated, tentacle-like structures. Re-calculate the mesh often and also use the Inflate, Smooth, Move Topological and SnakeHook brushes. This sketch-like workflow is a good way to create designs and develop ideas straight in 3D without an initial sketch H.



09 Create the background

Now we’ll add a background that will play two roles. First it will show the final image proportions that will consequently help establish an efective composition. We’re also going to use the background plane as a basis for the hair – but first we need to add some dimensionality to it. Use the Move Elastic brush to create a recess behind the character, then move a part behind the head towards it and the bottom edge towards the viewer to create some ground. After that, sculpt the whole plane with the Clay Tubes brush, then equalise it roughly with the TrimDynamic brush and Morph Target I.


10 Sculpt the hair

Now we can start sculpting the hair with a modified Slash 2 brush. Sculpt the hair strands with loose and smooth strokes on a separate layer. Our goal is to create an efect of hair filling the background and turning into it. We also want the hair to be tangled with the branches. At the end, decrease the layer’s intensity and gradually work with the Morph brush to create a smooth transition between the strands and the background material. For the loose hair strands, append a sphere and move it to the head area, also using the DynaMesh and Curve Multi Tube brushes. After that, flatten the strands with the TrimDynamic brush and finish with the Standard brush with Alpha 38 and Lazy Mouse options turned on J. G Remember that DynaMesh needs some thickness H The Curve Multi Tube brush is a great tool for elongated, tentacle-like structures I Open a new document with the dimensions of the final illustration and then use Transpose tools to adjust its size to the dimensions of the canvas

The Discreet Charm of the Butapren ZBrush, Photoshop (2012)

Andrzej says: “Butapren causes brain damage; bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism”

J You can find the Slash 2 brush in Light Box>Slash Brushes

J 3D Art & Design



Add the fine details

Create a winding tree and realistic cloth elements

11 Detail the tree

Go back to the tree and develop it further. Use the Curve Multi Tube brush to add roots and vine-like structures. The Draw Size determines the diameter of tubes created by the brush, so work here with a smaller size. When a tube is painted you can adjust its location and shape. It’s possible to draw multiple tubes at once but it’s handy to update DynaMesh after each added tube. Also increase the DynaMesh Density to keep all the new details. When you’re happy with the form of the tree, quit DynaMesh and start detailing with the Clay, Clay Tubes, TrimDynamic and Dam_Standard brushes K.



Crinkle and fold effects To create believable wrinkles or folds you need to keep in mind a few factors such as the interactions of folds and the forces generating wrinkles like kinetic energy and gravity. You need to know where to place anchor points – areas of retention on a body – where wrinkle systems will originate. I highly recommend the book Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery by Burne Hogarth, where you can find all this information. It’s also a useful source for great references. K Increase the DynaMesh Density to keep all the new details L Increase LazySmooth, LazyRadius and adjust LazyStep for smoother results M Use Alpha 38 for finer wrinkles

66 3D Art & Design


12 Add some wrinkles

Start sculpting wrinkles and folds on the bottom part of the dress. Begin working with the Standard brush without any Alpha loaded and with Lazy Mouse mode turned on. Begin to add volume with the Inflate brush, using it lightly with low pressure. Also adjust the brush’s Gravity Strength and start using Alpha 38 for the finer wrinkles. Work with smooth, loose brush movements, relying on your own intuition and experience. During this process, smooth and sculpt again until you get the shapes you want. You can also switch between ZAdd and ZSub modes L.

13 Refine the curls

Now move to the top part of the sculpt. Initially the workflow and brushes are the same as in the previous part, so create some horizontal folds with the Standard brush. Mainly use Alpha 38 here and turn Gravity on and of in the Brush>Depth menu to check your work. To create vertical patterns, use the Clay brush and then develop it further with the same Slash 2 brush used earlier. Refine the shape of the curls with the Move Topological brush and add some more volume to the horizontal folds using the Inflate brush M.

Sculpt folds and fabrics

Finishing touches

Finalise the model and render it for illustration N

24hours cr

eation tim e

Resolution 3,480 x 4,40 : 8

14 Complete the dress

Add more volume to the folds with the Inflate brush and pull down some parts that are lacking in gravity. Fine-tune the creases with the Standard brush and Alpha 38, then use the same brush with a very small Draw Size to add some texture to the fabric. Work with diferent Gravity settings and adjust interactions between the wrinkles. See how they react to kinetic and gravity forces and then tweak the overall flow N.




15 Facial expression

Our goal is to show that our Dryad enjoys the presence of a tree (she’s the spirit of a tree, remember). To change her neutral facial expression to something with more character, firstly re-sculpt her eye a little to a half-closed, sleepy shape. Mask the lower lid and lower half of the eyeball with the Layer brush and then work on upper parts of the eye with the Clay brush. When the upper eyelid is lower, use the TrimAdaptive and Smooth brushes to create the correct curvature of the lid. To finish, use the Pinch brush to sharpen the edge. To create an elusive smile, decrease the model’s subdivision and use the Move Topological brush to move the corners of her mouth slightly O.

16 Apply materials

I’m going to re-create materials from a similar, older illustration. Before we start sampling information we need to prepare our tools. Choose a Plane primitive, convert it to Polymesh3D, draw it on the canvas and enter Edit Object mode. Choose a Flat Color material, then in the Texture menu import an image to sample information from and add it as a texture to the Plane. Drop it on the canvas and choose a sphere – an object to check the new material. Draw it on the canvas in Edit mode beside the Plane and choose MatCap White Cavity material from the ZBrush library. Pick the MatCap tool and start sampling from the illustration reference. Click the image and drag the cursor until a red arrow points outwards. Repeat this several times, bearing in mind the direction of the facing surfaces. When happy with the colour, hit Cmd/Ctrl and start grabbing the highlighted areas. Doing this we can create specular highlights P.

17 Create illustration

Use Best Preview Render to render the image in a few separate passes: diferent MatCap materials, Ambient Occlusion and Shadow from one main light source. Fill each SubTool with a diferent colour and render it with a Flat Color material – it will be the mask for easy separation of each SubTool for post-production. In Photoshop, apply a layer mask to each rendered MatCap layer and experiment with diferent material configurations. To finish the illustration, import a Shadow pass and Ambient Occlusion and set them to a Multiply blending mode with customised opacity Q.

Practice makes perfect At the beginning, without knowledge of fabric dynamics, it is very difcult to sculpt believable folds. I recommend studying as many references as possible, observing diferent kinds of clothes, studying sculpture works – even taking photos of varied fabrics in diferent configurations and then trying to re-create them digitally. The more you practise, the more believable your efects will be. When you understand folds you can create any fabric without relying on references. It’s vital not to focus on one area at a time; first establish larger folds, their direction and placement, and keep in mind fabric qualities and gravitational forces.

N Be sure to check the flow of the folds looks realistic O The Layer brush is best for masking due to its handy pre-loaded Alpha P Use the Wax Modifier for a translucent efect Q Render the images for illustration with Best Preview Render and the highest Antialiasing Quality

3D Art & Design



Create a mythical beast Fauno


In this step-by-step guide I will offer an insight into my workflow for the Luiz Alves is a freelance 3D artist based in Brazil personal illustration Fauno


ntrigued by mythical creatures, I decided to create one as a personal 3D project. Over the next six pages I hope to share some of the techniques I used to produce this fictitious beast. For those who may be unfamiliar with this creature, the faun is a man with goat’s horns, ears, tail and legs referred

to in Roman mythology and elsewhere. The subject presented a great challenge to me as an artist because there were many diferent elements to incorporate into one body. I used 3ds Max, ZBrush, Photoshop and V-Ray to tackle the task at hand, the techniques of which I’ll reveal over the next few pages.

Modelling Texturing Lighting

Initial concepts From rough ideas to designing the model B


01 Seek inspiration

First search for appropriate reference material to establish the exact tone and style of what it is you would like to create. Since the faun is made up of limbs from both man and beast, it’s a good idea to find plenty of images of each to familiarise yourself with the diferences in anatomy A.

68 3D Art & Design

02 Build the base mesh

Now I have an idea of what I would like to create, it’s time to produce the base mesh. I tackle this by starting with the face first, poly by poly. By drawing the basic face loops and following the appropriate flow, it prevents any strange deformations in the geometry B.


03 A question of curves

Once I have a basic shape I move on to refining the geometry. I made the ears with a basic primitive out of the head and horns. Meanwhile, the curvature of the horns was built with a simple spline – it was already the shape I wanted and was then converted into polys C.

Create a mythical beast

Artist info

3D artists explain the techniques behind their amazing artwork

Luiz Alves

Personal portfolio site Country Brazil Software used 3ds Max, ZBrush, Photoshop, V-Ray Expertise Luiz is a freelance 3D generalist currently based in Brazil

Software used in this piece 3ds Max




3D Art & Design



Build features

Progress the character’s design

05 Produce the peepers

04 Shape geometry

With the head modelling finished, I move onto the bust creation. I start with a simple box, adding some loops and making adjustments where necessary to create a humanoid shape. Once I’m happy, and the geometry is taken care of, I move the arms down to facilitate the rig process and minimise deformation during the posing D.



Since the faun is a blend of man and beast, I wanted the eyes to reflect that. I decided to produce a variation of a human eye and a goat eye. To do this I made a little deformation in the eye to look like a goat and added an FFD modifier to align the eyes in the face. When making realistic eyes, it’s necessary to have two meshes – one for basic colours and the other to make a liquid efect. It works well to produce the Reflection and Refraction on the eyes E.


06 Move on to maps

With my basic mesh finished, it’s now time for UV mapping. I organise the UV maps and use the chequered map to indicate whether there is any deformation. In order to economise the space in the UV area, I organise them into groups of similar sizes f.

h g

07 Sculpt stage

After modelling and mapping the base mesh, I export the OBJ file to ZBrush. Before I start sculpting, I always check to see if the UVs are correct with the UV Check tool in the Texture Map panel. This way it guarantees I won’t have any map-related problems g.

70 3D Art & Design

08 Use the brushes

Once I have subdivided my model to five levels, I begin sculpting the volumes and details with ZBrush’s basic brushes (Standard, Flatten, Smooth and so on). I use alphas to create details such as creases, scratches, deformation and asymmetrical small details h.

Create a mythical beast

Lighting and polypainting Apply realism to your model i


09 Return to 3ds Max

Now I have finished the sculpting stage, I export the displace and normal maps created in ZBrush back into 3ds Max. Once there, I use the Displace modifier with TurboSmooth to apply the maps to the model. To test the maps, apply a simple V-Ray shader with one VRayLight to check the model over i.

Challenges with the project Certainly the greatest challenge I faced during the faun’s creation was the hair – it was tricky to both make and render it. Lighting also took quite a bit of efort, since I needed to test diferent configurations of setups and rendering specific to him (he didn’t work well with V-Ray). As a result, this had a knock-on efect in the postproduction stage where I had to composite the two elements to produce a seamless integration of the two. It was tricky, especially considering both had diferent lighting setups and so on. Despite the difculties, I learned a lot from my experimentation with these processes and hopefully, with the help of this tutorial, you can too.

Since the faun itself is a blend of man and beast, I wanted the eyes to reflect that. I decided to produce a variation of a human eye and a goat eye j

10 Strike a pose

Rigging and skin is next on the list. I make a basic bone structure and apply the skin modifier to control the mesh. This means I can pose the faun and tweak the position of the camera j.


11 Illuminative advice

I decided to stick to a very simple light setup for this illustration. I tested my light using a basic V-Ray shader in grey and also added an infinite background, similar to what’s used in photographic studios. Two lights were present: one yellow on the head with more intensity and on the right-hand side of the character a blue, less-intense one k.


12 Paint the character

Now the lighting is sorted, I head back to ZBrush to paint the colour map and create a cavity map. I use the Polypaint tool to paint my basic channel of colour map, mixing a large number of alphas I’ve created with skin variations and false shadows to raise areas on the body. I use the cavity map with the colour map to gain more volume and detail on the skin l. 3D Art & Design



Add skin and hair Use shaders, maps and more

13 Get dirty

It’s time to start the final textures. Using the basic colour I’ve made a lot of layers in Photoshop in order to add more details with more definition. I’ve mixed all kinds of textures to create cracks on the horns, dirt, stains and I’ve added the cavity map so it doesn’t look so clean. All the maps are created at 5,000 x 5,000px m.

14 Realistic skin

I complete the shading process using the maps created in Photoshop. To simulate more realistic skin, I would suggest using VRayFast SSS2 – a practical and fast V-Ray shader that’s great for translucent materials. To control the SSS shader create a SSS mpa. Meanwhile, I use the VRayFast SSS2 to make the translucent aspect of the eyes, but to give a reflective element I create a Refraction and Reflection shader applied on the superior eyes geometry n.

m o



15 A new coat

The faun’s fur was created in 3ds Max’s Hair and Fur modifier. In order to optimise the process it’s necessary to convert the base geometry into a new geometry. This way it is possible to brush comb it really fast and get control using a density map I made in ZBrush o.

Luiz Alves

I’m a freelance 3D generalist working in a freelance capacity. I’ve always loved art, animation and special effects in movies since I was a kid. My course in Digital Media Production gave me a great start on my artistic journey. Since graduating I’ve continued to evolve my traditional and digital art skills and knowledge to improve my personal and professional portfolio.

72 3D Art & Design

Chupa Cabras 3ds Max, ZBrush and Photoshop (2009)

Bravo 3ds Max, ZBrush and Photoshop (2009) I created this model as a character study to practise creating realistic facial features.

The goat-sucker creature was my submission for a 3D4ALL forum challenge. I tried to create something that was fantastical but that also carried a strong resemblance to a common animal in our lives.

Create a mythical beast

Achieve the final render Techniques to combine two assets into one

the 16 Increase size



The final render for this illustration was generated in 4,000 x 3,072px as an 8-bit TIFF file. I prefer to use a larger scale for the final render because it makes it easier to make selections while compositing everything and I can see more details than if it was a medium-quality image. If you look closely, the medium render always produces a blur in the finer details, whereas this doesn’t happen often with the higher quality render p.



17 Furry problems

The render process was diferent for the fur because hair and fur doesn’t work with VRayLights. In order to make the fur render, I worked with Scanline render and Omni Lights in the same positions as the VRayLights. It’s important to remember that when we want to render the fur, the resolution of it is totally proportional with the tile memory usage – so if you want to render in large scales, you will need to set the tile memory usage in large values, otherwise it won’t render. To improve the integration of the body and the fur, I created a render channel just for the fur shadows. I then applied a matte/ shadows material and turned the option of in the panel efects so that the shadows are only generated on the body q.

Boy Lucas 3ds Max, ZBrush and Photoshop (2011)

My nephew inspired this piece. I realised that the looks and expressions of children are something very interesting. They carry a feeling of pure joy that we gradually lose as we reach adulthood. I tried to capture this look in the bust to make me always remember what we once were.


18 Final touches

Now it’s time to tackle the composition. My postproduction stage was completed in Photoshop. Using the channels applied on the original render you can control aspects of light, shadows and reflections. With the body setting closed, prepare the fur – it will be necessary to paint the fur and simulate some shadows on the body to make it look more real. Add a Noise filter, some colour gradients and one layer to paint necessary highlights r. 3D Art & Design



• LayeredFile_Satyrguy_abaker.tif • Merged_satyrFawnGuy_012.OBJ • Satyr_renderFile_01.PSD

Software used in this piece ZBrush


Concept The aim of this tutorial is to create a fantasy satyr-type character. I want to create an overly stylised face for a fantasy genre that can be rendered realistically and create impact.

74 3D Art & Design

Master Weta character design

The Satyr 2012

Learn to use ZBrush to create a fantasy character portrait, following the principles of Andrew’s 3D character conceptualising workflow at Weta Workshop

3D artists explain the techniques behind their amazing artwork

Artist info

Master Weta character design Andrew Baker is a senior character/creature designer at Weta Workshop Design Studio in New Zealand


bust or portrait is always a great place to start visualising a character. ZBrush enables us to conceptualise an idea to an extremely high level relatively quickly. We no longer have to go through an arduous technical process to create an efective, realisticlooking 3D character.

Without getting too focused on the technical aspects in the 3D process, I’d like to show how I generally start conceptualising a character by creating a bust and portrait. Due to the speed at which I execute such refined work, this is where I begin the conceptual stage of my project – often, in essence, cutting straight to the point.

Andrew Baker Personal portfolio site http://andbakerdesigns. Location New Zealand Software used ZBrush, Photoshop Expertise Creating and conceptualising characters and creatures for physical and digital pipelines

Conceptualise with digital clay Get started on the sculpture in ZBrush

Using DynaMesh wisely I start using DynaMesh on a very low level. In this case I have it set to 48, but depending on how large your model is the resolution will difer. At the early stages it’s almost like what you do with sketching: blurring your eyes to start visualising where the forms are, and quickly laying down broad strokes to find the design. DynaMesh is extremely useful at this stage and can be used in the entire sculpting process. However, I prefer to use it as a base generator and subdivide further. Later I want to be able to drastically pose this character, so having a lower subdivision level helps with this. A Using primitives with the Insert and Move brushes to manipulate my base

01 Use primitives to establish a base

Traditionally, it used to be quicker to start a 3D sculpture from a base mesh you had already created. I’ve always found this process a bit limiting on a conceptual level, though, as you are technically pushing and pulling a volumetric shape – it feels constraining. All of my design sculpting now starts from a sphere. With the use of Insert Mesh brushes and DynaMesh I can experiment with diferent shapes before locking into the base I’ll use to finish the sculpture on. Once I’ve got enough primitives there to manipulate, I use DynaMesh at a low level of 48 and start sculpting A.

02 Design considerations

I create several lines to highlight relationships on the face. The ears line up with the eyes to the point of the nose and from the nose outwards to the edges of his jaw. I generally think of character faces in triangles that are largely based on humanoid configurations. This can be pushed as far as you like – for example huge noses, tiny eyes, massive chins. It’s a game of consideration. Be aware of what’s working and what isn’t. This will be the design base for the following steps B.





The right geometry With this sculpture we’re trying

to be fast, but efective. My goal is not to create a production model; however, ZBrush still enables you to create a high-res sculpt really quickly, so it’s worth having enough geometry to get you there. I find it’s essential to get as much information in the lowest subdivision level before subdividing, so that I won’t need DynaMesh again. I keep design elements like horns and eyes on a separate SubTool to move them independently if I need to. I subdivide twice at this stage to begin sculpting further C.

B My plans in regards to the nature of the face I want to eventually create

C The DynaMesh base created, with more subdividing needed to move it on further 3D Art & Design



Form, texture and pose Let’s get the character into pose and refine the sculpt

04 Build the forms

Now, with some extra subdivision levels, I build up some of the forms. Using the Clay Buildup brush I want to create direction for the surface and build up some secondary forms. Doing this on one of the lower subdivision levels can create some nice organic efects on the upper levels. I often switch between the lower and higher subdivisions at this stage to play with the options a little. I want to create a drastic pose for this character, looking over his shoulder, so I don’t want to get too precious about any forms at this stage, but rather block out the basis for his personality D.


Top shaders


05 Put the character into a pose

As our end goal is not a symmetrical production model, I want to pose it right away. I have a clear idea of how I’d like to present this character, having him look over his shoulder to create an asymmetrical bust and an interesting view for the portrait. I use Transpose Master to generate the pose. Be as bold as you can! It’s important not to marry to any forms at this stage and let it come out in the posed maquette. I also sculpt into the mesh while transposing, trying to fix any broken anatomy as I go e.


D Build up the forms, keeping the design base and appending some horns e Mask and transform the character, while sculpting and fixing broken areas f Build up secondary forms and detail the horns g Sharpen details and add some surface noise

Tighten up the forms Now that the model is posed

and I have some higher subdivision levels, it’s about refining those secondary forms, like the cheekbones, lips, brows, eye sockets and so on. For me, there’s no better brush than the Clay for this. It creates very nice crease lines, which can start as the base for our wrinkles. I find the Clay brush, if treated right, can give some nice results to the higher subdivision levels, using the Smooth brush to soften where needed. I also play with the shape of the horns, considering how they afect the overall silhouette more, now they’re on the posed character f.

76 3D Art & Design

Using diferent shaders is a great way to tackle certain aspects of your sculpting and colouration. For my primary forms, I prefer to use a shader like MatCap Grey, which shows the forms of really well. When I start my secondary forms, I turn on the Blinn shader, as this has a nice general specular highlight, which is also good for showing the detail. I flick between that and MatCap Grey. The Skin Shader default is awesome for colouring flesh-toned characters, and I use this a lot for my concepts as it displays really well.

h Use a scattering efect on the brush, adding in some extra pore detail I Layer up the colour of the character, masking the cavities and washing over the top with a base colour


J You can still tighten up the details with your sculpting brushes as you apply colour

Master Weta character design


07 Detail and texture I am now happy with the secondary forms and can start to see where my detail needs to go. DamStandard is my new favourite brush for going into these soft forms and giving them some sharpness. They fold into the surface and create a pinched, V-shaped crease, instead of a U-shaped crease like the normal Standard brush makes. I also add a noise pass to create the pore efect on the surface. Playing around with the scale and intensity of the noise function can create awesome pore- and skin-like textures. Experiment with this feature to really get a grasp of just what it can achieve g.

08 Pores and extra texture

To create another level of focused noise in areas, I use the Standard brush with a Scatter efect and a very small Point Alpha. I turn the Z Intensity slider quite low and increase the size of the brush and intensity as needed, especially on the shoulder and chin areas or anywhere I think a specular highlight might appear on the final piece. I also use DamStandard with a really low intensity to create very fine wrinkles, going in the direction of the skin compression h.

09 Add some colour

As colour will greatly afect how our texture is shown, I want to start adding that in, treating the detail of the surface and colour now at the same time. I start of by adding a very light base colour, covering the whole model. I use the default skin shader as this shows up colouring for skin very well – and all in real-time. I layer up the model with reds, blues and yellows for the underlying blood vessels to wash with a flesh colour and soften in areas. I also mask out the cavities to add some dirt i.



10 Refine detail with colour

Because ZBrush enables us to afect the form while adding colour, I go back to my DamStandard brush, turn the RGB down very low with a brown colour and start to tighten up some of the wrinkle details. I also use the Inflate brush to push all the details tighter together j.

J 3D Art & Design



Final touches and presentation Finish the painted sculpt and get it ready for maquette presentation k

11 Add the hair

Another hugely innovative tool from ZBrush is FiberMesh. This is a great addition to the process as things like hair really add a nice touch to a character like this. By simply masking of areas where I want there to be hair, I turn on the FiberMesh button and begin to adjust to the diferent hair I’d like to add. I want some variation in the hair around him, but I want it to be quite thin, sparse and wiry k.

12 Get creative

13 Give him some ink

I want to add another element to this character that isn’t necessarily a costume accessory. I’m thinking of a large religious-style tattoo on his back. I create the tattoo in Photoshop as a flat template then use Spotlight in ZBrush to project it onto my character. Spotlight is another great way to project any other further texture onto characters m.

Without going too far and crashing your machine, you can have a lot of fun creating diferent hair around the face. Masking areas like the tips of the ears is a nice touch, I find, while creating some scraggly sideburns can also be efective. There are lots of options to play with, so I suggest spending some time to get used to what’s possible. I always take time to manipulate with the brushes afterwards, so I can be sure to create a much more efective look l.

Paint-over tips & tricks Depending on how long I have to get an image done, I sometimes spend a bit of time playing with the hair and positioning tattoos. These are often things that can be explored in 2D for conceptual pieces, but it never hurts to have something 3D there for the final render. All of what’s been done so far has been done very quickly without getting too consumed with technical aspects. If it’s not working in 3D, solve the idea quickly in 2D by doing paint-overs before committing to the 3D render. This can also be really handy to show a client for variations. k Mask of areas on the head where you want to create hair


78 3D Art & Design

l Add diferent types of hair around the ear

M m Use ZBrush’s Spotlight to apply the tattoo created in Photoshop. Adjust the hue and opacity before applying to the model so it blends in correctly

n Some layers rendered in ZBrush to take into Photoshop

p The final ZBrush layers composited in Photoshop

o A layer rendered out in ZBrush for Photoshop blending

q Give the final image some post-production work

Master Weta character design

Compose the final image

Layering your shaders

Render and capture the essence of the sculpture in post

14 A perfect comp

It’s vital to experiment with diferent shaders and efects in ZBrush. There’s no limit to the variation of materials and textures you can create in ZBrush without the use of photos or alphas. Designing and creating characters in 3D and getting realistic results doesn’t have to be a laborious process anymore. Also, keeping a library of references will always aid the creative process and arm you with a catalogue of ideas.

Having the composition in mind from the beginning will certainly help you get to this stage quickly. This way there’s no unnecessary sculpting and the entire process is geared towards aiding what we want to show. I aim to create an interesting pose that isn’t front-on to the character, thereby enhancing his silhouette a little. Having the sculpt turned to a grey shader (Blinn, in this case) and doing some quick BPR renders with the main light source will also help us judge how best to compose the character. I create my document in portrait at about 1,310 x 2,050 pixels, which will be the final crop n.

5 hours cre a

out layers 15 Render for post

Once I’ve established my main light source, and the shadow that is created by looking at the BPR render passes, I start to look at what else I can take to Photoshop to help this image along. I render out a lot of diferent light passes on the various standard shaders turned to black. I use the BPR render passes, a cavity and reflection pass. For SSS I use a standard shader set to red and amp up the ambience. Then I just need any shader that looks like it might do something interesting in Photoshop o.



16 The final composition o

I generally experiment a lot with blending options on the passes I’ve rendered out. Because this guy has human skin and I’ve painted the model, the initial render gave me a lot to work with. This is the great thing about this process and leaves us a bit of time to spruce up the image. Using the Z-Depth map and changing the colour while turning it to Overlay can create some nice depth efects. Reflection and Light maps can be used to create interesting efects for the eyes, too. At this stage, be experimental and have fun p.

tion tim Resolution e 2,953 x 4,58 : 4 pixels


17 Post-production

Once I’m happy with the blended layers, and they’re all doing what I want, I can really start to have some fun. A background can be used to make the image look more of a studio shot or something more photographic. As this image could be used as the base for many design passes, I’m not shy about painting over areas that need further attention – even using photographs – although I only ever use photos to add noise or textures where I can. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if I’m sculpting a character like this, there’s really no need q. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation Find inspiration in the world around you and achieve some interesting arch-vis creations 82 Master arch vis

Begin designing and creating an archvis project – a house


88 Visualise architecture

Develop your house’s surroundings

94 Apply the finishing touches

Finish your project by rendering your house to perfection

100 Create superior interiors

Design a dramatic bedroom interior

106 Design interactive interiors Use Unity to enhance your arch vis

110 Build unique arch-vis assets

Create a model that can be easily reused

116 Fantasy arch vis: concept design

How to create a fantastical concept

118 Fantasy arch vis: 3D illustration

Take your concept to the next level by illustrating it

100 80 3D Art & Design





94 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Master arch vis House – stage one 2012 Lech Sokolowski explains how to create a place of residence from architectural plans Lech Sokołowski is a self-employed 3D generalist based in Poland

Artist info

3D artists explain the techniques behind their amazing artwork

Lech Sokołowski Username: lechu Personal portfolio site Country Poland Software used Blender Expertise Considered a 3D generalist, Lech most enjoys the compositing and postproduction stages. He has worked as a freelancer and as a 3D artist at Evermotion. He currently runs his own studio based in Poland.

82 3D Art & Design


n the first of this three-part tutorial, we’ll be learning how to handle a professional architectural visualisation project using the free and open-source 3D software, Blender. This first part will include some very useful techniques for creating the building’s model, which will be based on architectural drawings and sketches. When working in a studio or architectural ofce, you’ll often be given plans like these by the client or your manager. Having a good knowledge of how to quickly apply these drawings in your 3D environment and later create a precise representation of the 2D concept is highly valuable. The most popular file formats for saving technical drawings are DWG and DXF, which can be created by almost any CAD software. While Blender supports the DXF format pretty well, probably the best, fastest and most reliable way of working with these types of information is using CAD data exported to a PDF or JPG file. I prefer the PDF output as it can be processed later using 2D software and saved in any resolution without losing quality. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ve already created some JPG files ready to be imported into Blender. However, if you would like to practice on raw PDF data, this can be found on the free disc at the back of the book.

Concept The plan for this arch-vis project is to build a standard, one-floor family house. These types of jobs are commonly available in studios or as a freelancer, so once you’ve got the hang of this house style, you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learnt to more complicated buildings.

Master arch vis Part one Modelling Texturing

Building plans Finished model of the building Helpful modelling scripts

Software used in this piece Blender

Press ‘N’ to display this panel Various display options

Load background images here


01 Prepare the workspace

Before we start with modelling, it’s a good idea to set up the Blender workspace the way you like it. By hitting the N key while in 3D view, you’ll open a Display Properties panel in which you can load a background image. Unfold the Display Options and click Toggle Quad View. This will subdivide your 3D window into four orthographic views. This should work perfectly if you have a more technical approach to the 3D geometry. I personally prefer to work only in one big window and change the views by using numerical keys A.

A Pressing Cmd/Ctrl with the left or right arrow keys enables you to quickly alternate between created workspaces

B Not every supported add-on is immediately available by default after Blender’s installation

Click here to install external scripts


02 Load additional plug-ins

Blender’s modelling tools are still under heavy development, so I’d suggest using some external plug-ins created by the community. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+U to open the User Preferences window. Choose Addons and at the bottom of the window click Install Addon. Now select the ‘mesh_bevel. py’ and ‘’ files that can be found on the free disc (these are free to use and can also be found online). After that remember to switch the tools on by finding them in the correct group on the left-hand side of the screen. We’ll be using these two quite a lot, so double-check everything has been set up correctly b. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Start the basic structure

Create basic geometry and begin window details c


Press ‘T’ to open additional Tool Shelf

Extrude along the walls

04 Place interior walls

We need to create inner walls inside the house so it won’t look totally empty later when rendering. The techniques are pretty much the same as in the previous steps – create a cube, enter Edit Mode and, by moving and extruding the faces, cover all the areas. We’ll leave the interior very simple for now and will come back to it much later if some additional changes turn out to be necessary d.

03 Begin with basic geometry

With everything set up, create a simple plane and scale it up by about 20 times. Now add a cube and enter Edit Mode. With the ‘floor_plan.jpg’ file from the disc set as the background, start extruding one of the faces along the outer walls of the building. Don’t be bothered by the cube’s height at the moment, we’ll set it up later. While extruding try to mark all the openings, windows and doors by hitting E just where they appear on the building plan c.

C Press T in 3D View to open a panel with more options

E Hold the Alt/Opt key while selecting edges to mark at once

D You can add a ground plane object for better scene navigation in later steps

F For the best efect it’s good to have some reference images of the object you’re modelling

05 Refine the walls

From the disc, open the ‘elevation_front.jpg’ drawing and set it up to be displayed in Front Orthographic view. Scale both the interior and exterior walls and match them to the lines representing the top and bottom edges of the walls. Next, select the outer walls and enter Edit Mode. Press Cmd/Ctrl+R to create edge loops and match them to the window lines marked on the drawing. Repeat this process for each elevation and delete the faces, making the window openings. To join the interior and exterior edges in each opening, select them and click the Bridge button under the LoopTools list, located in the 3D View Tool Shelf (hit the T key to reveal the list) e.

06 Add window models

The window dimensions difer quite a lot in each elevation, so to speed up the work we’ll create just one basic model, and then copy and adjust it to each opening. Create a cube, scale it down several times and place in the corner of one of the holes. Enter Edit Mode and create a window frame by scaling and duplicating the cube. Repeat the process and create a smaller frame inside the window for better detail. Last, apply the Bevel modifier (hit W to access) but first, go to Object Mode and press Cmd/Ctrl+A to zero the scale of your model f.

84 3D Art & Design

Select and press ‘X’ to delete

e f

Ctrl+N to flip normals

Alt+right-click to loop select

Press ‘T’ for additional panel and choose Bridge

Select all by pressing ‘A’

Problems and solutions Creating the outer walls was a good starting point for the upcoming steps. Now we’ll be adding more detailed objects like windows, doors and roof elements. It’s good to plan your work ahead, as a good management of all your objects is essential when working on bigger projects. Blender gives us a basic yet very handy layer system, which can be accessed by pressing the M key. While continuing, try to sort all the elements into separate layers. This will help you in hiding all specific parts of the building, windows for instance, or viewing only solid elements like the walls and ceiling. Tweaking the display options may also be very helpful. Enter the Object menu in your Properties panel, and under the Display list, change or enhance the ways your geometry is displayed. Clicking the Wire type of display creates a wireframe grid, covering the shaded, normal-looking model. This is very helpful especially when adding new elements in Perspective Mode. In order to quickly distribute the objects through the scene, just model one of them and later duplicate it into the desired areas. Of course the duplicate will require some tweaking and adjusting, but it’s much faster than making every window from scratch, for example.

Master arch vis

Detailed modelling

Find a proper detail balance

Add more specific features to your elements

07 Window details

Create another cube and by simple scaling operations, create a thin glass surface. Duplicate it, select both objects and hit Cmd/ Ctrl+J to merge them together. Now create window shutters. Add a plane object and scale it according to the window dimensions. Rotate it slightly in Edit Mode and add an Array modifier. Adjust the Relative Ofset settings so the plane duplicates in the Z axis and increase the Count number to 20. This way you can now randomise the length of each shutter in just a few clicks g.


Use Count number to tweak the shutter length


Properly created models are a great material for animation purposes

08 Scene-creation tips Although the final result would probably consist only of one image, it’s a good habit to approach your scenes and models globally. Your client might want to see their building from totally diferent perspectives and if your model lacks significant details at this point, you might get into trouble. Modelling everything from scratch is time consuming, so it’s common for designers to reuse models from past scenes or even to buy some pre-made objects online. There are also many websites sharing great models for free h.

When working on your scene, it’s very important to find a proper balance for details you’re going to add. Focusing on some elements too extensively is time consuming and might result in you not finishing the project on time. You may also overload your scene with surplus geometry and cause significant viewport slowdown. Adding some basic enhancements to your models, like the ones we’ve created in previous steps, should work fine in most cases. However, you may also encounter a situation when a client requires high-resolution renderings or close-ups on some elements. If possible, it’s best to have good-quality models already prepared for that kind of project. This saves you a great amount of time and enables you to make quick changes during the project. The scene handling also requires a diferent approach. As mentioned earlier, use Blender’s layer system to distribute the models properly, for example, according to the view location. It’s not necessary to overload your viewport with objects that are not visible at the moment, so disable their layer.

09 Model a door

The door modelling techniques are pretty much the same as with the windows. I’ve even used the basic window shape to create the entrance door model. Enhance the frame by removing the bottom element and add four horizontal slats to make the doors difer from the windows at some points. However, the balcony doors are still very similar to the base shape i.

G Pressing Shift with one of the axes (X, Y or Z) while scaling, moving or rotating, will exclude this axis from operation


10 Add a garage door

I You can diversify the model by opening some of the doors J You can soften the edges using both Bevel and Subdivide Surface modifiers


Copy the entrance door frame and edit it to match the wall opening. Create one thin, vertical element and use the Array modifier to duplicate it several times. Add a plane object and place it behind the arrayed boxes. Apply the modifier and join the parts together. Create details by adding and scaling cube objects and applying the Bevel modifier j. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Create the covering Focus on modelling the roof Lech Sokołowski

I am an architect by education and 3D artist by passion. Since my youth I was interested in various forms of expression, especially drawing. My adventure with 3D graphics started during my studies and I’ve quickly fallen into it. Currently I run my own 3D graphics studio, NoTriangle, and live a happy life in a quiet, mellow region in east Poland.

11 Basic roof model

To start the roof correctly, let’s first create the basic shape. From the disc, load the ‘roof_view.jpg’ image into Blender’s viewport and create a simple plane object. Subdivide the edges marked on the image and move the newly created vertex into proper position. Now select the triangle vertex shape and hit the F key to create a new triangle face. This way we’ve made a roof surface that only needs to be edited in the side view. Select middle vertexes, switch to Orthographic Front camera and move them up as on the drawing k.


Final touches Angle profiles are the most important roof elements, yet we still need to add some details. Using the very simple techniques described earlier, I’ve created the chimney model and some additional roof details like gutters to improve the final look. I’ve also added wooden finishings at the bottom surface and edge of the roof. K The roof consists of two similar models so we just need to duplicate one we’ve created L Cut tiles will have uncapped surfaces, but we’ll cover them with other elements

Art Gallery 3ds Max, V-Ray, Photoshop (2010)

This is one of the interior scenes I prepared when working in the Evermotion studio. My task was to create a set of complete 3D environments for various product-rendering purposes.

M You can include simple details by adding edge loops, beveling them and using the Solidify tool to extrude N If possible, try to find any reference pictures similar to the project you’re working on

l Jewish Museum, Berlin Blender, V-Ray, Photoshop (2011)

This scene was created for light study purposes. I always found this building very touching and inspiring and still look forward to finishing a CG animation project regarding it.

1. Tile model used in this project

2. The first Array modifier

12 Add roof tiles

Create a rectangular roof tile by scaling the cube object and soften its edges by applying Bevel in Edit Mode. Rotate the tile matching the roof angle and add two Array modifiers. The first one will duplicate the tile along the wider roof edge and the second will multiply all these tiles upwards. Tweak the Relative Ofset settings to match all the duplicates. Switch to Top Orthographic view and apply the modifiers. In Edit Mode, select all the elements, hit W and pick the Fake Knife tool. Cut the tiles along the roof edges and delete unwanted parts l.


3. Rotate the tiles

4. The second Array modifier 5. Apply the modifiers

6. Use the Fake Knife tool

Youth Hostel Interior Blender, Cycles, Photoshop (2012)

This image shows the interior space of a building designed in our studio. It’s a multi-functional youth hostel located in one of the natural parks in east Poland.

86 3D Art & Design

7. Delete unwanted elements

13 Roof details

Create the angle profiles to cover the uncapped faces of the cut roof tiles. Duplicate one of the cross edges of the main roof model, hit the P key and choose Selection Only to separate the edge. Enter Edit Mode and extrude the edges upwards. Press Cmd/Ctrl+F, choose Solidify and extrude the element in two directions. Select the external vertexes both in the upper and lower part of the model, and move them down m.

Master arch vis

Detail the elevations

Focus on the elevation enhancements and final touches

14 Project options

It happens quite often that you have to visualise projects that aren’t fully finished and defined. A client might want you to take responsibility and create some of the elements by yourself. In our example, we have very basic elevation drawings so let’s use this as an opportunity to practice. I’ll be using three finishing materials: plaster, bricks and stone tiles n.

15minutes re nder time

Resolution 5,000 x 2,50 : 0

Some elements of this project are not defined

o n

15 Create the bricks

I’ve decided to create the brick elements in the entrance area. Although these are very repeatable, I won’t be using the Array modifier this time. Bricks are usually aligned to certain pattern and almost always need manual refinements when creating the corner sections or openings. We could use a texture for this, but a real model representation of each material will yield better results o.



16 Input stone tiles

As you’ll notice, we’re using the same, very basic techniques for creating most of the elements. The tiles won’t be an exception. Start from the simple cube model and, by scaling and duplicating, create a few tiles of diferent dimensions and match them up. While in Object Mode, join the elements together, zero the scale by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+A in the Scale options and apply the Bevel tool in Edit Mode p.

Coming up next In this tutorial you’ve hopefully learned some essential skills on how to approach and manage a standard architectural rendering project. In the next couple we’ll be covering the environment setup, diferent types of vegetation, scene enhancements together with Shaders, rendering and final postproduction. Hopefully you’ll stay with us and find out what amazing things can be done using free and commonly available software. O Bricks are just simple cubes scaled into typical proportions P The elevation materials placement is totally up to you Q The geometry mostly consists of very basic shapes

17 Additional elements

To make the building look complete, we need to add some final objects. Start creating a garage driveway by editing the cube and moving its vertexes under the ground plane surface. To create entrance stairs just add another cube, match it properly and use some of the stone tiles to make the covering surface. Copy the whole element and create the terrace by applying some simple adjustments. You can also create the flower bowls around the terrace, but the vegetation will be widely covered in the next tutorial q. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

• 3D scene with basic environment setup and shaders • Image files describing some of the shaders • Sample shaders

Visualise architecture using Blender House – stage two


Starting from proper camera placement and setup, we’ll create the building’s Lech Sokołowski runs his own studio surroundings, vegetation and the lighting environment


his is the second part of a tutorial series in which we’ll learn how to handle a professional, architectural visualisation project using the free and open-source 3D application, Blender. In the previous tutorial we looked at the modelling techniques and skills required for professional 3D building preparation. This time we’ll focus on various other aspects of architectural rendering. Starting from proper camera placement and setup, we’ll create the

88 ●3D3DArtist Art & Design

building’s surroundings, vegetation and the lighting environment. We’ll also get into the hair particle system and study some of the great features of Blender’s rendering engine, Cycles. The article will also cover some modelling tricks and other important aspects of creating professional, good-looking images. As each render is in fact a 2D image created inside 3D software, it can be considered on the same basis as photography, drawing or even

painting. A common aspect of all these art disciplines is the need to use proper image composition. There are dozens of renders on the internet that are perfect when it comes to technical issues, yet the overall efect is often average at best. Commercial architectural renderings aren’t the kind of projects where we can apply many artistic values, yet a good composition will always give us many benefits. This will be our starting point for this article.

Visualise architecture using Blender Software used in this piece Blender 2.62

Camera setup Shaders Lighting

A When adjusting camera placement, always have the concept of the final image in your head. You can make some very simple drawings for helping yourself with that B Composition guidelines can be very helpful, but don’t let them limit your creativity!

Camera setup Good camera placement is essential a

01 Camera placement

Good camera placement and focusing on interesting aspects of the building (or any other object) is essential to achieve a good final efect. In part one of the tutorial, our closing image showed the front entrance of the house. However, after some considerations I’ve decided to choose a rear elevation. The main reason is that it will look much more interesting after adding the vegetation and other details. Secondly, it’s easier to pick an interesting angle as we’re not limited by any surrounding frontal elements that would need to be added for realistic results a.

02 Camera properties

The image aspect ratio used is 1.6:1, giving us a wider picture frame to cover the whole building and some surroundings. The resolution I’ve used for preview purposes was 1600x1000. Another very important factor is the camera Focal Length. I’ve used the standard value of 35 as it is very popular in traditional photography. I also recommend switching on the Compositing Guides to fine-tune the camera placement. Choices range from standard Center-based image subdivision to Golden or Harmonious Triangles b.


3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Building surroundings With camera placed, we’ll now add surroundings and place the final details c Setting up the vertical lens shift

and 04 Surroundings building details


I start by creating the wall surrounding the plot. Depending on your client’s preferences, you might be asked to create a metal fence or organic enclosure like bushes or hedges. This would require you spending more time working on the background, perhaps adding neighbouring buildings, vegetation etc. However, solid walls are quite commonly used by people and for us are the quickest way to create a good-looking background. We’ll also create the vegetation behind the wall, which will diversify and detail the final image even more d.

03 Lens shift

Lens shifting is a technique allowing us to eliminate the natural distortion efects generated by standard and digital lenses. It’s commonly used, especially in architectural photography. When using wide camera lenses (usually from 16 to 35mm), we have a wider viewing angle and can capture more information, but the final image will also be distorted. To eliminate this efect, the lens is being shifted out of its natural placement, neutralising the distortion. In our example we need to adjust the Shift Y factor and then rotate the camera in the vertical axis c.

Although walls are simple objects, they also have some details and diferent shaders

e Step-by-step stone creation

05 Additional refinements

The flowerpots from the previous tutorial don’t look good enough so I’ll extend them through the whole terrace. The building walls also need some detail. I’ve created thin kerbs and distributed them all around the building. Now we’ll fill the gap with gravel stones. Create the plane object and extrude it along the building walls. Add a cube object, enter Edit Mode and subdivide it once, adding some random rotation to the newly created faces. The stones will be very small so the single subdivision should work well. Adjust the object manually by editing its Vertices. Create up to four diferent stones using this technique e.

f Kerbs, walls and gravel distribution

06 Distributing objects

Group the stones together and select the extruded plane from the previous step. Add a new Particle System and change its type from Emitter to Hair. Switch on the Advanced options and go to the Render tab. Click Group and select your stones from the list. You should now see all four of your objects being randomly distributed throughout the plane. Go to Emission settings and increase the amount number. It’s also recommended to change the distribution type from Jittered to Random. Under the Physics tab you can also randomise the size of your objects f.

Problems and solutions


07 Pre-made models

In real-life situations you’re very often working within tight deadlines and many other stressful circumstances – that’s why you need to be fast end efcient. While it’s quite easy to prepare objects like windows, flowerpots and doors by yourself, creating good-quality furniture models for each scene is totally pointless. That’s why it’s essential to build up your own library of 3D models, ready to use at any time. Although most of the models available online are dedicated to commercial software, you can store them as .obj files, since Blender imports these without any problems. You may also create a Cycles shader library that might be used simultaneously g.

90 3D Art & Design

After putting the camera in the desired location, we’ll now gradually add more and more details to our scene. It is really hard to estimate from the very beginning what will be the final object placement, shader setup or lighting parameters. In order to work efciently, I always try to roughly build up my scene and later refine each detail after knowing its placement, dimensions or material. In the next few steps I’ll focus on some techniques and issues that you may encounter during your own projects, but keep in mind that in real life you should build a workflow that will suit your own preferences. Be flexible, change the steps order, mix the techniques together or try to develop your own, basing this on the information you’ve already received. Ultimately, that’s the only way to successfully learn new things and take your skills to a higher level.

Visualise architecture using Blender

Interior design Glass material for windows, plus curtain-making i

Material system In the previous steps I’ve very roughly described the Cycles material system. This topic will be covered more deeply in the next part of this tutorial series, but some basic understanding of the shading system is required for the next steps of this article. Cycles uses a node-based system for creating the materials and currently it doesn’t ofer any pre-made setups or shaders – it’s up to us to build them from scratch. This approach has both advantages and disadvantages. First of all, you have total control over the shader. Most 3D applications have material systems supporting pre-defined shader types such as Difuse, Glossy or Translucent. Each of these has its own specific values and parameters. In Cycles, every material you create can be freely defined and changed using the node editor. For instance, when we choose the Glass type of material, the node editor gives us the freedom to delete the Glass shader node and replace it with Transparent or Emit shader nodes. To create a physically accurate glossy material, we need to mix Difuse and Glossy shaders, using a Fresnel node as the input for the mixing value. It may seem complicated, but once you grasp how this system works, you’ll love it. One drawback is the lack of pre-made, useful materials that could be quickly added to the scene. This can be solved by creating your own library of the most used shaders and storing them in one Blender file.

Step 1

Step 2 h

08 Basic shaders

In order to see the furniture we’ve just placed, we need to create a glass material. Although the Cycles shading system gives us a glass-type shader on the go, we still need to apply some adjustments. Firstly, your glass object must have a thickness, just like in the real world. Secondly, we need to tweak its Ray Visibility options. These settings determine which aspects of the material will take part in the rendering process. For instance, we can switch of the object’s visibility, but still allow it to be visible in the reflective surfaces. For glass objects, especially windows, we need to turn of the Shadow, Transmit and Difuse properties h.

09 Adding curtains

The building’s interior looks too empty so I’ve decided to add some curtains. Create a Bézier Curve object and enter Edit Mode. Select an end point and by pressing the E key, extrude the curve, adjusting its shape. Convert it to mesh geometry by returning to Object Mode and pressing Opt/Alt+C. Choose ‘Mesh from Curve’ and enter Edit Mode once more. Extrude the path towards the ceiling, add horizontal subdivisions and press the P key to switch on Proportional Editing. By selecting random vertices, adjust the curtains and diversify their shape i.

g Some of the models that I’ve been using in this tutorial scene h Step-by-step process of creating a glass object and material

Step 4

Step 5

Step 7

Step 6

i Creating curtains in step-by-step fashion j The same method was used to map and texture the surrounding walls, flowerpots and terrace

10 Quick UV mapping


3D viewport

Step 3

UV/Image editor

To speed up the texturing process we’ll use the Cube Projection technique to unwrap the house walls. Cube projection works quite well with architectural models, but always check if there are no visible seams in areas exposed to camera. If this issue occurs, select all of the faces directed towards the camera and use either the normal ‘Unwrap’ or ‘Project from View’ option. Remember that you don’t need (and, except for game models, barely ever should) to unwrap all your geometry at one command. Instead, select the faces you want to texture and use the unwrapping mode that works the best j. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Environment Illuminate the scene using sun and environmental lights 15 seconds using CPU

15 seconds using GPU

k Using GPU mode may speed up the rendering process by a factor of ten or more!

11 Lighting and preview rendering

Before we create a lighting setup, let’s learn how to preview our scene and render it in real-time. Next to the Mode button in the bottom tab of 3D Viewport we have a Display Mode button. Choose the ‘Rendered’ type of display and after a few seconds you should see your scene with an ambient occlusion type of lighting being rendered in real time. If the ‘Rendered’ type of display is not available, check if you’ve chosen Cycles from the Rendering Engine tab located in the Info panel. You can switch between CPU and GPU rendering modes in User Preferences>System options k. l Change the Sun or Environment emitting values for fine-tuning the lighting

Textured Icosphere imitating sky

Shaders and lighting It can often happen that a specific shader which worked perfectly in one scene doesn’t seem to look good when we try to reuse it in another project. This issue is common to all 3D applications and in fact isn’t even an error or software failure. Just as in real life, where we perceive colours, materials and surfaces depending on the environment in which they’re located, the same efect applies to the digital world. m If the sky sphere shader seems too complicated, check the tutorial files for additional information

Sun location

12 Sun and background light

Open the World setup panel and change the Surface colour type from RGB to Sky Texture. If you switch on the Rendered mode in Viewport, you should see a nice-looking physical sky appearing. By clicking and dragging the sphere in World panel, you’re able to define the physical sun placement or change the time of day, from midday to evening for instance. Still, there are no shadows appearing in the scene. Press the space bar and from the Add menu, choose Sun lamp. Access its settings and change the shadow size from 1 to 0.01. Now you should have a fully working sun and sky system l.

Lech Sokołowski

I’m an architect by education and 3D artist by passion. Since my youth I was interested in various forms of expression, especially drawing. My adventure with 3D graphics started during my studies and I’ve really quickly fallen into it. Currently I run my own 3D graphics studio and live a happy life in a quiet, mellow region of Eastern Poland

92 3D Art & Design

Additional background plates with trees

13 Environmental setup

The default sky system looks nice, but doesn’t have any settings allowing its colour correction or image placement. We could replace the sky in a 2D application, but this can be also done inside Blender. Create an Icosphere and delete its bottom part, subdividing the object to half. Generate the UV map choosing the Cylinder type of Unwrap and load the panoramic sky texture you find most suitable. Refine the UV mapping so it covers the entire image and return to Object Mode. Scale the sphere up and rotate it the way that gives the best sky look. Now create the node material setup based on the attached image m.

Change ZBrush (2009)

The project that I started years ago as a simple ZBrush exercise later turned out to become very personal, describing some situations I’ve been going through in my life in the past

Lama Blender (2009)

Llamas are my favourite animals… This image is a result of rigging and fur rendering exercises I did in Blender years ago

Visualise architecture using Blender



With other details finished, we will focus on vegetation n Trees and bushes used in my scene

o Remember to apply a shader with grass image to the plane object distributing particles

Step 1


Vegetation models database As with the furniture,

you need to have a good, pre-made model library for vegetation. Compared to more technical objects like furniture, trees and other forms of vegetation are much more challenging to create, even when you have time. There are a plenty of very good-quality models available on the internet; but if you don’t want to buy them, you can use open source software like ngPlant, for instance, to quickly generate your own, nice-quality vegetation models n.


High-poly geometry Fine-looking trees are usually

very heavy 3D objects, comprising up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of polygons, so we have to use them very wisely. In Blender we can duplicate or copy objects in two ways. The standard Shift+D method results in creating two totally independent objects. During the rendering process each of them is being calculated separately, requiring more RAM and therefore slowing down the rendering. However, we can copy objects in a much less resource-consuming way. For this we should use the Opt/Alt+D key combination to create an object instance. Instanced objects will be calculated only once and can be distributed through the scene countless times p.

Final thoughts

Step 2

Step 5

Step 6

Step 3

Step 7

render tim e Resolution 3,200 x 2,00 : 0

Step 4

Step 8

15 Grass distribution

To distribute grass in the scene we’d use the same technique as with the gravel in step 6. Grass modelling is fairly simple: create one strand and a UV map (simple Unwrapping should work fine). Bend it using proportional editing and 3D cursor. Create up to five diferent strands and mix them together into up to four small, varying clumps – you can also change the scale of each strand. Take these strand groups and create bigger clumps – these you can separate to diferent objects and join them into a group. Use the Hair Particle system to distribute the grass o. Only two 3D models were used to create the foreground vegetation. Each model is distributed as an instance

p Limit yourself to just four tree objects and use diferent scale and rotation parameters for diversifying their look

q A tree in the foreground has the displacement modifier applied, adding some irregularities

We’ve reached the end of the second part. Hopefully you’ve managed to learn some new skills that will turn out to be useful on an everyday basis. For more in-depth information, especially regarding the Cycles shading system, please check the materials on the disc at the back of the book. In the next tutorial we’ll be going over rendering and postproduction techniques.

Breathe Blender, Octane Render (2011)

I’m interested in macro photography and this inspired me to create some imaginary flowers, place them in a moodily lit environment and render using GPU technology

17 Tree placement

Gaining some knowledge about proper scene management, let’s now add the vegetation to our image. We don’t have to fill everything with trees as it is in real life – having the camera already set up, place the vegetation only where it’s necessary. I’ve made an exception to this, putting some trees out of view in order to achieve nice, deep shadows being cast on the lawn and the back of the house. Using all the techniques described in this and the previous article, I’ve created the foreground to add more depth and harmony to the final composition q. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Apply the finishing touches House – stage three

In the final chapter of this three-part series, Lech Sokołowski reveals how to apply the Lech Sokołowski is a 3D generalist based in Poland finishing touches to your house-build project


elcome to the third and final part of this tutorial series. So far, we have covered modelling a house from 2D plans, properly distributing high-poly vegetation models throughout the scene and we have also given insight into Blender’s shading and rendering systems.

94 ●3D3DArtist Art & Design

Over the next six pages we will cover Cycles’ rendering settings and an in-depth study of Blender’s new shading system. We’ll create diverse materials from scratch, later separating them from the final rendering as individual layers. We’ll also cover the process of transforming the raw rendering using Photoshop techniques.

While I won’t be describing how I’ve achieved every particular efect for the final image, I will introduce skills such as material creation, proper scene rendering and finishing touches in 2D software. You can then apply these skills to your personal projects, or develop them for use in your professional portfolio.

Apply the fnishing touches

Set up

Shaders Materials Rendering

Review your options


01 GPU vs CPU options

Using the graphics card (GPU) instead of standard processors (CPU) for the rendering purposes has both its advantages and drawbacks. The positive aspects are of course very good rendering times (often up to ten times faster) and the ability to tweak the shaders or environmental setup in real-time. At the moment we’re limited to NVIDIA GPU units as Cycles doesn’t fully support Open CL technology, which is used by ATI cards. Another drawback is the GPU RAM limitation, but this issue can be resolved either by proper scene management or by rendering the images on separate layers (foreground, background and so on) a. b

• Sample shaders for your personal projects • Shader descriptions • Final rendering with postproduction layers

a You can choose the rendering method in the User Preferences window under System Settings b For quick previews, use the slider of per cent scale for render resolution

Before we begin The Cycles rendering engine difers quite a lot from the old and outdated Blender Internal. It would be a good idea to learn its basic settings first.

Software used in this piece Blender 2.62


02 Basic settings

The Rendering panel is divided into a few categories. The Render tab contains the available computing devices and buttons starting the rendering process. The Dimensions tab has all the settings regarding the image’s resolution, the animation’s frame rate and so on. The Stamp tab enables us to include various information on the rendered image, such as the lens value or rendering time. The Output tab contains all the settings regarding the file extensions and image compression. The Film tab controls the final image exposure and anti-aliasing settings. The Performance tab gives us control over the geometry calculating methods. The Layers and PostProcessing tabs will be described together in the postproduction steps b. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

The shading system After adapting the basics of rendering systems, it’s time for materials c

03 The Integrator tab

I’ve purposefully omitted one of the tabs to better describe it now. The Integrator tab contains the most important rendering settings. Sample sliders control the noise levels of the final or preview images. If the value is set to 0, the rendering would continue forever. This works quite well for the previews and you’d rarely need to go above 1,000 for final images (with proper scene setup). Transparency, Bounces and Light Path settings refer to various Global Illumination attributes and I won’t cover them in detail. I’d suggest decreasing the Light Path bounces to eight and switching on the No Caustics option. This setup never failed me when I needed a noiseless image in a reasonable time c.

Problems and solutions The Cycles rendering system doesn’t really have many options to tweak but requires some time and individual testing before it achieves nice and noiseless images. I recommend finding some additional information on the internet about how the unbiased rendering engines work and what rendering or lighting conditions might be troublesome. As most of the unbiased renderers work pretty much the same, reading articles regarding other applications is useful. In the last tutorial I briefly mentioned that Cycles works on a node-based material system, which might seem a little bit confusing in the beginning, but later turns out to be very intuitive and flexible. The key to understanding the main concept of this system is knowing that by joining the nodes inside the editor, we add specific attributes to the base material. For instance, if we create a simple Difuse shader, we can mix it with an unlimited number of any other kind of other shaders – glossy, glass or translucent. By using more advanced nodes, we can switch of the material’s visibility in reflections or camera. The possibilities are unlimited and in the next few steps I’ll describe the most important shaders and nodes in Cycles.


The Difuse shader Difuse is the simplest shader

you can use in most of the rendering packages. It’s helpful to consider it as a perfect matte layer of the material you’re working on. You can determine its colour by applying a specific image texture or assigning RGB values for any particular tint d.



05 The Glossy shader

This shader can be regarded as a perfectly reflective material such as polished metal, or as a coating layer that can be added to difuse material. This shader has an additional attribute called Roughness which determines the blur amount of the reflections. We can apply image textures to determine both the glossy colour and Roughness factor. Brighter values will give the stronger and sharper reflections, just as darker colours would result in weaker and more blurry ones e.

06 The Mix Shader

The Mix Shader is one of the most important nodes available in Cycles. It enables us to join two independent shaders based on the Fac value. By default it’s set to 0.5, which means that materials will be mixed in equal proportions. Various nodes can be plugged into the Fac slot; for instance, we can use a procedural noise texture to randomly mix shaders together f.

96 3D Art & Design


c Set viewport Shading Mode to Rendered for real-time preview d The Difuse shader with image texture and mapping nodes e Examples of Glossy shaders f Glass/Difuse shaders mixed using noise procedural texture

Apply the fnishing touches

Custom shaders and materials Create your own assets to suit your piece g

Glass shader

Transparent shader

07 Transparent shaders

Translucent shader

There are three diferent transparency shaders in Cycles. The Transparent Shader is simple as its opacity is determined by colour (white equals 100% transparency) and can be used in creating alpha transparency. The Translucent shader can be used for creating the matte transparency efect, visible for instance on paper surfaces. The last is the Glass shader, which has a Roughness value determining the blur intensity. IOR value generates the refractions in the glass volume g.

In summary With the basic but solid knowledge of the most important shaders and material nodes, you should now be ready to build your own materials. Before you start, it’s important to know exactly what you would like to achieve. Take a grass strand for example. If we were to examine it close enough, we’d see that it has two diferent shaders – Translucent and Difuse mixed together. After even closer examination we’d notice that each strand has some value of Glossy shader added but with quite blurry roughness. By examining the world around you and applying CG terminology, you can better understand the processes inside 3D applications. In these few steps I wasn’t able to cover all the aspects of the shading system, such as light-emitting shaders or bump mapping, but I’ve prepared some basic shaders for your personal use and further studies on the disc. g Examples of three diferent types of transparency shaders h A more complex setup where colours are used to control the Fresnel efect

i Two examples of using diferent shaders and a Geometry node with Backfacing applied j Similar settings can be tweaked for each selected mesh. Go to Object Options and check the Ray Visibility tab


08 Fresnel and Layer Weight nodes

Now let’s move to Input nodes. The Fresnel node is one of the most important when it comes to creating realistic-looking materials. By plugging it into the Fac pin in the Mix Shader, we can now determine the viewing angle from which one of the mixed shaders would be visible. The Layer Weight node works similarly but gives you even more control over this efect, so try both of them when preparing your own materials h. i

09 Create a two-sided material

To create a grass or leaves shader, we can mix Difuse and Translucent Shaders. When you look at leaves, you can see that they are translucent on one side and more opaque on the other. To achieve this efect inside Cycles, add a Geometry node from the Input group. By using the Backfacing property we can plug it into the Fac slot, so each of the shaders is assigned to its own surface of the model i. j

10 The Light Path node

To enhance the materials even more let’s now use a Light Path node. Each of its pins, when plugged into the Fac slot of the Mix Shader, determines what would happen to the second (bottom) shade. For instance, let’s take two Difuse shaders – red and blue. Blue would be plugged to the upper slot and red to the bottom. If we choose the Is Glossy Ray property and plug it into the Fac slot, the red Difuse shader will now be visible in all glossy reflections, but the basic material would still remain blue j.

Camera view with selected border


11 Border rendering

When preparing the shaders, you might want to pre-render parts of the scene to check if everything works. Press Shift+B in the 3D viewport and select which region you’d like to render. This is also useful for noticing errors on the final picture – if the changes aren’t too big, you can render the selected region instead of the whole picture and later merge them in Photoshop. To disable bordering select the outline of the camera k. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Postproduction stages Prepare your piece for rendering Lech Sokołowski

I’m an architect by education and 3D artist by passion. Since my youth I have been interested in various forms of expression, especially drawing. My adventure with 3D graphics started during my studies and I’ve quickly fallen into it. Currently I run my own 3D graphics studio, NoTriangle, and live a happy life in a quiet, mellow region in east Poland.

12 Material ID

Quite often objects on final renderings have a diferent tint, saturation or values than expected. Masking them in Photoshop may take time so we’ll use render layers instead. In the Rendering panel, go to the Layers tab and enable the Material Index option. Now open the Material panel, go to Settings and change the Pass Index to any suitable number. Repeat this process for every material you’d like to have masked out l.


13 Final rendering setup Car environment 3ds Max, V-Ray (2012)

An image from a set of 3D environments we’ve prepared specially for car renderings. This kind of scene can easily be used for commercial animations or other forms of visual presentation.

With all objects, materials and the camera set up, we can run the final render. Settings used for this scene are simple. A more important issue is the GPU’s RAM. For the best performance, I recommend switching of the viewports and restarting Blender. This way we purge the RAM so it can be freely used during the rendering. For this project I was using an NVIDIA GTX 560 with 2GB of RAM m.

l Note that render layers are available only in the latest Blender build (2.62) m Bigger resolutions increase GPU RAM usage n An easy way of merging two separate material masks o A quick guide on how to use the Material_ID file p Schematic showing how to extract a Z-Depth pass inside the Compositing Node editor q Small comparison of the raw rendering and final picture

VFX Studio Blender, Cycles, Photoshop (2012)

Image showing the inside view of the conceptual project for a VFX studio located in our city. Both the renderings and interior design were created in our studio.

A frame from a short animation project commissioned by a client for educational purposes.

98 3D Art & Design

Final touches In these final steps we’ll learn how to extract Material ID passes and use them in postprocessing along with some useful techniques of turning your raw rendering into a quality final image.

Render layers together with Material Index pass


14 Save the outputs Checkmate Blender, Cycles (2012)


To extract Material ID, switch to Compositing Nodes. Hit Cmd/ Ctrl+A and add an ID Mask node from the Convertor group. Connect it to the IndexMA slot in a Render Layers node. Add and connect a Viewer node for a preview and change the Index number to view masked material. Colorise each mask and merge them together using a Color Mix node. To save the masked output, plug in a Composite instead of a Viewer node and save the image in the rendering window. You can revert to the raw rendering by plugging the Composite node into the Image slot in the Render Layers node n.

Apply the fnishing touches


The final steps Make selections and final adjustments within Photoshop o

render tim e Resolution 3,200 x 2,00 : 0


5 3

1 Select the layer 2 Use Magic Wand tool 3 Click on the element



4 Select background and hit Cmd/Ctrl+J 5 Hide unwanted layers

15 Enhance the rendering

Now move to Photoshop. Start by importing the raw rendering and Material ID image and merge them. To generate a selection, use the Magic Wand tool on the Material ID image, switch to the rendered image and hit Cmd/Ctrl+J. This will save the selection as a new layer that can be freely modified and adjusted. After adjusting all of the materials, paint some light rays and create mood by using a standard brush o.


16 Gain an aerial perspective

By using a Z-Depth pass right from Blender’s node editor we can create some perspective. Objects in the background will have a tint similar to the colours of the sky and overall illumination. A Z-Depth pass won’t support the alpha transparency applied on leaves for example, so apply carefully so as not to generate any bordering issues p.

17 Colour grading

Last but not least is the colour grading. I used various adjustment layers, starting with Curves and two Color Balance layers to create both warm cold tints and masked them precisely. Next I added a Vibrance layer to control the image’s saturation. Final touches involved creating an additional Exposure layer to brighten up the foreground slightly and one more Color Balance layer for the final tint. Last I merged everything together and applied a Smart Sharpen filter to enhance the overall detail q.

Final thoughts


Even though this whole tutorial was separated into three quite big chapters, we’re sure you can appreciate that a lot more could still have been added. I trust you understand it was quite challenging to cover every single aspect of the image we’ve created here, but even so, I really hope that with this series many of you have been inspired to try Blender for yourselves. Best wishes and happy blending! 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Create superior interiors Vintage bedroom 2012 Take your arch-vis skills to the next level, using 3D and 2D techniques to create a dramatic bedroom interior Eugenio Garcia Villarreal is a 3D generalist who focuses on environments and product shots. He’s also the co-founder of D10Studio

Artist info

3D artists explain the techniques behind their amazing artwork

Eugenio Garcia Villarreal Username: artecnl Personal portfolio site Country Mexico Software used LightWave 11, Photoshop, ZBrush Expertise Eugenio is a 3D artist specialising in environments, texturing and product shots. He uses a combination of 3D and 2D techniques in his work


his tutorial will show you how to create an interior bedroom scene, focusing on texturing, cloth simulation and lighting. You’ll learn techniques I have developed throughout my career as a 3D artist, including basic modelling using essential LightWave Modeler tools, and the best way to find good textures with complementary maps, such as Bump and Displacement. We’ll also focus on lighting and how to make warm scenes with contrast to achieve a dramatic mood. We’ll also tackle the compositing process, exploring some of my favourite techniques to fine-tune details, using colour correction, masks, textures as well as simple matte-painting techniques. I’d like to thank Alejandro Tello, a talented artist at D10Studio who helped me with the final colour correction.

100 3D Art & Design

Concept This scene is inspired by vintage-style bedrooms that heavily feature antique materials such as worn wood, exposed brick walls and aged paintwork. The idea behind this project is to capture an image with a dramatic mood through careful texturing, efective cloth simulation and atmospheric lighting to create a warm, lived-in environment.

Research and sketch Explore the perfect shot for your scene

01 Start with a sketch a

I use basic 3D shapes to create a quick 3D sketch. This will help me with the final compositing later on, as I can touch up this 3D base in Photoshop to add objects and atmosphere. Along with an initial sketch, this will give us a solid base for the project a.

Create superior interiors

• Bed and lamp OBJ models plus MTL files • Tutorial screenshots • LightWave shortcuts PDF Also with the disc: • High-quality 3D book models courtesy of

Software used in this piece LightWave



Be practical When I model objects for a still image I try to add details – but not too many, as I can do this later on in Photoshop. An example is the curtains: I completed a simple spline drawing, extruded in Y, subdivided it – and that was basically it. I’ll can use the Liquify tool in Photoshop to create the organic cloth folds. With time-saving tricks like these you can be practical and finish the job in a fraction of the time, with all the same results of 3D, with respective limits. A Create a basic sketch to find the right composition b Models are kept very simple, as shaders and textures will improve them later c The Spline Guide helps you to bend, twist and change scales


02 Time to model

In my workflow I tend to use basic box modelling, cylinders and primitives. For bed clothes I use subdivided box planes. For the bed and window decoration I work with Spline Guides using the Rail Extrude tool. It’s also a great idea to reuse old models when you can, such as the petrol lamp and the radio in this scene. For the chair I follow a simple spline and box-modelling workflow b.


03 Move to LightWave Modeler

I always use the Spline Guide in the Modify tab, as it’s great for bending objects, stretching and twisting. Rail Extrude, in conjunction with the Spline Guide, is also a great time-saving tool. I use the Bandsaw tool to subdivide along with the Knife and Bend tools. Using shortcuts is a big help – learn them if you want to save time. You’ll find a PDF of my top shortcuts supplied with this tutorial C. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Get stuck into modelling Find your own working method with LightWave’s Modeler tools

04 Use the Rail Extrude tool

I model the bed using splines. This is a great trick in LightWave, as you simply draw the pattern and use the Rail Extrude tool to extrude a cylinder. Remember to use only the front face of the cylinder. I put the spline in a background layer and the face at the beginning of the spline, then simply click on the bent tubes. I repeat this for all the patterns of the bed frame d.



05 Research your textures

I always recommend using texture sites – most of them have a free quota of textures. Personally, I have a membership with, which gives me a quota of 100MB of textures a day. This is more than enough for a single 3D artist so I suggest you give it a look. For this scene, I choose a basic brick texture, a couple of wood maps, white plaster and some cloth textures. These are only small textures, as we’ll make the magic happen later when we get into Photoshop e.


06 Tile your textures

When you find a nice texture, you may discover that it won’t make useful tiles to cover the area you want to texture. A good way to get around this is to use the Ofset tool in Photoshop, which you’ll find in the Filters tab. Simply make a vertical and horizontal ofset to create a good centre for the seams of the texture. You should find that by using the Clone Stamp tool you can get rid of the excess seams. Move the Ofset tool again and try to use a round brush with your Clone Stamp tool for really precise results f.

d The Rail Extrude is an incredible time-saving tool e helped me with the texture hunt for this particular scene f Photoshop’s Ofset tool is the key to success for tiled textures

Eugenio Garcia Villarreal

Eugenio Garcia Villarreal is an artist living and working in Mexico who taught himself 3D techniques by reading tutorials and watching video guides. He’s now the co-founder of D10Studio, a digital agency in Mexico, and he boasts a degree in Graphic Design. He loves art, illustration and cars, and specialises in environments, texturing and product shots.

102 3D Art & Design

Detective’s Ofce LightWave, Photoshop (2011)

This was created for issue 28 of 3D Artist magazine. The scene is based on a stereotypical old detective’s ofce. It involved a lot of 3D modelling and post work

Real de Catorce LightWave, Photoshop (2008)

Created after Eugenio’s travels to Real de Catorce, a town in Mexico, he wanted to capture the incredible mood of the desert sunsets he saw there

Create superior interiors g

Play with contrast For a long time contrast has been used to make images more interesting, as it helps the eye to explore the complete image. Plain light is your enemy! The use of good contrast is eye-candy, as it can be applied to light, dark and colour temperature, as well as the concentration of mass objects too. With this scene I use contrast to create depth and a warm environment. You can experiment with this in 3D using linear grading lights. Textures will help with this a lot too. g UV texture sheets make the texturing job very easy


h You’ll need a lot of patience with ClothFX, but in the end you’ll have great results

UV texture sheets This is an easy task. Before

running the cloth simulation, we need to UV-map the bed sheets. I basically create a box with lots of subdivisions, then use the basic planar texture UV-mapping. I export the EPS file too, so I can work on it later in Photoshop. This will facilitate you when you run the simulations and export a transformed object. The sheets will look great with folds and a decent texture g.

08 Basic cloth simulation

i I bring in all the depth information with Photoshop, desaturating and playing with the levels


j Experiment with diferent focal lengths to get the right look

LightWave’s ClothFX can often cause several headaches – but don’t worry, you just need to find that sweet spot with all the variables. It’s like polishing a rough model. All I do is use the ClothFX tool with a rectangle that’s the shape of a mattress to run the simulations on. I make around 40 simulations until I find a nice one – simply select the object and save the frame you like as a transformed object, and you’re done. You now have your blank sheets. The best part of all is that they’re UV-mapped and ready for the textures and Displacement maps h.

09 Use Displacement maps

I create a black-and-white conversion in the brick texture map, then add a Gaussian blur. This will make a good Displacement map combined with the detailed sharpen texture. This is in the Deform options in the Properties tab on the wall object. Apply a sub-patch to the wall in Modeler, then in Layout you can increase the subdivision level. I add 60 to the Sub-level to get nice details in the map. Clone the wall plane four times to get the full efect. To avoid freezing frames you can add the subdivision level increase in the render, not in the GPU display i.


10 Composition and camera setup

Since I already have my sketch, I just move the focal length of the camera to 35mm. I want to make the chair and window my main objects, so I move them to get a nice distribution. Good contrast in light/ temperature and distribution is needed. The brightest parts of the image are less crowded and the dark areas have lots of objects j.


NY Street LightWave, Photoshop (2011)

An image created for an old project, inspired by the streets of New York. This one was completed after around four days of modelling. The cab is the only model not created by Eugenio

3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Let there be light Let’s render, colour correct and finish up our scene


11 Set up the scene’s lighting

As mentioned, contrast is the key to a good image. I use basic area lights in this scene, putting one in the window position and enlarging it to get the same size. I also add a Linear Mode to the light with 300% Intensity and enlarge the gradient. VPR is a good way to see the increase of the light in real-time. You’ll find FPrime is also a handy real-time tool k.

12 Add textures and shaders

I use the main textures combined with shaders mostly preset in LightWave. For the bed I use a simple black shader with Reflections at 15%. The floor is reflective too, so 15% gives a good-looking glossy finish. The wood on the columns and furniture has a Bump map at 200% to get a nice, rough texture. The bed has Bump and Color maps too and all the books are sourced images of simple boxes. You can later touch up the complete scene to get more texture details l.

13 Sculpt in ZBrush

I create two objects in ZBrush: the glass sculpture and the cookies. I export an OBJ base mesh from LightWave Modeler and import it into ZBrush, subdividing the geometry and using standard brushes to sculpt. For the cookie object I use a crumpled Alpha with the Standard brush, combined with the Move tool. For the sculpture, I use the Drag brush to apply patterned shapes. I later export all to LightWave, with a high polygon count m.

l k Linear light helps to create nice contrast in the scene

l Surfaces with no texture can be given 3D shaders

m ZBrush is a great program – it can help a lot with organic and sculptural objects

Keep it natural


104 3D Art & Design

In 3D we usually prefer to be as clean and perfect as possible, but we also need to see the nature of objects. It’s the little imperfections that make an object real, such as burnt marks in a wooden plank, aged efects on walls, rounded, cool, worn objects and so on. Just try to imagine the story of every object and what may have afected it over time. Take the floor for instance: think about how many people pass over it, where they put their feet and work out where the worn textures should go. This will make your work even more believable.

Create superior interiors

Render and post work Give your image a boost in these final stages

14 Colour correction

Opening the render in Photoshop, I adjust the levels and experiment with the values. I find the raw render a little plain, so I focus on getting more contrast and take out some of the reddish tone. Next I use HDR Toning on the image, make a photorealistic pass and put that layer over the colour-corrected one. I change the opacity and set it to Overlay mode. To finish this stage, I mask the HDR-converted image and use a Round brush to bring out the light details, such as reflections and areas of contrast n.

15hours cr

eation tim e

Resolution 7,534 x 3,304: pixels

15 Matte-painting techniques

We’ll bring some extra details into the scene, such as the red fabric on the top of the shelf, crumbs from the cookies and so on. A cracked texture on the white wall is also added in Overlay mode in Photoshop. Plants outside are textures that are overexposed to match the light o.



16 Final details

Little details are added now, using the Dodge and Burn tools to make more contrast. I use the Burn tool behind the beams and at the edges of the image. I’m trying to mimic the efect of being in a dark room and suddenly entering one with a strong source of light. When this happens you only can see limited aspects of the dark spaces. Some glows are also added with a large round brush. I add this on a top layer, so I can easily transform its scale p.

17 Colour correction and HDR filtering

As in the previous stage, I make another pass of photorealistic HDR toning now. Using masks to bring more details in, I put some yellowish colour in the light source and finally sign the image. This project has been a great exercise in exploring light and texture. I hope you’ll be able to apply these skills to your own projects q.


Render setup For the final render I use LightWave’s rendering engine with Adaptive Sampling set to a level range of 12-12 with Classic Reconstruction filter and a low-discrepancy Sampling Pattern. The radiosity is Monte Carlo with three bounces in the final render. The final resolution of the image is 7,534 x 3,304 pixels, rendered using F9 and saved as 32-bit TGA files.

q n Try to get some nice contrast at this stage – it will be the base of all the final details

p Use your Transform tool to increase the size of the glow, setting a warm tone

o You could add details infinitely, so you need to focus on the primary ones for time’s sake

q HDR Toning is a great tool if you know how to combine it with your base image 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Tutorial files: • Tutorial screenshots


Design interactive interiors Discover a few of Roald Høyer-Hansen’s tricks for creating interactive interior scenes with Unity


very once in a while artists should take the plunge and give up their favourite tools. Tasks that were once so easy to solve will become incredibly hard to complete, forcing your brain to come up with new solutions for all sorts of problems. This is really what this tutorial is about: learning the possibilities of a limited tool – namely the free version of the Unity game engine. Having used the professional version of this excellent engine for the last five years, I have learnt how to complete tasks in a moreadvanced way. Previously dull and flat-looking scenes instantly get a massive visual boost just by adding a couple of image efects and some nice-looking, light-mapped global illumination. Sloppy and poorly optimised models receive the Umbra Occlusion treatment, which means

106 3D Art & Design

that they will run silky smooth, even on your mobile device. This way of working can be excused in a hectic work environment with looming deadlines behind every corner, but what would happen if your favourite tools suddenly disappeared? What would you do if Tool A was no longer accessible and your beloved Tool B was nowhere to be found? How would you react if your workflow was turned upside down? This very scenario is pretty much what I’ll be covering. Let’s start by comparing the limited free version with the feature-packed professional edition of Unity. Unfortunately, most of the features aimed at artists are stripped from the free version of the engine and the few features that are left are pretty limited in terms of visual

fidelity. Gone are all the handy image efects and real-time shadows are efectively disabled. Lightmapping is still there, but without the more advanced global illumination, and with its bouncing photons and bleeding pixels. You can also kiss goodbye to visible Normal maps in lightmapped scenes, as the Directional lightmap feature is greyed out. Optimisationwise, both Umbra Occlusion and the mighty Profiler are taken away, but thankfully we still have the Level of Detail functionality. You’re probably thinking this all sounds pretty drastic. Is it possible to create something visually on a par with the Pro version with all these powerful features taken away? It certainly is, but it will require some workarounds, clever thinking and a lot of patience. So let’s see how far we can take this. As this is a Unity-focused tutorial, I won’t go into detail about creating assets, but one important thing to keep in mind when preparing these is the addition of a secondary

Design interactive interiors

b UV channel. This will be used to store lightmap information inside Unity and it will save you a lot of time later in the process. Unity can generate secondary UV channels for you during the import, but if you want complete control I suggest spending some time creating these yourself. I also suggest making a separate low-resolution collision mesh for the sake of optimisation. Unity can generate collision geometry during import too, but this will be based on the imported mesh and will afect the performance of your project. Being limited to only the core tools in Unity can actually be a good thing. Not only do you have to change the way you work, but you have to come up with alternative techniques to solve problems. The lack of global illumination makes it extremely hard to create nicely lit scenes, but a custom GI rig can certainly do the trick to solve this. For this project the rig was made using a bunch of dummy objects that were snapped to the vertices of a dome in 3ds Max. In Unity these dummy objects are then given a shadow-casting Point light component. By tweaking the Intensity, Range and Color of these, a surprisingly usable GI solution can be made. Combined with coloured lights used to fake colour bouncing in the scene, this method appeared to work incredibly well. With no way of faking the image efects found in the Pro version, getting the most out of the materials was a priority in this project. For added depth, most of the textures were given an Ambient Occlusion pass inside 3ds Max. Some Normal maps were also generated, but since the free version of Unity doesn’t support Directional lightmaps, most of the Normal map detail


Find your inspiration The main source of inspiration for this tutorial is Bookbox Loft, a modern apartment by mode:lina (www.modelina-architekci. com). Be sure to ask for permission before starting a project like this. I was given the go-ahead by mode:lina, which meant I could start the project with peace of mind. Using various reference photos from the website to build the assets in 3ds Max, I mainly used traditional box-modelling techniques together with some spline modelling for the walls and wooden mouldings. Most textures have been hand-made or mixed with the excellent free textures from

a Even without the

advanced features, the free version of Unity can produce nice visuals

b A fake GI setup

makes it possible to create realistic lighting in the free version of Unity

c Careful attention

to details can have a stronger impact than a bunch of image efects

disappeared when Lightmapping. To solve this, most of the objects were given either a Bumped Specular or a Reflective Bumped Specular material. These Reflective material types work very well with Normal maps. By carefully tweaking the Alpha channels of these textures, they can end up looking pretty convincing. Since the free version of Unity isn’t capable of antialiasing, sharp and jagged edges can make your eyes bleed. These will always be visible when running the game/ simulation, but in screenshots we can get rid of them. By using a custom script we can render out high-resolution screenshots from the camera and when we downscale them back to a normal size most of the nasty edges will be smoothed out. All in all, you get more than you pay for with the free version of Unity. It certainly lacks most of the cutting-edge features found in its big brother. However, by thinking outside of the box and coming up with new methods I’ve enjoyed spending time with the little brother for this project. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation





Import assets into Unity In

Let’s push the limits of the free version of Unity

Unity, importing geometry and other assets is a matter of dragging and dropping from either Windows Explorer or Finder into Unity’s Hierarchy panel. For this project we’ll be sure to import all textures prior to the geometry, as Unity can sometimes struggle to locate these if done the other way around. Somehow, Unity imports objects with a Scale Factor of 0.01, so changing this to 1.0 makes our scale correct. For this scene we also need a Skybox and a First Person Controller, so Ctrl/right-click in the Project panel to import these using the Import Package option f.




d Exporting the

entire model as one chunk isn’t always the best way, but somehow it worked fine for this project

e Creating custom

collision geometry will make your CPU happy

f Scale, automatic

secondary UVs and collision geometry can all be found in the Import settings

g The Skybox does

not emit any light, as it’s only there for the visuals

h Using a simple GI

rig, we can produce at least some semirealistic lighting in the scene

i With the lighting

setup used here, even the interior’s corners get nice and even shades

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Prepare to export Before

exporting your models to Unity, you should make sure the scale is correct. When Lightmapping your models, you should have a second UV channel assigned for the best results. This is not strictly necessary, as Unity can do this automatically for you during the import. However, you will find that completing this manually will both speed up the modelimport process and optimise the lightmaps. Often it can be necessary to adjust and clean up the lightmaps after a bake, so if you want full control, custom secondary UVs are a must d.


Add collision geometry When

making models for videogames and interactive media in general, every frame counts. You’ll find that creating a separate low-resolution model to act as collision geometry will definitely make for a better and smoother experience. For this scene, around 30 regular boxes did the job, which meant that instead of calculating the distance to thousands of triangles every frame, the First Person Controller inside Unity would only have to calculate a couple of hundred maximum e.

Ambient colour and the Skybox element Strangely

enough, the default ambient colour in Unity is set to grey. This will make your scenes very flat, so by going to Edit>Render Settings this can be changed to a darker value. In the Render settings we can also choose a regular sunny Skybox. Getting the geometry in the scene is just a matter of dragging the models into the Hierarchy panel or straight into the scene view itself. It’s recommended that you use the Hierarchy, though, as the geometry will be placed directly in the centre of the scene based on the world position the geometry was exported from g.




Let there be light With the

apartment geometry in our scene it’s time to brighten it up a little, so first we’ll create a Directional light by going to GameObject>Create Other>Directional Light. This is basically the sun and will often set the general mood of the scene. As the free version of Unity doesn’t support global illumination, we’ll use an old-school fake GI setup. Use a prefab for the indoor lights, combining a regular Point light and a lamp model exported separately. Making a light prefab like this will certainly speed up the lighting of the scene, as the changes made to one light can be transferred to all the other prefabs h.


Lightmap the scene When all

the lights are placed in the scene, it’s time to perform some lightmap magic. The first thing we need to do is mark all the geometry we want to use in the lightmap calculation as Static, which in this case means pretty much everything except the collision geometry. Next we open the Lightmapping window, accessed through Window>Lightmapping, setting the Quality

Design interactive interiors Use Cubemap Maker For the reflective surfaces in the apartment, all the Cubemap Textures are generated using the excellent Cubemap Maker plug-in. This free utility makes it very easy to create Cubemap Textures for the various rooms in the apartment. All I need to do is place a Cubemap Maker prefab where I want the reflections to be calculated from and then press F12 during Play mode to capture the Cubemaps. Usually creating so many custom Cubemaps is an example of overkill, but for smaller scenes like this one they add some much-needed realism. The plug-in can be downloaded from j to Low and the Resolution to a very low value (5) for quick test bakes. When we finally find the perfect mix of fake GI, sunlight and indoor lighting, we can boost the resolution, get a cup of cofee and wait for the final bake to finish i.


Adjust the materials When we have a nicely lit scene, it’s time to dive into the world of materials and shaders. The reason we do this after Lightmapping the scene is because we’ll be creating some Cubemap Textures based on the diferent rooms in the apartment. These Cubemap Textures will give us nice reflective surfaces, so they should be based on a scene that is properly lit. By default, all imported materials in Unity are plain Difuse, but for this scene most of the materials will be changed into Reflective and/or Bump Specular surfaces j.

Create a custom GI rig in 3ds Max To create a custom GI rig we only need a half sphere and plenty of dummy objects. After creating the sphere and removing the bottom part, it’s just a matter of snapping the dummy objects to the vertices of the sphere. When all dummies are in place, these should be parented to the sphere before exporting to FBX. In Unity the next step is to disable the Mesh Renderer of the sphere, select all the dummy objects and give them all a Light component with a Shadow Radius of 2. By adjusting the Scale of the sphere, as well as the Range and Intensity of the lights, we now have a fully functional GI rig.


The first steps To be able to walk around in our scene we’ll use Unity’s standard First Person Controller. By dragging the Controller’s prefab into the Hierarchy, we are ready to take our first steps inside the apartment. By default, the Walk Speed and Mouse Sensitivity are a tad too high, so tuning these values down will give us nice fluid motion. For this particular scene, the FPS camera was lowered a bit, the jumping was disabled and the Radius of the Capsule Collider was scaled down considerably k.


Remove lightmap noise Even though the custom GI rig seemed to work pretty well, it did produce some visible noise in the lightmaps. To quickly fix this, we can open up our lightmaps with Photoshop and use the Surface Blur filter found under Filter>Blur>Surface Blur. Now we can really see the benefits of our secondary UV channels, as the UV islands in our lightmaps are nicely arranged and easy to modify l.



Export the scene With our scene pretty much finished, we are now ready to show it of to the rest of the world. Unity can export to a multitude of formats by opening the Build Settings (File>Build Settings). Exporting the project as a Unity Web Player seems to be the perfect option if you plan for the project to be shared with others. Using a simple script, we can also capture super-highresolution screenshots of our project and send these straight to the printing press. We can also opt to scale them down again for some fake antialiasing m.

j Using Cubemap

Textures can result in nice reflective surfaces

k We can use the

standard First Person Controller to enter our scene. This is a good way to scrutinise detail


l Lightmap UV

islands being cleaned using the Surface Blur filter in Photoshop

m When exporting

the scene as a Unity Web Player, it can be viewed in a web browser

m 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

• Plant & butterfly models (.max format) with maps • Ivy Generator preset (.ivy) • Video overview (.avi)

Learn to create you r ow plants for enriched n photorealistic arch-vis scenes

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Paweł Podwojewski

Software used in this piece 3ds Max

110 3D Art & Design




Personal portfolio site Country Poland Software used 3ds Max, V-Ray, Unfold3D, Photoshop Expertise Paweł believes his strongest skills lie in lighting and compositing

Build unique arch-vis assets

Build unique arch-vis assets

Concept The main idea is to create a plant model in a few steps that will add extra detail to your arch-vis scenes. The skills covered are designed to help you build your own reference library of assets to use time and again in your scenes and give them a unique touch. To keep things efcient I will be using techniques in 3ds Max and with plug-ins that are available for free online where possible.

Urban Survivor 2012

Create a plant model that can be easily reused in archvis scenes to enrich your environments Paweł Podwojewski is an architect and CG artist, specialising in architectural visualisations


n this tutorial you will learn how to create realistic-looking plants with simple tools that will enrich your arch-vis scenes and bring a unique touch to the final output. We will go through planning the model and learn how to model, shade, render and finally retouch our image. We will also take a quick look at basic particle systems for extra details.

References and inspirations Choose your references, prepare photos and establish a concept b

02 Create a base for future textures

Try to shoot leaves in orthogonal view on an evenly lit surface. Make sure you don’t have any strong shadows – this will be very helpful when creating the textures in the later steps B.


03 Key elements in the scene


01 Shoot the mood

Creating nature in 3D is a great challenge, which makes it crucial to focus your early stages on finding good references. We strongly recommend grabbing a camera – even if it’s on your mobile phone or another device – and shoot photos. This will give you a much better understanding of the subject and you will notice much more detail than when looking at images on the internet a. a Create your own references. By shooting your own photos you will remember more detail

b Shoot your references in orthogonal view

c Create detailed textures by scanning key elements

Once you have all your necessary photographs you can prepare extra detail for the key elements. In this case, the leaves will be in our focal point. We have taken two samples of leaves and made a simple scan. Using Photoshop in the next steps we will create all our relevant maps. Good quality images will let you render the created models even on close-ups, which may be a very good way to frame your architectural scene and focus the viewer on certain parts of the image c. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Model your assets Start the modelling with simple shapes then move to the details d


Begin the modelling with simple geometry

The stalk after unwrapping Create several copies of the leaf for a more random and natural look


04 Plant structure modelling

Let’s start this step with a plane and a texture showing your plant reference. We’ve used splines to build the base structure. This is a crucial step that will determine the final plant appearance. Please be careful to work in real-world units to keep the proper scale of elements. It’s very important for physically-correct light distribution while rendering and refining the scene with Particle Flow. Try to build a low-poly mesh and keep the MeshSmooth as a modifier. This will let you easily edit the model in the next steps when you decide to change, for example, the composition. Relatively low- or mid-poly models will be easier to use in more complex scenes and will also save memory while rendering. Remember, your workstation processing power is always limited and we are working on details that should be easy to use and not stress your GPU d.

05 Leaves and stalks


For unwrapping the stalk we’ll use the Unfold tool. This is a simple and easy-to-use interface for the unwrapping process. We’ll build the leaves in full geometry, because without Opacity maps the leaf will render faster. This is also important because we want to add extra details with a Particle Flow system, so the particles in this case will stay exactly on the leaf surface. In the case of using an Opacity map and plate geometry leaves, this trick might not work and some of the particles will possibly stay outside of the leaf. Start the model with a low-poly mesh. Make sure to use modifiers to create a couple of copies of the same leaf for a more random and natural look ef.

Prepare the UVW template for future textures

06 Extra leaf details and unwrapping

While aiming for very realistic efects, we may want to add some splines underneath the leaf to create veins. To do this, select the main edges of your veins in the low-poly model and detach to shape. Add the Normalize Spline modifier and copy the modifiers we added in the previous step to the leaf. This will guarantee the spline will perfectly fit the leaf surface. Once you have the model complete, go back to the editable poly level and add Unwrap. Go to Edit mode, select Planar mapping, pack the UVW and choose the render UVW template from Tools. This will be the template we will use in Photoshop for texture creation g.

Shoot your own references Working with your own photos has a huge advantage. You can choose exactly the details you want for model creation. However, sometimes it’s impossible to shoot what you want. In these cases there are very helpful resources you can find online, such as CG Textures (www.cgtextures. com) and Shutterstock (

Paweł Podwojewski An architect by profession and 3D artist by passion, Paweł’s designs and concepts are influenced by architecture from various industries, including retail, residential and commercial and urban planning. In 2009 he started, an online service that provides training for CG artists in the form of video tutorials and workshops.

112 3D Art & Design

Underwater Hotels 3ds Max, V-Ray, Photoshop (2011) Waterdiscus – an underwater hotel. Paweł is the architect behind the design and rendered concepts

Diving Centre 3ds Max, V-Ray, Photoshop (2011) A concept sketch created for the Underwater Hotels project in 2011

Build unique arch-vis assets

Get realistic and natural effects Make detailed leaves quickly and easily leaf 07 Final adjustments

Once the leaf models are finished we can spend time placing them on the plant. In this example we have spread the leaves manually. To prevent them from looking too similar you can use a simple FFD 3 x 3 modifier. A couple of mouse clicks will refine your general model look. On some leaves we also want to add some dust and seeds, which we can do using the PArray particle system. Create the PArray object and choose the leaf model on which you want to create particles. Play around with the particle type, amount and size until you’re happy with the result. Set the particle percent for the viewport display to 100 to be sure of the result. You can decrease this value later to increase viewport performance. This is also a simple way to create water droplets h.


Try using Particle Flow for extra details like water droplets and dust

08 Level of detail (LOD)

While working with detailed geometry we should keep in mind not all elements will be equally exposed. Smaller elements will be less visible and also require less detail. To be sure you’re heading in the right direction, render a couple of previews; in this case the top leaves are much simpler than the larger ones on the bottom i.


Choose the geometry leaf type according to size and exposure


Use shortcuts When you really don’t have time and you desperately need a plant model, use the free Ivy Generator (www. By adjusting the settings, you can achieve naturallooking plants in seconds. j A quick plant creation using the Ivy Generator k Play with MassFX and create a realistic ground

09 Use shortcuts

In some cases we’ll need to create a bush or tree quickly. If you’re not experienced with software like Onyx or GrowFX you may want to use the free plug-in Ivy Generator developed by GuruWare. This small plug-in lets you quickly create typical ivy, but also when you play a bit with the settings you can create great-looking plants. You can have a close look at our settings by checking out the supplied preset in the tutorial files. More importantly, you can create your own leaves and use them with this plug-in too. This feature enables you to create unique models fast j.


10 Final details Housing in France 3ds Max, V-Ray, Photoshop (2012)

A housing project in France by Nadau Lavergne studio located in the Unesco-protected zone

Good-looking plants need a proper ground, so we’ll create real geometric branches. First we need mid-poly branches that can be scattered on the ground. We want them to collide, so to create this simulation you can use MassFX in 3ds Max. Be sure to create a couple of branches and then add the simulation to a few elements at once (otherwise you may cause 3ds Max to crash). In the Settings of the Modify panel, you can choose a preset for the material. Also make sure to choose the Mesh type as Original. This will make the calculation longer but also the efect will be much more convincing. Details like bugs and butterflies may also make a nice touch k. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Shading and textures

Add some visceral detail for greater realism

11 Stalk shading

Resolution versus quality

Stalk material is very specific. To create a physically correct shader, choose VRayFastSSS2. The light should travel through the stalk, the same efect we can see on human skin. This solution makes sure we get similar results. Since the stalk is pretty well exposed, the decision is simple. When you look at the shader in the Material Editor you’ll see you can choose from a bunch of presets l.

While painting textures, note that the resolution has a huge impact on the final efect. It’s best to use a tripod while shooting images for crisper reference. This will enhance not only the Difuse maps, but also the conversion into Displacement and Normal maps. For creating Normal maps, you can use a free Photoshop plug-in that you can find in the Developer Zone on the NVIDIA website.

12 Paint leaf textures

Now we’ll prepare our UVW templates from earlier. Open a template in Photoshop and fit scanned leaf images or photographs. Be careful at the edges, paint a little outside the template to avoid strokes on leaf borders while rendering. Once the Difuse map is ready, create one more for translucency and one for the bump and reflections. For the displacement we’ll paint a custom map to increase the visibility of the leaf veins m.

L We use the VRayFastSSS2 shader for translucent objects


m Paint extra Displacement maps for higher-quality results

13 Leaf shaders


Leaves are also a good example for the VRayFastSSS2 material. To speed up rendering we’ll use translucency in the default V-Ray material. Note you need to add a Color map that will afect the bottom part of the leaf in the Translucency channel. Usually it will be a slightly brighter map than the Difuse map. You can use a Color Correct map to tweak the Difuse map straight in 3ds Max. Enable Translucency in the Material Editor. Use a hybrid model with Thickness set to 0,002m n.


14 Light the scene o

114 3D Art & Design

We’ll follow this scheme and use a V-Ray dome light as the main light source. Inside the dome we’ll use a texture from CGSkies ( with a similar atmosphere to the reference. Note that the dome light produces realistic light rays and is very accurate. It’s most likely you’ll receive a little noise while rendering with low settings, but you can be almost sure that no splotches will occur o.

Build unique arch-vis assets

Scene setup and final retouching crea5tiohours It’s time to set up the final scene p


n tim Resolution e 4,200 x 2,80 : 0

Now let’s set up the VRayPhysicalCamera. This camera enables you to control the light in the same way as a real one. With the most interesting features we can add motion blur and depth of field. You must be careful with sampling to keep decent rendering times. Please be careful to select the Depth of Field box as well as the Motion Blur and Bokeh efect. In Bokeh, change the Bias to 0.5. This makes the bokeh circles brighter on the edges. Play around with the focal distance until you’re happy with the results. Work on a simple shader to test the DOF and speed up rendering times p.

15 Set up the camera

With physical DOF it’s much harder to work with masks in Photoshop since a lot of elements are out of focus and the edges are blurry. What we can do in this case is basic colour correction by tweaking the colour balance and contrast. It’s best to use Curves for this purpose. Use the Raw Reflection Render element with Reflection Filter as a mask to better control the amount of reflectivity on the leaves and other selected objects. Also use the FastSSS2 channel to increase the translucent efect on stalk. You can add some noise for extra photorealism at the end r.

17 The final retouch q The rendering setup is pretty simple. Use a GI Irradiance map and Light Cache for secondary bounces. Use antialiasing as a default area filter and linear colour mapping with Gamma set to 1.0. For better details use the Adaptive DMC image sampler. The benefits are especially visible when you have a lot of tiny elements in your scene (branches, in our case). Thinking about retouching, we should add some extra channels like Raw Reflections and Reflections Filter. In the final steps we’ll control the intensity of reflective surfaces. We use DOF inside V-Ray so masking with wire colour or multimatte is now much more difcult q.

16 Rendering and extra channels

Save time by using a great composition A good composition makes life a lot easier for CG artists. When we plan a shot correctly we can drop lots of details and at the same time convince the viewer about tons of work that had to be invested to achieve such a result. Mind the level of detail that should change on each ground. Think about framing elements that may enhance the shot and also link the viewer’s focus on a certain point on the image.

n Create leaves with translucency. Achieve a photorealistic look and decent rendering times o A simple lighting setup with only one dome light p You have the option of playing with depth of field and bokeh using the VRayPhysicalCamera q Think about render elements that will help you while in the post-production stage r Render elements are helpful while final retouching 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the ďŹ nal render

Sonia Foltarz Personal portfolio site http:// Location Gdynia, Poland Software used Photoshop Expertise Sonia specialises in computer graphics and concept art. She loves drawing cartoon character designs in 2D

116 3D Art & Design


My idea is essentially an iceberg that combines both architecture and nature in an abstract way. Re-creating this in 3D is going to be quite a challenge, but the ďŹ nal results should make it look even more fantastical!

Fantasy arch vis

Fantasy arch vis concept design Breaking the ice 2012 Sonia Foltarz is a student in Poland currently exploring her concept-design skills to build a portfolio


his concept is about combining architecture and nature in a very abstract way. The design breaks the rules of physics and rational thinking – I doubt an underwater iceberg building could ever actually exist – but that’s what makes it so unique and mysterious. It’s a great challenge for a 3D artist to take on!

I find it quite difcult to get a perfect icy look when depicting an iceberg, so for this specific efect I use observational skills and experimentation to create textures in Photoshop that work. Another difculty I encounter while working on this concept is showing the depth of the interior of the iceberg. You’ll need to play around with colours and diferent levels of opacity.

Create a concept Define your ideas in Photoshop a

Always imagine your 2D art from a 3D artist’s perspective so you can get the right shapes and angles of the details


Research & make sketches To begin, I search for lots of iceberg photos on the internet and decide how I can present the project to be as visually tremendous as possible. After a little trial and error, I decide to go for a front-on view. Thanks to this adjustment I don’t need to change the sizes of windows and other small elements because everything is more or less at the same angle. This gives a clear view of my project for the 3D artist to follow a.


Find the right colours We need to realistically colour our iceberg. I find it useful to take a piece of ice to see how it looks in diferent surroundings. Then in Photoshop, I divide all levels and layers using foundation colours, which later on help me develop the depth of my piece. The dark-blue tone helps the perspective and demonstrates the complexity of the interior the iceberg b.

Search for the best ways to express your thoughts in your concept art. It’s crucial to provide the 3D artist with a clear idea of the shapes and textures of the things presented in your artwork Try to create your concept from other views (front, profile and angled). This is especially useful when your project is complex and overloaded with details. This helps the 3D artist create it as precisely as possible

a Make your sketch engaging and clear for a 3D artist to follow

b Experiment with colour to gain

the ideal depth of your artwork

c Use opacity and light colours to create a perfect glossiness




Lighting & particles Lighting is the hardest step in this whole process. Ice has a specific glossiness that makes it look somewhat translucent, so I’m using a wide range of custom brushes and white paint to help me form the details of windows, stairs, columns and a fountain. I later experiment with the opacity of the diferent layers of my lighting and finally get an icy look that I’m happy with c. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Paweł Podwojewski Personal portfolio site Location Gdańsk, Poland Software used 3ds Max, V-Ray, Photoshop Expertise Paweł specialises in lighting, compositing and optimising scenes

Software used in this piece 3ds Max



Concept Sonia created lots of quick drawings in search of the best concept. The final sketch was a fusion of a few very diferent ideas that she explored. The concept looks very complex at first glance and shows lots of details, which is why it’s crucial to plan your 3D project from the beginning – especially the modelling stage.

118 3D Art & Design

• A crystal shader and model • A Photoshop file with the basic render elements • Tutorial screenshots

Fantasy arch vis

Fantasy arch vis 3D illustration Paweł Podwojewski is an architect with a strong background in CG


his tutorial will show you how use 3ds Max, V-Ray and Photoshop to build a scene from a supplied concept. Following the art provided by the designer, we will create an abstract iceberg structure that combines architecture and nature. This fantasy structure will be an exciting challenge, because the irregular forms and complex geometry will compel us to find ways to optimise our scene. We’ll use Normal Bump maps to enhance the impression of detail in our architectural elements, saving time, poly count and

Plan your project

Problems & solutions The composition of this concept sets the ground on one level, which means we have far fewer elements to build the 3D impression with than in a regular architectural scene. We need to find other elements to build our atmosphere and to give of the solid impression that a 3D render should provide. If not, the render will be just a normal, flat picture. I decide to focus on the shader, lighting with volumetric efects as well as adding a couple of elements in the foreground to better describe the distance between the viewer and the ice structure. Modelling ice isn’t that simple in 3ds Max, either. We don’t have precise sculpting tools and the vertex-by-vertex poly-modelling method would take forever. A reasonable way is to adjust some modifiers to speed up the process, while keeping interesting results and getting close to the concept. Procedural maps and displacements will enhance the model.

memory. Because 3ds Max doesn’t have dedicated sculpting tools, we will also use a couple of tricks and scripts to make things go smoothly. Fractured surfaces can be achieved with a MaxScript and simple modelling tools will enable you to work inside just the one major software. To add a strong atmosphere to the final image, we’ll explore volumetric lights and environmental fog. To finish up, correct use of render elements from V-Ray will help us out in the post-production stage in Photoshop.


Begin to work from the concept piece

Prepare the scene The initial stages of this project are crucial, so we need to divide the concept into parts to simplify the workflow. I decide to focus on the main shape of the iceberg, the interior arcades and the spiral staircase. Making a plan and a list of elements will help you to get the job done and not fall into limbo. Start with simple shapes such as a couple of polygons, to try to fit the scale and shape to the iceberg concept a.


Find the best scale Analyse the concept and look at the single elements. Our main elements are the iceberg, interior arcades and spiral staircase. To achieve the best results when rendering, we need to properly scale the scene to get a physically correct response from the rendering engine. It’s not easy to judge scale when working with an abstract concept like this, although the arcades can give us an idea of what scale we should use. For instance, assume that one level of arcades will have a height of four metres b.

b a Start with simple geometry to get the right scale following the concept art

b Look at elements you are

familiar with from reality to find the right scale

c Consider the composition to a

better understand the merits of your view



Set your camera

Setting the camera up at an early stage will help you find out how much will actually be seen. Later on we can adjust the level of detail to the view. The concept shows the iceberg from a frontal view, which is a nice angle that exposes lots of details. Unfortunately, for a 3D scene it won’t be easy to get a great 3D depth because we can’t divide the scene into grounds (foreground, midground, background). This means that all the elements will appear equally important in the shot and the lighting will have a minor impact on the space-perception c. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Begin modelling With the planning done, we can now build the main elements of our scene


Carve out the ice Once we have defined the correct scale, it’s time to develop the main structure. I build simple geometry to keep the dimensions of the concept and on the top of the model I add a MeshSmooth modifier plus a Displace modifier. For the Displacement map I use a Noise Procedural map. Creating distortion will break the light rays nicely and provide the ice efect later on. To add extra detail I use the Push/Pull tool from the Editable Poly panel. Using a graphics tablet is very handy at this stage, as this part is very similar to a simple sculpting process. Now it’s time to focus on the edges and the exposed top element d. d


Add the arcades

The other important elements to focus on are the arcades. We have plenty of them visible in the concept sketch, so I start by modelling one module in high detail. After a rough calculation, the scene’s total poly count will be at around 100 million, so to combat this I use VRayProxies to spread the modules, or optimise them. I find optimised geometry better because there’s more control in the final model and the opportunity to adjust every single element, if needed e. e

Use VRayProxies Scenes with plenty of elements usually mean trouble. Using more RAM means longer save times. Also problems with the viewport will often result and cause you issues. There are solutions that will let you avoid all this trouble, though, if the scene is suitable. In cases where we deal with lots of elements that are copied and scattered all over the scene, like trees or the same type of detailed windows, we can use VRayProxies. A proxy – in its simplest term – is a preview of a mesh that is saved outside the current file. What’s important is that the mesh, while rendering, will be loaded only once – even if in the viewport you have billions of proxies. The only disadvantage is that the preview of the VRayProxy is not as accurate as regular geometry, so to change the proxy you need to edit the source geometry first and export the mesh as a proxy again. From the other side, when you wish to change all the elements at once, all you need to do is load a diferent mesh and it’s done! VRayProxies have given artists a lot of freedom. Since these options were added, the creation of grass, pebbles, whole forests and more has become much easier, enabling artists to strive for far better results.


Mapping & Normal Bumps Once the arcade model is complete, I unwrap it and render the Normal Bump map. You can do this very simply by rendering the object without GI and saving the V-Ray Normals render element. I then simplify the model using the Optimize modifier and rebuild some elements, like the pillars and windows, into much simpler geometry. I apply a shader to the low-poly model with the rendered Normal map as a bitmap under the V-Ray Normal Bump. Thanks to this action I can save millions of polygons, while keeping a decent level of detail at the same time. Also, I find rendering times are much improved. So, with the concept angle, distance from the camera and a planned resolution, I am sure this level of detail will be good enough f. f

d Use modifiers to add details

in a procedural way. This will make the process fast and far more efcient

e Create a single model of an

arcade to scatter inside the iceberg structure

f Create Normal Bumps to

save memory and speed up the rendering time

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Fantasy arch vis 07

Scatter the arcades It’s now time to multiply the

modules of arcades along the iceberg. Set the pivot point somewhere in the centre of the iceberg and use the Array tool to instance the arcades with 360-degree rotation. Please remember that instanced elements will not increase the file size, which will speed up the saving process. I repeat this step a couple of times, changing the pivot point for each level to fit to the iceberg shape. To finish, in places where the ice element is open, simply delete the surplus modules g.


The spiral staircase The concept shows there is a

communication system between levels with spiral stairs. Keeping in mind we have an abstract visual, I decide to use a stock stair element from the Create menu, not paying much attention to the correct scale or even whether the stairs will reach each floor. Once I have the general shape of the stairs ready (I choose a closed type of stairs), I apply the FFD 2x modifier. Selecting the control point on the bottom, I scale them down with the Scale tool to taper the entire shape and adjust the radius to the iceberg’s dimensions h.

Fracture & demolition When working with architectural visualisation, in most cases we don’t need much destruction in our scenes. Most likely our clients will require a clean environment, but there are situations where some damage can be expected. 3ds Max is a very powerful tool for this and in recent versions we’ve been given the MassFX simulation system, which enables a very quick and easy way to collide rigid bodies. RayFire and FumeFX give advanced smoke and fracture efects, although for most arch-vis stills, simple scripts will also do the job. Today, workstations are very powerful, but it’s crucial to keep scenes optimised. It’s very easy to go too far with details and for the geometry to lose focus on the atmosphere. The battle between light and shadow is what makes images truly unique.




Give your structure space

At the very beginning of this project I knew the shot wouldn’t be easy to sell in a 3D environment, because the composition would make it far too flat. The concept looks really exciting as a 2D painting, but it’s now my job to also make it vivid and alive in the third dimension. I agree with Sonia that some foreground elements will let the viewer better judge the distance and perceive the depth of the final image. The iceberg is floating in a vast ocean, so it’s interesting to add some broken ice floating around. This gives the viewer information about the camera angle and perspective, giving the structure the chance it needs to really show of its 3D depth i. i j

g Use Array to multiply the arcade modules

h Use a stock stair element in 3ds Max to add the communication system, as seen in the concept

i Create extra ground

elements to gain better spatial performance

j Apply some fractures to the ice using MaxScripts


Fracture the ground Creating fractured elements is usually a challenge. I could

complete this task manually, but again time is always precious so I decide to dig out some handy scripts. This time I’ll use a script called Fracture Voronoi (www.scriptspot. com/3ds-max/scripts/fracture-voronoi), which can be found and downloaded for free from ScriptSpot. The first step is to create a plane object, then set the dimensions to fit the camera angle and canvas size. Set a reasonable segment count for the plane and run the script. First copy the code from the ScriptSpot site, open the MaxScript window, paste the code, save the script on your drive, then hit the Run Script button and choose the previously saved file. A pop-up window will appear with your script options, so set the element count to divide the selected object into as many pieces as you wish j. 3D Art & Design


Architectural visualisation

Bring in light & shade Focus on the shaders, lighting & atmospheric effects


Apply some environment lights



Use ice shaders The ice shader is key to this scene, as it will obviously get applied to all the elements. I prepare two types of shaders: one for the general iceberg shape and the second for the arcades. The arcade shader will be exactly the same as any other, except for an added Normal Bump created at the very beginning to add extra detail, as well as to keep the poly count low. The ice shader has 100% Reflection, with Reflection Glossiness set at level 0.9 with Fresnel efect and IOR changed to 12. Refraction is totally transparent. Additionally, I add a foggy blue colour and turn on Translucency mode for the soft water k. m

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Lighting is not an easy step in a piece like this. The glassy ice shader needs to reflect the environment in order to highlight the shape details. Photography rules have solutions for such scene types and recommend a black or white environment with proper black or white side reflections. I decide to go a little further and engage the VRayEnvironmentFog for volumetric-lighting ray efects. The main light source for direct rays is a VRaySun. A high amount of environmental fog is set to 100m, which produces a sort of vacuum environment broken by the light rays l.

Motion in still images Still images have obvious limitations: we can only view the scene from a certain perspective and we have no power to look around the details. The key is to bring life to the image, so the viewer remains attracted to the focal points that the artist intended to expose. This means less work can be applied in the artwork, but the impression will be the opposite. Motion in images with walking characters and moving vehicles can bring a lot of information about world structure, physics, time and can also provide information out of context. Taking our iceberg as an example, the extra flying pieces of ice make us feel we are dealing with vertical movement. It’s just a captured moment, but also provides clues about what could happen in the next second. This is all about telling a story and the quality of the image or the techniques may play a secondary role, if the shot is planned well.


Particle efects

To represent broken ice flying around the scene I’ll create a blizzard system. Set the Particle Type to Triangle and adjust the Speed to Camera Shutter. If the speed is too high, the particles will be blurry. The broken ice surface needs some debris pieces, so using MultiScatter I spread three types of crystals regularly across the whole surface m.

k Create an ice shader with a fog efect to better achieve the depth of the elements

l Create light rays with

V-Ray’s environment fog

m Use particle systems for creating dynamic detail

Fantasy arch vis

Post-production & compositing Move into the rendering & post stages to finalise your scene

Find the right lighting




Choose your renderer I’m going to use V-Ray as the rendering engine. Balancing the time-and-quality ratio, I choose the Light Cache and Irradiance map as the GI algorithm. I need to remember that in post-production I’ll add a couple of main render elements, like RawRefraction, RawReflection and WireColor. At this stage I know the RGB pass will not be the main one used while compositing. The environment fog can also be saved with an Atmospheric pass. Combining all the elements on a diferent layer brings me to the final result. Please be sure to increase the subdivisions for the fog; in this case 24 works well n.


Post-production sketches Usually, rendering tests

are enough to give you an idea of where you’re heading with a final image. Because in this case only the combined passes are present before the final output, I render a sketch shot during the process to see if all the pieces will work together. The presented post-production set enables me to decide which colour scheme I should go with for the final production. Perhaps this is duplicating the work, but either way it gives me more control over the concept o.


Prepare the PSD file After creating the postproduction sketches and final rendered passes, I start to organise the layers. On the very bottom lands the RawReflection pass, which becomes my base. Above, I add a masked-out Atmosphere pass, placing the rays and light around the iceberg and setting this to Screen mode. Using WireColor on the very top for a quick selection will help, but keep this invisible for the final save. Use Calculations and the ReflectionFilter pass for creating the mask, which can be used to control the Transparency and Reflection levels of the ice, combined with the RawRefraction pass p.

Build atmosphere with good lighting efects is very important. You can achieve them in your rendering software, like the volumetric light rays created in this tutorial, or you can apply similar efects in some scenes using Photoshop plug-ins. I recommend the Rays plug-in by Digital Film Tools (www. Remember: well-balanced images are friendlier on the eye, while too many colours in your scenes may be distracting. In my workflow I try to find a leading colour for the shot. So on the top of the layer stack I place a Color Balance adjustment layer to make the colour range a little more even. n Try to save diferent render passes for the postproduction process

o Test diferent post-

production options to decide on the best workflow

p Organise the render

elements in one PSD file

q Paint bubble efects with


Scattering brush options


Build the water & add some efects

Water bubbles are painted using a round brush with Dynamics and Scatter options enabled in Photoshop. Again, using a tablet gives you lots of freedom and better control while painting. Try to create black layers on the very top of the stack. Paint blue circles with a large, soft, round brush and set the mode to Soft Light or Screen. This is how you can create glowing bowl efects, which will add more atmosphere to your image q.

q 3D Art & Design


Photorealism Use our step-by-step guides to achieve what is, for many, the ultimate goal in 3D art and design 126 50 tips for ultimate 3D realism


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124 3D Art & Design




3D Art & Design




3D REALISM Fool the eye and wow your viewers with our top tips from industry pros on how to achieve realistic 3D images Realism is often the ultimate goal of the 3D artist; to render something as close to life as possible and showcase your individual talent as well as the power and potential of CGI software. Here we compile a selection of tips from pro 3D artists to help you create your most realistic images ever.

HDR image maps and photorealistic models courtesy of CGAxis




Eldorado. “At the beginning I wasn’t really sure what would be the hero of the shot. I was thinking about a tennis ball, golf ball, pack of cigarettes, bottles and so on, but in the end one little toy car won” © Marek Denko

126 3D Art & Design

Ultimate 3D realism Good textures and materials make the model more expressive, bad ones destroy even the most gorgeous geometry Dmitriy Glazyrin


Get your project of to the best start during this crucial stage


It´s extremely important to have a lot of references and I… request constant references (from photos to real objects) whenever a new job or update arrives in the office. Jacinto


The best criteria [when sourcing references] is the resolution of photos. It is very important to see the details of an object in the photo… that way you don’t waste your time trying to understand it. Denis L


Not using references may not give you enough information about the scale of the objects in your scene… In my opinion scale is the most important aspect of creating realistic images. Denis O


I like to have at least one side view and a three-quarter view. Even better would be if you had access to the real objects themselves, to either take pictures of or have next to you while modelling. Emre


It’s a matter of finding the right balance between a low and high-poly mesh [initially]. For the basic model I use Maya, then I switch to Mudbox for the details and normal maps. I try to keep the mesh topology flawless based on quads and loops. Massimo

Marek Denko

Website: www. Bio: Marek fell in love with computers in 1991 with his first Atari 800XL. In 2007, together with Peter Sanitra, he established the creative studio NoEmotion (http://

Dmitriy Glazyrin Denis Lebedev Website: www. Bio: One of the founders of Ujean & Glazyrin studio, Dmitriy has worked with a range of creatives, including retouching studio Platinum FMD, and has obtained a series of awards.

Website: http:// lebedev.cgsociety. org/gallery Bio: After forgetting his childhood passion for drawing for many years, Denis returned to the art world and began exploring the many possibilities of 3D art in 2009.

Jacinto Monteiro

Website: www. metrocubicodigital. com Bio: Jacinto graduated as an architect in 2002. In 2007 he radically switched profession and has now been a 3D arch-vis artist for five years.

Denis Osmanbegovic

Website: vema3dart. Bio: Currently working at Cryptic Studios in California, Denis is an environment artist for videogame projects including Star Trek Online and Neverwinter Nights.

Pawel Podwojewski

Website: www. Bio: Pawel has been involved in the development of designs and concepts in the field of architecture for various industries. In 2009 he started CG WORKSHOP online.

Massimo Righi

Website: http:// Bio: Massimo is a freelance 3D artist based in Italy, often working in collaboration with his wife Silvia Puliè. They are often involved in various projects within the games and film industries.

Emre Salihov

Website: www. Bio: Emre is a 22-year-old artist from Sweden. As a child his favourite toys to play with were LEGO cars. He claims he found his calling in life when Autodesk’s Maya fell into his hands. 3D Art & Design



Textures and materials are a very important stage in creating realism in work, [and] probably the longest one… Good textures and materials make the model more expressive, bad ones destroy even the most gorgeous geometry. Dmitriy


There are two main types of textures: custom-made… and tileable textures. Perfect texture should have a good resolution, good colour depth and details… based on the purpose of the texture in the scene. Marek


I try to custom texture everything… [using] a lot of different custom brushes in Photoshop allows me to do this. This doesn’t mean I don’t use textures I find on the internet, but I do use them carefully. Denis O


For [texturing] hard-surface objects, I use 3ds Max and Photoshop and for organic, ZBrush and Photoshop. In any case, Photoshop is an indispensable tool for creating textures, both at the stage of texturing and [post work]. Dmitriy


Creating a simple light setup before you start texturing is a very good idea… I always have one key light where my main light source is and then, depending on the model, one or two rim lights and also one fill light that doesn’t cast any specular. Emre


The textures used to light a scene should be saved as high dynamic range images (HDRI). This allows you to control the exposure and luminance at any stage while rendering. Pawel


The [most] useful texture maps are Color, Specular, Bump and Normal… [though if you are texturing] fur, sometimes you don’t need to create normal maps or you only need to create them for the visible mesh. Massimo

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PRODUCE EXPERT LIGHTING From rigs to shaders, lighting is vital for realism


Lighting will get your project 80 per cent of the way there… with some experience you will understand more or less what you can fake later on… [but] don’t worry about the richness and contrast of the colours. It is easier to crunch them in post with colour correction. Emre


I tend to keep lighting as simple as possible… It is really important to study your renderer of choice and how it relates to your main program (3ds Max, Softimage, Maya and so on) and understand its potential. Denis O


The right lighting shows all the small details you’ve modelled… [so] it is useful to use images (pictures and photos) where you can see beautiful lighting, to analyse it and take note of it. Denis L

©Pawel Podwojewski

Choose and apply efects to your models for the greatest realism


It’s important to build shaders and lighting in an organised way. Make sure the same group of lights will be instanced so you can easily adjust all of the lights at [once]. Shaders should be built with a colour-correction plug-in used for textures. In most cases this will enable you to adjust the shaders without 2D texture editing. Pawel

15 The best lighting software A rundown of the experts’ choice for the perfect setup

[V-Ray] is a quick renderer with easy-to-use tools. You have a virtual camera, which has the same options as a real one. Sometimes I check the settings of the camera on the reference images (you can check it in Image Properties) to get an idea about physical conditions and [then] apply them to the VRayPhysicalCamera. Dmitriy If you are doing one-man projects and want quick, accurate and good results, then V-Ray is what I would choose. I like mental ray as well but it requires lots more preparation and clicking of buttons to achieve what you want. Emre I prefer to light in 3ds Max and mental ray. mental ray is a really powerful renderer with some pretty easy-to-tweak options. Also, 3ds Max comes with a pack of arch and design materials for mental ray with a couple of presets that are easy to change. Denis O V-Ray is the best. Sometimes I use HDR images, other times the VRaySky method, sometimes just a semi-sphere for the sky with only a sphere light. Jacinto

Student Housing. Project designed by Pawel for Nadau Lavergne studio, located in Bordeaux, France in area under UNESCO protection ©Denis Osmanbegovic


Image by Jacinto Monteiro ©Metro Cúbico Digital

©Dmitriy Glazyrin


House. Using mental ray, this full scene took four hours to render

Ultimate 3D realism


Studio lighting and lighting environments is very different… To simplify the environment modelling you can make low-poly objects, or simplify the plane to stretch the texture of the mask. Creating the environment in layers means the lighting will work properly with different angles and camera lenses. Dmitriy


Sometimes I use HDR images to light my scene. If the HDR image is a good one, the lighting just looks incredible (and more credible). Colours and reflections are rich and you also have more freedom in post to tune the image based on those colours. Marek


For my main [lighting] I don’t use HDR images so often because it’s difficult to handle that type of light source with fur, but I [sometimes] use it in render passes to get realistic-coloured reflections. Massimo


CGSkies ( and Peter Guthrie’s HDRI lighting setups have made the 3D community very happy lately, and each day more and more artists are using it in their normal workflow. Jacinto


TGV Station. This architectural project is located in Ourense and includes a TGV station, hotel and an ofce block surrounding all these buildings Green Frog. Modelled in Maya, the depth of field and background were rendered with mental ray

It’s easy to believe you’re done once you’ve rendered out, but the fun’s just starting


Render elements are very useful and save a lot of time in postproduction, especially when working with animated sequences. With passes you can easily change any elements in your image without re-rendering. Denis L

27 Realistic render passes Learn the process used for this professional project

Pawel produced this image as part of his concept design for a student housing project by architectural studio Nadau Lavergne. In his experience, utilising render passes means you have more scope and flexibility with your image: “During the production you may find the render channels very handy while applying changes or [additional] details to your image.” This is particularly useful when working to a client’s brief where the needs of the project may dictate such changes. Pawel takes us through his render passes for this window view, which is especially interesting for its use of filters to get the reflections on glass elements exactly right. He uses psd-manager from Cebas ( to organise his passes, finding it “the fastest way you can imagine… [it] automatically saves your layers into a PSD format [and] additional masks can [then be added] manually while editing the image. I can recommend it for Photoshop lovers.” a


You only get [some] of the beauty render straight out of the rendering, the rest comes in when you start to composite it together… with V-Ray it is very easy to render out with passes and you can also render out each light as a separate pass, which can be very useful. Emre



I would say that V-Ray Z-Depth is the most important pass [for hyperrealism]. It can add better mood, depth and postproduction depth of field to the image… The biggest danger for me would be to go too far… so I avoid doing heavy postproduction. Jacinto



A solid Beauty pass where I can see my image almost done when I render it is the better way… As extra passes I use Z-Depth, masks, sometimes extra light passes and… when there are effects like smoke or fire, they are always rendered as a separate pass. Marek


You need to rely on your experience to know if a result is right or wrong. Very common mistakes appear while using Z-Depth [passes]. It is a very handy technique that can save a lot of rendering time [and] such effects may enhance your image… but when applied in the wrong way can also kill the scene. Pawel

a Pawel used V-Ray for a range of passes that add detail and atmosphere. “Each pass had the same settings as this RGB render” b “We added a lot of detail in postproduction compared to the raw render… glass reflections have been controlled using [more] specific passes” c “We used some channels to add efects and other ones as selection masks. For example, the Reflection filter will be a selection [on the] Raw Reflection pass” d “For reflection and atmospheric passes you can try out the Screen blending mode to quickly key out the black tones”




e The Refraction filter is the colour by which the raw refractions are multiplied f A handy pass for quick changes, you can alter the colour of reflections and add glows with Wire Color d

g “Sometimes it is much faster and easier to add the desired [background] elements in postproduction, but… to speed things up I often use the Z-Depth [pass] to control the DOF”


h An additional clay render of the window scene 3D Art & Design



©Emre Salihov

Lighting Ford E Bike. Emre advises using “as few lights a possible… work with one light at the time.” NUKE is Emre’s compositor of choice


I find that using a node-based compositing program such as NUKE [makes bringing render layers together] much easier. I don’t do any fancy blending, I just use overs and plusses. Occlusion is a good example. Emre

Woodworker. The carpenter was shot on a Canon Mark II, with the wood chips and car modelled in 3ds Max. The stand was made in ZBrush with final compositing completed in Photoshop



Seamlessly integrate 3D renders with 2D elements for realistic scenes


When I create an environment [for compositing] I usually like to matte-paint it [in Photoshop] using a mixture of photographs and retouching. I must have in mind what everything should look like so I create it based on the [render’s] lighting. Massimo


Objects that [are] lit in a way that don’t match the scene will obviously look fake [so] we [need to] enhance the lighting using different blending modes and paintovers. It is crucial [at this stage] to use colours we find in the final scene for better integration. Pawel


[When compositing] you can convert the image to a monochrome version. When the colour does not distract you can compare the brightness of shadows and light, the environment and the models, and seek the similarities. Then bring the colour back and get the desired result with the shaders. Dmitriy

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The final touches are to add detail – dust, light rays, flying leaves, sparks and dirt – a variety of small details that fill the picture Dmitriy Glazyrin

34 The ideal combination Dmitriy Glazyrin shares how he went about compositing his incredible image Woodworker

Dmitriy carefully analyses his own work to make sure the result is as realistic as possible: “Often a side view helps to see the defects and bring an objective judgment”

As far as Dmitriy is concerned, the art to seamless compositing requires a few main ingredients: “The key factors are the well-detailed model, the right light and the materials. “Light sets the mood of the whole picture”, he says, and cites it as the deciding factor for embarking on a compositing project. “I use a picture to create the basis for future models or find a reference by the light I like… then you achieve the ideal combination of objects.” To achieve this ideal combination, Photoshop is Dmitriy’s

software of choice. “In handling 2D objects [it is] the clear leader. Some use video compositing software such as After Efects or NUKE, but in my opinion for static [images] it makes no sense and is more complicated [than it has to be]. “Attention to detail, observation and analysis” are key, but Dmitriy advises not to go it alone: “Put a picture of your work online and show your friends”, as the more feedback you can get, the closer you will come to the ultimate realistic composite.

©Pawel Podwojewski


It is necessary to establish the real behaviour of the camera as precisely as possible. Set the depth of field, anti-aliasing and choose interesting lens parameters. If you take any picture from the internet it’s often possible to get the information about the lens and the parameters, so use this when placing the camera in the scene. Dmitriy

© Dmitriy Glazyrin

The wrong settings for the Z-Depth pass won’t allow you to make depth of field… [so] use the Tape tool in the Helpers palette in 3ds Max. [Also] some passes can have rough edges and, in the postproduction stage… will have a bad visible contour. For this it is better to use the Multimatte render element in V-Ray instead of Object ID. Denis L

©Denis Lebedev

Ultimate 3D realism

It’s Going to Rain. “I wanted to show an authentic landscape with the post-Soviet realities. I wanted to train myself to a higher level,” Denis L says

©Massimo Righi



© Dmitriy Glazyrin

The key steps [in the compositing process] would be preparing masks and selections, placing 2D elements in our composition and integrating them with the original image, and finally the colour correction. Pawel


Matching perspective and colour balance are the most important parts [of compositing]. My advice would be to avoid fish-eye photographs to match your 3D arch-vis work. My experience was a bit frustrating! Jacinto


The most important thing is [getting] the right perspective and lighting… It is great when you can shoot the objects in a studio because you can apply the virtual camera settings to the real one to obtain a perfect match. Pawel


Compositing is a matter of taste, [but] my feeling is that if a rendering is looking good without an environment then it’s ready to go for compositing. The first test is always getting it right on a neutral background. Massimo


[For adding photographic characters to CG scenes], having high-res people is important. Then a lot of curves, colour balance, shadow, motion blur and saturation changes should be made in order to make them realistically fit. Jacinto


Poor composition is unlikely to affect the realism [of a piece]. It may have impact on the overall impression of the picture, but after all, the camera can be bad for the composition of the picture, though [still be] quite realistic! Dmitriy

41 k

Sky is such an important object in the light and material system, [so] try to avoid replacing it [at the compositing stage]. I render skies straight from 3ds Max… for the most realistic results (at least for exterior scenes). Jacinto

©Denis Osmanbegovic



Complete your image with last-minute adjustments for maximum impact


For me ten per cent or less is done in postproduction… I [adjust] Curves, Levels, Color Balance and… it’s important because my raw renders always need colour and light correction. Jacinto


Many artists make their final renders to a very high quality, so often the post work takes about five per cent of the time… It brings some additional control to make your work a little better. Denis L


For postproduction I prefer Photoshop while working with 3D stills and After Effects for animations. These two work well for compositing as well as postproduction. Photoshop can handle huge files and compositions, assuring a quick and stable workflow. Pawel


Each image – even from the same project – will require a different amount of postproduction work. In my case the average [time dedicated] will be around 20 per cent. Pawel

The most important thing is colour correction in Photoshop. I use it on the whole image and separate objects using masks. I always work with a copy of the layer and use Levels, Curves, Selective Color and Color Balance adjustments. Before each touch I create a snapshot in the History palette, and then after [I do the same] to compare the result. Denis L






About ten per cent of my final [effort] goes into postproduction. I tend not to spend a lot of time adjusting the raw render since I try to get the desired results straight out of mental ray… [but] I think it depends on the artist and the scene itself. Sometimes you can have a final image without any postproduction. Denis O You can… get the ideal result by rendering but, on the time side, it [won’t] be comparable with working in Photoshop, [which] can correct most of the render and [do it] much faster. Dmitriy

i Lunchtime. As he renders all of his animal characters in Maya, Shave and a Haircut is Massimo’s go-to for fur

I think too much postproduction may stylise the image but not necessarily make it more realistic. Some of the real-world effects though, like [adding] image grain or chromatic aberration… can be a nice and quick touch towards a photorealistic image style. Pawel Very soft lens distortions may be a good idea to increase the realism. You may think most viewers will not notice this but, believe me, our brains do. It is a perfect situation when you feel something is natural without knowing why! Pawel

j Interior Loft. An interior that Denis O made to practise an image that seems open but feels “packed with stuf”

k Student Housing. A project designed by Pawel for Nadau Lavergne studio, located in Bordeaux, France 3D Art & Design


Photorealism Concept

Artist info

3D artists explain the techniques behind their amazing artwork

• OBJ files, textures, presets for modo, a ladybird ZTL plus tutorial screenshots • An exclusive UVLayout Hobbyist software trial

I’ve always liked pictures of the macro world; I love the sense of scale and incredible levels of detail. I also particularly enjoy using bokeh efects with a large depth of field.

Software used in this piece modo



Dmitry Denisov Personal portfolio site Country Moscow, Russia Software used ZBrush, Photoshop, modo Expertise Character modelling, texturing and technical visualisations

Simplicity is the key! From experience, I understand that in the modelling and retopology stages it is very important to understand what direction and flow polygons are. To better understand polygon flow I recommend you draw topology onto your model. Try to make the most of polygons with the same size and equal to the square. If you want to know how perfect your model is, look at the Density Grid and compare all its diferent parts.

132 3D Art & Design

Learn to create photoreal 3D

Learn to create photoreal 3D Macro ladybird shot 2012

Learn how to re-create a photorealistic model of a ladybird Dmitry Denisov is a 3D modeller working on game-dev and character projects


n this tutorial I will show you how to create a photorealistic image of a ladybird using modo, ZBrush and Photoshop. We will discuss modelling techniques, topology, UV mapping, sculpting, texturing, applying difuse and normal maps, lighting settings and the final post-processing of the image. I’ll begin by showing you how to create a simple model using DynaMesh in ZBrush and then retopologise in modo. You’ll learn how to use Replicators to create convincing water drops and air particles. We’ll also cover how to build a real-world camera, setting up the focal length, aperture and bokeh efects. Finally, you’ll learn the basic aspects of composition, photorealism and other details that can make a final image far more expressive. This tutorial assumes that you are familiar with basic skills in modo and ZBrush, because we will talk only briefly about the functions of these programs. Finally you will learn how to work with the components of the image and fully utilise render passes. Colour correction will be reviewed in detail and we will also look at how noise can improve images.

Model the ladybird Begin with ZBrush DynaMesh in ZBrush

01 Create a simple sphere



After using Convert to DynaMesh, with a medium resolution from 64-80, you can very quickly sculpt the basic form of the body and other parts of the ladybird. If you have references (front and side views) you can import these into the Viewport for better modelling accuracy. Use the Move and Clay brushes to create the basic form of the body, head, eyes and legs. If your geometry is very stretched, hold Cmd/ Ctrl+LMB on an empty area to refresh your geometry with DynaMesh. You can also use simple primitives to model the legs. The point is to create a basic form with a medium resolution and sculpting detail. Remember this is a sketch at this stage – we don’t need a super-detailed image A.

02 Use GoZ to move the mesh to modo

I recommend you first draw the topology on your model and then create the retopology. Add a new mesh and set focus on it. Go to the Topo tab, then go to Tools>Pen and create the first quad on your model. As we will very often use a Topology Pen, it’s best to set up a hot key. Hold Shift and drag LMB to extrude the edge; you can also extrude vertexes. Please focus your mind on topology and try to feel the polygon flow. Always remember that it’s better to have a polygon as a quad – do not stretch polygons and keep all quads the same size. Try to use this rule and the results will be very accurate and comfortable for sculpting. If you find topology terms difcult to understand, as well as retopologising in modo, please take a step back and draw on your topology using PolyPaint, and then apply Symmetry once more B.

C A DynaMesh and the ready ladybird model with retopology B Good retopology. Blue lines show a polygon flow C Presets of the water drops and a very simple leaf mesh

03 Create the environment: leaves and water drops

This is a very simple part of our scene. Add a plane, divide it as shown and use the Bend tool. Remember, you only need a part of the main leaf, so you don’t need to create all of its parts – a simple form is the key. We’ll also need leaves in the background to create an atmosphere and to show the scene with depth of field. Arrange the leaves in such a way that you achieve a small bush. Remember that all of your leaf planes must have a small amount of thickness C. 3D Art & Design



Create realistic textures and materials Begin UV mapping the model using modo the 05 Sculpt ladybird detail


04 Unwrap your model

To obtain your UV map, use the Unwrap tool. We’re using this tool as it’s perfect for working with organic models such as creatures and critters. For the Unwrap tool we need to specify the Edge Flow (cut). It’s always useful to imagine how you will cut your model beforehand, as getting it right at this stage is vital. Our main task here is to obtain a high-quality map with multiple pieces and to get the minimum stretch. When your UV map is accomplished you need to package it. Try to do it on one UV map but use the U/V Tile Ofset value equal to 1 or 2. For example, pairs will be F 0-1, 0-2, 1-0 for each texture D.


07 Create materials in modo

We’ll use the Standard brush with Alpha 07 or 23 and Spray options to create surface noise. There’s nothing special here; simply create a couple of subdivision levels and sculpt them. You can also apply surface noise to your model and relax it with the Morph brush. After that we need normal and cavity maps to adjust the realism of our model. In our case we will use Multi Map Exporter because our model has UV ofset. Now we have both normal and cavity maps we can move to the next step: setting up the right scale for the model using the Absolute Scaling tool E.

06 Create textures

Use the Export UVs to EPS function to create a UV wire. Open the EPS file in Photoshop with 4,096 pixels. First look at reference images and imagine the structure of your painting. Get a red or orange base colour, then add surface noise for a better look. We’ll paint on modo procedure textures, adding black and white areas as indicated by your reference images. Do not paint with Symmetry on because we need the model to be unique. Try to add further points with diferent layer styles and layer blending modes for various results F.

We need three main materials for the ladybird, leaf and water particles. The structure of the ladybird contains: Difuse, Specular, Normal, SSS and Procedure maps and textures. You can see the Tree Material settings for the ladybird and leaf. Use a Material preset for the water particles. Moving to fur, duplicate all of your parts for the legs and body and move to the meshes. Use the Reduction tool if your geometry has high density. Go to the Paint tab and Hair Tools tab, then use hair guides and click on the mesh. Refer to the screenshot provided for the settings. We need to stretch our guides on the joints and the top part of the body. Add a fur material and move it to the top of the Shader Tree. This is very important because we will manually set Render options for the fur. Again, refer to the screenshot for the fur settings; I recommend Monte Carlo G.

134 3D Art & Design

E D The Unfold tool with cutting edges and UV packing set to 0, 1, 2 values E ZBrush sculpting using brushes, alphas and normal baking

F Textures for the ladybird, difuse and cavity maps G The main parts of the materials, the fur settings and their placement on the mesh

UV mapping with UVLayout UVLayout also has a powerful pack of options that allows you to place all of your parts inside diferent UV values: Step 1: You can use UVLayout as a standalone program or as a plug-in. Open the ladybird mesh in modo and run the UVLayout script. In the menu go to Type>Poly and UVs>New. Click Export to UVLayout. Step 2: The navigation and hot keys combination is the same as in Maya: LMB for rotating, RMB for zooming, MMB for pan. In the Display options in the Up option choose Y. Move your cursor to the edge and hit C to make a loop. This is called cutting, which is required when unwrapping the model. Step 3: Select all cut edges, move the cursor to a diferent part and hit Enter (Separate) or Shift+S (Cut). This lets you cut or separate the model comfortably. When you’ve finished, you need to put all these parts in the UV Editor. Hold D and press 1 to move to the UV Editor. Step 4: Move your cursor to a separated part and hold A until you like the result. You can also use Shift+F to flatten the separated part better. Open Pack, choose Best Quality and click Pack All. Don’t forget to activate Tile UV! Step 5: Hit 3 to see your unwrapped UV model. If all is okay, click Send and in modo click Import From UVLayout.

Learn to create photoreal 3D

Lighting and particle effects Create a lighting setup and add particles to the scene

08 Work with Replicators

To add water drops, copy your leaf polygons to a new mesh and triangulate them. We need to delete the bottom part of a water drop particle mesh. So delete the polygons under the legs, and the few that are deepest under the body, and then add a cube and smooth it. This will be our first water drop, so scale it on the Y-axis a little. Do the same again but use a diferent size and add a Replicator. Create a new group and add the water drop meshes to this group. Choose water drop meshes 1 and 2, and then hit 7 and move the Center position to the bottom. In the Replicator settings, set Prototype to the group name and Point Source mesh with leaf triangulated background polygons. See all the Replicator settings in the screenshot H.


09 Air particles

Create a new group, call it ‘air particles’, and then add a very small sphere to your scene. Make an air particle mesh and apply a plane. Divide it a couple of times with fractals, select all the polygons and then press Back. Select all the points and turn on Noise Fallof with a 3-4% Scale. Move the points to up and down to make a randomised efect. In the new air particles material set No Difuse and turn on Luminosity to white and value 1. Now in the Render Preview you can see particles with bokeh efects I.



H The Replicator placement and settings used I Placing air particles J The HDRI map K Volumetric render pass with the settings used

lighting & 10 HDRI camera settings

We’ve taken a preset HDRI image from Luxology content. In the Environment tab add a new image with an HDRI. Use the Projection Type as Light Probe with Projection Axis Y, then use rotation to get a big composition result. To improve placement in GL Reflection, use Environment. Add a Minimum Spot of about 6-7 in order to texture. This brings some interesting blur to the image. With HDRI lighting we can capture beautiful global illumination lighting and self-shadows in our scenes. This map will also be visible in the water droplets to give us great results. Create a new render camera and place it in a position that you like. We’re using about 150mm focal length and 6 Iris Blades. This is essential in order for the bokeh efects to work efectively J.

Use randomness in your composition to get even more realistic results

11 Add a volume light


Add a directional (main) light source and place it in accordance with the HDRI map. All you need to do is gather specular and difuse reflection to one point. Place it over the ladybird and turn on Volumetric Efect. This efect will be rendered separately from the main stage, as it will be much faster K.

In the water drops’ Replicator settings use a Render Density of about 20-30%. We don’t need too many water drops because that will make our picture too heavy and more difcult on the point-of-view composition. Randomness is a very good solution for creating a good composition. Also, use the Seed option to get a good result. You can apply Vertex as a particle, but the particles won’t be aligned with a background surface, so I’m applying Use Polygon as a Source Mode. For even better composition you can add water drop presets and manually place them on leaves. 3D Art & Design



Rendering and post Adjust render settings and make passes Dmitry Denisov

Currently working at the Kaspersky Lab as a web designer, Dmitry explores 3D as a hobby, spending most of his free time experimenting with various projects

Portrait of a man ZBrush, modo (2012)

One of Dmitry’s favourite themes is head modelling

12 Set up the render

Organise your Shader Tree and create groups for all the model’s parts. Remember that you can always add a Render Output for each part to help you in postproduction. Choose all textures, set None to Antialiasing and Texture Filtering to Nearest. This is important as it gives more sharpness to our textures. Use Indirect Illumination type Monte Carlo and change Indirect Rays to 1,024. Set Antialiasing to about 256 or 512 samples, Mitchel filter, Refinement Shading to 0.1, Refinement Threshold to 0.3 and Ray Threshold to 0.01. Turn on DOF, set FStop to 8, Iris Blades to 5 and Edge Weighting to 50%. Check the screenshot for all the settings. This will be a first render pass with final colour and AO, but without Specular and Reflection passes L.

13 Add bokeh efects

We need to get another render pass with Reflection and Specular only. In the Render Camera change Edge Weighting to 98%. Never use maximum values, but rather 98.954, as this gives an interesting result. The value of 98% creates a real-world bokeh efect. Now, let’s render our Specular and Reflection passes M.



L The main render and various camera settings M Bokeh settings N The Volumetric Light pass O The main render passes

Sunday morning Photoshop, modo (2012)

P Combining air particles and volumetric light

The inspiration for this picture came from the Pixar movie, Up

Q Chromatic aberrations

14 Render volumetric light and air particles To Windows 7 After Efects, modo (2010)

A still from the movie created for a Kaspersky Promo for Windows 7

136 3D Art & Design

Choose the main shader, click RMB and set the Fog type, enabling us to render only volumetric lighting. You can also add diferent types of noise to Volumetric Density to get an interesting result. Try to find the optimal value of samples to get a suitable quality: 256-512 tends to work well. In Environment, set Visible to Camera to None. In Render Camera Settings I recommend using Edge Weighting with 50-70% to create a nice bokeh efect. Next, select the air particles group, isolate it from the scene and render it. These will be small particles with a bokeh blur applied N.

Learn to create photoreal 3D O

15 Compare render passes in Photoshop

Now we have a final Difuse pass with all the lighting, AO, reflection, specular, volume light and air particles included. First duplicate the Color passes and blur them. Use this layer as a clipping mask for the AO pass, making our selfshadows much more interesting. Next add specular and reflection to produce a bokeh efect and use a blending mode to merge the two. Control the strength of these efects by adjusting the layer opacity. Remember you can decrease the strength of each pass by tweaking the Opacity or using Adjustment Layers. For example, you can duplicate the Color passes, blur and append them as clipping masks to the Reflection or Specular pass with Opacity set to 15%, and an Add blending mode O.



17 Colour correct the image 16 Even things up a bit

Now we need to add some volumetric lighting and air particles. Above all the layers apply your volumetric light, set to the Screen blending mode. An Add blending mode can give you better colours, mixing with the background layers. Adjust the Opacity and Adjustment controls to afect the layer strength P. To get a higher-quality result we can use layers for each mesh and manually add them to the compositing program

For colour correction I recommend using a solid colour (blue) with Screen blending mode and Opacity at about 20-30%. This gives us a nice tone and atmosphere. Duplicate the image, flatten all the layers and go to the Channel palette. Choose the Red channel and move them by one or two pixels to the left and bottom. Duplicate this layer to your main scene, put it on top and set the blending mode to Color. You’ll be able to see chromatic aberrations. To add a magical look to the scene, hit Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+Shift+E and duplicate this layer. Finally, add some blur, set the blending mode to Screen and finish up by decreasing the Opacity to 10-15%. And you’re done! Q


hou creation ti rs me Resolution 3,000 x 3,80 : 0

3D Art & Design



Software used in this piece 3ds Max

mental ray

138 3D Art & Design


Achieve ultimate 3D realism

Rolleiflex camera 2011

We take you through the main stages of creating a realistic 3D model of this traditional camera

Modelling Texturing Lighting


Eric Cain Username: cain3d

Eric Cain is a 3D artist specialising in modelling and visualisation selected this camera as a portfolio production piece while I was a student. I originally selected this subject because I liked the modern interpretation of the original vintage Rolleiflex camera, and felt the unique design would make for an interesting project. But it quickly became an experiment in realism. When people knowingly look at 3D art, they often spend their time looking for flaws; anything that gives away the fact that it’s a 3D production. If they don’t know it’s a production, their eyes will still often notice anything that is out of place, especially if the object is well-known.

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Artist info

Achieve ultimate 3D realism I began to make that the focus of the production, I wanted to create the camera and have it look as lifelike as possible. There is a huge industry in commercial art, which many feel is less creative than original art, but the skill required to create 3D images so accurately that they can pass as real, is just as artistic as any other. This tutorial will take you through my workflow and design process from start to finish for this camera production. We will go through modelling techniques, applying UVW mapping, texturing, lighting and finally the postproduction stages.

Personal portfolio site Country United States Software used 3ds Max, mental ray, Photoshop Expertise I am a 3D artist working in modelling, texturing and lighting. My passion is visualisation and postwork. I want to make things look as realistic as possible, and that’s all in the details!

Know your subject Start with planning and basic modelling and 01 Research gather reference

Spending time to find the right reference is extremely important. You cannot create something from your memory. It’s not the overall shape or general details of an object that make it look convincing, it’s the subtle details, the ones that are normally not captured in your memory. It’s easy to get excited about a new project and jump right in with little or no reference, but in the end this results in a lot of reworking, or an object that does not truly reflect what you were trying to create originally a.


a Gathering as much

02 Build the model

reference material for your project as possible will ensure the greatest realism

b Modelling each part to a

precise scale is essential for the final render


The entire model needs to be built to scale with all proportions being accurate to the actual real-life camera. Anything of in scale is easily noticeable. When working on the double bayonet, I started by creating a 72-sided circle, highlighting 1/6 of the total circle and deleting the rest. I then modelled out the detail in that section of the bayonet b. 3D Art & Design



Logos, texturing and lighting Customise the logos and textures for your model

03 Find symmetry

After modelling that 12-sided section of the bayonet, I used symmetry on the X-axis to create the full 1/3 section (24 sides). Then, using the Symmetry Rotation tool, I duplicated twice more, reverting the top bayonet shape back to the original 72 sides. The next step is using symmetry on the Y-axis to create the bottom bayonet, again 72 sides. This completes the base for the double bayonet on the front. Of course there are many more things to model but this is just to illustrate the importance of working smart. Planning your process will really help you see opportunities to use shortcuts, such as symmetry c.


04 Create text


To create the text for the brand name on the front of the camera I started by choosing Create Splines. I picked Text, then found the font that matched the brand name. A Bevel modifier was applied, then a FFD4x4x4 modifier. The FFD will let you move the lattice points to get the curve we are going for. For the rest of the text plate I modelled around a cylinder to get a perfect half-circle using Edge Extrude. Once that was done I used Symmetry to mirror over the other half on the X-axis d.

Be resourceful Many people have a morning routine, perhaps cofee and a paper. My routine is checking my favourite online 3D sites and forums for the latest news in the industry, new techniques, inspiration from the work of other creatives and so on. Being a 3D artist requires you to be both proactive and resourceful. In 3D there is so much to learn and the industry is constantly evolving, so you cannot rely on a class or a book to teach you all you need to know, and you can never stop learning. You have to be able to research, find tutorials, experiment and figure out how to solve diferent problems and apply new techniques with each new project you work on. Also, you have to be open to criticism. Without feedback how will you be motivated to keep pushing yourself to the next level? c You can use symmetry to build the front structure

d Adding the recognisable text is key to adding realism

e Apply the Turbo Smooth

modifier to all your surfaces

f Create a screenshot

template for Photoshop

g e f

05 Place wires

After having everything blocked in and all the locking loops in place, it’s now time to start applying the Turbo Smooth modifier to everything. Depending on the distance from the camera, you can sometimes set the Iterations at 1 or 2, but because this is a very close shot, everything has three Iterations applied so we will not see any faceting e.

06 Apply UVWs

The next stage was adding UVW mapping to the capture lens. Since the text around this lens is straight on, we can select Planar under the Parameters. Make sure you are looking at your object in the front view, and not the perspective view, to take your screenshot. This screenshot will serve as the template for the next section, as you move this element into Photoshop f.

140 3D Art & Design

07 Create text and symbols

Once in Photoshop, I used the Text tool to generate the branding/test details. I then wrapped that text around the viewing and capture lenses to mimic the reference images. As the lenses are black and the text is white, I used the same image for both the difuse and the alpha/mask g.

Achieve ultimate 3D realism 08 Make textures in Photoshop

When looking for textures to apply to your model you will mostly only need to visit the well-known texture sites. Sometimes, though, you’ll come across something that isn’t so common. When this happens, don’t be afraid to just create a new texture of your own. This was the case when I was making the texture for the shell of the camera. The original Rolleiflex camera shell was made of leather and then replaced with a plastic for this newer model. The plastic is made to resemble the leather from the original. I brought a reference picture into Photoshop and drew over it to get a few of the shapes. I then took those shapes, rearranged them and filled up the sheet to be used as a Bump map h.



render tim e Resolution 5,124 x 2,939:

09 Apply the texture


After creating the texture in Photoshop, you can then move it into 3ds Max to create a plastic mental ray material. After several tweaks from the preset material parameters I was able to get the plastic to achieve a matte appearance with the reflection quality I wanted. Under Special Purpose Maps there is a Bump Map slot, this is where I put in the bump texture I created. I adjusted the amount to .18 to get the desired height of the bump on my model i.


g In Photoshop you can use

i Bring your new textures into

h Photoshop is also very

k Adding a HDR image brings

the Text tool to add detail

useful for making textures

3ds Max and adjust to suit even more quality realism


Consider the optimal angles and lighting for your model

10 Lighting and camera angles

I first find where I think will be the best place to shoot from, set my 35mm camera into place and make sure to lock it in. To emulate a real-life studio lighting, I used two target photometric lights. They emit light from the rectangle shape, which I sized to scale with my camera. To create this setup I first researched studio lighting to make sure I would get a real-life studio look. My other light is a Skylight that I used to run my HDR image through j.

Attention to detail When creating real-life objects in 3D, it’s extremely important to focus on the details at all levels of the design and production. The original block-out must be sized and scaled correctly and the smallest details have to be included in the model work. Textures are also key, so it won’t matter if the model is perfectly clean, if the textures don’t look real then the efect will be lost. The lighting and staging help to create the final trompe l’oeil! The whole goal of realistic 3D art is to create something that looks like a photograph. When I was in school at the Art Institute of Dallas, the senior modelling instructor, Micheal Eudy (aka Polygrinder), always said, “Your work is only as strong as your weakest part.” This really taught me that you have to show the same care for creating a small background element that you would show when creating the hero piece. You can’t skip over even the smallest detail! Getting most things right won’t prevent the viewer from finding the one flaw you didn’t fix, so it’s worth spending some extra time to work out the kinks.

11 HDR image lighting

This step changes the entire mood and feeling of the scene by using diferent HDR images. The HDR image is used as a light pass in both the Skylight and the Environment map slot. This one pass does not give all the light you’ll need, only an environmental feel. Render the other lights as separate passes to give you more control in post should you want to adjust the light colour or brightness k. 3D Art & Design



Final rendering Bring your model to life with postwork Eric Cain

My passion for art started at a young age and my eye for realism and detail was always apparent, whether I was drawing comic book characters or figure studies. I only made the transition into 3D art about three years ago while getting my degree in Media Arts and Animation. But as I moved from 2D to 3D, I simply changed the tools I used to create my art. l

12 The Ambient Occlusion pass

The Ambient Occlusion (AO) pass is an important step to create realism, and is one of my favourite passes. The AO pass gives us a Dirt map that helps us see where light would be naturally occluded. I typically make two AO passes: one with larger Spread and Fallof than the other. The first is a general shadow map showing where all the darker areas are on the model, and the other is only to show extremely dark areas like fine crevices. I then use this in Photoshop as a multiplier layer in postproduction with a low opacity l.

Los Angeles Country Museum of Art 3ds Max, metal ray, Photoshop (2012)

I chose to create the LACMA scene because I wanted to create a whole environment. I was drawn to the intricacy of the staircase and loved the lamps as a focal piece.


13 The Z Depth pass

I used the Z Depth pass to create the auto-focus look that a real camera would give when taking a photograph. I wanted to achieve a very subtle auto-focus with a slight blur efect to draw attention the camera. Under Render Setup, add Z Depth and make sure to have Elements active. Choose your minimum maximum Depth for the focus area. To get an absolute amount without having to render, you can get out the Tape Measure under the Helpers menu and measure it from your camera m.

l Make an Ambient Occlusion pass for accurate shadows

m A Z Depth pass adds the Low-Poly 1930’s Air Compressor 3ds Max, 3Point Shader, Photoshop (2012)

The challenge here was to create a low-poly model that appears to be high-poly. This was achieved by maintaining a strong silhouette that matched the original streamlined design.

14 RGB Matte pass

I created an RGB matte pass to isolate each material on the model, making it easy to select each material in post for masking and adjusting, such as using blue to isolate the shiny metal parts. To create the RGB matte pass you should use the Material Editor window to create a standard material for each colour. Then under Self-Illumination you need to check the Color box and use pure RGB colours. Disable Final Gather and use the Environment and Efects window to turn of the Exposure Control n.

142 3D Art & Design

quality of a real-life camera

n The RGB Matte pass isolates each material for masking

o Make final adjustments to

get the best possible result



15 Final composition

The last step is to layer together all of the above passes in Photoshop to create the final product. This can be done in many ways, constructing your own layer stack. I keep all the originals on the bottom in case I need another duplicate. I keep my masks (RGB) folder open so I can control and select them quickly, the lighting passes and HDR images are next. Next, the adjustment layer folder is the most important in the final piece. You have all the options to change anything around, colours, saturation, exposure and vibrance can really give your piece a new feel. The AO folder is on top of that, with Opacity at 6-20%. Last add your Z-Depth, Vignette, and a small amount of noise o.

3D Art & Design


To create hair I used the Shave And A Haircut Maya plugin. For the growth of the hair, I copied the geometry of the cat, removed the parts where I didn’t want any hair and also created a Density map in ZBrush

To make the skin appear realistic I painted nine different textures. The main colour I painted in ZBrush and added some detail with Photoshop. I blended Displacement and Cavity maps with the main colour to create variation Website www.texelstudi sia Rus Country a, Software used ZBrush, May Photoshop elling, Bio Pavel specialises in mod for ders texturing and creating sha es films, commercials and gam

Pavel Kondratenko




Software used in this piece

The main point of this work was to study the SSS material in mental ray and to model wrinkles in ZBrush. The modelling part was rather quick. I mainly used ZBrush, including retopology work. Afterwards, all the models were imported into Maya where I set up the lights and the default materials for the skin, eyes, fabric and gold. The last step in 3D was the creation of the fur on the cat’s body. To achieve this I used the Shave And A Haircut Maya plug-in. The final composition was made in Photoshop.

Sphynx Cat 2012

I created the wrinkles in ZBrush by painting a mask on the cat’s body, to which I applied the Inflate deformer twice and a little correction with Smooth and Dam Standard brushes. For small wrinkles, I used the Standard brush with an Alpha

Incredible 3D artists take k us behind their artwor

Artist info

● Realistic product visualisation in modo Photorealism

Visualise realistic products in modo Luxurious Fountain Pen 2012

Achieve high quality, photoreal renderings using modo’s Pixar Subdivision Surfaces, built-in assets and environment lighting Wojciech Portnicki is a 3D artist who specialises in product visualisation and hard-surface modelling


his tutorial will provide an insight into my workflow for this elegant fountain pen. It was modelled as part of my personal portfolio. I wanted to achieve something detailed and realistic. Over the next few pages I hope to walk you through the whole process of creating the image: from modelling the pen nib, to applying UV, texture creation, simple light settings, tweaking the camera, and finally to the render settings. To get really smooth results with geometry we’ll be using Pixar Subdivision Surfaces (PSub). The benefits of using PSub is that it ofers great features, such as Refined Edge Weighting and smoother surfaces with vertices holding more than four edges (which we normally avoid, but sometimes it’s acceptable). We’ll also use one of modo’s greatest features: built-in assets. You’ll see how easy it is to get great-looking materials and lighting with just a few clicks. Meanwhile, Illustrator and Photoshop will be used for texturing. While the modelling of the pen’s upper part is not covered in the tutorial, or in the final image, it’s essentially a 20-sided cylinder with three indents at its base, so you could add it to your own version if you feel inclined.

Begin the modelling Start out with a 20-sided cylinder a

01 Cone-like cylinder

I always like to start my modelling with the parts that look hardest to model – that way, it’s always downhill from there. When you look closely at the nib it’s just a cylinder curve-sliced to the desired shape. Start of by dragging out a 20-sided cylinder. The dimensions of my original mesh were out of scale (1,400mm tall and a radius of 190mm) but don’t worry about that now, you can scale it down later on. Select the bottom ngon and scale it uniformly to 220% on XYZ a.

02 Use the Curve Slice

In Left view select the Curve Slice tool (in the Mesh Edit tab). Draw a curve through the nib. In Wireframe view you’ll see the tool has produced extra points in our geometry to hold the curvature of our slicing. We don’t need these points as we’ll be Subdividing the mesh so it can’t have ngons. Go to Info & Statistics, expand Vertices By Polygon, hit + next to the 2 value then Delete. All the unwanted vertices are gone. Now delete the extra polys we’re left with B.

03 Flatten the sides a It’s often best to tackle the hardest bits first

on a task – that way everything gets easier as the project progresses

b Time to delete the unnecessary polygons. Head to Info & Statistics to do this

c Use the Edge Extend tool or the Pen tool to give your nib a tip

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Grab three polys on each side of the mesh. Hit R for the Scale tool, set the Action Center to Local and use the blue handle to flatten the surface of (ensure your Negative Scale is unchecked). Now hitting Alt/Opt+C, add three edge loops in the middle section and one at the bottom. Draw out a circular shape for the tip and connect it to the base mesh. You can do it by using the Edge Extend tool or using the Pen tool C.

b c

Visualise realistic products in modo

Modelling Materials Lighting

Textures, modo project files (also EPS and AI files for the patterns), high-res renders

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Concept Software used in this piece modo



Reference is very important when it comes to re-creating real-world objects in 3D. We’re not doing a specific pen model, but we want it to look real. I often start with browsing image searches online for pictures I like and compiling them into a reference folder. From what I’ve gathered up I then work out a couple of design choices I like: old-style ball nib, gold and silver sections, plus geometric engravings.

Wojciech Portnicki Username: Wojtek Personal portfolio site Country Poland Software used Illustrator, Photoshop, modo 501 SP6 (64-bit) Expertise Product visualisation and hard-surface modelling 3D Art & Design



Cut, bevel and thicken Refine the shape of your pen nib Wojciech Portnicki

I'm a 27-year-old graphic designer with a passion for 3D. I try to incorporate renderings into my workflow as often as possible, creating advertising illustrations for my clients. I always seek out opportunities to do more and more 3D in everyday tasks. My goal is to join a professional 3D studio some day. 1 Million PLN Credit Card modo 501, Photoshop (late 2011)

I did this illustration of a prestigious credit card with a 1M PLN credit limit for a private bank. It’s the first, real metal credit card in Poland. The magazine ad said ‘How much does 1,000,000 PLN weigh? – Just 27.5 grams.‘ The illustration was delivered in less than two days – modo handled it like a champ.


04 Cut a hole in the nib

The three edge loops we created will be used to hold a circular shape of a hole in the nib. Create a new mesh layer and in Front view draw an octagon and place it between the new lines. Hit W for the Move tool, use Snapping for Background Geometry Constraint and move your shape back until it fits nicely to the nib. Cut it from its mesh and paste it to the nib layer. Delete the polys around our hole poly and Bridge the edges of the shape and the hole D.


the 05 Bevel spine edge

Give your pen nib an edge by bevelling its spine

Now select the edge running down from our hole all the way to the tip. Hit Edge Bevel (with a Round Level of 0) and give it a small bevel. Select the created polygon row, the hole poly and last hit Delete E.

Retro Tickertape modo 501, Photoshop (2011)

My first major modelling task. This tickertape was made for an online line of credit calculator. The tape coming out of it was animated in Flash, printing out the result of the calculations. In order to achieve the proper reflections, I built a small room around the tickertape with walls textured using photos of an actual bank’s ofce.

100 PLN Bill modo 501, Photoshop (2012)

Another illustration for a bank. It shows a symbolic 100 PLN bill, made up of small green globules – a symbol taken from the bank’s logo. This fun technique is especially straightforward with modo Replicators and Surface Generators. The illustration was used for outdoor campaigns.

146 3D Art & Design


06 Thicken your mesh

While in Polygon mode hit the Thicken tool (in the Basic Tab). Thicken your mesh inwards by a value you think is best for a fountain pen nib F.

Visualise realistic products in modo


Tweak the model

render tim e Resolution 3,200 x 2,40 : 0

Sharpen your edges and add detail g

07 Radial fallof to round the tip

We should round of the pen’s tip because now it has become flat. To do this there is no better way than the radial fallof. Play with it until you get the shape you desire. Don’t worry if there’s very little geometry to shape the tip with. When you hit Shift+Tab it all smoothens out. Also, set your mesh subdivision level to 3 or higher G.


Loop Slice to 08 Use sharpen edges

Select the loop of polys running on the edge of the nib and add two extra loops (Alt/Opt+C) to sharpen the edges. Switch to PSub (Shift+Tab) to see the what efect is made H.

d Add extra details to your pen

nib, such as the hole in the middle, with three edge loops

f Use reference images or a

real-life pen to help determine the mesh thickness

g Here’s a tip for the tip: use

Radial fallout to round it. Experiment a little to get the end result you want


09 Model the remainder

Use the Loop Slice tool to sharpen your pen’s edges

Think about topology Think beforehand about your mesh in terms of the proper topology. You need to have enough polys in places like the centre of the nib, to properly hold the shaped hole. When it comes to drilling holes in surfaces in Subdivision mode, it comes down to this: draw a shape with the same number of edges as the hole that it’s going to sit in. Only then will the Bridging work.

Create the other parts of the pen. To do the plastic part that sits inside the nib, just follow the first steps of modelling the nib itself. Just make it smaller so it fits inside. The upper part is basically a cylinder with a couple of indents I.

10 Sharpen edges with Edge Weighting

Now using Loop Slice add an extra loop in the nib and then using the Edge Extrude tool drive it into the mesh (so there’s a nice indent between the golden and silver part of the nib). While in PSub mode (Shift+Tab) use the Edge Weight tool for all the edges you want sharper. In Vertex Map view you can see the changes made while edge-weighting J.

i The upper part of the pen

isn’t in view but can be built with a 20-sided cylinder and three indents

j Adding an indent between

the gold and silver sections with the Edge Extrude tool can provide a nice feature

j 3D Art & Design



Final touches Apply materials, lighting and rendering


12 Add details with a custom bump map


11 UV creation: Unwrapping

To texture our pen properly we need a nice UV map. Go to the UV tab and create a new, empty UV map for your mesh. Select an edge loop running along the side of the nib and also the edge we created for separating its gold and silver parts. Now use the Unwrap tool (set to Group Normal). This should result in a pretty clean UV map to work with K.

Select all the polys on your nib you want to be gold and create a new material (M) for them. Do the same with polys that will be silver. Now drag and drop the default Gold and Silver materials (from Assets) inside the gold and silver areas on your model. You can add your own black and white images to these materials and use them as bump maps. Be sure to use your UV, I used some default Illustrator patterns for my nib engravings L.

Experiment with diferent lighting techniques Lighting is a major factor here. Often a modo artist may like to light their objects with luminous polygons. In this case lighting the object with only the Reflection Rays from the environment (with Global Illumination turned on) turned out best for me. So keep in mind there’s more than one way to get the same efects; regular modo lights, luminous polys and Environment Lighting. k It’s time for texturing. Create a nice, clean UV map for your fountain pen nib

l For added realism, apply details m

13 Environment lighting with Global Illumination

If you’re happy with your model and your materials, it’s time to set the camera for your shot and light your pen. With this particular project it was super easy. After trying many diferent light setups I was most satisfied with a default 3 Point Beige 01 Environment from modo’s Assets. I only used Reflection Rays with the GI turned on. I unchecked everything else from my environment. If you choose to you can add a secondary environment that is only Visible to Camera and set up a suitable colour gradient for your render background M.

14 Depth of field and render settings

A very slight depth of field efect for your camera is a nice touch to the final render, but it involves some more tweaking of the Render Settings. What you’ll definitely need to do is crank up the Anti-aliasing samples and the blurry reflection rays in the material settings for the Gold and Silver materials. Also lower the Refinement Shading Rate to 0.1-0.3px. Lower the Shading Rate to 0.1-0.5px for your Base Shader. This should help with the noise resultant from the Depth of Field camera setting N.

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such as engravings to your custom bump map. This particular design was created using Illustrator

m Your lighting setup and

environment doesn’t have to be overly complicated. A default 3 Point Beige 01 was used here

n Applying a depth of field efect to your final composition can really enhance your image

Artist info


Taha Alkan Username: tahaalkan Personal portfolio site Country Turkey Software used Maya, ZBrush, mental ray, Photoshop

Work in progressÉ

3D Art & Design



Texturing Lighting Rendering

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the ďŹ nal render

Yasin Hasanian

Software used in this piece Maya

Two ZBrush brushes

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mental ray

Personal portfolio site Country Iran Software used Maya, ZBrush, mental ray, Photoshop Expertise Yasin specialises in modelling, texturing, shading and rendering. He works in the game and ďŹ lm industries and has a passion for character art.

Make realistic food

Make realistic food Aroma 2012

Achieve realistic textures, materials and lighting for a tasty digital dish Yasin Hasanian is a CG artist and freelancer


roma was a great opportunity for me to challenge myself and expand my skills. Rather than sculpting my usual freaky creatures, I decided to have a go at creating realistic-looking food. This tutorial will be divided into sections: the first will look at gathering references and briefly discuss the modelling stages. Since the main

drive of this guide is texturing and rendering, we will look at these in a little more detail before moving to the compositing stage. One of the main challenges of this project was to ensure I captured the right mood for the scene. If you look at food photography, you’ll find that the camera focus plays a big role in close-up shots – particularly in dreamy bright scenes

where you have lots of light pouring in or light can be distinguished from other properties. In terms of software I used Maya for scene setup, ZBrush for sculpting, mental ray for rendering and Photoshop for texturing and postproduction. However, the ideas and workflow covered in this tutorial can also be applied to other packages.

Build a concept Find examples to inform your work’s realism a


02 Search for detail

Since I was trying to make the piece look as convincing as possible I found a lot of fruit-related references. I tried to observe any surface qualities I could find of strawberries, seed orientations, peaches, scatterings of light and so on. From there I roughly planned the pipeline b.


01 Gather references

The first thing you always need to do is gather references for your work. Without them you are relying on your imagination. When it comes to creating something that is photorealistic, you need to have those references to ensure you capture everything correctly. The risk is always getting something wrong and because you are dealing with an object that people are used to seeing, the errors jump out immediately. Photorealism isn’t a forgiving form!

The plan My inspiration originates from how elegant close-up shots of fruit or other food can be. Usually fruits treat light in diferent ways. Some absorb light, some reflect, some refract and most combine all these at once.

03 Start to model

The modelling stage was a pretty straightforward process. Hard surface objects were created in Maya whereas natural ones were sculpted in ZBrush. For the strawberry I decided to create a few seed brushes in ZBrush, which are included on this issue’s disc. You can use these brushes to stamp seeds onto the surface of the strawberry on a diferent layer and they can save a lot of time c.

a References are your friend b Use detailed references of fruits that display good surface qualities c Working in ZBrush 3D Art & Design



Let the lights in Get the right tonality and a suitable mood Yasin Hasanian

I’m a 21-year-old CG artist who also works as a freelancer. I got attracted to CG almost six years ago and since then I haven’t let it go. Aside from personal works I have worked on TV advertisements, TV series, movies and also games. I study computer science and my ultimate goal is to work for the top companies.

04 Set up the scene

Because this image was meant to be a stillframe, I didn’t need to make the most of the Decimation Master plug-in thanks to the help of a normal map. Nonetheless some objects, for example the cake sponge, only have both normal and displacement maps. In some conditions you may experience viewport slowdown after importing some high-res geometries. To overcome such issues you can always export high-res geometries as a MI (render assembly) file format and treat it as a render proxy d.


e Say Cheese to The World Maya, ZBrush, BodyPaint 3D, Photoshop, mental ray (2010)

The inspiration for this came from a painting I found by chance. I used Shave and a Haircut and p_HairTK for the fur. There are roughly 13 million hair prims divided into five hair systems.

I Used to be a Hero Maya, ZBrush, mental ray, BodyPaint 3D, Photoshop (2012)

Maya was used for scene setup, ZBrush for sculpting, BodyPaint 3D for texturing, Photoshop for texturing and compositing and last rendering was done in mental ray.

05 Edit lighting

Before I actually began texturing models I created a temporary lighting setup to get the overall mood for the scene, because it renders much faster and more efciently. The first thing to manage was setting up the scene, meaning applying all the normal or displacement maps if applicable. All objects were given mia_material_X_passes as no other shader can beat them in accurate behaviour. Usually I keep the lighting setup on a separate render layer which has a grey material (mia_material) override in order to adjust lighting later more easily e.


06 Use the linear workflow Miss Mutation Maya, ZBrush, mental ray, Photoshop (2010)

The model is Ophelia Overdose. Maya was used for the base mesh and scene setup, ZBrush for sculpting, Photoshop for texturing and final touches, mental ray for rendering and compositing in NUKE.

152 3D Art & Design

After setting up the scene the most crucial factor not to overlook is LWF (linear workflow). In the recent versions of Maya there are LWF features but I can never get them working the way they should. It’s best to assign a lens shader to the camera and a gammaCorrect node to any textures or colour swatches (RGB channels). Regarding shaders and lights, even blackbody or cie_d nodes produce RGB values rather than Kelvin Color Temperatures therefore they need to be gamma corrected if they are connected to the colour input of any node f.

Problems and some solutions In order to get a decent look for the cloth piece I decided to simulate it with nCloth by simply colliding the dish to the cloth. After that I took it to ZBrush to add high-frequency details, such as the vertical pattern and pitch fuzz pores. One thing to bear in mind about the peaches is that there is another layer of geometry around them. This represents the water coat layer on any wet surfaces. That layer also maintains the curvature at the contact areas to catch nice highlights. To create that layer, in ZBrush I combined all medium resolution peaches together and sculpted the layer in a way that it could represent a water shell around them. To handle objects that need some sort of surrounding, repeating pattern, I often use Radial Symmetry. Later when I’m satisfied with the look I add another layer and deform the object to suit the piece. This method usually saves a lot of headaches, not to mention time.

Make realistic food

Add textures Complete your lighting, move to materials and shading h


07 Turn on the lights

Going back to the lighting stage, the scene has an IBL node with a suitable HDRI image for the environment and a blurred version of it for final gather. I also based my camera angle upon the IBL node orientation in the scene. Aside from the IBL casting final gather I created two key Area Lights in places where they can be regarded as light sources in the HDRI image. Matching these key lights with the light sources in the image is essential, because with close-up positions where you have so much white reflection the viewer expects to see some difuse contributions g.


08 Edit environment efects

Portal lights are connected to Area Lights to focus FG rays. If you don’t check Use Custom Environment, the program will automatically sample the environment colour that the camera sees by default unless it’s given a diferent environment look-up, so not checking it is preferred in this case. These lights also emit photons, as it’s a close-up interior shot, to provide even more decent light bounces h.

Shader setup Note that when you plug SSS shaders in to mia_materials, the difuse weight is exactly the same as that of the SSS shader. To get best results, turn of any specularity feature on the actual SSS shader because that is supplied by mia_material. As I said earlier, be aware that any colour values must be gamma corrected. However, remove those nodes in the images to reduce the complexity of the networks you are viewing. Whenever I deal with objects that have cracks, dips, pores, wrinkles or other imperfections, I switch my model to the highest level and create textures based on the mask and ambient occlusion. Both of these will come in handy with texture painting, clearly and easily defining shapes. In order to achieve the pitch fuzz efect on a suitable object, such as the piece of cloth, I applied a high-frequency displacement map to simulate pores at render time. In this case I chose to use displacement maps because light can interact with them much better than with bump or normal maps. Also don’t forget to amplify roughness in mia_material on particularly rough objects. j

09 Begin texturing and shading

Almost all the models were textured in Photoshop and the rest in ZBrush. The maps I prepared for the objects were mainly colour, gloss, reflection, bump and normal maps. For the strawberry object I created a mask separating its seeds and later used it to separate the seed shader from the rest of the strawberry with the help of the mix8.Layer shader ( shaders/c/mix8-layer-for-mentalray). Therefore it consisted of two shaders, one for the flesh and one for the seeds. The mia_ material shader for the strawberry flesh had an SSS shader plugged into its additional colour i.

d Final assembly of the models e The scene lighting setup

h Settings of the Area Light on the left side, including its plugged portal light on the right

f It doesn’t matter which lens shader is used. The crucial factor is the gamma values

i Textures and shaders used for the strawberry with a bit of help from mix8.Layer

g Two soft Area Lights plus an IBL. The key light is on the left

j Cake sponge textures. Some of them were polypainted

10 Cake sponge and peaches

Many cake pieces had an SSS shader plugged into them to make them look more convincing. For instance, the cake sponge has epidermal and subdermal maps, dictating it to get more saturated and reddish the more light leaks inside. There are four diferent types of peach slices scattered around the center, each of them has its own textures to add some variations to the rendered image. Each peach slice is consisted of two parts: shell and flesh. Knowing that, I used mix8.Layer for them as well to separate the two parts. Both flesh and shell have their own SSS shader setup j. 3D Art & Design



6 hours re

nder tim

Render setup

Resolution e 1,232 x 1,400:

Finalise the look development and render

11 Add jam shading

12 Render pass options

To have maximum control over the look of the final image I rendered it in passes in a single EXR file. Separate the SSS pass to front, middle and back to have maximum control over it. When you are trying to get a realistic 3D image, check the 32-bit Full Float output otherwise you will not be able to get nice burnt highlights in postproduction owing to the fact that hot spots in 8-bit or even 16-bit images can’t be tweaked to bleed into another colour without crushing down the shadows l.

Now it’s time to explore the jam shading. Technically speaking jam is a refractive/ translucent type of material, so it lets light through but only to a certain extent. To do this I activated Use Max Distance under Advanced Refractions and gave a darker red colour to gradually fall into the material. I also used translucency to make it seem more believable. In addition to jam shading, to obtain some variations in its dryness or wetness I created a glossiness map and added it to the shader k.

13 Avoid shortcuts

In my experience you can achieve burnt highlights by either not following the LWF, with the help of lens shader (that doesn’t grant you the freedom you have in post) or tweaking light and material attributes too much. As a result it’s best to render out 32-bit images. We see those highlights in so many situations during our day, it’s best to have them in our work as well. Simply play with the image levels and experiment m.




Composited SSS







Observation It’s necessary to observe objects in reality as much as you can and work from their surface properties for inspiration. Notice how dirt in diferent climates changes and where scratches occur on varying surfaces. This way you can extend your knowledge to create new stuf yet have it look convincing and real because it draws from genuine sources.

l Render passes. The composited SSS pass is the combination of front, middle and back SSS passes which were rendered out separately The composited image is brought into Photoshop as an 8/16-bit image to be retouched further

14 Begin post work

Having the passes, I went into NUKE to do a simple composite because Photoshop is poor at handling 32-bit EXR files. After that I sent it to Photoshop to complete the final touches. Usually postproduction for me is where I can bring the image to life. I try to capture the desired mood as much as possible. This doesn’t have any specific formula, just try anything that works for you, come back to it after a day, flip it and fix the flaws you find n.


m k Sometimes translucency is very sensitive to light changes. As it’s a fake approach, often it requires experimentation

m Even after adjusting levels the 8-bit image still can’t get close to the 32-bit. You can also see render settings here

Conclusion It wasn’t possible to cover everything in this short tutorial, so I basically tried to demonstrate the key stages of the process. I hope you have grabbed something from this tutorial to take forward in your work.

Progress of the post work from left to right


154 3D Art & Design

15 Go to postproduction

The goal was to achieve a lush image with vivid colours. In post the main jobs were sharpening, colour correcting, adding DOF with the help of a zDepth pass, placing some chromatic abberations, including grains, refining a few shapes, painting out a few flaws and so on. To intensify the light brightness that’s coming from left I screened a gradient to the whole image o.

Artist info


Rod DeWeese

Rod worked for eight years in the landscape architecture industry before pursuing freelance work

Username: RDeWeese Personal portfolio site Country US Software used 3ds Max, mental ray, Photoshop

Work in progress‌

This image was created for a contest by the Gnomon Workshop. It’s something I had wanted to do for a while but never got around to, so the contest was the perfect excuse to do it. By the way, I took Rod DeWeese, Old World Alley, 2012 second place in the competition! 3D Art & Design



• RolexYachtmasterIIMaterials (LWO files) • Tutorial screenshots

Model and render a photorealistic watch This masterclass will introduce a workflow to help you model and render a Rolex wristwatch


his tutorial will focus on the production of a photorealistic render of a wristwatch. Workflow is always important to avoid back-tracking and repeating steps as much as possible. Part of what will be specifically looked at is the process of completing the work with the best tools for the job. In this case we’ll use LightWave for modelling because it’s a rock-solid polygon modeller. Breaking out of a simple LightWave workflow – even though it has a good renderer – we’ll step into other software to render. Why move out of LightWave, you ask? Well, as simplicity isn’t always a good reason to limit your options, it’s important to understand all the tools you have at your disposal, and when to use them. As well as LightWave, I often use Luxion’s KeyShot Pro and the Bunkspeed

156 3D Art & Design

Pro Suite. You can grab trials for these from the respective websites: www.keyshot. com/try and software/trypro. Both are very capable and very fast rendering solutions, which for many projects provide a much faster turnaround than LightWave alone. Taking that into account, the basic workflow we’ll cover is the setting up of reference images and the modelling of the watch. Modelling will include the assigning of surfaces ready for shading. This requires some consideration with regard to the model going into the third-party renderers. This is because the surface assignments will dictate how the model is editable within the other renderers. There is also some UV mapping to do. Once all the work is done in LightWave’s Modeler, our workflow will split. For

Final render of the Rolex Yacht-Master II in 24-carat gold

Ambient occlusion render pass of the Rolex Yacht-Master II

Model and render a photorealistic watch It’s all about the materials you use The thing with CGI is that no single aspect is going to hold up on its own. Creating a stunning model is part of the requirement, but no matter how good your model is, on its own it will have little impact beyond showing you can model well. Dress it in poor textures and shaders and it’ll render up being a disappointing mess. More often than not there is no complete shortcut to shaders. You can build a library, but often they will be to a greater or lesser degree shot-specific and need tweaking each time you use them.


continuing work in LightWave, we will start working on shaders, which may mean starting by loading up a library preset or starting from scratch. There are texture maps to create for the watch face as well. For rendering in KeyShot or Bunkspeed, we have a little extra work to do. Neither renderer will import LightWave LWO files, so we need to translate to a compatible format. This can be either OBJ, FBX, or Collada (Bunkspeed only). My personal experience with LightWave is that the FBX exporting works well and will export animations with reasonable success, though some parenting can cause issues along with the use of sliders. LightWave’s OBJ exporting isn’t great and my preference is to use Deep Exploration. This enables the exporting of an entire scene as an OBJ, which seems to be the best compromise for most situations. Whichever method you use, it’s worth pointing out that it represents pretty much the end of any LightWave input to the end result. This means you need to be really certain that your modelling work is finished, that all your surfaces are correctly assigned and all required UV sets have been created. Failure to do so can see you needing to go back to LightWave to do further work, and efectively write of a lot of time spent working on the model in KeyShot or Bunkspeed. Not only that but you’ll also have to spend time copying and pasting shaders onto the newly re-imported assets. This isn’t the end of the world, but it can become frustrating quite quickly. Once your model is imported into KeyShot or Bunkspeed, the workflow from this point on is pretty much the same. Although the shader configurations are a

a With the backdrop set up we can begin the basic blocking-in process

B Modelling is

completed and geometry frozen for rendering and exporting

little diferent, there are distinct parallels between them. The common factor with all the options covered here, is that you will spend a fair amount of time tweaking and rendering. LightWave now has VPR, which is a real-time updating render preview. This can be a real help when working with shaders and is very similar to both the other renderers, though they are much faster and more responsive. A workflow consideration that might not apply to everyone is compatibility with CAD systems. LightWave can handle OBJ, Collada, and FBX, but these don’t directly help with CAD. The other two go a step further. Bunkspeed ofers a free plug-in for use with various other software systems, with Pro/E being one of the main ones in CAD terms, but it requires a licensed copy of Pro/Eand not everyone will have a licence for it. KeyShot also has the native ability to load Pro/E files, keeping all the sub components and hierarchies intact. This is a very nice tool to have at our disposal, and a big consideration if you deal with CAD assets a lot. Having looked at the workflow considerations, let’s check out an overview of creating the asset to be rendered, and then the processes involved in rendering it in three diferent renderers.


01 Prepare to model

First you need to find a suitable reference to use as a foundation for the basic modelling process. In an ideal world we would have side and front views of a wristwatch. Although decent-enough front views are easy to find from a Google Images search, I couldn’t find a decent side view for this Rolex. My reference is plentiful enough for the job, though, and I can gauge the depth of the watch, so it’s not the end of the world. With the front view set as the backdrop, basic model blocking can now begin A.

02 Freeze the model

We have quite a complex watch to model, so for rendering in close the SubD levels need to be quite high. I find even for rendering in LightWave it can be beneficial to freeze the model, as it saves LightWave having to freeze the model each time at the point of rendering. Not only that, but for rendering in KeyShot or Bunkspeed PRO, the model needs to be frozen anyway. Just be very sure that you have completed all modelling and UV mapping before doing so B. 3D Art & Design








Set up the scene For this subject matter, a typical scene doesn’t need to be complex at all and for the main render featured here, it’s not. I have three light cards arranged cylindrically around the watch, which I have set as unseen by radiosity. Their purpose is just for reflections. An HDRI map in the texture environment plug-in provides the lighting. I’ve used one of Dosch’s Chrome Studio maps set to 90% Intensity. However, any with good light and dark contrasts would work well for our purposes C.


Arrange your shaders The

screenshot for this stage shows you the major settings for the 24-carat gold shader. When it comes to shaders you may wish to remain relatively old-school and keep use of nodes is minimal when it can be. Never make it more complicated than it needs to be! In the case of the gold shading, it’s not the most complicated thing to do and really comes down to getting the colour right along with the balance of difuse and reflection. Provided is the full LightWave

158 3D Art & Design

shader collection used in this Rolex Yacht-Master II model D.


Render the scene A few years

ago you wouldn’t have been tempted to render something like this in LightWave. All the reflections and refractions added to radiosity would have made render times prohibitive. LightWave 11 has made things faster and simpler. All the major rendering-related settings are now in the Render Globals panel. For this scene, shading and light samples can stay at 1. Also, interpolated GI isn’t the fastest option, so with it turned of, GI set to Monte Carlo and the RPE set to 4, we’re good to go. I usually keep the adaptive threshold at 0.01 for finals. Minimum Samples on the camera are kept low, but maximum samples need tweaking for your scene E.


Export and render

There are several options available for getting geometry out of LightWave and into KeyShot or Bunkspeed Pro. My favoured method is Right Hemisphere’s

KeyShot or Bunkspeed – which one is the best for me? The thing to remember is that they are only renderers, so in this example neither can replace LightWave completely. There are also some key diferences to each that are worth being aware of. First, there is the power for rendering. KeyShot primarily uses your system CPU and RAM. No matter how fancy and high-end your video card is, the most it’ll be used for is bloom and vignette efects. Bunkspeed, however, enables you to specify the use of system resources for rendering. It can use your system CPU, your video card GPU, or a hybrid mix of both. This is great but you are restricted by how much memory your video card has. Deep Exploration. The main reason is that it can read a LightWave scene, including animation, and enable you to export to Collada and FBX. This is great if you want to render an animated sequence outside of LightWave. It also makes it a snap to export any frame of the scene as an OBJ file. As a user, you will rarely render sequences outside of LightWave, so OBJ is the way to go. LightWave will export Collada natively, but for reasons not entirely clear, the file sizes are in excess of ten-times the size of those from Deep Exploration F.

c A simple scene

with an HDRI map is all we’ll need

D Shading in

LightWave – try to keep it simple

E Major render

settings in LightWave grouped together

F Using Deep

Exploration to export the watch

Model and render a photorealistic watch



Import into either KeyShot or Bunkspeed On account of their

similar product specs and pipelines, there is not a great diference in how you get the model into KeyShot or Bunkspeed. Both ofer you options as to how the object will be organised after the import has completed. The default options work well in both cases, giving you a separate entity for each material from LightWave. This means it’s worth giving consideration to this when surfacing the model in LightWave to avoid restrictions later. If any applied texture maps are placed in the folder with the OBJ file, then both renderers will load the textures in while importing the model G.

G Import options for both KeyShot and Bunkspeed

H Working on the

model in KeyShot

I Working with

shaders inside of Bunkspeed

J Adding realism

through grading


Begin shading and rendering in KeyShot

Once the model has imported, shading is where the workflow gets quicker compared to LightWave. You can simply drag and drop materials, environments and backplates from the library right onto the model in the main window. The materials can be tweaked and saved as new library items, but for the major part the presets are great as they are. If you don’t require renders in excess of your active screen resolution, you can simply save the preview render. If you need high-resolution output then the ofine render can be used for finished output H.


Alternative shading and rendering in Bunkspeed Pro

After importing into Bunkspeed Pro, as with KeyShot, you start by dragging and dropping materials onto your model. The library of supplied materials, environments, and backplates is enough to cover most requirements. Parts of the model can be hidden to gain access to parts otherwise blocked from drag-and-drop operations. For rapid turnarounds without compromising quality, it’s a great tool to use, even if it’s not exactly cheap I.



Pitfalls with LightWave radiosity When you render using radiosity with LightWave, it’s best to throw your assumptions aside. When rendering this scene, using interpolated Final Gather would seem a logical way to go. Interpolation after all is filling in the blanks between defined ranges. However, by switching of Interpolation and using Monte Carlo instead, along with some other tweaks to the settings such as a low RPE setting along with shading and lighting samples, the render times are brought down from in excess of 16 hours to under 3.5 hours. This is worth remembering when using LightWave if you are rendering in it.


Grade your renders There is no

doubt that the results that can be obtained from LightWave, KeyShot and Bunkspeed are fantastic, but one of the biggest mistakes to make is to assume that the process ends there. I find just adding a little chromatic aberration and noise to the image is enough to take away the clean CGI look. Also adding a colour tint to make it a little less neutral is a great way to achieve this. With the aid of a depth pass, you can also add depth of field, which is pretty crucial for LightWave renders, as rendering DOF in LightWave is still prohibitive of your precious time j.


3D Art & Design


Environment Whether they’re realistic or fantastical, develop your environments with our tutorials 162 20 steps to better environments


Improve your terrains from concept to completion

169 I made this… Rue de Seine Viktor Fretyán talks through his art

170 Underwater landscapes


Create a realistic underwater scene

175 Gallery – Dennis Kaya Iversholt Taking a look at Neon City

176 Create a desert landscape

Blend 3D & matte painting techniques to produce a Mars-like landscape

181 I made this… Under the Southern Highway A bleak yet beautiful scene

182 Create trees in Unity

Get to grips with Unity’s Tree Editor

184 Futuristic cityscapes

How to create a floating city

190 Sculpt beautiful terrains

Create picturesque terrains in Unity

192 Design an epic Vue landscape


Key steps to building an epic landscape

197 Gallery – Lee Griggs

We look at Lee Griggs’ spooky scene

From planning to rendering and postproduction, you will learn all the techniques 160 3D Art & Design


Lighting can make or break a scene, whether it’s a realistic, fantasy, surreal or sci-ďŹ landscape 192

3D Art & Design



20 steps to better environments Consumed 2012

The concept for this image came from wanting to create a piece dedicated to a person who lived below my apartment, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease Toni Bratincevic is a senior environment modeller at Blizzard Entertainment in the Cinematic department. He’s a self-taught 3D artist with almost ten years of professional experience his tutorial will cover the making of Consumed, focusing mostly on my personal approach to the modelling process. I will show how basic modelling is done in 3ds Max using some simple techniques, and how ZBrush is used to sculpt the character and additional objects featured in the scene. To finish up I will quickly go over some procedural texturing techniques to add dirt layers on wood and will show you how V-Ray RT can be used to set up lighting in an interactive way. I’m using ZBrush primarily as my sculpting tool, but I also often rely on its texturing and UV unwrapping tools, as well as its geometry optimisation tool, Decimation Master. So let’s begin!


162 3D Art & Design

20 steps to better environments

Artist info

3D artists explain the techniques behind their amazing artwork

Toni Bratincevic Username: InterceptoV Personal portfolio site Location California, USA Software used 3ds Max, Photoshop, ZBrush, V-Ray RT Expertise Toni works with environments professionally, and is currently focusing on character modelling in his spare time to introduce more variety into his portfolio

Find screenshots of Toni’s detailed edits, including his render settings

3D Art & Design


Environment Concept

Software used in this piece

A basic concept for this image was drawn on paper with pencil a few years ago. It was just a simple sketch that captured the general idea. I later added colour in Photoshop.

Start the layout and modelling Establish the scene and create models for the environment



Scene blocking After gathering my various pencil sketches together, I set up the basic layout of the scene and stage the camera. This step takes me around ten minutes. I’m not wasting time keeping topology clean and making good UVs. At this point I’m starting most of the objects from a simple box and using poly-modelling tools like Cut, Extrude, Bridge and Connect. I’m aiming to model all objects that will serve as starting points for the high-poly modelling. It’s also during this stage that I define the basic camera position so that I’m building the scene based on what I see. I will also establish the basic composition during the process a.


Basic lighting Next I establish the overall lighting of the scene. Although some


artists tend to create lighting in later stages, I usually decide to work on it as soon as I create the layout. Lighting – along with camera view – will define what parts of the scenes are more visible, what will be in focus and what I should concentrate my time modelling and texturing. This basic lighting is done with a couple of V-Ray area lights. One light uses a warmer tone and serves as a primary to illuminate areas where the character should be, while others are used as fill lights with cooler colours b.

164 3D Art & Design

a Simple objects to stage the scene and build the layout

b The basic lighting setup to check which objects are more in focus

c Models from the layout are exported into separate assets for detailing


3ds Max



V-Ray RT

Always be prepared The first steps are usually the most important when creating an image – especially one that is more complex. These are the stages where everything is established in a broad sense: the composition, distribution of objects, forms, basic light setup and colour correction for the final image. It’s essentially a simplified draft version of what the end result will be. After this point it’s just a matter of being patient and detailing all the objects, textures, materials and light to bring the image to the final version. If you don’t feel comfortable with the layout you’ve completed and you can’t imagine it as a final work, then try starting from scratch and beginning everything again in a diferent way. Imagine this process as paving the way to the final product – after which you only need to take steps forward!

Organise assets I prepare separate files and


model objects for the scene. The fridge, which in layout was a simple re-modelled box object, is exported to a separate scene named ‘Fridge_V01_01.max’ where I can re-model and detail the object. The layout model of the fridge is positioned to fit the layout scene but when I export this placeholder object into the new scene I reset all the transformations so it’s positioned at the origin where I did all the re-modelling. I merge this model back into the original scene and align it to the layout model of the fridge C.

20 steps to better environments

Detailed modelling Re-create your models from the initial layout to perfect the level of detail



Pose the character Although my original layout

Shape rocks

didn’t have a character, in the later stages I decide to add one. My intention is to sculpt a character in ZBrush, so I create a base suit model in 3ds Max, starting from a box and using standard Edit Poly tools. If you’re using ZBrush, a base model can also be created simply using ZSpheres. After completing an unposed base model I use the Move, Rotate and Scale tools with Soft Selection active to position the character in the scene. I make the helmet completely in 3ds Max. It has a totally clean topology since I use a TurboSmooth modifier on top of the model to achieve smoother surfaces d.



Sculpt detail with ZBrush I export the base

character model into an OBJ format (using the ZBrush preset). In ZBrush I merge the OBJ, subdivide it a couple of times and, using brushes like Move, Clay Buildup, Smooth and Dam Standard, I sculpt all the wrinkles and details on the suit. Once I’m done sculpting, on the first level of subdivision I use UV Unwrap in ZBrush to create simple UVs for the character. I could export back to 3ds Max on one of the lower subdivision levels of the objects and create a Displacement map. This time I choose to export the highest level to keep all the details I’ve sculpted, since with displacement you always lose some sculpted details e.


In ZBrush I start with a Cube3D made into a mesh by pressing Make PolyMesh3D. I subdivide it a couple of times while having Smooth turned of for the first two levels of subdivision. After that, using the hPolish, Clay Buildup, Pinch and Dam Standard brushes, I sculpt a couple of variations of stones that I use around the scene. UVs are also done in ZBrush using the UV Master tools. I use the Decimation Master plug-in for ZBrush to optimise meshes and reduce mesh complexity. Once the objects are decimated I export them as OBJ files and merge them all into a 3ds Max file where I can continue texturing f.

f H

08 G


Set dressing Objects used for set dressing are relatively simple to model. Some of them are created by drawing a profile curve and using the Lathe modifier to revolve it around its axis, like a few bottles and a teapot. Other objects are created from a simple box and extruding and cutting the mesh to make the shapes needed. At this point I also create simple UVs using the UVW Map modifier with box mapping. These objects are later merged into the original layout scene and distributed around the image to add complexity where needed g.

Tear of the light box panel To peel the light box panel above the clock I’ve developed a simple technique. Once the panel is modelled and textured I make a duplicate of the same object and apply a Subdivision modifier with a value of 0.2. After that, I convert it back into Edit Poly object and cut areas where I want the peeling paint to appear. Then, using Soft Selection and Move/Rotate tools, I move the inner edges of the mesh so it looks like it’s peeling from the original object h. d The character is modelled and posed in 3ds Max

e Sculpt the character from the base mesh

f Rocks are made in ZBrush, including the base mesh

g Objects for set dressing

created in a separate scene and later scattered around the base scene

h More details for the top

light panel are added by copying the original object 3D Art & Design





Model the clock Before I even start modelling the

clock I already know that it will be geometry that’s repeated radially, so I just have to model one part and copy it around seven times to get a complete shape. Because of this I model only one part that covers 45 degrees and later copy another seven elements around its axis point. The final frame is merged into one object and shared vertex points at the edges are welded. The frame of the clock is started as a profile curve with the Lathe modifier, plus some additional modelling. The round gears inside the clock are created using modified cylinder curves to get nice shapes and are converted into objects using the Bevel modifier i.



Create cobwebs All the cobwebs around the scene

are made using free scripts from http://jokermartini. com/2012/05/09/cobwebs. I pick the scene area where I want to have a cobweb, create a couple of polygons that are placed on top of the surfaces where webs will connect and then select these polygons in order. I save a selection for these polygons because it takes a lot of tries to get the right result. Next I enable Radial Mesh in Editable Spline and apply small Noise and Displacement modifiers on top of everything to add some randomness to the shapes of the strands in the web. As for the options, I use Type Order for main strands, and Radial for substrands. I also set Subdivisions to 4, Number of Substrands to 6 and Random Gaps to 50% j.


Break up wood Areas where I want broken wood are modelled using ProCutter. I decide what parts of the objects to break and detach them from the originals. A plane is then made with a high level of subdivision, like 100 x 100. It’s placed perpendicular to the wood object and, using Move with Soft Selection, is shaped to define the base form of the cut. After that I apply a Noise modifier to the cutting object (plane) and change the settings to deform only in axes perpendicular to the wood object. Using ProCutter tools on the base wood object, I pick the plane object as a Stock Object and play with settings to get a clean cut. For a better distribution of polygons I turn on Make Quadrilaterals and convert everything back into Editable Poly objects k.



Model with displacement While most of the objects in the scene are created using

standard modelling tools, to add small stones around cabinets I use a 2D Displacement map with a water level feature. I do this by adding a Displacement modifier with a map to a simple plane object and set the water level in the Displacement map to 0.5cm. This cuts the object where the map’s value is lower than 0.5, while leaving the rest of the displacement visible. This plane is then copied and placed around the scene to bring in additional details. Depending on its position in the scene, parts of that flat displaced plane are deleted to fit objects behind them l.

2D Displacement in V-Ray? Although nice efects can be achieved with 3D Mapping Displacement mode in V-Ray, whenever I can I try to use the 2D Displacement feature, which is much faster and more predictable. It can also produce more detailed displacement than the other two methods, and is especially useful for surfaces that are relatively flat like a grass field or tileable ground covered with small stones. The limitation of 2D Displacement is that it can only use Displacement maps that are based on the UV space of the object, which means 3D textures like noise can’t be used. In this case the 3D method is the only way to go.

166 3D Art & Design

L i Model only one section of the clock and

k The ProCutter compound object is used to

j The cobwebs are made using a free script

l 2D Displacement is used to add geometry

copy it seven times to get the full shape


break the wood boxes around the scene details over the scene

20 steps to better environments

Texture the scene Use procedural techniques with bitmaps to texture your environment


Wood textures For the wood I use a tileable texture in combination with a Vertex map to add dirt. Using the Vertex map modifier applied to an object, I paint with black where I want dirt to appear. Inside the material assigned to that object I add a Composite map in the Difuse channel and use wood as a first layer. In the second layer I add a dirt texture, change the second layer to Multiply and set the Opacity to 80. As a mask for the second layer I use another Composite map. In the first channel I use a Vertex map and in the second I put a Black-and-White map, setting the channel to Overlay. This gives me all the flexibility of using a Vertex map to paint dirt directly on the objects around the scene, while still using only one material for all these objects m.



Texture the fridge The fridge texture is created by


The power of procedural While painted bitmaps can be used to produce fine details on objects, it’s not efcient to paint every single texture for all objects in the scene. Because of this, a lot of the time I try to use tileable textures with additional dirt layers placed in a procedural way to randomise the visual appearance. To achieve an greater level of texture complexity, I rely on these maps: Noise Texture, Fallof, V-Ray MultiSubTex, Composite and Cellular. m The procedural approach using the Vertex Paint modifier to add dirt

n Fridge textures painted in

Photoshop. A scratch mask is used to mix the aluminium material in the VRayBlendMtl settings

o Paint textures for the back wall. I bake an Occlusion map for contact points

p The clock material is a combination of three diferent materials

painting all textures – without using any procedural techniques. Using UV tools in 3ds Max I can create nice non-overlapping UVs. A screenshot of these UVs is brought into Photoshop where I paint 4,000 Difuse, Reflection, Glossy and Bump maps. I also paint a Scratches Mask map, which is used to blend two diferent materials in 3ds Max with a VRayBlendMtl. The base material is the one using the textures I painted, while the coat material is a simple one, similar to aluminium, which uses the mask I painted in Photoshop. This mask is also used to create a Negative Bump map for the aluminium material n.


Detail the back wall When focusing on the back

o p

wall I bake an Occlusion map to figure out where the contact points are. Doing this makes it far easier to paint textures later when moving to Photoshop. To bake I create a VRayLightMtl, put a VRayDirt texture inside the Color map of that material and set a proper Radius value for the VRayDirt texture. This is then applied to the back wall and baked using the 3ds Max Render to Texture feature. In the Render To Texture menu, I select the VRayCompleteMap element and bake a 4,000 texture directly into File. I use this in Photoshop as a base where I paint Difuse, Bump and Reflection maps. One thing to keep in mind while baking Occlusion maps is to have good non-overlapping UVs that are arranged inside UV domains o.


Clock material To detail the clock object I use three

key materials that are mixed together to get the most efective look. To mix these materials I use a VRayBlendMtl with a base material set to a metallic copper. The second one is set to a more difused green material (the more oxidized areas of the metal). The third and final material is highly reflective and used to add scratches on top of the previous two materials. For Material Mix maps I bake an Occlusion map from 3ds Max and use that Occlusion map in Photoshop to refine it into a final Mix map. Based on occlusion intensity, I paint both Mix maps. Where it’s more occluded I add extra dirt into the first Material Mix map so that it looks like it’s more oxidised. However, in areas exposed and not occluded (white) I add more scratches for the second Material Mix map p. 3D Art & Design



4 + crea tio

Lighting and rendering

Reso n time 5,000 lution: p wideixels

Use V-Ray RT to light the scene quickly and efficiently


Lighting with V-Ray RT Before the final stage of modelling and texturing changes, I use V-Ray RT to lock down lighting in the scene. For the Active Shade render engine I set V-Ray RT. To make everything more interactive, in the Active Shade Render menu I do a material override of the scene with a classic grey VRayMtl. I change the Viewport from Standard camera view to Active Shade. Once the scene is translated and I start to render on screen, I can tweak lighting, add new lights and modify the intensities and colours of lights. After every change, V-Ray RT refines the image, instantly showing the efects of changes q.

Raw render or postproduction? Q


Physical camera V-Ray’s camera is used instead of the classic 3ds Max camera. I decide not to use exposure inside the VRayPhysicalCamera, which is on by default. Instead, exposure is added in the V-Ray Color Mapping menu in Render Settings. I use a Cubic method with a 0.05 value to get a nice distortion around the image borders, which gives a more dynamic composition to the scene and looks more natural. Depth of field is also used in the camera to get a nice blurred foreground. I always use DOF in the camera for still images because it gives better image quality than doing it in the post-processing phase r.


Rendering in V-Ray I render with the Adaptive


hour s

DMC sampler with Subdivisions set to Min 1 and Max 10. An Irradiance map is used as the primary bounce for GI while Lightcache is used for secondary GI bounces. The Irradiance map is set to High and I use Ambient Occlusion set to the default value. For Lightcache I use Subdivs set to 1,500. In the Render Settings menu I set Global Subdivs Multiplier to 4 to get decent sampling for glossy reflections and DOF. All render tests are done in 2,000 resolution while the final image is rendered in 5,000 s.

Although I prefer to make the final render as good as possible, trying to get a perfect image out of 3ds Max would consume a lot of time, since for every single modification I would have to render a new image, which takes a while. Because of that, I don’t bother getting a great-looking image from 3ds Max and instead focus on doing compositing in Fusion where I can tweak colours in a matter of seconds. q V-Ray RT is used to make quick changes to the scene’s lighting

r Testing V-Ray’s camera

with diferent distortion values. For the final image it is set to 0.05

s Settings for the final render (screenshots supplied)

t Fusion is used for colour

corrections on the raw OpenEXR-rendered image


20 t

168 3D Art & Design

Final compositing The final image is rendered in OpenEXR format so that I don’t lose any information from the colour values, like TGA or PNG formats do. This is then taken into Fusion where I apply several colour corrections to get the values I want. I also use masks in combination with colour corrections to darken parts of the image in the foreground while areas around the clock and the character are corrected to be more visible and to attract attention from the viewer. While doing post work I tend to flip the image often to get a fresh perspective. The final image is actually a flipped version of the original t.

I made this… Rue de Seine Artist info

Incredible 3D artists take k us behind their artwor

Viktor Fretyán Website rg http://radicjoe.cgsociety.o Country Hungary , V-Ray, Software used 3ds Max Photoshop ed in Bio Viktor is a 3D artist bas Budapest, Hungary

Software used in this piece

Rue de Seine 2012 I was always in love with this city, so I wanted to create a series of scenes from diferent locations, all in diferent styles and all with a little comedic relief. So far this is the first image of this series and I hope I’ll have the will power to go on, as it took me six months just for this one image! I really don’t feel like starting all over from scratch on another scene right now…

3ds Max



Try not to use plug-ins… [from] experience it’s so easy to find a cool look with a plug-in and use the same trick on all your images. It’s better to do everything manually, for me. I feel more in control!

Always try to do something original. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s always better to appreciate something original than a perfectly clean image that’s a copy… Nowadays there are quite a few studios and artists with a distinctive style 3D Art & Design



Software used in this piece

Distribution Lighting Rendering


A Add a single-blade plant and animate its wind parameters to give it a slight curve at zero seconds • Free full copy of Vue 9 Frontier, worth $99, courtesy of e-on software and Cornucopia3D • Full Vue Scene with materials, atmosphere, render settings and all objects included.

170 3D Art & Design

B Animate the wind parameters again, this time at three seconds to the maximum curvature you want C Add a standard terrain and use the Old Rock material as displacement to create overhangs and caves

Underwater landscapes

Aquatic Vue

Create idealistic and realistic underwater environments in Vue Conrad Allan is a freelance environment artist and matte painter


n this article we’ll be covering advanced techniques for creating scenes in Vue. While we’ll be building an underwater scene, the techniques you’ll learn are easily transferred to many other, aboveground creations in the software. First we’ll be preparing a plant to use as our seagrass where we’ll use the animation phasing to make the plant look like

there’s a current flowing through. Next we’ll look into using terrains in a unique way to get rock overhangs in our ocean scene for coral to grow on and fish to swim through. Veterans of Vue will understand rendering underwater scenes in it has always been a challenge. The ocean material is easy enough to set up initially, but render times can often be

huge and lighting settings sensitive. With the advent of Vue 10 came a new physical water system. It meant relearning the entire water-rendering experience. Hopefully by the end of the article we will have removed the shroud in your understanding of the new physical water system. We’re covering a lot of elements and have a lot to get through, so buckle up.

Artist info

Underwater landscapes

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Conrad Allan Personal portfolio site Country Australia Software used Vue Expertise Using World Machine to create highly realistic terrains for projects and creating environments in Vue for matte paintings and full 3D animations

Set your scene Prepare for the animations


02 Timeline and grass bend a

01 Animation preparation

We need to prepare a grass file before we can use it in our main scene. Add an Acacia Tree Seedling plant and turn on the Timeline (F11). You can cancel out of the animation wizard, but this won’t help us. Make sure your current time is set to 0 and drag the wind control (the blue triangle next to the plant) so it is just out of its middle point a.

Now we have our initial plant and animation start position, move the Time slider to 3 seconds and drag the blue triangle even further to create our maximum bend in the grass. Make sure to drag the triangle in the same general direction, as we don’t want to have the grass bend back on itself or turn in a diferent direction. Next, go to 6 seconds on the Time slider and copy the initial frame setting to the end. With the plant selected, hit Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+B to open the Animation toolbox and set the Repeat Mode to Loop. Finally save your object as a VOB file b.


03 Create the base terrain

Open up a new scene and add a standard terrain. We’ll need to smooth it out by using the Difuse and Wind erosion efects. We’re going to take a diferent approach to normal for creating our underwater terrain. Load the material Old Rock and in the Bump tab, enable Displacement. If you render now you’ll notice the terrain should look something like the image for this step. Now is a good time to play with the depth of the bump to increase the displacement and the smoothing slider. Try setting the Depth to 0.4 and Smoothing to 50% c. 3D Art & Design



Advanced ecosystem distributions Create and control the plant life of the sea floor d


04 Coral ecosystem

On the terrain we’ve just added, edit the material and add an ecosystem layer. On this add two types of aquatic plants: Red Coral and Anemone, increasing the presence of the Anemone to 2. In the Density tab, turn of Decay Near Foreign Objects and turn the Density up to 100%. Depending on the size of your scene you’ll need to turn down the overall scaling (in the next tab). For this scene it is set to 0.095. Turn the maximum X variation to 1.3 to give some variation in the sizes of instances. Finally in the Presence tab, change the Maximum slope to 45 degrees d.

05 Basic seagrass ecosystem

Add another ecosystem layer, ensuring it is below the previous one in the list. Add the animated grass object we created earlier, setting the Scale to 0.8 and Density to 100%. For scaling, set the Overall Amount to 0.5 and the Maximum rotation to 0 degrees. We need all our instances to line up. Also, change the Direction From Surface to 50%, this will make the instances tilt a little with the terrain. Finally, ensure the Presence tab of this layer is set to the maximum. For the desired efect we want this grass to appear at all heights and slopes e.

D The settings we used to create the variations in scaling of the coral ecosystem E The density settings for our seagrass. The distribution fractal is created in step 7 F The Animation Ofset tab enables us to create sweeping currents through the grass G The distributions cause the grass animation to ofset. This will look more realistic under our ocean

Problems and solutions Dealing with ecosystems can sometimes be time consuming. If you’re trying to get your distribution patterns correct, increase the scale of your plants temporarily. This will save you time when populating as there won’t be so many instances. I try to avoid using dynamic populations because they tend to take longer on the first render than their static counterparts, but using a static population will use more RAM so be aware of this. Make sure to only populate ecosystems you need to work on, saving your memory and test renders. This segment of the tutorial covers a lot of advanced techniques. As such, you should check how your ecosystem looks at each stage, this will help you learn more about the efects as well as ensure you’re on the right track. Each scene is unique, you’ll have to check the scale of your fractals as they may be too big or too small. If in doubt, check the scene file on the disc for reference, you’ll be able to cross check your scene with mine.


f H Using a hyperblob, we can create brain coral by controlling and filtering a standard density fractal I Mix materials to create brighter areas at the tips of the coral L By setting the lighting model to Global Radiosity we can control it better M In the Sky, Fog and Haze settings we can control the light to darken areas of our image

172 3D Art & Design

06 Create currents

To control the grass to simulate sea currents, head into the Animation tab and tick Variable Time Ofset. Set the Time Ofset Range from 0 to 6 seconds and Number of variations to 60. Tick the Loop Animation Phasing box. Now we need to set how the current appears, so click on the lightning icon next to the Random option to bring up the Function Editor. Here, replace the Constant Node with a Noise Node and set it to a Perlin noise with 0.5 scale. Again, depending on your scene, this scale may have to be tweaked f.

07 Distribution of seagrass

Currently our seagrass will appear everywhere on our terrain. We don’t want this. In the Density tab, tick Variable Density and edit the function. Add a Noise node and set the type to Sparse Cracks. Change the Scale to 3, Wavelength to 3 (X,Y,Z) and the Crack Width up to around 0.22. This will create big sweeping black lines for our ecosystem to grow on. Add a Smooth Threshold filter and edit it to make the black values stronger. Accept these changes and back in the Density tab, flip the filter horizontally. This will make the maximum density occur in the black values instead of white. Finally, in the coral ecosystem above this ecosystem layer, set the Repulsion from layer to 50% g.

Underwater landscapes

Ocean and lighting Atmosphere and ocean setup for lighting


render tim e Resolution 2,828 x 3,88 : 6



08 Brain coral displacement

Add a sphere to your scene and Ctrl/right-click on the Create Metablob Object button to create a hyperblob. Enter the material and in the Colour & Density tab load the Soft Spots fractal preset. Change the filter to a Multi-hill fractal, which will create the high, smooth ridges. Set the Overall Density to 4.5. We don’t want holes in our sphere so tick Use Distance Field and set it to 10%. This sets the deepest point to be 10% engraved into the sphere h.

09 Create materials for the coral

Next, jump over to the Hypertexture Material and load a mixed material with Old Rock and Old Limestone. Enable Influence of Environment and change the settings so that the limestone material appears on the flat, higher surfaces of the sphere. It’ll require a little tweaking but the result should be that the white limestone is on the top ridges of the Coral i.

10 Optional details


Create animated fish using a transparent terrain to control height displacement

11 Add the ocean

We now have our scene pretty much complete with all of the elements present. Before we get the lighting right and change our atmosphere, we need to add an ocean (top-left button). Double-click on the Water plane and check both Displace Water Surface and Underwater Caustics. Next go into the Material Editor and on the Default Water layer – in the Transparency tab – change the Depth to 12 metres and Anisotropy to 0.80. This is all we need to do here k.

If you want to add a bit of life to the coral system, repeat step 1 but this time with a fish species of your choice and, instead of animating the wind, animate the rotation about 15 degrees and back. Once you have the file exported and have added a terrain, make the material fully transparent and add an ecosystem. On this ecosystem, follow steps 5 to 7 to create the same kind of distribution for the fish. Once populated you can move the terrain to get your fish into smalls caves in the terrain and also erase certain areas of fish where you don’t want them to appear j.

When you come to render your final image, you’ll most likely have trouble with the noise in the water, but there are several diferent settings which can be tweaked to improve the quality. If you are not worried about rendering time, crank the quality of your water material layer to 4. Using depth of field and distance blurring will help immensely. As water difuses light so much, distant objects can look great if they’re blurred out and will also enable you to keep render times low. Post efects software like Photoshop, Lightroom and After Efects have some fantastic options for reducing noise in specific areas. Using third-party programs in this way means you can get your image out of Vue quicker and into another piece of software for fixing. Just remember you’re not limited to one.



13 Sky, fog and haze

12 Atmosphere and lighting

It’s time to dive into the Atmosphere settings. Firstly, change the Lighting model to Global Radiosity. Bump down the Sky Dome Lighting Gain to -0.10, this is so we avoid flooding the scene with light. Change the Light Balance to around 60%, as this again will help control where our light is coming from a little more. Last, in order to fill out the dark areas, bump the Global Radiosity Gain up to 0.5 or 1.0 depending on your preferences. This will cause light to bounce onto other objects and will pick up the diferent colours rather than being flat light l.

Ocean rendering quality

Enabling Underwater Caustics for the water creates strong light rays

While these settings don’t occur in real life, they will certainly afect our lighting in Vue. There are many tweaks here so check the image or the scene file for more options. We want to increase the Fog and Haze to around 20% and 5% respectively to block more light. Change the Aerial Perspective to 10, increasing the atmospheric scale to fade more of the background m.

The key to realism


Don’t rely on your imagination to come up with realistic finishing touches. Study underwater photography and really try to analyse what makes it look that way. Learn where the imperfections are in the image: that is the key to realism. It is all too easy to have clean images in computer graphics so try to reproduce the quirks of photography. 3D Art & Design



Final touches Depth of field and render settings Conrad Allan


I started my career as a structure modeller for architects. I then discovered Vue and fell in love with the quick results I could achieve. From the very beginning I strove to separate myself from the crowd and achieve the highest level of realism I could with pure 3D scenes in Vue. More recently my work has begun to focus on matte painting for various fields.

15 Hyperblob materials

Halo: Faith Vue, Photoshop (2011)

This was made for an independent short film, ’Halo: Faith‘. It is a frame from the finished trailer that aired late 2011. It was made mostly inside Vue with Photoshop colour corrections, compositing efects and addition of the live-action soldier.


Change the material mapping for the cylinder to World-Standard, as this will give variations when we duplicate the cylinder. We need to improve the bump for Hypertexture Material. In the Bump tab change the Bump to -25. Finally, duplicate this object so there are a couple of iterations on the left and right of your image frame and at diferent distances from the camera. Each instance should look diferent o.

the 14 Displace hyperblobs

We need to add some framing to our scene. To do this, add a cylinder and Ctrl/right-click on the Metablob icon again to create a hyperblob. Accept the change of material, we’ll use this as our default material. In the material Colour & Density settings, enable Use Distance Field, set it to 95% and the Overall Density to 2. This will take some tweaking depending on your particular version of the fractal n.

Use Z-depth post rendering

16 Add a depth of field

Underwater photography is not generally strong in depth of field or focal efects, but if used properly, the depth of field will add a nice, slight distance blur. p To do this, select the camera and change the Blur to 7%. Make sure to check the Focus distance as this will set the origin from where the depth of field will begin processing p. Alpine Matte Painting Vue, Photoshop (2011)

A matte painting made in a few hours with Vue and Photoshop.

If you’re applying depth of field in another software, check your Z-depth before final rendering. Currently in Vue, any fully transparent object will still appear in the Z-depth. It makes sense because you’ll want to have the ocean material (for instance) included in your Z-depth. However, if you have chosen to add fish in step 10, your terrain will block other Z-depth details. To get around this, hide the fish terrain from the render (which will hide the fish too) and do a second render just for the Z-depth. Disable the lighting and materials so you don’t waste time when rendering.


17 Final render settings and options Costa Rica Vue (2010)

Created as proof that the book Realism In Vue, for which I was the editor in chief, teaches some great techniques.

174 3D Art & Design

Now we’re finally ready to begin our render. To speed up render times we’ll be using a custom version of the Preview Render settings. Select User settings in the preset box and load the preview URS file. Check Enable Super-Sampling and also Depth of Field, setting the algorithm to Fast Hybrid 2.5D with 1 or 2 passes. In the Anti-aliasing area check all four boxes and click the Edit button. Change the Texels per ray to Min 3, Max 8 and the Quality to 60%. Finally, set your resolution and hit render q.

n The basic displacement material with a bit of customising does well here o Create a hypertextured cylinder with a worldstandard mapping to frame the scene p For depth of field settings, set the Blur to 7% and make sure to pick a focus distance q With custom render settings we can focus our render time where we need it

Artist info


Dennis Kaya Iversholt

Dennis is a 32-year-old 3D generalist working at Cadesign in Aarhus, Denmark Personal portfolio site Country Denmark Software used 3ds Max, V-Ray, Mudbox, Photoshop

Work in progress‌

This is the type of scene I wanted to create for years. My initial idea was to create a present day or futuristic scene, but as I started modelling the character I changed my mind and made this scene, which is Dennis Kaya Iversholt, Neon City, 2012 inspired by New York in the 50s 3D Art & Design



Create a desert landscape Mars Desert 2012

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Eugenio Garcia Villarreal Username: artecnl Personal portfolio site Country Mexico Software used LightWave, ZBrush, Photoshop Expertise Eugenio is a texture and environment artist with experience working in the advertising industry. He is a co-founder of D10 Studio.

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Software used in this piece LightWave



Blend 3D and matte painting techniques to produce a landscape reminiscent of the Red Planet Eugenio Garcia Villarreal is a graphic designer and 3D Director at digital media agency D10 Studio


his image was inspired by the landscapes of Mars and deserts on Earth. The mix of diferent arid environments enabled me to expand on the tonal range and structures in the scene. I added an element of natural greenery to provide a contrasting colour and shape – it represents the moment a plant found its way to the surface in a deadly environment. Over the next few pages I will share my workflow and techniques for producing the final image using a mixture of 2D and 3D techniques. This approach meant I could produce a commercial-quality image while working to a tight deadline.

My toolset included LightWave for the basic geometry, ZBrush to get a base mesh for the final rocks in the image and then Photoshop for the final integration of the base image and textures. I also included some matte painting techniques to add to the overall efect.

Concept Films and comics such as John Carter of Mars and Roger Dean landscapes, plus Earth-based deserts and the Red Planet itself, inspired this scene.

Create a desert landscape

Modelling Texturing Retouching

Before you embark on a project such as this, it’s always worth searching for diferent desert types, moods and light. Search engines such as Google and stock photography sites are useful. The diferent colours and shapes help to provide inspiration for the initial sketch. Another recommendation I’d make is not to limit your research to one particular source or site – other mediums such as television documentaries, games and movies can also help inspire your projects. NASA has a great stock library of reference images you can browse through (www. Even photographs of famous places such as the Grand Canyon can be a great help A.

a ©NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

01 Research


02 Sketch out a concept

It’s important to digest all your reference material before you tackle the first sketch. Use this stage to try to find a good composition – I prefer to put my main feature to the right, rather than the left or the centre of the workspace, but experiment and see what suits you. Throughout this point in the process you should test out colours, block shapes, add and delete stuf to get a composition you like b.

a The main references for the image combining elements from Earth and Mars

B The initial sketch. Notice

the final image has slightly diferent details 3D Art & Design



Build your environment Start shaping the elements to occupy your scene

04 Move to ZBrush sculpting

As I mentioned, I made the basic shapes in the LightWave modeller. I then exported the OBJ files and imported every piece into ZBrush. While I’m not an expert user of ZBrush, I understand the basic sculpt tools which is all you need for this piece. Import some jagged rock alphas to achieve nice detail in the objects. First subdivide them all, then use the Move tool, Drag and Rock brushes to create the canyon walls, mountain and rocks. To save time I only created five diferent objects then cloned some of them throughout in the layout. This is a very practical approach since I knew I was planning to do a matte painting on the 3D base d.

d c

03 Use 3D blocking

I used simple shapes to reproduce the composition I created in the sketch. I used an 18mm camera in the LightWave layout and built simple shapes of the main canyon as this is the most prominent of the models. Everything was completed with box modelling, later subdivided in faces. Here the lighting is a simple distant orange light at 150% c.

Basic box modelling, exported in OBJ, is turned into canyon walls



05 Add stones and particles

A good way to achieve little pieces of debris or stones is to use the Spray Point tool in the modeller. The next step is to have a good amount of points, later change the scale in Y axis to have all points in the floor. Use the Box Modelling tool and do a subdivision (metaform). Later on you can use the Noise or Jitter tool to get a random stone. Next go to Point Clone Plus in the Multiply tab. Here you can clone the stone based on the Points Cloud you made. Tweak the values of Scale and Rotation to get random stones e.

your 06 Arrange layout object

Since this is a matte painting base, we only need the high-resolution objects with simple red rock texture. Export everything from ZBrush to OBJ, with level 5 of subdivision. Only replace the proxy objects with the ZBrush exported objects, already saved as an LWO. By previewing the render with FPrime (a great plug-in to work in real-time rendering) arrange objects, change shapes and rotate objects to get a nice composition. Meanwhile, the water is created with a simple plane and a water shader f.

Eugenio Garcia Villarreal

I’m a 29-year-old graphic designer, with nine years of experience in digital art. Reading tutorials in magazines and online helped to hone my 3D skills. I later applied this knowledge by creating environments for web campaigns, providing me with invaluable experience. I then co-founded D10 Studio – a motion graphics and web design studio.

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Desert Gas Station LightWave 3D 10 (2011)

Classic B Movies, old gas stations and the work of Mauro Scardini inspired this image. I wanted the final result to be a complex environment.

Laundry Room LightWave 3D (2009)

This is an old image made for a client. It was used on an animation for a web-experience site; the goal was to create a Seventies-style laundrette.

Create a desert landscape Use photo sources to add realism It’s always best to gather as much reference as you can. If you are creating a canyon then it’s important to check out lots of high-resolution images to get an idea of the details that make up the environment. Everything from dust, fog, plants, colour and shape of the rocks, diferent colours according to the daylight and colour of the shadows can make the diference between a realistic and an unrealistic scene. Once you have the background knowledge, use it to put your own spin on the landscape’s features. Don’t forget you can also experiment with diferent textures and shapes. At this point in the process you can crop the base 3D mountain to have a better composition. Always mirror your image to get another point of view and you will notice some faulty details that you didn’t before. Another approach is to ask for feedback from your colleagues or friends. Their opinions will bring a fresh perspective on your work – highlighting things you may not have considered before. If you become tired from working on one particular area take a break,  go for a walk and get away from the screen. It will ensure your mind is refreshed, enabling the creativity to flow a little better.

light and 07 Final render

To achieve the lighting you want, use a distant light tinted to orange at 150%, enabling you to get a nice exposure. The render was done in FPrime with Monte Carlo Radiosity at 100%. Use the Backdrop gradient to get a suitable atmosphere of colours bouncing on all the geometry. For this project doing a large-scale render (10,000 x 3,500px) enables you to add little details in the matte painting stage. It also means you can crop parts of the image if you need to redo the composition for any reason g.


Here’s the main arrangement in the LightWave layout


08 Hunt for textures

Once you have the final render, the next task is to get nice textures to use in the final matte painting. These are easily obtained from CGTextures ( Since we’re creating a Mars-inspired desert landscape we’ll need mostly red, jagged rocks. Some are used in modes and others are colour-corrected to match the render colours. Use masks and grunge brushes to give natural-looking edges. While on the site, look for good sand, water, caustics and sky textures h.

C Simple shapes according to the sketch are good proxy objects

e Transforming random

points in diferent stones saves a lot of time

G This is the basic light

setup: a distant orange light at 150%

h The main textures used in this image

j The final sky, altered to suit the landscape


The initial 3D base rearrangement

09 Start to polish the base 3D Guanajuato Alley LightWave 3D (2007)

Guanajuato Alley is one of my first images combining 3D and 2D techniques. Inspired by the old colonial city in Mexico, it was created with box-modelling techniques and simple UV mapping.

Now is the time to fix the details you’re not entirely happy with, such as the sand shapes. Tweak this with a simple brush where the sand is dispersed. You will later replace it with a real sand texture, the brush is simply used as a guide for the final texture. For the rocks I used a jagged rock texture that was colour-corrected to match the image. I then applied red dirt textures to create the dust and make a more realistic foreground i.


10 Look to the sky

The original sky was made using base colours of the render, but I decided to change it to a greenish colour later on. It is composed of real photography of an afternoon sky in Overlay mode to have a nice fusion. The moon is a simple texture with Screen mode, masked to show only one side – it was later cloned to have the two-moon efect j. 3D Art & Design



Final retouch and render Add life to the scene with plants and water k




render rs time Reso 10,000lxution: 3,452

water and 12 Insert plants

Now it’s time to apply the images collected in the texture stage, with Photoshop modes. Add a caustic image in Overlay mode and add little details in the rock borders to see the water level. A Soft Round brush was used for the waterfall and the cloud of water rising from its base. For the plants create a creeping vine shape with a similar, basic brush. Once you are totally happy, add a shadow to fix the position. For the plants’ leaves use a texture modified in shape, cloned with rotation and light changes according to its place in relation to the sun. To finish, add a layer under the plant layer and make the contact shadow according to the sun’s position with a Soft Round brush l.

11 Detail sand and rocks

A plain dunes texture was used for the sand. Some of the dunes were from the base 3D image applied by a procedural texture, the mask technique was used for the close-ups. Overlay textures of rocks were used for the boulders and mountains. A jagged texture in Multiply mode helped to add a little more detail according to the scale and distance k.

Overall thoughts Once your image is finished, a good way to get feedback is to use forums and 3D gallery sites. Try not to take criticism personally – instead use it to let you grow as an artist. Remember to do what you enjoy too. k Comparison of the base 3D model and the mix of textures and this base

Use Photoshop to add your winding plant textures

n You can get nice details

using photofilters and the HDR Toning pass The brushes used in the retouch process while working with a Wacom tablet

HDR Toning Pass, photorealistic setting. Overlay mode at 53%


13 Begin to retouch

Now we can work on ambient details, such as fog, to add depth, detail and emphasise the scale efects. Adding some clouds in the ground helps make some sand storms. To achieve this efect simply add some volumetric light on the top-left side, use the Selection tool with a white colour combined with the Overlay mode and Gaussian Blur m. The finished image

= Result


14 Make more corrections

Play with the reds and yellows to get a more saturation on the objects in the foreground and less on the efect on the background. Use the Color Burn tool to add highlights to the edges of the rocks and mountains. For contrast you might like to do a HDR Toning pass. With a mask bring some of the rock highlights to the surface n.

180 3D Art & Design


15 Finish image details

Once you’re happy with the final result, flatten the PSD. Mirror the image again and add more highlights with the Burn tool. Use the Sharpen tool on some foreground rocks to get a nice crisp efect. Now your Mars desert should be complete o.

3D Art & Design




The whole scene was created as models. No photography [was] used – all modelling and texturing was done in Autodesk 3ds Max 2012

3ds Max

Software used in this piece

I’ve tried to capture some sort of greyness of life. As a man gets older and older as he starts to burn down, slowly. Tired of the world and its ridiculousness, looking around and seeing things that I’ve never noticed or needed to notice before as life goes on day after day and the priorities of everyday life are changing. Just for the record, this is not meant to be some sort of protective image of mothers or old architecture, but the coalition/composition of slightly contrasting elements that do exist together and create special places.

Under the Southern Highway 2012, Website www.marekden Country Slovak Republic 2012, Software used 3ds Max V-Ray, Photoshop ion Bio Marek founded NoEmot Studio in 2007

Marek Denko

I used VRayEnvironmentFog directly in the render, so the render time was a little higher, but it was completely worth it. No extra plug-ins were used

I rendered with the great Chaos Group V-Ray renderer. Colour correction was done in Photoshop

Incredible 3D artists take k us behind their artwor

Artist info


a b

The Freehand tool

Create trees in Unity B

efore the Tree Generator was introduced in Unity, the only way to populate your virtual worlds with trees would involve a lot of manual work using external 3D applications or dedicated tree generators. Not only would this complicate the main workflow, but some of that software costs a lot more than a handful of Unity licences. With the release of Unity 3.0 though, this has changed, as the main coder behind the generator joins forces with the Unity developers to include the powerful Tree Editor into the Unity engine. Not only is the Tree Editor fully implemented in the Unity editor, but it also

182 3D Art & Design

works seamlessly with Unity’s own Terrain engine. This means you can create dense forests with diferent types of trees without even leaving Unity. For textures and leaves you will most probably use an external 3D and image application, but other than that most of the work can be done in Unity. For this small tutorial we will guide you through the creation of a simple birch tree. It has a pretty basic structure and should be quite easy to create using the Tree Editor. You can create pretty much any tree type with this tool, but some types will require more time and patience. The creation of custom mesh leaves and

For added control over shape and placement of the tree branches and leaves, the Freehand tools really come in handy. Using these tools, you can quite easily move and rotate the branches and leaves to your liking. The Freehand tool also enables you to draw the branches as splines, which can speed up workflow and lead to some really interesting tree shapes. Just remember that once you start using these tools, you can’t go back and adjust the procedural settings of your node without losing your freehand edits. It is therefore a good idea to create a main tree base first and work on cloned copies of this one for freehand edits.

branches will often take some time but, as always with 3D work, patience is king. As the Tree Editor is node-based, the main workflow evolves around the creation and connection of nodes. These nodes have their own separate settings and can either be adjusted using numerical input, sliders or by applying curves. At first these curves can seem a little daunting, but once you understand the basic principle behind them, you will start to wonder how you managed to work without them. Not only do curves give you full control over the placement of leaves and branches, but you can also use them to control scale based on their placement on the branches and so on. The Tree Editor has its limitations though and can’t, in its current state, be compared to dedicated programs such as SpeedTree. As it comes free with Unity, the Tree Editor is still an extremely powerful addition to the toolset and the more time you

Create trees in Unity





spend with it, the more impressive your results will be. This tutorial won’t cover all of its features, but will hopefully give you a glimpse of what this tool can do. On mastering these simple techniques, you will be able to apply them to your much larger projects.

01 Create the tree base

Trees are generated by going to the top menu bar and selecting GameObject> Create Other>Tree. We now have a tree trunk in our scene and the Tree Editor is open in the Inspector panel. Before we do anything else, we should also add a capsule collider to our tree in the Component>Physics>Capsule Collider menu. This is not only good for collision, but it also makes it easier for us to set the height of the tree. In this scene we’re also adding a human reference model for realistic measurements A.

02 The new tree editor

Being node-based, the Tree Editor is extremely intuitive. By selecting nodes from the Node view, we get access to their individual settings such as Scale, Materials and Distribution across the trunk or branches of the tree. The root node also gives us access to advanced quality settings such as leaf translucency, shadow quality and ambient occlusion. Most of the settings are curve-controlled, which means more power and control Bc.

03 Add branches

Let’s add some branches to the trunk by selecting our trunk node and clicking the Add Branch Group button below the Node

g view. A branch appears on the trunk, but let’s add a bunch more by increasing the frequency and changing the Distribution mode from Random to Whorled. This will place the branches in circles around the trunk and we can choose how many should be in each circle using the Whorled Step slider. We will also use curves to control the Distribution, Growth Scale, Growth Angle, Crinkliness and the Seek Sun settings d.

more branches, 04 Apply twigs, and leaves

Our base tree is pretty much done, so now it’s time to add some twigs and leaves. Selecting the newly created branch node, we will add both branches and leaves to this node the same way we did in the previous step. For this tree we will use a

textured mesh for our leaves, as this tends to be more realistic. For trees to be used in the distance, textured billboards could be a faster option e.

05 Bring in further textures

Selecting the trunk and branch nodes, we can now drag and drop our desired bark material onto the Branch Material slot of each node. For added flufness, we will also add a leaf node to the outer-branch node. The twigs will be added as a leaf node on the main trunk and are using a simple mesh as geometry. We will also do some minor adjustments to the Scale, Distribution and Growth Angle of the leaves and twigs f.

06 Alter Wind Zones and final tweaks

Our tree is pretty much done, but we can still do some final adjustments by transforming the individual branches and leaves. Before doing these final tweaks though, we should always save a master version of our tree and work on copies. For this tree, some of the branches are moved around and edited for a more random look. Finally, we will add a Wind Zone to our scene by clicking the Create Wind Zone button found in any of the nodes g. 3D Art & Design



Futuristic cityscapes

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Floating City 2012

Neil Maccormack

A conceptual 3D illustration for a floating futuristic city, complete with landing platforms and foliage Neil Maccormack is a freelance 3D artist from the UK living and working in Geneva, Switzerland


Personal portfolio site Country Switzerland Software used LightWave, Photoshop Expertise Neil says his greatest strengths lie in composition, scene setup, lighting, modelling and digital painting

his tutorial will demonstrate how to go about creating a large-scale sci-fi scene, using LightWave 11 for the main 3D part and then Photoshop as the post-production and painting program. The idea is to create a conceptual design for a floating city and then model, texture, light and render it all out ready for post-production in Photoshop. We will add in other 2D elements along the way with some basic matte-painting techniques and make final retouches to complete the scene.

Composition, layout and scene setup How to compose a scene and find the best angle a

01 Establish your composition

Creating a large-scale scene can seem daunting at first, but as long as you stick to some basic rules then it needn’t be. First of all, know your layout format. I was working within the restrictions of the magazine pages, so I knew the dimensions of the image would be portrait rather than landscape. Second, I always try to frame the image using something to draw the eye to a focal point, so make sure you decide where you want the eye to focus. Finally, try to create depth in the image by placing your objects in such a way so that they fall back into the image, giving depth and retaining the interest of the eye a.


b A background is painted in Photoshop to use as a backdrop. Nothing but basic brushes and a few overlaid texture images are used for this

02 Create the background

Next is to decide on the background of the image. As this is to be a floating city I know the background will be the sky, but rather than just use images of clouds, I want to create a painting in Photoshop that is moodier and slightly more stylised. I create a basic painting, using a muted colour palette and some overlaid textures, to paint the image at the dimensions required. I then take this into the LightWave Layout to start setting up my scene b.

03 Scene setup and layout

Start by setting the camera options to the same dimensions as the background image. I’m using some placeholder or low-res objects from my personal asset library to make some test renders to figure out the best angles and placements until I’m happy with the overall composition. Normally this process takes some time, and many renders are done in low resolution to find something suitable c.

184 3D Art & Design

a An early attempt to create the right composition using some basic geometry

c At this stage it isn’t necessary to do too much modelling: use low-res objects and renders to finalise your basic layout


Futuristic cityscapes

Concept The concept for this image is to design a flying – or floating – city with water and forest features. We will be aiming to relay a sense of gargantuan scale and futuristic design in the final illustration.

Software used in this piece Photoshop


3D Art & Design


● Futuristic cityscapes Environment

Time to get modelling With the composition complete we can now begin the modelling stage

05 Basic city modelling

The city modelling is done in a similar way to the platforms. I use the platforms in a background layer as a guide and create a flat poly, which is then divided into uneven squares using the Knife tool. Squares outside of the boundary of the platform are deleted and the others are then bevelled up to create the buildings. These bevelled buildings can then be knifed horizontally and vertically to create random sections, which can then be highlighted and bevelled again. The more times you can do this the more geometry can then be generated, and the more detail you will appear to have e.



04 City platforms and structures

Knowing that the city itself will be based on platforms, I start to model them in LightWave, using the Pen tool to create basic flat structures. Once I have these complete I can then bevel the polygon outwards and, using the Knife tool, begin to cut some extra lines in the poly to Smooth Shift out and create some bulk on the platform. The platform, once done, can then be mirrored in the Y-axis to create the full structure d.



06 Detail the city

Just having the basic buildings isn’t going to be enough, so it’s important to have one or two hero buildings to stand out and break up the city. I use a very similar method as before: with a singular start polygon and subdividing a few times to create more geometry. If you can do this for three or four diferent buildings and place them on the same layer, they can really begin to make the city feel realistic f.

d The platform finished of with some extra bevels and Smooth Shifts. It’s not necessary to create super high-res geometry – basic polys will be enough e The more randomly these buildings can be bevelled and cut, the more realistic they will appear in the final image

f Here you can see some of the hero buildings that were modelled, as well as some roof Nurnies added in g I create three diferent layers of trees to avoid repetition. Repeat the process, remembering to use a diferent poly and UV map each time

Backgrounds Normally I like my images to have a certain style or look, but in a studio environment this isn’t always possible. In early versions of the image I tried to use diferent skies and diferent cloud images before deciding to paint my own. Existing cloud and sky images have an advantage of there already being an evident light source (the sun) so you can match the 3D lighting with that of the background image.

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07 Add some trees

There are many ways to model trees, so in order for this tutorial to be usable in versions other than LightWave 11, I’m going to map tree images to flat polygons. Again, with the platforms and buildings in the background layer, I use the Spray Points tool to create points where I want the trees to be. Each point will then represent a tree. I create a very simple flat poly and a planar UV map for this poly and, with the points in the background and the poly in the foreground layer, I use the Point Clone Plus tool to create the trees. We now have multiple tree objects all cloned so we can texture them using one UV map g.

Futuristic cityscapes 08 Basic texturing

The texturing for the city buildings is really quite simple. Divide the city up into three or four diferent surfaces, and for the main body of the polys simply cubic-map an image of some industrial containers as the base texture. Repeat this layer in the Difuse and Bump channels. For the platforms, use an image of a dirty, leaking wall and again cubic-map them in all three channels, as mentioned before. The trees have actual Images of trees mapped to them using the UV maps created before. Then, once brought into Layout, we’ll create a black-and-white version of the tree texture to use a Clip Map in the Object Properties. This way LightWave will only render what the Clip Map leaves behind on the poly, which in this case is the tree h.


Clip Maps Creating trees using the Clip Map process can be an easier low-poly alternative to using actual tree objects. Keep an alpha image of your tree texture available to map to the object properties in the Clip Map section. Alternate ways could be instancing in LightWave 11 or using a point cloud and then clip-mapped hypervoxels to create the various foliage.

09 Scene layout

Now that we have the majority of the modelling, we can go back to our basic scene setup and start to bring in our higher-res objects. Because it’s easier to work with models in layers, make sure you separate your higher-res objects into layers and then parent them in the scene once you have imported them. Also remember to colour code each object to make selecting them easier. If you clone layers to have multiple copies in the scene you can organise them easier i.

h In LightWave 11 there is also the option to create trees using the new Instancing system


i The scene layout. Note the colour-coded objects that are all parented correctly

10 Light the scene

Lighting the scene isn’t too complicated in this case. By default I tend to use an Area light as my main light source. I then tweak the colour and strength of the light to suit the scene. I’ve positioned the light to shine through the gaps in the higher city platform to the lower, as this creates some interesting areas of focus between the lit and shaded parts. In this case I find the orange sunset light colour highlights the objects well and really helps to create the mood I want j.


My full lighting setup complete with volumetric fog (again set to the same as the background), the GI setup and the Area light values 3D Art & Design


● Futuristic cityscapes Environment

Progress the scene Prepare the scene for rendering and post Global 11 Use Illumination

Neil Maccormack

I set the Image World environment to be the same as the background image. This way the colour of the bounce light takes on the colour of the sky, which is what happens in reality. Try to adjust and play with the brightness and ofset the background image for diferent results. Alternatively, if you have a sky HDR image, use it as the Image World source instead of the 2D painting. As long as the image matches the background picture’s lighting, it will give great results k.

Neil is a 38-year old freelance artist from the UK living and working in Geneva, Switzerland

Finlake LightWave, Photoshop (2012)

A conceptual piece for a clif-based landing port. The same methods in this tutorial were used for this piece, including the same lighting and methods for creating the background

Here is my full GI setup. Notice that I activate the Viper window to check the brightness


12 Render the image

Once we have everything set up in the scene, we’re ready to render. I always post process a render, so at this stage I am not too concerned if the colours are not perfect, or if my lighting is slightly of. I edit the camera properties and change the Resolution to 100% and the Samples up to 20. I can also add some Irradiance Fallof, which gives the image a slightly darker edging and helps the composition. If I need diferent render passes I can add the compositing bufer export that will export these for me l.

Global Illumination


Sometimes using GI at all isn’t an option due to high render times. Alternatives can be to fake the illumination by creating a light dome of luminous polygons all facing inwards, with the background mapped as a texture. As this scene isn’t animated you can cache radiosity, so you don’t have to render it every time.

Osaki LightWave, Photoshop (2012)

A design for a floating ship. Neil wanted to frame the image by using near-camera objects to create a natural frame. The foreground objects don’t need to be too detailed here, as the eye doesn’t really concentrate on them; it’s simply a way to highlight the focal point

m Trans LightWave, Photoshop (2012)

A futuristic design for a mobile war machine. Neil used Photoshop to create the background and a simple ground poly object to catch the shadows, showing the integration between 3D and 2D

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13 Prepare for Photoshop

I normally save my render as a Photoshop native file or PSD. This should natively have the Alpha embedded as a separate channel

With this image there isn’t really much to do before postproduction, but one thing to look out for is to ensure your final image has an Alpha map when rendered. The Alpha map is very valuable in Photoshop as it will enable you to select certain parts or objects of the image that you can paint or alter in Photoshop without disturbing other parts of the image. Once you render out the final image in LightWave you can save the Alpha map separately from the Image Viewer window – just to be sure you have this m.

Futuristic cityscapes

Perfect your post-production Use Photoshop to process the 3D-rendered image

2 0+ hours crea

tion tim Resolution e 3,000 x 3,80 : 0

o Non-destructive layers can be altered without harming the original render


14 Colour balancing and tweaking

To kick of the post-production I Sharpen the image once and add the Noise filter. I then create a new group of adjustment layers to tweak the tone and value of each colour until I’m happy with the results. For me (and my style), I like to include a layer to slightly lower the vibrancy and saturation of the image. I also like the image to be lower in these values to give a grainier, more sci-fi feel. The other layers are colour adjustments, a colour channel and a slight gradient layer to boost the contrast n.

15 Matte-painting techniques

Next I begin to add in some extra 2D elements to the image to really take it to the next level. I use some images of waterfalls to integrate with the image, just selecting the water and copying and pasting onto my image. I can then tweak the contrast, colours and shadows to match my picture. I then overpaint using a simple Scatter brush with some foam and falling water. The clouds are added using a simple Soft Round brush in the lower and mid part of the image, each time selecting colours from the image itself to use as the cloud colour. Lights on the buildings and aerials are also added with a small square brush as well as the white-painted birds o.


16 More colour correction

With the final image I still want to tweak the colours even more by giving a warmish (redder) right side to the image and a cooler (bluish) left side to the image. This will help the viewer read the image from right to left. I add two more layers – both with Layer Masks – to do this and set the red layer to Color Dodge and the bluish one to Hue. This will slightly subdue the colours on the left side and slightly warm and enhance the colours on the right. Overlaying with photos of metal is often a good way to change the mood of an image. Play with the Opacity and Layer Mode until you find something that fits p. l My full GI setup shows the camera properties and compositing options

p After going through many variations, I find these two colours work well

o I add in one or two extra trees using the same methods as the clouds and water

q The final two sun layers are added over the other layers, so that they are all afected

A little sunshine Sun rays can be done in your 3D package. LightWave uses Volumetric lights in order to do this. The process involves cloning your 3D scene, matting everything in black and enabling the Volumetric light so you only render the light to a black background. This can be composited over the top in Photoshop or your compositing package.


17 Final touches

To completely finish the image I want to add in a couple of sun rays in the middle of the image to try to show the sun shining from above, through the gaps in the platforms. I paint these rays with a large round soft brush in yellow then set the layer to Divide, which turns them a slightly bluish hint – which works quite well but isn’t enough. So I duplicate the layer and reduce the second layer’s opacity slightly to portray the efect q. 3D Art & Design



Sculpt beautiful terrains How to create picturesque terrains in Unity


reating realistic terrains in Unity isn’t rocket science, but as with most 3D design work, it will take some time to get right. Not only are reference images important, but having a library of good-looking trees, rocks, textures and other props is crucial to get impressive results. A tablet is also handy for terrain sculpting. Sculpting basic terrains in Unity couldn’t be easier, though, as the built-in terrain engine ofers sculpting features similar to those found in programs such as ZBrush and Mudbox. The limitation in Unity is that you can only sculpt the terrain in its vertical axis, as the core system is based on greyscale heightmaps. This means you can’t sculpt caves and other concave features, and in heavily distorted areas of your terrain you can experience some texture stretching. With this in mind though, a good workflow should start with sculpting the main terrain features using the basic sculpting tools and then adding fancy details such as rocks, clifs and custom-imported 3D objects last. This is usually how it’s done in game engines nowadays, but hopefully we’ll see some major improvements to this technology in the not-so-distant future.

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Just as important as sculpting the basic terrain geometry is painting quality textures onto it. These textures should be as tileable as possible and the fewer you use the better, as they tend to slow down the process by adding drawcalls to your scenes. You can also blend these textures together, so in theory four core textures could give you plenty of variations. Not only limited to sculpting and painting textures, the Unity terrain engine also enables you to paint trees and detail objects such as grass and rocks onto your terrains. These objects are automatically added to the terrain system’s level of detail calculations, so this makes creating dense forests and detailed landscapes a breeze. Creating terrains based on real-world data is also possible by importing heightmaps into Unity. This is an invaluable feature if you’re making a game or scene that needs to be as accurate as possible, as it can produce some extremely realistic results. Clever users of Unity can add to its core features by writing their own plug-ins, and since the terrain engine has been lacking some major ones such as normal maps and river/road generators, there are quite a few free and cheap ones out there.

a A quick search on the Unity Asset Store and Google will give you access to some of these features, adding to the already robust toolset.


Creation and setup We create the terrain base object

by selecting the Terrain menu and choosing Create Terrain. We now have a terrain object in our scene, but before we start sculpting we need to adjust the terrain object’s base settings using the Set Resolution menu. This is basically where we set the physical scale and resolution of terrain, textures and heightmaps. I suggest playing around with these settings to better understand how they work a.

Sculpt beautiful terrains Importing External Terrain Data




A quick and easy way to generate realistic-looking terrains is to import a greyscale heightmap from dedicated terrain generators such as Terragen, World Machine or Geo Control. These programs are extremely powerful and can generate some incredible terrains methodically, based on complex mathematical algorithms. When importing these into Unity though, using Terrain/Import Heightmap-Raw, you must make sure the measurements of your Unity terrain matches the external terrain. Not paying attention to this minor detail is guaranteed to give you unexpected and imprecise results.


02 The Terrain Component

Selecting the terrain object in the scene gives us access to all the various terrain tools and some important terrain settings. This is where we define which textures, trees and detail objects to use and, depending on the tool, this is where we choose which brushes to use. There are 20 built-in brushes, but we can also add our own custom brushes. The terrain settings are mostly used for optimisation and controlling the final result b.

03 Initial sculpting

Picking the Raise/Lower Terrain brush, we can now start sculpting our terrain and, based on the brush settings, the terrain object can slowly be shaped to our liking. Pressing Shift while sculpting lowers the terrain and adjusting the opacity afects the strength of the brush. To be able to see depth and details in our terrain better, it’s also a good idea to add a shadow-casting light in our scene c.

Textures/Add Texture button. The first texture we select will cover the entire terrain, so in this case we will select a grass texture to begin with and then paint over with other textures later on. A skybox is also added in this step d.



Add textures With the main features sculpted, it’s time to add some textures to our terrain. Selecting the Paint Texture tool in the terrain component, we can now add the textures we want to use by hitting the Edit


Apply details Selecting the terrain and choosing Place Trees in the Terrain Component, we can now add trees using the Edit Trees/Add Tree button. All the trees should use the Nature shaders to be able to work properly, and

they should preferably be made into prefabs with a simple capsule collider. We will also place some rocks and grass in our scene using the Paint Details tool and finally add a small lake using the standard Unity water e.


Final polish Our scene is now nearing completion, but let’s add some fog and clouds in the distance and a couple of image efects for added realism. Fog can either be added as an image efect or by going to the Edit/Render Settings menu. Adding a blue tint while playing around with the fog opacity can add to the realism. For this scene we’re also adding some minor colour correction, bloom, lens vignetting and a sun shaft efect f. 3D Art & Design



• Vue 10 Frontier • Free terrain and materials from D&D Creations Tutorial files: • The atmosphere file Drea used in her scene: ‘Abandoned_atmo.atm’ plus tutorial screenshots

Concept When I first saw some top-down reference photographs of ruins and clifs overgrown with vegetation, I had a specific workflow in mind to get the best results in 3D using Vue.

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Design an epic Vue landscape

Design an epic Vue landscape Abandoned

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render


Drea Horvath

The focus in this scene is an old ruin in a natural, picturesque environment. The image depicts the discovery of forgotten places Drea Horvath is a 3D landscape artist


hen I was assigned to write this tutorial, I was happy to learn that it would be based on a lush, rocky environment from a top-down view. I love creating environments from a bird’s-eye view, so a concept came to me quickly. This tutorial will illustrate the key steps to building an epic landscape. From planning to rendering and post-production, you will learn all the techniques I use. I’ll describe how terrain is generated as well as how I set up multi-layer material distribution, achieve realistic lighting, optimise materials for greater believability and shorter render times.

Throughout the tutorial you’ll notice that I’m using commercial products to build the environment. Don’t worry: the tutorial focuses on methods that can be applied to any kind of content you have in your library. For example, grass from AsileFX is my personal choice, but Vue ships with several kinds of grasses you can use without having to purchase extra items. We’ll focus on EcoSystem manipulation, atmosphere and lighting settings, render setups, optimisation, material tweaking and so on. All of this is important when it comes to building scenes in Vue, regardless of what content is used.

Username: Drea Personal portfolio site Country The Netherlands Software used Vue, Photoshop, Filter Forge Expertise 3D artist Drea specialises in creating detailed and realistic landscapes using Vue. She has particular strengths when working with atmospheres and lighting

Software used in this piece Vue


Filter Forge

Initial steps, terrain and materials Set the foundations of this large-scale environment b

02 Control material distribution


03 Assign your proportions


01Choose your terrain

I’ve chosen the Eroded Canyon terrain from my (D&D Creations) Canyon Terrains for Vue pack, as it perfectly fits the scene (available online at This detailed terrain has a curvy riverbed and steep, highly eroded clifs. The shape is based on a procedural terrain created in Vue using the terrain fractal with Canyon and Strata filters. The erosion was added using the World Machine 2 terrain generator ( com). You can find the terrain supplied with this book’s disc (also found at With the terrain loaded, I find a spot with a clif wall that looks iconic enough to be in focus with the ruins. I can then add my ruin components (a model purchased from next to the wall and adjust the camera angle to suit a.

a A distant shot of the spot on the terrain where the ruins will be placed

The terrain has three layers of material: in the riverbed we have a wet, sandy area; the clif walls are sandstone; while the flat surfaces have a green, mossy material. Before loading these, I set the material distribution – with the help of highlighting the materials with diferent colours – so I can see and control the distribution easier. First I set the terrain’s material to Mixed Material: material 1 becomes the riverbed; material 2 becomes the rest of the terrain. I set the Distribution dependent on Altitude (100%) only and set the Mixing Proportions to 72% b.

Next I select the second material and change it into a Mixed Material; its second material becomes the moss layer. This time the material distribution is dependent on Slope (100%) only. The Mixing proportions are set to 31%. After setting up the distribution, I can load materials: a darker sand from the RealSand pack, our own sandstone material (supplied) and Grass ‘n’ Rocks from the Clifhangers product by Mark Lawson. You can find Mark’s products on Cornucopia3D: purchase.php?item_id=11447 c.

b A shot illustrating the first steps of controlling material distribution

c The highlights show how the materials will be distributed in the scene 3D Art & Design



Add some vegetation The next few steps will focus on EcoSystems manipulation d

How to achieve realistic lighting Realistic lighting is one of the most important factors in a scene. Lighting can make or break a scene, whether it’s a realistic, fantasy, surreal or sci-fi landscape. Even if you look at the most surrealistic image possible, if the lighting is bad it can make you question what you’re looking at. The Global Radiosity lighting model is the only model that perfectly imitates realistic lighting with indirect light and colour-reflected light. This means the only light source you need to use to light up the whole scene is the Sunlight. D How the scene looks after loading materials and water e I paint the EcoSystem onto the rocks using the new EcoSystem Painter in Vue 11 f Settings for the roots layer of the EcoSystem on the ruins g Settings used for the Variable Density of the bush layer in the Function Editor

194 3D Art & Design

04Add a murky river

Before getting fully stuck into Vue’s EcoSystems feature, let’s quickly discuss some tricks for handling water in Vue. After loading water into the scene, I tweak the material to make it look more like a river you’d find in a canyon. Check out some reference photos for examples of this, as there really is a distinction to be made. Try using a physical water model with a darker-brown Absorption colour and a light-brownish Scattering colour to help it fit the environment. The Depth where the light can reach in the water is set to 6.2 metres. I increase the Highlight Intensity to 84% and Highlight Size to 80%. To finish I change Highlighting to 81% Anisotropic D.


05Overgrown clif

I set up the EcoSystem of the clif in the middle. On the clif wall (sandstone material) I use three layers of ground-covered EcoSystem: a layer of long grass from AsileFX Grasses (, a layer of hanging roots – also from AsileFX – plus a layer of small field-grass plants. Due to the scale of the terrain, even Dynamic Population isn’t an option, so I apply the EcoSystem Painter on the clifs to distribute the foliage manually. I set the Direction to 100% Perpendicular and due to the steepness of the clif I also enable 360-degree Population e.



06Populate the ruins

The goal of the grassy groundcover EcoSystem is to help the clif and ruins blend together. This is an efective way to unify the whole scene and draw the viewer’s eye around all the details. On the ruins I use a similar EcoSystem: a layer of the same long grass plus a layer of hanging roots. The grass layer’s direction from the surface is set to Perpendicular, while the roots are set to Vertical. The Density of the grass is set to 100%, while for the ruins it’s set to 93%. Before populating, I make sure I set the Slope Influence to 100% f.

07Insert bushes

Since I want the bushes to grow on flat surfaces only, I add this layer to the mossy material. In this EcoSystem I use three shrubs from Xfrog (http://xfrog. com). To achieve realistic distribution I tick Variable Density and load the grainy fractal. To save resources, I use Dynamic EcoSystem Population. On the leaves I set the Highlight colour to white, increase the Highlight Intensity and make it duller. In the Efects tab I set Backlight to 100%. To speed up rendering I reset the Bump map and disable Caustics g.

Design an epic Vue landscape

Lighting & atmosphere Take a few steps to shed realistic lighting and atmospheric effects

Use static plants for more realism

i h

08Global Radiosity

Now it’s time to add some atmosphere using the Light tab. The first step is to enable Global Radiosity, with Indirect Skylighting and Optimize for Outdoor Rendering ticked. I set a low Gain value of 0.4 and a very dark-greenish Bias colour (RGB 21, 25, 23). To get efective contrasts I set Light Balance towards Sunlight (90%). The ambient light comes entirely from the sky, providing a realistic and rich ambience h.

09 Atmospheric efects

In the Sky, Fog and Haze tab of the Atmosphere Editor, it’s vital to enable the Volumetric Sunlight option. This is essential to achieve realistic lighting. With higher Haze (30%) and Fog (50%) levels I can generate subtle rays where the terrain blocks the sunlight. It’s also important to set a dark Haze tone, since particles in our atmosphere are dark. The Glow Intensity is set to 56%, Scattering Anisotropy to 0.4 and the Aerial Perspective value to 5.77 to give more depth to the scene. Finally, Quality Boost is set to +8 to avoid noise i.

Professional versions of Vue ship with a huge library of detailed SolidGrowth plants and you can also browse hundreds of other plants available for purchase, like those on the Cornucopia store: www. These are prefect for distance shots, but due to lower-quality Alpha mapping on their leaves, they’re not suitable for close-up views. This is why many studios pick static plants, such as Xfrog ( or SpeedTree (www. models. However, you can’t edit them in Vue’s Plant Editor and they tend to render very slowly.

After tweaking the atmosphere… it’s time to take a few steps to speed up the rendering process without any virtual quality loss


10 Add some low fog

I want a sparse, low fog layer over the river in the background, so to begin I add a stratus cloud from AsileFX’s Spectral v2 Clouds – Low Altitude pack. I set the Altitude to 27m and the Height to no more than 75m. I increase the Detail amount and the Altitude variations, then set the Density to 29%. In the cloud’s Material Editor I set the Volumetric colour to white j.


Get ready to render After tweaking the atmosphere to a point where it can be considered

ready, it’s time to take a few steps to speed up the rendering process without any virtual quality loss. In the Atmosphere Editor I reduce the Lighting Quality to -0.5, then open the cloud’s Material Editor and in the Lighting & Efects tab disable all four options. In the Light Editor I also reduce the Shadows Softness Quality to -1 k.

k h Settings in the Light tab, activating Global Radiosity in the Atmosphere Editor

j The cloud and cloud material settings being tweaked in the Atmosphere Editor

i Settings used in the Sky, Fog and Haze tab of the Atmosphere Editor

k Settings in the Light Editor – Shadows Softness quality is set to -1 for quicker rendering 3D Art & Design



Rendering & post-production

4-5hours cre

We can now take our final steps to finish up the work

ation t

Resolutioinme 3,000 x 3,80 : pixels 0

12 Render settings

After going through the usual optimisation steps – ensuring the lighting is exactly how I want it and so on – the scene is ready to be rendered. In the Render Options I select User Settings and disable Depth of Field, as this isn’t something we need for this particular project. I set the Advanced Efects Quality to 40%. You may think this sounds low, but with the right atmospheric settings it’s enough. Of course, feel free to go your own way and see what works l.


13Anti-Aliasing and rendering l l A screenshot of the render settings used in this scene m A screenshot of the Anti-Aliasing settings applied to the scene n A screenshot illustrating the Photoshop Levels and Curves adjustments o See how the settings on the left changed the image?

Since the scene needs to be rendered for print in a large resolution, I choose to use a soft Anti-Aliasing method, with Min 3 and Max 9 Subrays per pixel. With these settings we save a lot of detail and, due to the low Subray count, the rendering process is quicker. With these settings applied I don’t need Texture Filtering, so I disable it. The scene was rendered in a little less than 19 hours at a resolution of 3,000 x 3,800 pixels. I used a single machine with an i7-2600k CPU and 16GB DDR3 RAM m.

14 Post-production in Photoshop

When a render is done, I always load the image into Photoshop for a little post work. With this project I adjust the contrast, make the highlights more powerful with Levels adjustment layers and further enhance the image with Curves. To help the vegetation look more realistic, I slightly saturate the green and yellow tones on the leaves n.


Post-production enhancements It’s a never-ending controversy among Vue users whether to use any post work on renders or not. In my opinion, what counts is the end result and the process of creation is not supposed to stop when the picture is rendered. Tools such as Photoshop don’t just enable you to enhance your render, as you can use them for fixing minor issues as well. For example, in this scene I used the Clone tool to cover some areas with grass. I also use this a lot to hide floating roots, fix materials and artefacts on rocks, or to remove sharp lines where two materials meet. It’s possible to fix these issues in Vue, but leaving some fixes for post work saves a lot of time.

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15Filter Forge tweaks

If you want to give a really nice boost to your renders, Filter Forge ( is a perfect choice. I mostly use the Dreamy filter on my images, because it provides more control over the highlights, contrast and colours. I don’t want the highlights too strong in this project, because that way I’ll lose details in the background. However, I still want to make the atmosphere more powerful to give a real impact and complement the piece. To do this, I set Highlight Coverage to 9, Highlight Strength to 57, Highlight Radius to 100 and Dreamy Colors to 35. This gives a bit more contrast and vibrancy to the overall efect o.

Artist info


Lee Griggs

Lee works as a technical author at Solid Angle, producing documentation and tutorials Personal portfolio site Country Madrid, Spain Software used Maya, ZBrush, Arnold

Work in progress‌

3D Art & Design


Vehicle Inject some movement into your 3D projects, whether on land or in the air 200 Model vehicles for animation

Use basic modelling theories to build up a car's assets


206 Rig vehicles in Maya

Create the rig for the car you've made

212 Texture a realistic vehicle

Create a texture for a stealth plane

214 Model a luxury car

How to master a vehicle’s presentation

219 I made this‌ Black Drone

Nick Kaloterakis marries vehicle and environment design in style

220 Sculpt a space vehicle

A space-opera-inspired mash up of different vessels

226 Create vehicles with opensource software

Design impressive sports cars using free software


198 3D Art & Design



The more you have to feed the eye, the more wow factor it brings 206


3D Art & Design



Model vehicles for animation Sunbeam Rapier Mark IV 2013

200 3D Art & Design

Model vehicles for animation

Software used in this piece Maya

Tutorial files: • The ‘project_rapier’ folder consists of Maya scene files and reference images • Video references • Tutorial screenshots

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Jahirul Amin Personal portfolio site Country UK Software used Maya Expertise Jahirul is an expert animator and rigging genius About When Jahirul isn’t teaching computer animation at the NCCA at Bournemouth University, he’s running an independent animation and design studio to provide various solutions for his client’s needs 3D Art & Design




his tutorial will run through modelling a classic car, namely a Sunbeam Rapier Mark IV, while focusing on hard-surface modelling techniques. Throughout the process we’re going to stick to basic modelling theories such as using quads and achieving evenly spaced faces. The latter enables sculpting in Mudbox or ZBrush if you need to, while also reducing the risk of stretching textures. There will also be an insistence on creating plenty of bevelled edges. This is in order to stick closely to real-world examples and avoid a flat CG version of reality. I must give huge thanks to Graeme Jenner ( who has kindly allowed me to use his beautiful portrait of the Rapier being reproduced here. I also used an Oxford Diecast model to have a physical reference, as well as numerous images and videos I’ve found online to help me piece the model together. The more information you gather, the less guesswork you have to do inside Maya. If you’re looking to model vehicles, planes, buildings and so on, then do check out for more inspiration.

To briefly explain the process, we’ll first draw over the reference to get a basic topology before hitting CG. This is mainly preparatory work that will stand you in good stead later on. In this tutorial the draw-overs provide the image planes in Maya and act as a rough guide as you block out the model. The further we progress, the more we have to rely on our wits and intuition to get a good edge flow. Just as with a drawing or painting, we’ll block out the major forms to provide a solid foundation before going anywhere near finer detail. The elements of the car are all modelled separately, as they would be in the real world, which makes it easier to rig for animation if needed. The good news here is that you only have to model half a car, as you can mirror it over. One piece of advice that I’ll leave you with is not to be afraid to abandon ship. By this I mean that if something isn’t working, don’t be scared of scrapping it, putting the kettle on and starting again. The time lost trying to rework and tweak a section that’s got of to a bad start can be huge and soul-destroying, whereas second-time-around edits can be quicker.

Concept The Rapiers of the Sixties were built by hand and therefore have an almost organic look to them. This fits in perfectly with my modelling techniques of manually pushing each point around to get things feeling right.

Don’t be afraid to abandon ship. If something isn’t working, don’t be scared of scrapping it and starting again

Model from references Set up your guides for accurate modelling

01 Bring in the reference a

Reference Always draw guide lines over the references in Photoshop to help match up the position of the front, side and top images in Maya. Make sure that all the planes are the same size to ensure the references input to Maya are at the correct scale, otherwise your references will be randomly sized.

202 3D Art & Design

Create a new scene and navigate to the front orthographic view. Reset the camera by going to View>Default View in the viewport Panel menu. Now go to View>Image plane>Import Image and select ‘referenceFront_ v1.tif’ when the Open screen pops up. Open up the Attribute Editor, check Use Image Sequence, then take the Alpha Gain down to 0.4. Move to the side orthographic view and set it to Default View. Import ‘referenceSide_v1.tif’ and give it the same settings as the front image. Do the same for the top view, loading in ‘referenceTop_v1.tif’ as the reference. Once all three reference planes are in, check that they line up in the perspective view. Push the Center attributes of each image plane along their corresponding axes so there’s plenty of space to model in the centre of the world space a.


02 Use back & front references together

Now the reference has been set up in a manner that enables us to switch between the original image, the topology draw-over and a coloured draw-over, indicating the separate pieces. This will provide the optimal level of accuracy as we progress, ensuring our model is believable. Set the Animation Range Slider to go from frames 1 to 6. Now if you scrub between frames 1 and 3 you will view the front of the car and frames 4 to 6 will reveal the back. To rotate the model to match this, create an empty group node by hitting Cmd/Ctrl+G. Rename the group ‘car_grp’ and set a key at frames 1 and 3. Now scrub to frame 4, put a value of 180 in its Rotate Y channel and set another key. Every object we create (excluding lights) will be placed in this group so it follows our reference correctly b.


03 Block out the base

Go to Create>Polygon Primitives and create a plane. Under its inputs in the Channel Box, take down its Subdivision Width and Height to 1. Now position and orient it against the side of the car. Go into Edge mode and use the Extrude tool found under Edit Mesh to begin blocking out the main base. Use large shapes to fill out the silhouette as much as possible with as few polys as you can. Personally, I’m a big fan of edge modelling, but I see no reason why you couldn’t use a boxmodelling technique to rough out the form if preferred c.

Model vehicles for animation

Block in & continue modelling Build up your car’s assets to complete your model



04 Continue the blocking

Now you can proceed to block out the base in the front and top view. Remember to check your model constantly in the perspective view. At this stage, you’ll probably find that the reference does not line up completely. If this is the case, I prefer to decide on one key image, in which I will line everything up and the remainder of the images will act as more of a loose guide. As well as extruding edges I also like to use the Insert Edge Loop Tool found in the Edit Mesh menu tab. As long as the model is in quads, this will cut through cleanly. As you add more and more details, make sure you keep the faces of a similar size to one another d.


05 Use Duplicate Special

To reduce our workload and get a better impression of the car’s proper shape, let’s mirror the model over. First, activate Translate and hit the Insert key (or hold the D key) on your keyboard to be able to edit the position of the pivot. Now hold the X key on the keyboard and grid-snap the pivot to the X plane in the front view. Hit Insert again to come out of Edit Pivot mode. Next, go to Edit>Duplicate Special (Options) and set the Geometry Type to Instance, Scale in X to -1 and hit Duplicate Special. As we go through the modelling of the car, we will be using this method many times e.

Lights, camera, reaction! a Bring in your key reference b Free up some working space by pushing aside the reference c Extrude the edges to rough out the base d Add more detail to the base e Make sure you centre the pivot on the X plane before duplicating the model f Block in the door and roof using the Edge Extrude method g Extrude a face along a curve to quickly form the window rims

It’s worth setting up some lights in the scene as you go, so that you can see how the surfaces of the model and components react to light. I throw in a few spotlights, which stay in place and are used as fill lights. I also add one directional light, which will be my key light and will have shadows turned on. Every now and then I change the direction of the key light to get a feel for what is and isn’t working. Another tip is to use Viewport 2.0 with Ambient Occlusion turned on and of. This indicates how well objects are juxtaposing by revealing the harsh shadows.


06 Model the door & roof

Start blocking in the door and the roof panels. Again, I begin each piece with a single plane, then extrude or add edge loops for more detail. To get the flow between the separate elements working, hold down the V key to point-snap the border vertices of the door and the roof to the main base. To finish, use Duplicate Special to mirror the geometry over f.

07 Add window rims

To get the window rims in place, draw a curve using Create>CV Curve Tool. Holding the V key again, point-snap each CV to a vertex of the window and the base of the car. Next, create a polygon cube and shrink it down to be similar to the size of the rim. Now place it at the beginning of the curve you have drawn and activate Face mode. Select the face that’s adjacent to the curve and also Shift-select the curve. Go to Edit Mesh>Extrude, increase the Divisions to around 20 and the extrusion should grow along the curve. Shape the front and side window rims with the same technique g. 3D Art & Design



Layer on the details Give your vehicle some windows & bumpers

08 Place some windows

Once the window rims are in, create some windows using polygonal planes as well as inserting the front window frame. As you move around the model, continue to check the car from all angles, smooth out the flow of the edges and keep the model as clean as possible. At this stage I select all the geometry and go to Edit>Delete By Type>History. Deleting the history frequently will keep our scene file nice and light. You can also delete the curves used to create the window rims, as the link-up between them and the polygon faces has now been broken h.



bonnets 09 Apply & bumpers

To create the bonnet, select a range of faces from the main base of the car where the bonnet should be situated, then go to Edit Mesh>Duplicate Faces to make a copy of those faces. This enables us to get the flow between the main base and the bonnet working well. Add some tight edges around the border of this new piece to add some solidity and depth to the bonnet. For the bumper, begin with a default cube and insert edge loops to match it to the reference image. The bumper can be duplicated onto the car’s rear i.

your tyres 11 Attach & hubcaps


10 Insert lights & grills

At this stage the initial blockout is acceptable, though tweaking will continue and we’ll begin to add some of the key details that make this car distinct. For the headlight, select some faces at the front and extrude them into the car. After some point-pushing to get this region as round as possible, place a semi-sphere into the cavity. Further basic polygon cubes can be shaped to form the Rapier’s eyelids and some tight rims around the headlights to sit them in more realistically. The grill and indicator lights can also be pushed from simple shapes such as cylinders, cubes and spheres that are refined by adding edge loops or extrusions. To get them to sit flush against the front of the car, use a lattice deformer from the Animation panel. With the lattice points you can quickly and efectively reshape the mesh j.

When you can’t see the woods for the CG trees… I find that the number of parts created in this kind of modelling process can make your workflow feel awkward, as they simply get in the way. Using Isolate Select enables you to hone in on the areas required. You can find this setting under Show in the viewport Panel menus. Additionally, using layers lets you show and hide objects to achieve the same efect.

Although they may look pretty complex, the hubcaps are very quick to create. First shape a cylinder and delete all the faces other than the top, then add extra edge loops to help define the areas that will need pulling out or pushing back. These sections can then be extruded out and the entire model can be smoothed using the Mesh> Smooth tool. Select a row of faces, disable Keep Faces Together under Edit Mesh and perform another extrude. This time, scale in the faces in X and Y and extrude the new faces inwards. Finally, to get rid of the roundness of the detailed areas, add two edge loops around the recessed areas. The tyre is created from a torus shape and under its inputs you can use the Section Radius to help block out the initial shape k.

h The upper body of the car blocked out i Create the bonnet and both of the bumpers j The beginnings of some details k Progression of the hubcaps l Form the wings of the Rapier m Add some depth to the base and the roof


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n Bevel the door, as well as rear elements of the car o Keep adding further details

Model vehicles for animation

Add your finishing touches With a little bevelling & polishing we’ll have ourselves a rich model

12 Create the wings

To build the distinct wings of the Rapier, extra edge loops are needed. As we don’t want all the edge loops to cut through the side of the model, we’ll use the Split Poly Tool. Extruding out from the back of the wings also enables us a base to sit the rear lights on. Adding a tight edge in the region helps to hold the unique shape when it’s smoothed. Next you can hollow out the boot, as it would be in a real car. This will also enable us to sit the boot door nicely into the cavity and create a believable tight shadow in between the surfaces l.


13 Bevel the base & the top

Now that we have our main forms in place, we need to start adding some solidity to them and layer on some thickness. To do this we need to bevel the edges of the components. Begin by adding tight loops around the main base and the window frame, then extrude out the outer edges and pull them in. The metal rims around the window frames will also need a bevel added to them. Leaving them without one either makes them too flat in Unsmoothed mode or too rubbery in Smoothed mode. For the roof, select all the faces and make a large extrude inwards. This enables us to use the depth of the roof to rest the side windows against m.


14 Bevel the door n o

Continue to bevel the door and the bonnet of the car. The lights at the rear and the majority of the metal work around the car can also have their edges bevelled. This helps the light hit the edges and create nice highlights, adding to the realism of the model n.

Check your Normals Once the model is complete and one side has been mirrored over to the other, using either the Edit>Duplicate Special tool or Mesh>Mirror Geometry, you will need to check that the Normals are facing outwards. It’s important to do this so that the surface can be afected by lights correctly. You’ll spot when the normals need inverting as the surface will appear black. To view the normals, select the mesh and go to Display>Polygons>Face Normals. If they are pointing inwards, you can invert this by going to the Polygons menu and activating Normals>Reverse.

15 Finalise the model

To add some richness to the model, it’s important to add the finer details, such as the strips running along the model and the logo on the door. We can also use some simple geometry for the side mirrors, as well as model the window wipers and the door handle. Once we’re happy and have tweaked to our hearts’ content, we can delete the duplicated side. Again, use the Duplicate Special option to create the missing half, only this time set the Geometry Type to Copy in the Options box, or use the Mirror Geometry tool found under Mesh. If you are using the Duplicate Special tool, you’ll need to combine the individual halves by going to Mesh>Combine and then merging the centre vertices that are sitting on top of one another o. 3D Art & Design



Rig vehicles in Maya Sunbeam Rapier Mark IV 2013

Jahirul Amin is a freelance rigger, animator and an associate lecturer at the NCCA in Bournemouth

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you through the creation process

Jahirul Amin Personal portfolio site Country UK Software used Maya Expertise Jahirul is an expert animator and rigging genius

206 3D Art & Design

Tutorial files: • Maya scene files • Video tuition • Tutorial screenshots

Rig vehicles in Maya

The ďŹ nal rig

3D Art & Design




n this tutorial we’ll be creating the rig for the Sunbeam Rapier, which was modelled in the last tutorial. The scene files you’ll need to follow the tutorial can be found with the disc or downloaded from The way I tend to approach rigging an inanimate object is to see the model as a character, or part of a character. Once the model and rig are in the hands of the animator, they will begin to give the model life and personality. As a rigger, I’m already imagining how that something is going to move. Basically then, we’re going to treat the car as one big reverse foot setup with a few bells and whistles thrown in for good measure. The car needs to tilt and shift in a similar way to a foot, so the pivot points will be arranged in the same sort of fashion. A good rig is one that is fit for purpose, by which I mean it will be able to perform in the way required. During the tutorial we’ll be adding a good few automated controls to help the animator, while also enabling the controls to be disabled so the animator can work on top. Essentially, the rig should provide the animator with the freedom to work as they choose and push the rig as far as desired. Let’s consider some of those bells and whistles. We’ll add a device to automatically rotate the wheels with the translation of the car. Another control will bring the kind of jitter that you’d expect

to see as a car drives over a cobbled street. We’ll also need to have the car follow a path. Finally, we’ll give the animator the chance to add drag to the car. Just to reiterate what I feel is a crucial point: the animator will be able to disable all of the automated controls and animate by hand, if needed. Aside from automated controls, we’ll add a number of

Move objects into place Throughout the rigging process, it will be important to make sure our objects’ controls and locators are correctly placed. On many occasions, we will need to match the pivot of one object to another. To do this, I like to use point constraints. First select the object of the position you would like to match, Shift-select the object you want to move and go to Constrain>Point (Options). Uncheck Maintain Ofset and hit Apply. Once the object is placed, delete the Constraint node living under it in the Outliner to break the connection. You can do this for orientation also, if need be.

pivot locators around the car to enable us to tumble and rock it from the wheels upwards. We’ll additionally give it suspension. To create our rig, we’ll use a range of connection methods; for example constraints, expressions, the Connection Editor and the Hypergraph. And that should be enough to unleash your inner geek.

A preparatory sketch of the intended rig

Check the suspension Establish the correct levels for the car

01 Create the suspension

We will start by working on the front passenger suspension. Create four locators by going to Create>Locator. Rename them ‘fpSuspensionBallA_loc’, ‘fpSuspensionBallB_loc’, ‘fpSuspensionBallParentB_loc’ and ‘fpSuspensionPlate_loc’. Now position fpSuspensionBallA_loc to the same place as fpSuspensionBallA_geo. Next move both fpSuspensionBallB_loc and fpSuspensionBallParentB_loc to the same place as fpSuspensionBallB_geo. Position fpSuspensionPlate_loc at the front end of fpSuspensionPlate_geo. Now select fpSuspensionBallA_loc, then Shift-select fpSuspensionBallB_loc and go to Constrain>Aim (Options). Set the Aim Vector to 0, 1, 0 and hit Apply. Select fpSuspensionBallB_loc, Shift-select fpSuspensionBallA_loc and again create an Aim constraint. This time set the Aim Vector to 0, -1 and 0. Now parent fpSuspensionBallB_loc under fpSuspensionBallParentB_loc. Select fpSuspensionBallParentB_loc, Shift-select fpSuspensionPlate_loc and go to Constrain>Aim. Make sure Maintain Ofset is turned of and set the Aim Vector to 1, 0 and 0. Now Parent Constrain fpSuspensionBallA_geo to fpSuspensionBallA_loc, fpSuspensionBallB_geo to fpSuspensionBallB_loc, fpSuspensionPlate_geo to fpSuspensionPlate_loc and finally fpSuspensionRodE_geo to fpSuspensionBallParentB_loc.

02 Include the spring 01

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Turn on Snap to Points and go to Create>CV Curve Tool (Options). Set the Curve Degree to 3 Cubic and begin creating a curve from the top to the bottom of the spring, snapping a new CV on each vertex. Once the Curve is created, turn of Snap to Points, rename the curve ‘fpSuspensionSpring_curve’ and go to Modify>Center Pivot. Now scale the curve to fit into the centre of the spring geometry and then go to Modify>Freeze Transformations. Now turn on Snap to Curve, make sure you are using the Translate tool and either hit the Insert key on the keyboard or hold down the D key and move the pivot to the topmost point on the curve. Now go to Create Deformers>Wire Tool. Select the fpSuspensionSpring_geo and hit Enter on the keyboard. Select the fpSuspensionSpring_curve and hit Enter again. Now, if you scale the curve in the Y axis, you should afect the geometry.


Rig vehicles in Maya 03 Squash & stretch

Go to Create>Measure Tools>Distance Tool. First click at the root of the fpSuspensionSpring_curve and then click again at the end. Using Snap to Curve, make sure the locators are sitting right at each end of the curve. Rename the start locator ‘fpSuspensionStart_loc’ and the end locator ‘fpSuspensionEnd_loc’. Also rename the Distance node ‘fpSuspension_dist’. Parent fpSuspensionStart_loc under fpSuspensionBallA_loc and fpSuspensionEnd_loc under fpSuspensionBallB_loc. Select the fpSuspension_dist and hit the down arrow on the keyboard to pick-walk to its shape node, fpSuspension_distShape. Now go to Window>Rendering Editors>Hypershade and within the window click Graph>Add Selected to Graph. Next go to Create>General Utilities>Multiply Divide and rename the new node ‘fpSuspension_md’. Select the fpSuspensionSpring_curve and go to Graph>Add Selected to Graph to bring it into the work area. Now connect the distance from the fpSuspension_distShape into the Input1X of the fpSuspension_md. Copy the same value that is in Input1X into Input2X and also set the Operation to Divide. Finally, connect the OutputX from the fpSuspension_md into the scale Y of the fpSuspensionSpring_curve.

Define the controls All of the controls will be made out of NURBS curves, enabling controls to be easily editable in Component mode. Please note well: once your control has been correctly placed, only edit its shape in Component mode. Every control will be grouped to itself twice to create a small hierarchy. The top node (_ofset) will be used to position and orient the control. The next level down (_sdk) will be used to drive automated attributes, such as the jitter efects. The lowest level is the control curve (_ctrl), which the animator will use directly.

04 Add some spin control

To finish of the spring, Parent Constrain both the fpSuspensionSpring_curve and the fpSuspensionSpring_curveBaseWire to fpSuspensionBallA_loc. Now create a locator and rename it ‘fpTyreSpin_ctrl’. Group it to itself twice by hitting Cmd/Ctrl+G, rename the topmost group ‘fpTyretSpin_ctrl_ofset’ and the group below ‘fpTyreSpin_ctrl_sdk’. Use the _ofset group to position the control at the centre of the tyre. Now select fpTyreSpin_ctrl, Shift-select fpSuspensionBallParentB_loc and go to Constrain>Parent. Select fpTyreSpin_ctrl, Shift-select fpTyre_geo and again go to Constrain>Parent. We will use the Rotate X of the fpTyreSpin_ctrl to spin the tyre only. 03

05 Create the main tyre control

Create a NURBS circle and rename it ‘fpTyre_ctrl’. With the control selected, hit Cmd/Ctrl+G twice to create the control hierarchy. Rename the topmost group ‘fpTyre_ctrl_ofset’ and the next group down ‘fpTyre_ctrl_sdk’. Select the fpTyre_ctrl_ofset node, position it at the same place as the fpTyreSpin_ctrl but then pop a 0 into its Translate Y channel so it sits under the tyre. If you need to edit the shape to make it more easily selectable, go into Control Vertex mode and edit its shape. Now parent fpTyreSpin_ctrl_ofset under fpTyre_ctrl. To tidy things up, select all the locators, the suspension curves, the fpSuspension_dist and the fpTyre_ctrl_ofset then hit Cmd/Ctrl+G. Rename this new group ‘fpSuspension_rig_grp’. In the same manner, create the suspension setup and controls for the remainder of the tyres. Create a NURBS circle and rename it ‘fpTyre_ctrl’. With the control selected, hit Cmd/Ctrl+G twice to create the control hierarchy. Rename the topmost group ‘fpTyre_ ctrl_ofset’ and the next group down ‘fpTyre_ctrl_sdk’. Select the fpTyre_ctrl_ofset node, position it at the same place as the fpTyreSpin_ctrl but then pop a 0 into its Translate Y channel so it sits under the tyre. If you need to edit the shape to make it more easily selectable, go into Control Vertex mode and edit its shape. Now parent fpTyreSpin_ctrl_ofset under fpTyre_ctrl. To tidy things up, select all the locators, the suspension curves, the fpSuspension_dist, the fpTyre_ctrl_ofset and hit Cmd/Ctrl+G. Rename this new group ‘fpSuspension_rig_grp’. In the same manner, then create the suspension setup and controls for the remainder of the tyres.


01 The position of the locators

for the suspension 02 The curve and the wire

deformer for the spring 03 Setting up the squash and

stretch of the spring 04 The basic setup for the tyre

spin control 05 The hierarchy for the main

tyre control


3D Art & Design



Rig the main body Continue to set up the main controls for the body of the car

06 The main controls

Using the CV Curve tool with its Curve degree set to 1 Linear, draw a square around the car. You can use Snap to Grids and draw down from the top view to get a clean rectangular shape. Rename the control ‘main_ctrl’. Create another control using the CV Curve tool. This time make it a unique shape that can be easily read as a path follow control. Rename the control ‘attachToPath_ctrl’. For both controls, make sure their pivots are at the world centre and then go to Modify>Freeze Transformations. Parent main_ctrl under attachToPath_ctrl. With attachToPath_ ctrl selected, hit Cmd/Ctrl+G and rename that group ‘main_ctrl_ofset’. Create another rectangular control in the same manner as the main_ctrl but make it larger. Rename this control ‘globalSRT_ctrl’ and with it selected, hit Cmd/Ctrl+G twice. Rename the topmost group ‘globalSRT_ctrl_ofset’ and the next group down ‘globalSRT_ctrl_sdk’. Parent main_ctrl_ofset under globalSRT_ctrl.



07 Adjust the body control

Create a new NURBS circle and rename it ‘body_ctrl’. Group it to itself twice, rename the topmost group ‘body_ctrl_ofset’ and the next group down ‘body_ctrl_sdk’. Select the body_ctrl_ofset and position it so it’s in the centre of the car. Parent Constrain mainBody_geo_grp under body_ctrl and also parent all the xxSuspension_rig_grp nodes under body_ctrl. Next parent body_ctrl_ofset under main_ctrl.

08 Add pivot locators

Create six locators and rename them ‘fPivot_loc’, ‘rPivot_loc’, ’dPivot_loc’, ’pPivot_loc’, ‘fWheelPivot_loc’ and ‘rWheelPivot_loc’. Position the fPivot_loc and rPivot_loc at either end of the car and at the centre of the X plane. Position the dPivot_loc and pPivot_ loc on the outside of the tyres, either side of the car. Position fWheelPivot_loc and ‘rWheelPivot_loc in between the front and rear tyres and centred to the X plane. Zero out the Translate Y on all the locators so they sit cleanly on the Y plane. Next parent rWheelPivot_loc under fWheelPivot_loc. Parent fWheelPivot_loc under pPivot_loc. Parent pPivot_loc under dPivot_loc. Parent dPivot_loc under rPivot_loc. Parent rPivot_loc under fPivot_loc. Then parent fPivot_loc under main_ctrl and finally parent all the xxTyre_ctrl_ofset groups and the body_ctrl_ofset under rWheelPivot_loc.


09 Bonnet, door & boot

Create three new controls and call them ‘bonnet_ctrl’, ‘pDoor_ctrl’, ‘dDoor_ctrl’ and ‘boot_ctrl’. As before, group each control to itself twice to create the _sdk and _ofset nodes. Use the _ofset nodes to place the controls. When the controls are placed, Parent Constrain bonnet_geo to bonnet_ctrl, pDoor_geo to pDoor_ctrl, dDoor_geo to dDoor_ctrl and boot_geo to boot_ctrl. Take all the _ofset groups for the controls and parent them under body_ctrl.



10 The jitter control

Create a new control curve and name it ‘autoJitter_ctrl’. Don’t create the _sdk and _ofset setup for this, as it will just be a placeholder for some custom attributes. Position the control above the body_ctrl and parent it under the body_ctrl. Highlight all the Translate, Rotate and Scale attributes in the Channel Box and go to Channels>Lock and Hide Selected.

210 3D Art & Design

Naming conventions Before beginning a project, I like to establish some naming conventions that will be used throughout. This will help ensure consistency as well as clarity for all involved. Here is a breakdown of some of the naming conventions used in this tutorial: geo = geometry, ctrl = control, loc = locator, grp = group, f = front, r = rear, d = driver, p = passenger.

Rig vehicles in Maya

Use automated attributes Give your animator some toys to keep them happy

11 Add extra attributes

Select the main_ctrl and go to Modify>Add Attribute. Create an attribute called ‘tyres’ and set its Make attribute to Displayable. This will act as a Divider. Now create an attribute called ‘autoSpin’, set its Make attribute to Keyable and give it a Data Type of Integer. Set its Minimum value to 0, its Maximum to 1 and its Default value to 1. Add another attribute and call it ‘frontWheelsTurn’. Make it a Data Type of Float and leave its Min/Max parameters empty. Create another Divider and call it ‘dragAndPivot’. Now create the following attributes with a Data Type of Float and leave the Minimum, Maximum and Default values empty: ‘frontDrag’, ‘rearDrag’, ‘sidePivot’, ‘frontWheelPivot’ and ‘rearWheelPivot’.


12 Apply auto-jitter attributes

Select the autoJitter_ctrl and go to Modify>Add Attribute. Again, you’ll need to create a Divider attribute and call it ‘masterCtrl’. Next create two attributes called ‘speed’ and ‘size’ with a Data Type of Float and a Minimum value of 0. Another Divider next, this time called ‘bodyRock’ followed by another two attributes called ‘bodyRockSpeed’ and ‘bodyRockSize’ with a Data Type of Float and a Minimum value of 0. Continue to create the following Dividers: bodyTilt, bodyUpDown, bonnet, boot, dDoor and pDoor. In between each of those Dividers, create the following attributes using a Float Data Type with a Minimum value of 0: bodyTiltSpeed, bodyTiltSize, bodyUpDownSpeed, bodyUpDownSize, bonnetSpeed, bonnetSize, bootSpeed, bootSize, dDoorSpeed, dDoorSize, pDoorSpeed and, finally, pDoorSize.

13 Set up the tyres

Select the fpTyre_ctrl and go to Modify>Add Attribute. Call the attribute ‘spin’ and give it a Data type of Float. Leave the Minimum, Maximum and Default values empty. Next highlight the Rotate X attribute in the Channel Box and go to Channels>Lock and Hide Selected. With fpTyre_ctrl still selected, go to Window>General Editors>Connection Editor. Now select fpTyreSpin_ctrl and click Reload Right. Connect the spin in the left column to the Rotate X in the right column and do the same for the remainder of the tyres.




14 Achieve automatic wheel spinning

To have the wheels spin automatically with the forwards and backwards translation of the car, go to Window>Expression Editor and create the expression that you can find on the disc at the back of the bookazine.


15 Drag, pivot & auto-jitter expression

To set up the drag and overlap, create the expression found on the free disc at the back of the bookazine. Load it up and find the PDF file that contains what you’re looking for. Afterwards, create another expression for the jitter attributes, which can also be found on the disc. Rename this expression ‘autoJitter_expr’ and you should be good to take the car out for a spin. Happy rigging!

06 The main controls in place 07 The body control with its

pivot at the centre of the car

08 The locators used for the

pivoting of the car

09 The door, bonnet and boot

controls in action

10 Locking and hiding the

transformation channels for the autoJitter_ctrl

11 Use custom attributes to add

drag and pivot

12 Further custom attributes for

automated jitter efects

13 Using the Connection Editor

to control the spinning animation of the tyres

14 This is the expression you

need to create the automatic spinning of the tyres when the car is translated

15 These are the expressions

used for the pivot and jitter controls. Find the image on the disc for more detail 3D Art & Design



A simple model of a B-2 stealth plane to challenge your texturing skills in MARI

Texture a realistic vehicle

Create a quick texture for a stealth plane and maintain a flexible workflow in MARI


ARI is a relatively new software, but it’s quickly becoming the new standard for texture artists in the industry. I use it almost every day at work and it has now become an essential tool in my texturing workflow. It’s designed to work with a vast amount of textures at high resolution, enabling artists to focus on the artistic process without having to worry about the technical issues of working with an object with multiple UV tiles. MARI is very similar to Photoshop for certain aspects: you can directly import PSD files since it uses the same blending modes in its shaders, and most of its image-editing tools and filters will be very familiar to Photoshop users. Even though texturing with MARI feels very easy and fluid, it remains very important to plan what you want to achieve before even opening the software.

212 3D Art & Design

The risk of having too much freedom is that you can quickly get lost in the process. The first thing that every texture artist should create is a well-organised library; a place to keep all the reference images (generic and project-related) and the textures that they can directly use and project onto the model. It takes some time in the beginning but it’s totally worth it, since it prevents you from having to leave the software and look for more references, losing you time and concentration. It’s also very important to keep the workflow as non-destructive as possible, especially if you’re part of a team where other people rely on your work. It’s also a huge time-saver, since it’s hard to predict what your client or supervisor will ask you to modify next. The most efcient way to proceed is to analyse the texture you want to re-create and divide it into layers (or channels, in MARI), so you can have a lot of control on


the diferent aspects of the colour. If you keep things separated it will also be easier to reuse those layers in the creation of the secondary maps, such as Bump, Displacement and Specular. In this tutorial we’ll discuss how to create a quick texture for a stealth plane and how to set up MARI in order to maintain a flexible workflow.

Texture a realistic vehicle




your UVs and 01Gather texture references

First import all the references and the textures we’ll be using into the Image Manager, so that everything is one click away. To get the most out MARI, always make sure that every piece you’re about to texture has some UV co-ordinates. MARI is designed to work with multiple UDIMs: in this tutorial we’ll use five tiles a.

Mind the Paint Bufer MARI projects all the painting and images you create onto the geometry through a Paint Bufer. The Paint Bufer works like a transparent plane where you paint and edit your textures before baking them to the mesh and its UVs. It’s very important to set an appropriate resolution of the Paint Bufer before starting work. If you’re working on 4k textures but you’re using a 1k Paint Bufer to project your painting onto the geometry, you will end up with some very low-resolution bakes. Before or after you paint on it, you can also move and stretch it using the Transform Paint Bufer tool.



02 Add a base colour

For the base colour of your vehicle, create various Masked Constant Colour shader modules. I then create diferent Scalar channels and use them to mask the flat colours in the shader. In this way everything remains quickly editable, if needed. To create a quick colour variation and make the base more interesting, add a Fractal Noise shader module and blend on the other layers in Overlay mode with an Opacity of 60% b.

03 Bring more detail

MARI gives you the possibility to create a vertex-based ambient occlusion very quickly; you can then use the result as a mask or bake it to a channel. Here we’ll use it as a channel and multiply it on the other layers. To create a higher-frequency colour variation, add a Tri-Planar shader module to project a metallic pattern seamlessly onto the geometry. Use a Hard Light blending mode to mix it with the other layers c.


Use lines and Decals To add the lines, create

a new Black channel and set it to Screen. Then switch to the top orthographic view and paint them by Shift-clicking all the corners – in this way MARI will create only straight strokes. For the other Decals, create a 4K map in Photoshop with all you want to project in it, and then use the Paint Through tool to project them on the mesh. Once that’s done, make sure you copy and mirror the right side to the left side in the UV space, to speed up the process d.

05 Apply displacement

For more control of the displacement, instead of drawing lines in MARI, create a new channel, fill it with a 50% grey and then use the Camera-layered Painting Unproject function. In this way MARI creates a PSD file with a screenshot of your viewport and sends it directly to Photoshop. Create the displacement lines using paths and reproject them onto the model using Camera-layered Painting Project from the same menu. You can also preview the displacement in the MARI viewport using Displacement or Bump shader modules e.

06 Bring in a specular map

Having all the colour components already separated in layers, it’s easy to create a Specular map. Duplicate your shader and use the components that we’ve already created to generate a black-andwhite map. In particular, reuse and contrast the Fractal Noise and the Tri-Planar modules. If you want you can add other non-colour-related channels to enhance the interest of the shading f. 3D Art & Design



Model a luxury car Jaguar xkx concept The objective was to design a concept car inspired by the Jaguar E-Type, and give a rebirth to the original brand Hussain Almossawi and Marin Myftiu A graphic designer and architect respectively, both 3D and car enthusiasts

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Hussain Almossawi Marin Myftiu Username: mossawi09 Personal portfolio site Country Bahrain/Albania Software used 3ds Max, V-Ray, Photoshop Expertise Hussain is a graphic designer and currently completing his masters degree in Industrial Design at the University of Alberta. Marin is an architect in his final year at the Polytechnic University of Tirana. They both have their diferent interests, but what brings them together in this project is the love of 3D and cars. Together they have been able to come up with a great collaboration for you to follow.

214 3D Art & Design

Software used in this piece 3ds Max




resentation is always a key factor when you want to sell an idea; sometimes a great idea can be presented poorly while a bad one can seem greater than it is. This tutorial will guide you through the preparation of modelling a car, and then how to present it in the best way. The aim is to have a great design with smooth presentation, to pay of for all the hard work on your car, or any other model. As we progressed through the various stages of the design, we found the unavoidable need to transform our concept-creating, modelling and presentational skills to a level that would reveal the full boldness and innovation of the original idea. As we were developing some finely detailed geometry, a more direct vertex editing was required, as well as recursive checks and test renders, just to see how every aspect of the model behaved in diferent lighting conditions.


01 Inspiration and brand study

As part of the analysis, we wanted to get diferent views of the lines of the E-Type Jaguar and then see where those lines could lead. In Photoshop, a side view of the car was placed on the bottom layer and on a second layer several path strokes followed a.

Model a luxury car

Concept Modelling Lighting


02 Design the rims

Several sketches were done for the rims, but directly playing with simple functions such as scaling and moving points on circles began to give the most satisfactory results, with an X-shaped inner part. This emphasises both a sense of raw power and a gentle pulse of energy b.


03 Prepare the blueprints

The final sketches, together with the path analysis were then combined into sketches of the main orthogonal views and subsequently cleaned up to blueprints in Photoshop. Those blueprints were subsequently used in 3ds Max to aid with the modelling stage c. 3D Art & Design



Set up the model Bring out the true beauty of your car d

04 Model the jumping jaguar

A straightforward approach was followed in modelling the leaping jaguar logo. Vertices were extruded around the silhouette and along all the contours that were relevant from the backdrop image. Every single line was raised or lowered accordingly. In the end the faces were formed, followed by a final adjustment d.

05 Find the best camera angle

Finding the best angle to render your car in can be a tough challenge, you could be doing your creation an injustice by rendering it at a bad angle. Place three cameras at diferent heights, and animate them to revolve around the car, rendering at very low quality which will give you a good idea of the best angle(s) to work with e.

Work with complex geometry There were several challenging aspects we faced during diferent stages, but none more so than dealing with the undefined geometry. During several steps of the development, we found that using standard editing tools just wouldn’t yield the desired geometry. When modelling an existing vehicle you can rely on precise blueprints and countless pictures to help you decide the best techniques, but when building from scratch this is mostly not possible. To tackle this we manipulated geometry vertex by vertex and face by face.

e f

Rendering in high quality can always be tempting, but at a really low quality gives you a good sense of how things are looking

06 Set up the lighting

Lighting could get quite tricky and complicated. Create a simple backdrop to your car with a smoothed corner. Place V-Ray lights above the car, one in front and one in the back, to make sure it is completely covered. Experiment with having more than one light plane around the car f.

07 Bring out some details

Since this car is going to be rendered in a dark studio scene to bring out its curves and lines, some important details can be missed out. You can use as many additional lights as you wish, pointing to certain details, but excluding all the other objects to prevent them from lighting up g.

216 3D Art & Design


Model a luxury car

08 Render in V-Ray

Rendering in high quality can always be tempting, but using a really low quality to give you a good sense of how things are looking and turning out is a big time-saver. Setting your Image Sampler to Fixed with low values, and lowering all the sample sizes on your Materials, Lights and Render settings speeds things up when you come to testing h.

09 Add materials h

The main matte material for the car was made using a V-Ray Blend Material. The main idea is using the base material and coat material, with similar settings, but having slight diferences in the reflective settings, to enable the light to spread better on the matte finish i.


Hussain Almossawi

I am 23 years old with lots of passion and love for 3D. I always try to keep an eye open for things being done by others, that’s what inspires me and makes me want to move on and explore all kinds of different things in the 3D world. I run alongside my brother.

Color Revolution 3ds Max, V-Ray, Photoshop (2011)

In collaboration with Anthony Giacomino. We came up with words to base the typography on and a scene that would fit the word. The type has more of a frozen look and it’s placed in an icy, cold environment. The idea also depicts new and foreign colours being introduced to the scene.  This was created for Intrinsic Nature’s latest online exhibition, ‘Experiment 11’.

Love Potion 3ds Max, Photoshop (2009)

10 Work with diferent passes

Working with passes is essential to postproduction as it gives you much more freedom to make quick changes and adjustments. Render Elements is one way, but we were after a unique look where we could have some sharp reflections mix with our matte finish. Rendering the car with both materials and overlaying them in Photoshop worked well j.

A poster that visualises the metaphor of love being medication for the ailing heart. This poster was selected as a Daily Deviation on deviantART on 28 March 2009. “A lifetime without love is of no account, love is the water of life, drink it down with heart and soul!” – Rumi.


3D Art & Design



Add atmosphere Time to give your car that finished shine the 11 Perfect headlights

These lights are sometimes the trickiest to create. Often they just don’t get the right kind of exaggerated reflections to make them stand out in a studio environment. We used about five passes over the original render, along with the reflection on the cover by adding a gradient to make it stand out more k.


the 12 Polish surfaces

The brake lights in the back of the car were repainted in Photoshop with a much stronger red. The reflections on the side windows where smoothed out, and some of the cuts where cleaned up if they had any noise. Exaggerating some parts and making everything crisp is essential for presenting your work l.


The mood of the scene is one of the most important elements; it needs to flow very well with the lighting on the car to add a greater sense of realism the 13 Unify overall scene




render time Resolution 4,000 x 1,304:

The mood of scene is one of the most important elements; it needs to flow very well with the lighting on the car to add a greater sense of realism. Using diferent radial gradients in Photoshop at diferent opacities on the floor and backdrop created a nice sense of harmony that matched the lighting on the car very well. A slight tint of the backdrop colour can also be added to the car to match the new scene colours m.

Marin Myftiu

I am a freelance designer and architect with experience in architectural, interior and product design. Also competent in 3D modelling and rendering, my experiences include graphics design, programming and journalism. Recently I have become more and more interested in car design, studying current trends and trying to anticipate future ones in personal, commissioned and competitive projects.

218 3D Art & Design

SKIN Blender, Photoshop (2011)

Inheriting the most distinctive morphology of the Renault 4, SKIN tries to go one step further than other retro designs by preserving the main silhouettes of the car. The piece is interpreted using current Renault design trends.

VW PASSAT S-Revision 2 Blender, Photoshop (2011) Revision 2 of the Passat S model tries to carve a distinctive visual character for the Volkswagen Passat name. I am taking the previous project towards a more refined geometry, while also taking into account hexagonal trends in vehicle design.

3D Art & Design


The Black Drone was a project assigned to me back in 2010‌ to illustrate the latest technology in autonomous engineering and design. The environment was a crucial part of the project to bring the secrecy and mysterious vibe with a futuristic feel!

Black Drone 2010 mental ray


Software used in this piece Maya

com Website www.kollected. Country Australia tal ray, Software used Maya, men Photoshop VFX Bio Nick has worked in the his runs industry for 12 years. He ney own design studio in Syd

Nick Kaloterakis

Detail, detail, detail. In my experience the more you have to feed the eye, the more wow factor it brings and makes a huge impact at the end result

I used Maya for hard-surface modelling and textures, mental ray for lighting in a physical, accurate scale and for rendering (HDRI with mib_ ray_switch). Photoshop was used for the ďŹ nal comp and colour correction

Incredible 3D artists take k us behind their artwor

Artist info


Sculpt a space vehicle Ballade of the Lucanus 2012

The result is a space-opera-inspired mash up of vessels, all created using the same workflow Istvan is a digital artist and illustrator based in Geneva, Switzerland

Artist info

Easy-to-follow guides take you from concept to the final render

Istvan Personal portfolio site chaotic_atmospheres Country Switzerland Software used ZBrush, Photoshop, Illustrator, Vue Expertise I use 3D as a way to create final artwork; I’m not necessarily specialised in any field, I tend to switch between techniques and software to create the objects I need to finish my illustrations.

220 3D Art & Design

• Three ZBrush brushes • Three videos showing the ‘hard cut’ method, Group Loops method plus masking and texturing techniques • One .vue file (the planet) and a PSD of the final composition


n this tutorial we’ll create an insectinspired battleship; a vehicle that flows through space curled into itself like a cocoon, but when attacking opens up its wings and gigantic claws. Remember, even though we’re making a battleship here, the method described can also be used to model a whole host of other types of vehicles, buildings, weapons and more.

Once you’ve secured the skills, you’ll be a hard-surface sculpting master in no time. Before even opening ZBrush, always think through the details of the project using photo references. In this case, try to imagine the universe where a concept like this would have evolved. Try to set your objectives in context. Here we’re not thinking about specific designs for a battleship, just about the details – imagine

Sculpt a space vehicle

The ‘hard cut’ method The ‘hard cut’ method consists of modelling using only Clip brushes. Activating BRadius (Cmd/ Ctrl+Shift+ Spacebar and click on BRadius) enables a very powerful tool to create shapes with a hard-edged look. But be careful: if you want to achieve the efect of an insect’s shell, you shouldn’t cut randomly. The cuts should look like those of real insects. For example, the cut lines of the abdomen are often repetitive, becoming increasingly tighter as they approach the body (such as on the abdomen of wasps). So for this concept, we must achieve the final shape of the battleship without forgetting the strong lines found on real insects.

Software used in this piece

you’re looking at an image so closely that you can understand all of its detail without having to see the entire image in full. This process enables us to define our needs: the techniques we’ll use, the outlines to be used in ZBrush’s ShadowBox, the textures and so on. It also helps to get your references firmly in your mind – which in this case includes the anatomy of insects and the functions of a battleship. Once this ground work is set, we can then start work in ZBrush, remaining open to interpretation as we create.





Concept The concept originated with a mothinspired battleship model that I originally created to fight in the game EVE Online. Based on its success I decided to create other battleships using the same workflow, to start a small fleet! 3D Art & Design



Lay the groundwork

The Group Loops method

Watch the details but don’t worry about the battleship… yet! Use photo references to decide what techniques to employ and how they should best be used


b Group Loop method

01 Key points and references

‘Hard cut’ method

The battleship is going to have the resemblance of an insect. We will model using the ‘hard cut’ method, which will be described in the following steps. In this way we can replicate the hard-edged look of an insect’s shell. We will also use ZBrush’s Group Loops method to create the parts of the ship that will resemble legs and antennae. I’ve chosen an insect species that has extraordinary features as our focus: the Lucanus, Britain’s largest known terrestrial beetle. This insect has huge claws and a thick and sturdy look. Using these distinguishing features helps us define the function of our battleship: a lightly armed ship that’s strong and capable of inflicting heavy damage a.

02 Set up a base outline

I begin by drawing a basic body of the ship in Illustrator. The file is supplied as a tutorial file with this issue. Basically, you just rough out silhouette images for the front, side and top views and then export the file as a JPEG. We can then use the image to create the base form using ShadowBox in ZBrush. You can also design the wing shape in Plan view. We’ll use these shapes with the Make 3D function of the Alpha menu in ZBrush (covered in Step 5) b.

The Group Loops method can easily create structures that look like insects’ legs or pipes. On the Lucanus battleship, I use this method for the claws and for the tubes that run along the surface of the ship. I create a web frame using ZSpheres and export it as a new tool with Adaptive Skin. I then go to Tool>Geometry and click on Group Loops. This creates divisions between each branch of the frame. Group Loops have the same Polyframe, so I simply select a Polyframe and modify it with the Inflate deformer and Inflate balloon. See the supplied video file for Group Loops.

Transforming vehicles The Lucanus has two modes: an attack mode with open wings, deployed weapons and a threatening appearance, and a cocoon mode where the ship is curved into its shell. This makes it strong and stealthy. As the attack mode is fully open, it’s easier to start by creating the battleship in this mode and then fold it into a cocoon after. To switch to cocoon mode, I move all loose items (wings, clamps, weapons) with the Transpose tool to the nearest surface of the battleship. I then use the deformers (Deformation tab) on flexible areas like the wings so that they curl around the ship. I finish the placement of the wings with the Move Elastic brush.



03 Model the battleship’s body

The first thing to do is load in your textures – which is the image we’ve exported from Illustrator. Create a ShadowBox in medium resolution, around 512 pixels. In the Texture tab of the Tool menu, apply the previously loaded image as a texture to your ShadowBox. Then, in the Masking tab, create a Mask By Intensity so that the texture of the ShadowBox is used to retrieve the mask. We can now disable the ShadowBox and start working with the ‘hard cut’ method – don’t forget to Activate Symmetry in X on the Transform menu at this stage c.

222 3D Art & Design

04 Sculpt some elements

With an interesting basic shape established, we can add the elements of the battleship: reactors, weapons, shells and any other specific parts – such as claws, in the case of the Lucanus. For this, we append (SubTool tab) a simple object that we’ll distort using the Transpose tool to achieve the volume needed. Then model the object using the ‘hard cut’ method. For the claws, append a ZSphere and create a frame that we work on using the Group Loops method. Finish the look with some hard cutting, so that they integrate well with the other elements d.

Sculpt a space vehicle

Hard-surface modelling Pick from several tools to produce consistent results

Give a sense of dimension In space, there is no atmospheric efect. It’s difcult to distinguish if your object is a small battleship placed in the foreground or a huge one located thousands of miles away. It’s therefore important to add in one or two elements that illustrate your battleship’s size. I’ve added doors to the sides of the Lucanus to show that the vehicle can also carry numerous other vessels. You can also help readability by overlaying elements: if the reactor flame of a small spacecraft passes in front of your battleship, your mind will interpret that the battleship is located on the background, and is therefore much larger. B Create the basic shapes in Illustrator so we can build variations with ease

d At this stage the basic structure of the battleship is complete

g If we hide the battleship, the pipe structure should bring up its outline

c Load the image as a texture into the ShadowBox provided

e Wings are not totally flat, so give them a slight curve

h Retopology can help you get more accurate and lighter objects

f e

05 Create the wings

For the wings, once again use the image created in Illustrator. Loading it as an alpha enables us to extrude it through the Make 3D tab of the Alpha menu. Work on the wings using the ‘hard cut’ method to make them look like the other elements of the battleship. Append the wing to the battleship and define the point where it must be attached. Use this anchor point to precisely position the wing with the Transpose tool and add some curve with the options on the Deformation tab (particularly SBend, SSkew and Twist) e.

06 Modify the battleship with a rig

The claws and mouth aren’t open enough, so use the rigging function to distort all the SubTools in one step. Use the Transpose Master plug-in (ZPlugin menu). Activate the option ZSphere Rig and click TPoseMesh. This creates a ZSphere with a ghost of the battleship. Create the rig with the ZSpheres and then go to Tool>Rigging and click on Bind Mesh. Move the ZSpheres to change the geometry of the battleship, then go back to Transpose Master and TPose>Sub. Transpose Master will apply the changes to each SubTool in just one step f.

The rig in the battleship will distort all SubTools together



07 Add detail with pipes

Append a ZSphere inside the battleship and create a web frame (with X Symmetry enabled) by going in and out of the battleship’s surface. This adds density to some key points – the junction between the body and claws, for example – and highlights the strong lines of the battleship. Once the basic armature is complete, turn of X Symmetry and add some more pipes. Then use the Group Loops method to finish the look of the structure g.

08 Retopologise the model

The jaw area should be more detailed, but we don’t want to subdivide the entire model. So instead, we’ll retopologise. Open a new ZSphere, select Rigging in the Tool menu and click on Select Mesh to open the battleship as a ghost. Then go into the Topology options and click Edit Topology. Create the new topology directly on the model and, when the new jaw is ready, go to Tool>Adaptive Skin and then Make Adaptive Skin. We can now increase the polycount of the new part and finish up with the Group Loops and ‘hard cut’ modelling methods h. 3D Art & Design



Texture your vehicle

1 0+ hours crea

Create fine detail using custom brushes

09 Add detail with the MicroMesh tool

We want the new jaw to be filled with a bunch of circular saws. The MicroMesh function in ZBrush is perfect to obtain many recurring items without weighing down your model. Open the new tool we created, select only the part where you want the saw detail and hide the rest of the object. Now create a new SubTool from the visible section – normally it should look like a skin that is placed just above the model. In the Geometry tab, click on MicroMesh to select the object that will replace each polygon of the mesh i. The size of the MicroMesh object depends on the size of the polygon it replaces

tion tim

Image resolu e tion: 6

and 10 Masks deformations

Mask each part of the model with the Mask By Smoothness function (Masking tab) with a low range and a high fallof. This will mask a thin line along the edges of the model. Then, with the Grow, Blur and Sharpen Mask options, widen the mask until it becomes thick enough around the edges. Then use the Inflate deformer (Deformation tab) to slightly lower the unmasked parts into the structure. This gives us a structure in two levels that can be textured independently with your brushes j.

,000 x 3,500


with custom 11 Detail brushes

We can now use custom brushes (supplied) to add detail between the two parts separately masked. The contour will be made of rigid plate steel and the inside will be made of thin strips. The wings should look like they are made of small plates that slide when they close. For all these details, use the default brushes in ZBrush (mostly in the Scales and Pattern directories). Choose one where the flow matches what you’re looking for and change the Alpha to images created in Illustrator or Photoshop (files supplied) k.



12 Add matter with Noise

Use the Noise function to give matter to small parts of the ship. Noise is not as realistic as custom brushes for objects that have large flat surfaces (like wings) but it is very efcient and fast for small objects such as pipes. In the Surface tab (Tool menu), click on Light Box> NoiseMaker to bring up the Noise presets and then select the one that comes closest to what you want. We want to add rust to the pipes, so I choose Noise04. From the Surface tab, click on Edit to customise the noise efect l.

Create a mask with Illustrator


13 Use a background as an environment map l

224 3D Art & Design

Create a LightCap so your battleship is well integrated in the final image. I make the background for this illustration using Vue, since it enables planet rendering as well as spherical rendering to use as environment maps in ZBrush. In ZBrush, in the Background tab (Light menu), load your environment by clicking on Texture. Make sure the framing of the environment is the same as the background of the final illustration, and click the LightCap button (the Reflect option must be enabled). The LightCap just created is editable as a MatCap from the Material menu m.

When I change my object mask with the Grow, Sharpen and Blur mask functions, the corners between the edges can be rounded and I may need a sharper result. I Print Screen my model from above and from below (by disabling the perspective). I can then paste the screen grabs into Illustrator and draw my mask on top. I’ll then export the image to use as an Alpha with my Mask tool. This method takes a little longer, but the result is more accurate. Furthermore, if I have to clear my mask, it will be easier to recover it.

Sculpt a space vehicle

Render in ZBrush Use BPR to capture lots of vessels for a space opera mash-up! n

Lucanus: 1/5

Picked colour

Lucanus: 5/5

Lucanus: 5/5 Normal map

Lucanus: 2/5

Moth: 3/4

Moth: 2/4 Moth: 4/4

14 Render several battleships

We want to create a scene with several starships, but ZBrush doesn’t enable BPR with multiple objects. There are several possibilities to overcome this drawback, however. The easiest way is to merge the final battleship and append it several times on the same tool, but that requires a powerful computer. Instead, make a BPR of your battleship and, in Photoshop, put the render on your background, estimating where to place the second most important battleship. Go back to ZBrush for the BPR and repeat the operation as many times as necessary to gather all the ships you want for the final illustration n.

Group 1

Group 2


Group 4

Group 3

With light efects


I want the hull of the battleship to reflect the lights from the reactors of small starships that revolve around the main ship. To do this, I realise a BPR with the NormalRGB MatCap included in ZBrush. Once in Photoshop, I can then create a Radial Gradient placed on the light source (the reactor of the small starship). I select a colour range on my NormalRGB render (Selection>Color Range) by clicking on a point that should have a reflection. I add a mask to my gradient with this selection. This way the gradient will appear only on the faces pointing in the same direction.

Merged final illustration with all corrections Lights and efects

First group of battleships

Second group of battleships

Third group of battleships

Background battleships

Merged background with colour correction


Without light efects

Use your Normal map in Photoshop

Lucanus: 3/5

Group 5

Gradient and mask

Planet extra texture

The final composition Equalise your composition to

achieve a balanced outcome between your starships. However, when they’re moved, even slightly, it can distort their perspective. If the integration seems wrong, go back to ZBrush to render it from the new location. After some back and forth between the two programs, you’ll get the desired result. A simple technique to check that your composition works is to flip the image horizontally in order to check it as a mirrored image. Once in reverse, all the errors of perspective will become obvious. If after this little test everything seems okay, turn to the final stage of the image o.


Vue background render

the final 16 Apply touches

Choose the final look for your image, deciding whether it will be cold or warm, fuzzy or sharp, dirty or clean. Add a few layers of real photographs to give a little substance to the image (dust, starry background, lasers, flares and so on). The Distortion tool, like Puppet Warp in Photoshop, is very useful to give curvature to the trails of reactors, for example. Once the composition is complete, flatten the image, finalise the colours and perfect the general appearance using Photoshop’s post tools p.

j You can get diferent types of structures by playing with the Mask options k Add the final details with custom brushes l The Noisemaker creates organic matter on small objects m The background of the final artwork and the associated environment map n The rendering time can be optimised by lowering the level of subdivision for the small background vessels o Each group of battleships should have a diferent size for even better readability p Here is a map of the final composition with all the various types of layers 3D Art & Design


Vehicle • porsche_911_3DArtist.blend • • • Plus tutorial screenshots


Create vehicles with open-source software

Learn to create impressive sports cars using free software


t’s good news for open-source software lovers; a new version of Blender is ready for download! Version 2.64 features many important innovations, including a new mask editor, new nodes in compositing (box mask, colour correction, re-route and more), colour management (Blender 2.63 only supports two colour spaces, linear and sRGB) and scene loading optimisations for Cycles renders. A new non-progressive integrator has also been added and panoramic fish-eye cameras, new mesh tools and sculpting improvements are now available. So before you begin this tutorial, download the new free version from www. now. Creating a car with 3D software is a challenge as there are many details to keep

226 3D Art & Design

in mind to get good results. The high-beam lights, for example, require accurate modelling. This is particularly true with the inside of the vehicle, otherwise the reflections will look unrealistic. Proportions must be as accurate as possible, so it’s essential to have good reference images. Ideally you’ll use a blueprint with all the views of the car (front, rear, side and top), but often these files are not easy to find, especially for newer car models. If you don’t have blueprints, make sure that photo references are well aligned and that the diferent views are exactly the same size – if necessary, re-size them with the free image editor, GIMP ( These images will be placed as a background image – one for each view – so make sure they are perfectly centred. While modelling, we’ll use Blender’s modifiers to simplify work. The Mirror modifier will be used a lot and will enable us to do half the work by taking advantage of the symmetry of the car. The most important rule to follow is the KISS principle (Keep It Short and Simple). We must not forget to KISS, so during the modelling never add more vertices than needed as the mesh will become

unmanageable and each new change could become a disaster. To reduce the use of RAM and the workload of the video card, it’s important to use diferent layers. For this project, we’ll place the wheels, body, interior and stage with the lights on diferent layers. The design of the car is full of soft lines, so we’ll use only the vertices needed and let the algorithm of subsurface do the work for us. Once a piece is finished and the result satisfies us, it’s better to put the subsurface of the Viewport to a minimum level. For all the pieces that have a radial symmetry (such as the wheels), we’ll model a single slice and then clone it with the modifier spin. It’s important to give the right thickness to the body of the car, otherwise

Create vehicles with open-source software

b it will look toy-like. For simple pieces we’ll use the Solidify modifier; for more complex objects we’ll extrude edges by hand. It’s very important to save often, especially before making a radical change. Backups use space on the disk, but they will enable you to save valuable time. Another very important aspect is the creation of good car paint, as luxury cars have three-layered paint with iridescent reflections. Our car-paint material will consist of a Difuse shader mixed with a Glossy and another Glossy material that will simulate the iridescent reflections. Chrome or shiny materials are composed of a Glossy shader with a diferent roughness index and two colours blended. We want a car with a racing look to it, so we’re going to add a stripe on the hood and the side. Lighting is also crucial: we’ll use a big fill light on the car, two front lights (one with warm light and one with cold) and a series of emitter floors that will influence only the reflections of the car paint. We’ll use a three-quarter view of the car with the headlights turned on as the main image because it gives an overall impression and is a good way to emphasise the beauty of the car. During rendering we’ll save glossy reflections, ambient occlusion images and, with the node editor, create a JPEG with the reflections generated by the headlights. These images are then combined in GIMP.

Blender’s node compositor is good, but using graphic-editing software like GIMP makes post-production work more fluid and immediate. The final image is balanced with an AO layer and glossy reflections added to give more detail to the shadows and to emphasise reflections where needed. The very last edit we’ll make is the addition of a lens flare on the high-beam light. This adds an eye-catching flash to the result. c

Create a sports car in ten simple steps…

01 Blender windows

The first step is to set the reference images in various windows. Open your reference photos (supplied on the disc) in GIMP and make sure they are horizontal and aligned with the floor. Enable the rulers in GIMP and cut the images so that the height and width of the car are the same in the front and rear view. It would be nice to have a picture from the top, but if you don’t have one we will need to study the diferent views to understand the structure of the car. You’ll find reference images are supplied with this tutorial, so there’s plenty to work from d.

a The final render. Lens flare was added in post-processing using the free software GIMP

b In this wireframe

render the subsurface level has been reduced to make the mesh structure more evident

c A wireframe

render of the interior view

d Reference setup

d 3D Art & Design


Vehicle Model the tyres We’ll use two modifiers to model the tyres in Blender: Array and Curves. From the top view prepare a slice of the tyre with a tread pattern, apply the Array modifier to obtain copies, add a Bezier Curve of the size of the tyre and use it as a base object for the Curves modifier. Now apply the modifier and extrude the side vertex until you have the correct width of tyre.



02 Model the wheels

Choose the side view, add an empty section at the centre of the wheel, move the cursor to the empty area (Shift+S then select) and add a circle. The wheel has ten spokes, so we’ll use a circle of 80 vertexes (three for each spoke and five between each spoke). Model a single spoke and then, with the Spin modifier, we’ll create the necessary copies. Remove the double vertices and proceed with the extrusion e.

03 Continue the wheels

Add another circle in the central part of the wheel, scale the vertices to the centre

g and extrude. Apply some extra cuts to create the holes for the pins. To make round holes, select vertices and hit Shift+Opt/ Alt+S. Enable Boltfactory in Blender’s Addons (go to File>UserPreferences> Addons> Boltfactory) and place the wheel axles. We’ll use a cylinder for the disc brake and then shape the brake caliper. To model the clamp we’ll enable a Mirror. The holes in the discs will be added with a texture f.


Model some tyres First,

create the profile of the wheel then use the spin with the cursor in the centre of the wheel as the centre of rotation. We want the car to have a sporty/ racing appearance, so we’ll use slick tyres. If you want road wheels you’ll have to model the footprint of the tyre and then bend it along a circle g.

e Modelling the

wheels – note the empty centre

f Creating the h

228 3D Art & Design

wheel interior

g Final modelling of the wheel

h Be sure to follow

the curves of the car as closely as you can

05 Add a bonnet and bumper

With the Mirror modifier active, begin to shape the bonnet and the bumper, following the curves of the car as closely as possible to the reference photo. It’s better not to use too many points, as any changes can make it difcult to maintain the soft curves of the car. Occasionally turn on the level of the wheels and make a clay render to check if your model contains errors h.

Compositing node editor benefits The node editor is another of Blender’s very powerful tools that has greatly improved in the latest versions. We could complete all the post-production in Blender without using GIMP, but I prefer to use the node editor only to create the layers and then export them into GIMP. This way I have more control over the areas to be processed (lights, shadows, sharpening, curves and level adjustments). For our scene it will be used to create the glare efect on the high beams.

Create vehicles with open-source software i

06 Sculpt the body

Using the same procedure as the previous step, we’ll model the side of the car now, including the rear bumper and doors. Be sure to keep the diferent parts separate so any changes that need to be made will be far easier and save time. Right now it’s important to create the shape of the car – the details will be added later. Once you’ve finished the body, extrude the edges of the meshes to create thickness and activate the Subsurf in Viewport to check if

Texture advice Textures can make a big diference to a 3D scene, meaning with a simple stripe, our car has a racing look. I used the symmetry of the car to unwrap the model in a very easy way. Simply go to the side view, select the parts of the body and, in Edit mode, hit U then select Project From View. This way I can quickly apply the texture to the model.

the spaces between the pieces are right. As you can see, all the parts are diferent colours to highlight the various edges i.


07 Add details

Now we’ve finished the outer body, we’ll add more details including door handles, rear wings, the plates, the front vent, the exhaust system and front and rear lights. The front lights are composed of a glass with a mesh inside a reflective material and a spherical light. The rear lights are made of small emitter spheres (LEDs) on a Reflector plane. The correct placement of these elements is essential, so at this stage paying close attention to your reference material is vital j.


08 Model the interior

On a new layer we’ll now begin to model the interior of the car. Start from the basic plan, then the central transmission tunnel. We’ll model the seats in another file and then import the mesh. Add the dashboard, the gear lever, the rear-view mirror and all the details on the inside of the doors. Assign a red material to the interior, apply black to the plastic and give grey to the aluminium surfaces k.

09 Set up your materials

We will use Cycles as the render engine, so first open the node editor to set the materials. The car paint will be a mix of Difuse and Glossy shaders, both mixed with a Glossy with violet hues. Wheels and aluminium details are a Glossy material. For the seats we’ll use a red velvet with a black reflection. The plastic material is a mix of two Difuse and a Glossy shader with a Noise texture as a Bump map l.

10 Time to render

After assigning the materials, we’ll create the scene for rendering, using a classic studio setup with a rear plane and three-point lighting. The plane will be

l slightly shiny to give reflections on the floor. The upper fill light doesn’t influence the Glossy channel, so we’ll use other lamps only for glossy reflections. The front lights are both warm and cold lights to make the image less flat. We’ll need extra channels for the post-production stage, so go to the Layer menu and enable the AO and Glossy direct channels. After rendering, open the image, the Glossy channel and AO pass in GIMP, and overlay them to obtain the final result m. i Car body meshes j Mesh details k Detailing the

interior elements of the car

l A map of the

car-paint material

m Use a simple setup for the lighting

m 3D Art & Design


Animation Get to grips with 3D animation with these practical step-by-step guides 232 Learn to animate a bouncing ball

The essential first steps of animation

236 Realistic character rigging

The creation of a joint structure for a biped character

240 Learn to animate a walk cycle Take the basics of 3D animation a few steps further

244 Animate a character lifting weights

Add realism to your animations

248 How to animate a jump

Make your animation move from point A to point B in style

252 Animate action moves

Put all you've learnt into action with a 540-degree tornado kick!


230 3D Art & Design



Joint placement is the most important part of creating a rig

3D Art & Design


Animation A

• Maya scene files • Video reference • Final animation render

Learn to animate a bouncing ball Jahirul Amin guides us through the essential first steps of animation: the bouncing ball


his tutorial is going to be the first in a series that will take you through the first steps of animating in CG. We’ll be using Maya but the same principles and techniques can easily be transferred to whichever package you prefer. To begin, we’ll focus on setting foundations: introducing tools such as the Graph Editor, Dope Sheet and Motion Trails. We’ll then go through a workflow, using these tools to animate a ball. The main outcome of this first tutorial is an animated bouncing ball. It’s an exercise that may

232 3D Art & Design

initially seem simple but is an invaluable first step. The bouncing ball demands an adherence to some of the key principles of animation, namely timing, spacing, weight, squash and stretch. Also, the motion created by the ball may be seen as a somewhat primitive precursor to a moving character, making the bouncing ball exercise a useful preparation for a walk cycle. Finally, the exercise will help you get used to some of the animation tools in Maya such as those mentioned above.

As with all animation, getting good reference is the essential first step. Watch how diferent kinds of balls drop and bounce, compare the behaviour of the diferent balls and see Newton’s laws of motion in action. Record the balls bouncing watch them on repeat. You can then take your footage into the fabulous and utterly free and open source Kinovea (, break it down and draw over it to get a feeling for the key poses, timing, spacing, the way the balls lose energy and so on.

Learn to animate a bouncing ball C

Use Newton’s Laws of Motion for animating CG B

It’s essential to note that while observing reality is vital, it’s not absolute reality that you’ll need to re-create in CG. Bizarrely, a totally faithful mimicry of reality actually looks unreal. You’ll need to push the poses, as what’s imperative is that the movement looks and feels right, not that it’s mathematically correct. I personally find that before beginning to animate in CG, planning on paper really helps. The organic nature of paper and pencil lends you complete freedom to plan and explore ideas. The rig, however well created, will always be something that you will have to work around to maximise its potential. However, this can feel like a restriction on your creative freedom. Then it’s time to take it all into Maya – or your preferred package – and get animating in CG. Regarding a general approach to animating, I like to first block in the ‘Golden Poses’, making sure that the poses are clear and readable for the audience. I then move on to getting the timing right. Finally I refine it again and again. As this exercise uses a ball, rather than a character with arms and legs, we’ll break down the process into first working on the translation of the ball, then the rotation, and lastly adding squash and stretch. Squash and stretch, by the way, is something that can be overused; it is important that the audience feels it as opposed to actually seeing it. To animate the bouncing ball, we’re going to keep our animation curves in Spline mode, though Clamped is also fine. The reason for this is that we need to see the transitions from pose to pose and the arcs

that are created. Having smooth, clean arcs adds fluidity and keeps things moving as naturally as possible. As mentioned before, one of the tools that you’ll meet during the next ten steps is the Graph Editor. This tool is a visual representation of each keyed attribute and the interpolation between keyframes, and though it may at first seem intimidatingly complex, get to know it and it’ll be your best friend for life. The Graph Editor enables you to do a million and one things from shifting keyframes to cleaning up motioncapture data. It enables you to do these tasks in often the most efcient way possible, so it’s well worth getting past its perhaps distractingly technical appearance to find its inner charm. A second tool we’ll look at is the Dope Sheet, which would be called the Exposure Sheet in 2D. It’s a device for shifting keys around to rework timing so it comes in very handy when blocking out a shot. For this exercise I’ve provided a ball rig. It’s pretty simple, but you’ll find it will be able to do what you need it to do. There’s no sense complicating a rig; it needs to be fit for purpose. I recommend having a quick play around with the rig to get comfortable with it before beginning the exercise. As a last point before we get going, I would really advise you get feedback on how your animation is looking throughout the process. A fresh pair of eyes can help you to identify areas that may need reworking. If no fresh eyes are available, leave your work for a while, refresh your own eyes, and then compare your work again with your all-important reference.

An object at rest will stay at rest and a moving object will keep on moving in the same direction and at the same speed, unless something comes along to change that uniformity. F= ma, or in other words, when a force acts on a mass, acceleration is produced. The degree of that acceleration will depend first on the magnitude of the force that hits the object, and second on the mass of the object being hit. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.


Let the balls bounce!

01 Animation preferences

Open up the scene file ‘’ and go to Window>Settings/Preferences>Preferences. In the Preferences panel highlight Settings and change the Time to PAL (25 fps). I work primarily in PAL but you will need to adjust your settings in accordance with your regional requirements. Next highlight Animation and change the Default in tangent and Default out tangent both to Spline. Next highlight Time Slider and change the Playback Speed to Real-time [25 fps]. When changing your animation time units, you will find that Maya will either compress or expand your current Playback Range, hence the importance of checking these settings before you start animating. Set the Start Time of your Playback Range to 1 and the End Time to 80 D.

A A final render of

the ball bouncing

B Arcs are beautiful, so try as much as you can to incorporate them into your work

C A screenshot of

my referencing process using the free Kinovea

D Make sure your

ball animation preferences are set accordingly as your first priority 3D Art & Design


Animation f




Set the keys When setting the

keys it’s important first to move to your desired frame, move/rotate the object and then set the key. To set a key, you can hit S on your keyboard. This will put a key on all the attributes in your Channel Box as well as a notch on the Timeline. There may also be occasions where we would only like to key specific channels. To do this, we can highlight an attribute in the Channel Box, Ctrl/right-click it and pick Key Selected. We can also key all the Translate attributes solely together by hitting Shift+W. The same works for Shift+E for the Rotate channels and Shift+R for the Scale channels E.

03 E Setting keys on all the individual channels enables you to have less clutter in the Graph Editor

F The Playback

controls are as you’d expect, but try to use the shortcuts to be more efcient

G The Graph Editor

will be your best friend, so get used to using it

H For a quick tool to

shufe around your keys, use the Dope Sheet

234 3D Art & Design

Playback settings Now, on the bottom-left of the screen, you will see the Playback controls. I find it more efcient to use shortcuts, so here are some useful ones. To play your animation you can hit Opt/Alt+V. If you place your mouse pointer in the Viewport, you can also scrub through the Timeline by holding down the K key on the keyboard and click-anddragging in the Viewport. Holding down Opt/Alt and pressing the comma or full-stop on the keyboard will also enable you to scrub frame by frame. Another useful shortcut is to go from keyframe to keyframe. To do this, make sure the object has some keys on it and press the comma or full-stop on your keyboard F.


The Graph Editor For this stage

it’s essential that you have a third mouse button enabled. To open up the Graph Editor, go to Window>Animation

h Editors>Graph Editor. Navigation in the Graph Editor is the same as in the 3D Viewports. Use Opt/Alt and the third mouse button to pan, then hit Opt/Alt again and Ctrl/right-click to zoom in and out. On the left you will see the object you currently have selected and all the channels that have keys on them. Running up the vertical we have the value of the attributes, while the horizontal displays the time. Make sure you have the Move tool activated and select a key. By clicking the third mouse button and dragging you can reposition that key in both value and time. You will also notice that two tangent handles are editable for each key, enabling you to easily control the spacing and behaviour of the movement while preserving your timing G.


The Dope Sheet Open up the

Dope Sheet by going to Window> Animation Editors>Dope Sheet. Again, navigating in here is the same as the Graph Editor and the 3D Viewports. With the Move tool activated, you can highlight any of the keys, and with the third (or middle) mouse button drag them to rework the

timing. You can move keys on individual channels as well as globally by editing the top-most notch. By holding a Ctrl/ right-click over a key, we have another heap of editing options such as Copy, Cut and Paste. To save you having to drop down to the Timeline to play or scrub through your animation, you can hold down K and drag in both the Dope Sheet and the Graph Editor for playback H.

Even timing When blocking out a shot, I always time out the poses in multiples of two frames. This enables me to have the ability to go in and add a breakdown pose bang in the middle of my two key poses. For example, key-pose 1 will be on frame 1 and key-pose 2 will be on frame 17. They are 16 frames apart so I can go in and add a breakdown pose at frame 9. We can then go in and add two further poses between frames 1 and 9 (frame 5) and frame 9 and 17 (frame 13). When it gets to the final clean-up of the animation, the timing may alter, but I find this a good start to the initial blocking stage.

Learn to animate a bouncing ball For this exercise I’ve provided a ball rig. It’s pretty simple, but you’ll find it will be able to do what you need it to do







Let’s Get Bouncing! Begin by making sure there are no keys on the ball. If there are, you can either delete them in the Graph Editor or hold down Shift and drag in the Timeline to create a red selection window. You can then hold down a Ctrl/right-click and pick Delete. We’ll start by working on the up and down movement of the ball. Go to frame 1 and translate the BALL_Move_Rotate_Ctrl around four units up in the Y channel. Highlight the Translate Y in the Channel Box and key just that channel. Then go to frame 13 and put a value of 0 in the Translate Y I.


Include more bounces Next

move to frame 23 and translate the ball up in the Y channel to a value of 2.3 and back to 0 at frame 33. Continue to do this until you have quite a few bounces. For each bounce, I make sure that it takes the same amount of frames to go up as it does to come down. This will provide bounces that are even and arcs that are clean. I also reduce the amount of frames that it takes for each bounce by two, to give the feeling that upon each contact the ball is losing energy. When you have all your bounces, your animation will look pretty weightless. If you open up the Graph Editor you’ll see that the curve looks a little like the Alps mountain range, but you should also be

able to see how this curve relates to our keyframes in the Viewport J.


Apply weight In the Graph Editor, select all the keys on the curve and go to Keys>Free Tangent Weight. Next select all the keys where the ball hits the ground and go to Keys>Break Tangents. This will enable us to manipulate one side of the tangents without afecting the other. Now edit the shape of the curve, so as we approach the frame where the ball makes contact, we get a sharper drop. By doing this we are changing the spacing to give us more weight and impact, and our mountain range now looks more like the Loch Ness Monster. You can also create a motion trail to check your arcs: select the BALL_Move_ Rotate_Ctrl and go to Animate>Create Motion Trail (Options), set the Time range to Time Slider and the Draw style to Line. If you’re using Maya 2012 or 2013, you can also use the Editable Motion Trails tool, which is like having the Graph Editor in the 3D Viewport K.


Include rotation Let’s now get this ball moving in the horizontal axis as well as adding some rotation to it. Go to frame 1 and set a key on the Translate X channel for BALL_Move_Rotate_Ctrl. Go to the last frame of your animation,

translate the ball over in the X and set another key. Play back the animation to check that you are happy with the distance it travels. To add rotation, using the same control rotate the ball in the Z axis. For the first few bounces, I know that I will be adding a small amount of squash and stretch later so I make sure that the ball lands on its poles. This enables me to get clean deformation without the texture stretching in an odd manner. You can also add some subtle roll back on the ball so that it feels slightly more natural l.


Squash and stretch Reveal the Ball_SandS_ctrl_layer to make the Squash and Stretch controls selectable. Add some squash on the first few contact poses by pushing and pulling the controls either side of the ball. Remember not to go too wild with this as it can be easily overdone. Then go through and add some stretch as the ball goes in and out of the contact poses. When the ball is at the apex of each bounce, there should be no squash and stretch acting upon it, so make sure the controls all have a value of zero at this point. As the ball stretches, you also want to make sure that it is doing it along the arc. Use the BALL_SandS_Rotate_Ctrl to help orient the controls to do this m.

I Add the first two

poses for our bounce animation

J This curve shows the result of our key settings

K Add more impact

by editing the diferent tangents

l Apply some

rotation and alter the motion trails to view the arcs

m Some subtle

squash and stretch can always add more to your animation when it’s required 3D Art & Design



You will find a host of scene files as well as two videos


Realistic character rigging In this tutorial we will cover the creation of a joint structure for a biped character and its importance in getting good deformation


a A rendered image of a series of poses using the final rig

b A draw-over to

help figure out where to place the diferent joints

c The rig in a quick pose using IK handles to keep the feet planted

236 3D Art & Design

oint placement is the most important part of creating a rig. The majority of a character’s deformation comes from the translation and orientation of joints, so without good joint placement, you could be setting yourself up for hard work later on in the form of shape fixers to remedy local problems. The idea is that the better your joint placement, the simpler, cleaner and more efective the whole process becomes. This tutorial will explain how to create the skeleton for a biped character. We will mainly be focusing on joint placement, but throughout the process we will be adhering to some key rigging principles. So by the

end of the ten steps, you will be able to create skeleton structures for any realistic biped character, though the concepts can easily be transferred to other types of characters such as quadrupeds or more cartoon-like characters. When considering realistic characters, it’s vital that our rigs are based on anatomy; we are trying to replicate the articulation of the human body, so anatomical reference is the key to believability. There may be occasions where we stray away from the reference – for example, we will reduce the number of joints in the spine – the reason for this is to simplify wherever possible, without sacrificing credibility. In the scene

files provided, there is a skeletal structure that has been placed within the body to help position the joints, which is a technique that is very useful, whether rigging realistic or cartoon characters. At the outset planning is essential, so it’s a good idea to take front and side images of your model and sketch over them. Think about the following questions: How many joints are there? Where should they go? What kind of spine do you need? Will you need any shot-specific rigs? Be as thorough at this stage as you can. For this particular example we’ll be creating what is known as a broken hierarchy rig. The body will be divided up

Realistic character rigging Add twist joints? 2/3 x neck

2 x thoracic joints 2 x lumber joints • Broken hierarchy rig • FK spine (maybe add an IK spline later)

Maybe add rib joints?

• Independent shoulders • Independent hips FK/IK legs and arms

b into segments, namely the torso, neck and head, arms, legs and finally hands. The body will later be fused together using orient and point constraints. The reason for this approach is first to make the rig more manageable and more easily editable, simply because each part is smaller and separate. Also, by having the ability to turn the weighting of the orient constraints on and of, we can play more freely with the behaviour of each segment, which can produce interesting results. Throughout the process we shall be setting ourselves some guidelines to maintain consistency in the rig. First, it will be desirable to have the Rotate Z as the forward-driving motion for each joint, using the Orient Joint tool. By so doing, the animation curves on the graph editor will be easily understood by an animator. Second, to position the joints, we can translate in X, Y and Z for the parent joint of the joint chain, but for all children joints we will only use the Translate X, which is also the length of the joint. To rotate the joints, we will use Joint Orient in the Attribute Editor in order to keep the Rotate channels and Translate Y and Z at 0, enabling an easy passage back to the creation pose. Last, it’s advantageous to use naming conventions, as these will

help others to read and navigate through your scenes more easily. For example, we will use the sufx _jnt for all joints and _geo for all geometry. Although we will, for the majority of the time, try to stick to these guidelines, there will be times when we will have to bend these rules also. One example will be for the positioning of the scapula joint. As we will want to maintain the orientation values for this joint, we will translate both the parent and the child joint to position it. A final point with respect to joint creation is to ensure that joints are drawn in orthographic (front, side or top) views, but are positioned in all views including the perspective. This technique will help achieve correct placement and will also enable joints to be mirrored over more accurately, saving time later on. For this tutorial, we will only be creating the skeletal structure for the rig. This initial step can be developed by adding a control rig with features such as FK/IK blending and reverse foot setup, which will make it more suitable for animators. The first step of the tutorial will be to focus on the torso, as it is the central and main driving force of the character and therefore needs to be as accurate as we can make it.

Let the rigging commence

01 Create the spine

Open up scene file ‘’ and, in the Animation panel, navigate to the Skeleton>Joint Tool. Go into the side view and create a five-joint chain that follows the curvature of the spine starting from around the belly button. Rename the joints from the root to the tip, as follows: ‘spine_a_jnt’, ‘spine_b_jnt’, ‘spine_c_jnt’, ‘spine_d_jnt’ and ‘spine_ end_jnt’. Select spine_a_jnt and go to Skeleton>Orient Joints (Options), set Orientation to XYZ and Second World Axis to +Z. Make sure Orient Child Joints is checked on and hit Apply. Select the spine_end_jnt, go to Skeleton>Orient Joints and set the Orientation to None d.


Root and hips Using the Joint tool, create a single joint in

the side view and hit Enter. Rename the joint ‘root_jnt’ and increase its Radius in the Channel box to make it larger. Holding down the V key, point snap the root_jnt to the same position as the

c 3D Art & Design


Animation d

e f


d A side view

breakdown for the spine

e Highlight the

independent spine and torso

f A perspective

and side view of both the neck and jaw chain

g A breakdown of

the arm and clavicle chain positioned using Joint Orient and Translate X tools

h The scapula joints in position

i Checking the

consistent behaviour in the orientation of the leg joints

j Creating the finger joints

spine_a_jnt. Next go back into the Joint tool and create a two-joint chain for the hips. You can point snap the start of this chain to also begin at the root joint. Rename the new chain ‘hip_jnt’ and ‘hip_end_jnt’. Using the Orient Joint tool, change the orientation of the hip joint so its Positive Z rotation opposes the spine rotation. Parent spine_a_jnt and hip_jnt under root_jnt e.


Neck and head In the side

view, create a five-joint chain for the neck and head. Begin the chain by holding down the V key and point snapping to the spine_end_jnt. You should draw three joints for the neck, one for the head and an end joint. Rename the joints from root to tip: ‘neck_a_jnt’, ‘neck_b_jnt’, ‘neck_c_jnt’, ‘head_jnt’ and ‘head_end_jnt’. Again, in the side view, create a three-joint chain for the jaw. Rename these joints: ‘jaw_a_jnt’, ‘jaw_b_ jnt’ and ‘jaw_end_jnt’. Use the Orient Joint

Avoiding Gimbal Lock Gimbal Lock is the result of two axes sitting on top of each other and therefore both producing a similar rotational result. To see the efects of this, double-click the Rotate tool to open up its settings and change the Rotate Mode to Gimbal. Select the l_ upper_arm_jnt and rotate it in negative Y. You will find that the Z and X axes overlap as we have gone into Gimbal Lock. With the l_upper_arm selected, go into the Attribute Editor and change the Rotate Order to ZXY. Orient the arm again and you will find that you no longer hit Gimbal Lock using the Rotate Y.

238 3D Art & Design

tool to make their behaviour consistent to the spine. Parent the jaw_a_jnt under head_jnt f.


Arm and clavicle Move into the front view and create a four-joint chain starting close to the centre of the body, travelling down the arm to the wrist. Rename the joints: ‘l_ shoulder_jnt’, ‘l_upper_arm_jnt’, ‘l_lower_ Arm_jnt’ and l_arm_end_jnt’. Use the Joint Orient and the Translate X of each joint to position the arm correctly, making sure to check in all views. Also, in the front view, create a two-joint clavicle chain using the geometry as a guide. Rename the joints: ‘l_clavicle_jnt’ and ‘l_clavicle_end_jnt’. Once both chains have been positioned, make sure to set the Orientation to XYZ with a Second World Axis of +Z in the Orient Joint tool. Select the l_arm_end_jnt and set its Orientation to None using the same tool g.


Shape the scapula Select

the l_shoulder_jnt and duplicate it. Translate it back slightly onto the scapula geometry and delete the elbow joint on that new chain. You should now be left with a two-joint chain. Rename them ‘l_scapula_jnt’ and ‘l_scapula_end_jnt’. For the scapula, we want to leave the orientation as it is so we can drive it using the l_shoulder_jnt. To position it, just translate both joints to sit within the

h scapula geometry. Parent the l_scapula_jnt to l_shoulder_jnt. Now select spine_end_ jnt and duplicate it twice. With both selected, hit Shift+P to bring them out from their current hierarchy. Rename the two joints ‘l_shoulder_root_jnt’ and ‘r_shoulder_ root_jnt’ h.


Leg joints In the side view, create

a five-joint chain starting at the femur bone and ending at the tip of the toes. Rename the joints as follows: ‘l_ upper_leg_jnt’, ‘l_lower_leg_jnt’, ‘l_ankle_ jnt’, ‘l_ball_jnt’ and ‘l_toes_jnt’. Move into the perspective view and move the l_ upper_leg_jnt into place. Again, using the Translate X and the Joint Orient of each joint, translate and orient the joints into position using the skeleton as a guide. Select l_upper_leg_jnt and use Skeleton> Orient Joints with the Orientation set to XYZ and the Second World Axis set to +Z.

Realistic character rigging i


Cleaning up the rig It’s important that should anyone else need to continue with the rig that they are able to understand how things have been structured and set up. I like to create groups for each section of my rigs. For example, we could group together root_jnt and neck_const_jnt and call that group ‘torso_rig_grp’. We could also select both leg chains and group them together, calling that group ‘leg_rig_grp’. We could then take these new groups and group them all under one group and call that ‘rig_grp’.


k Component By Type and Local Rotation Axes

l The Mirror Joint settings used

m The weighting for the orient constraints



Select the l_toes_jnt and use the tool again, only this time set Orientation to None i.


Hands and fingers Select the l_arm_jnt and duplicate

it. Un-parent it from its current hierarchy and rename it: ‘l_hand_geo’. Duplicate l_hand_geo and use Translate X to slide it towards the end of the palm. Rename the duplicated joint: ‘l_hand_ end_jnt’ and parent it under l_hand_jnt. Go into the top view and draw a five-joint chain along the pinky finger. Rename the joints: ‘l_ pinky_a_jnt’, ‘l_pinky_b_jnt’, ‘l_pinky_c_jnt’, ‘l_pinky_d_jnt’ and ‘l_ pinky_end_jnt’. Use the methods mentioned earlier, position and orient the joints into place. Once the pinky finger is done, duplicate it and replace the word ‘pinky’ with ‘ring’. Again, position and orient the joints to sit in the ring finger geometry. Do this for all the remaining fingers j.


Thumbs In the top view, draw a four-joint chain along the thumb and rename the joints. Position and orient the joint into place. To curl the thumb inwards using only the Rotate Z, we will manually edit its orientation. In the Status Line toolbar, click the Select By Component Type button. Then Ctrl/ right-click over the question mark icon (select miscellaneous components) and check Local Rotation Axes. You can now select the thumb joints and, using the Rotate tool, orient the joints manually. When you are happy with how the thumb rotates using only the Z axis, click the Select By Object Type button to

come out of Component mode. Now parent all the finger and thumb _a joints to l_hand_jnt k.


Mirror the joints Select l_

upper_leg_jnt and go Skeleton>Mirror Joints (Options). Set Mirror across to YZ, set Mirror Function to Behaviour, search for: l_ and replace with: r_ then hit Apply. Repeat this step for l_ shoulder_jnt, l_clavicle_jnt and l_hand_jnt. Parent l_shoulder_jnt and l_clavicle_jnt under l_shoulders_root_jnt. Do the same for the right shoulder. Select neck_a_jnt and duplicate it. Delete all the child joints and rename the single joint ‘neck_const_ jnt’. Parent neck_a_jnt under neck_const_ jnt. In the Outliner, select spine_end_jnt, hit Cmd/Ctrl, select neck_const_jnt, go to Constrain>Point then Constrain>Orient. Now select l_hand_jnt and duplicate it. Delete all of its children and rename that single joint ‘l_hand_const_jnt’ l.


Constraints continued Parent l_hand_jnt under l_hand_const_jnt.

In the Outliner select l_arm_end_jnt, Cmd/Ctrl-click l_hand_const_jnt and then go to Constrain>Point then Constrain> Orient. Next select l_shoulder_root_jnt, duplicate it and delete all the children. Rename the joint ‘l_shoulder_const_jnt’. Parent l_shoulder_root_jnt under l_ shoulder_const_jnt. Select spine_end_jnt, Cmd/Ctrl-click l_shoulder_const_jnt, go to Constrain>Point and then Constrain> Orient. For the leg, select l_upper_leg_jnt and duplicate it twice. Delete all the children in both new joint chains to leave two single joints. Rename them ‘l_hip_jnt’ and ‘l_upper_leg_const_ jnt’. Parent l_hip_jnt under hip_jnt. Parent l_upper_leg_jnt under l_upper_leg_const_ jnt. Select l_hip_jnt, Cmd/Ctrl-click l_ upper_leg_const_jnt, go to Constrain> Point and then Constrain>Orient. Make the exact same alterations for the right-hand side of the rig. Finally parent the skeleton geometry to its relevant joint. Give everything a last check over to ensure everything is correct, then you should be ready to test out the rig m. 3D Art & Design



• Maya scene files • Video reference • Image reference • Final animation render

Learn to animate a walk cycle


Jahirul Amin guides us through the creation of a walk cycle in Maya, although the principles apply to other software, too


his time, we’re going to create a walk cycle. We’ll be using the principles of animation that we looked at in the bouncing ball animation exercise, and take them a few steps further – no pun intended. Once again, we’re going to be using Maya, but obviously feel free to use whichever software package suits you best. Last time we met the Graph Editor and in this exercise it’ll be our main tool. We also used motion trails and they’ll be used here to check for arcs and figure of eights at diferent points of the body. We’ll

240 3D Art & Design

be focusing on timing, spacing, weight shift, drag and overlap. All the principles of animation identified by the Disney masters in the Thirties will be in action here, which is why the walk cycle is such a valuable exercise to learn well. The creation of a walk cycle may seem relatively simple but it’s deceptively tricky. We have many of the same issues that we faced with the bouncing ball here too, but now we have to contend with limbs, a head and a neck. How all these parts work together as a single unit is of huge importance.

Moreover, I suppose because we are used to seeing people walk every day, a clunky walk cycle sticks out like a sore thumb. So in order to get it right, as ever, the first step is to gather good reference. Watch people walk; watch kids toddle, the elderly hobble; watch skinny legs stride and watch stout legs waddle. Walk around the house yourself. Work out how many frames are needed to take a step. Get a feeling for which parts of the body are leading and which are following (for instance, the arms will follow the

Learn to animate a walk cycle movement of the torso). Gauge how and when weight is transferred from one leg to another. Look for the subtle details such as the slight bob of the head, as these small points add such depth to the finished piece. For this exercise we have kindly been given permission to use reference material from Endless Reference (www., which is a treasure trove of reference for animators to work from. As with the bouncing ball exercise, we’ve taken the footage into Kinovea ( to break down and analyse. You’ll find a stack of videos and images that have been supplied with this bookazine’s free CD. When you’re studying the references, look for key poses that can then act as a guide for your walk cycle. However, please bear in mind that these poses should be a guide only and by no means should they be set in stone. Reference cannot be followed 100 per cent, as the camera is only a representation of the real world. You may find that the poses will need to be pushed further in order to produce a walk that actually looks natural or that is aesthetically pleasing. As an animator, you have to go in there, make your selections and feel what’s real behind the reference. Use your instincts and experience to set the poses. Moving on to the process more directly, so as to simplify working from reference, we’ve taken a few images from Kinovea into Maya and used them as a backplate. In doing so, there is no need to switch back and forth between two diferent applications, which makes life easier. We’ll be using pose-to-pose animation, although if you prefer to go straight into Spline mode then do whatever suits you. It’s really important to make your work as organic as possible in order to keep things interesting. Either way, we’ll be working to ensure that each pose is clearly readable. Additionally, we’ll want to bring contrast and change to every pose, because if poses are held the result can be a jarring staccato efect. Think about what’s leading and what’s following – the poses should be set working from the root outwards, as whatever you alter in the root will afect the rest of the body. Once your poses are in place, you can move on to splining the keys and going through the refining process. Again, refining will have to be from the root outwards. Please don’t leave the computer to decide how it’s going to transition from pose to pose, as the result will be poppy and lack weight. You’re going to have to go in there and manually refine each curve. There may be times when you need to work frame by


C frame to get your curves moving well. For example, we’ll be using IK for the legs to keep them planted on the floor, but the disadvantage of IK is that it works in a linear fashion from A to B, so no arc is created. As a result, there’s no choice but to go in frame by frame and create some arcs. Fear not, though, the arms will be easier: we’ll use forward kinematics, which uses rotation, to create some natural arcs. As you refine, don’t be too precious about making changes; sometimes you can delete whole sections and re-work them to produce some delectably clean arcs. Before beginning the animation, be sure to check your Animation Preferences.

Again, we will be working in PAL (25 frames per second) and as we’re operating pose to pose we’ll also set the Default Out tangents to Stepped. You will find this setting under the Tangents tab in the Animation category. This will hold each pose until we hit the next key without any interpolation between. Throughout the process make sure the arms are in FK mode and the legs are in IK mode. For this walk cycle every step will take 12 frames, making the full loop 24 frames. For this tutorial we’re using BoxBoy, rather than an enveloped mesh, to enable us to see more easily how each body part moves independently.

A A final render of

the contact pose from three diferent views

B Analysing your

reference is the essential first step

C A screengrab of all the key poses created for the final animation

3D Art & Design


Animation E



Walk this way…

01 Bring in the reference

Open up the supplied scene file: ‘00_’ and let’s begin by bringing in our reference. Go to the Panel bar on the Viewport and create a new camera by going to Panels>Orthographic>New>Side. In the new camera’s Panel bar go to View>Image Plane>Import Image and select frame1.jpg from the Source Images folder. Next go to the Attribute Editor for the camera and scroll to the imagePlane1 tab. For Display, check Looking Through Camera. Go down to Image Plane and check Attached To Camera and then turn on Use Image Sequence. Translate the camera out of the way from the main action and split your layout into two panes side by side, enabling you to work with your reference D.

02 Contact pose

For the contact pose ensure the hips are evenly spaced between the legs. To translate the hips use the root_ctrl and to rotate them use just the hip_ik_ctrl. For the front leg use the Roll attribute on the leg_ik_ctrl to roll the front foot onto its heel. Use the same attribute on the back leg to rotate the foot onto its ball. Slightly rotate both feet outwards so they don’t end up doing the march of the penguins, and add rotation to the hips to favour the forward leg. Work your way up the spine to get the angle of the shoulders contrasting with the hips. Add the swing of the arms to oppose the legs and indicate the efects of drag and overlap in the hands. Create this pose at frame 1 and 25 and create its opposite at frame 13 E.

03 Use a passing pose

Now move to frame 7 to create the first passing pose. The front leg should now be directly

242 3D Art & Design

beneath the body, straightened up, and the body’s weight should shift onto the side of this supporting leg as well as slightly moving up. Have the back leg coming through and add some drag in the toes, using the Toe Wiggle attribute on the foot control. Straighten up the spine as well as the hips and shoulder. This will give a nice contrast going from the C-shaped spine in the contact poses to the straight spine in these passing poses. Next rotate the arms down to the side, working from the shoulder down to the hands. Once happy, create the mirrored pose at frame 19 F.

04 Add a down pose

Go to frame 4 for the down position. Have the hips go down as the weight is taken onto the leg and make sure the forward foot is flat on the floor. Use the Roll attribute on the back foot to bring it onto its toe ready to come of the ground. Add more drag to the hands as they try to catch up with the rest of the arm. Use the reference images as a guide but push this further if you wish to do a more exaggerated walk. Again, we need to mirror the pose at frame 16 G.


Move to an up pose Step to

frame 10, translate the root slightly up and add some roll to the back foot. Don’t push the root up too much here as it can look forced and unnatural. We don’t lift too much of the ground but again this will be down to your personal taste. Add some rotation to the hips to favour the forwardmoving leg and do the opposite in the shoulders to get that contrast. Add some drag to the toes of the forward-moving foot, then create its opposite pose at frame 22. Make sure we only have 24 frames on the timeline now as frames 1 and 25 should be identical. We don’t want to view the same frame twice as we play back H.



Playblast away! Playing back your animation in the Viewport is never the best way to check for timing. Depending on how heavy the scene is, it may play too slow or too fast. A Playblast will create a quick video of your animation, enabling you to view it at the correct speed. Throughout the animation process, from blocking to the final polishing pass, it’s vital that you Playblast your animation often. To do so, hold the right mouse button over the timeline and click on Playblast. You can also bring up the Frame Count to give you an indication of the Viewport playback speed. To do so, go to Display>Heads Up Display>Frame Count.

D Taking reference

directly into Maya can be more efcient than not

E An illustration

highlighting the areas of focus

F Notice the weight shifting to the supporting leg

G The weight comes down as the foot catches the body

H The back leg

moves forward, ready to get into the contact pose

Learn to animate a walk cycle through and delete any curves that have no influence whatsoever. These will be the curves that are totally straight I.

07 Refine from the root


Go to Window>Settings/Preferences> Preferences and highlight Animation in the left column. Go to the Tangents tab and change the Default Out tangents to either Spline or Auto. Whenever we add a new key now we will get the interpolation in the curves. Now we start refining and again we’ll start at the core and work our way out. Use your Graph Editor as much as possible from now on and massage each curve. We want to end up with hips that create a figure of eight as the body’s weight shifts from one leg to the other. At this stage you should use motion curves as much as possible. Select the hip_ik_ctrl, go to Animate>Create Editable Motion Trail and use it as an accurate guide to create transition from one leg to the other J.

08 Move down to the legs

Currently for the legs it takes four frames to have the foot completely flat. To add more impact and weight, take the Roll attribute to 0, two frames after the contact pose. Also add some delay in the toes to slap down around a frame later. While the foot is flat on the floor, it’s also important to make sure it translates back at

06 Step on to spline

Select all the control curves in the Viewport and open up the Graph Editor. Go to View and turn on Infinity. Select all the curves in the Graph Editor and go to Tangents>Spline. With the curves still selected, go to Curves> Pre Infinity>Cycle and Curves>Post Infinity>Cycle. If you hit Play now, your animation may look pretty floaty and also have quite a bit of popping happening. If you look at the tangents of your curves as they come in and go out at frames 1 and 25, you’ll notice that they can be pretty sharp in places. This will all need to be smoothed out by editing the tangent handles to enable the loop to work smoothly. You can also go

a constant speed. This is to help reduce the slipping and sliding of the foot should we end up moving this character through space as opposed to on the spot. Again, use motion trails to create decent arcs and if you have to, go in and animate frame by frame to do so. The legs can be the trickiest part to get right. Make sure that you spend time here to iron out any severe popping and get the co-ordination between the hips and the legs right K.

09 Work up to the spine

Getting the spine to work well shouldn’t take too long. We mainly want to focus on getting the movement clean without any jerkiness. Take out the majority of the key frames that are not adding too much and really smooth out the curves. Also add some twist to oppose the hips and gradually increase the amount of twist to propagate up the spine. Moving to the neck and head, add delay to these parts so they feel as if they are always playing catch up. An easy way to do this is to take the keys for the neck and head and shift them back two frames. Select the keys for the head and shift them back a further two frames L.

10 Adjust arms and hands

Start the refining process from the shoulder and work your way to the hands. Select the controls and create the motion trails to help you make those arcs that naturally occur as we rotate our joints. Add some subtle movement to the fingers so they don’t feel rigid. Shift keys back to add delay to the lower arm and the palm. This makes the walk more fluid and less mechanical. From this point it’s a case of going through again with a final level of polish. Check each curve for every control and ensure the transition in and out is smooth. This will reduce any popping as the cycle loops. Finally, the basic backbone of a generic walk should be there – so try giving it some personality M. L

Getting personal By the end of the tutorial you should have a fairly generic vanilla walk. From here, you can start adding in some personality, because as Samuel L. Jackson would say: “Personality goes a long way.” See what happens if you bring the feet up higher on the up pose. Does it make the character feel angrier? What happens if you reduce the swing on the arms and rotate the head lower? Does he seem depressed? Go ahead: experiment a little and make your walk a ‘Royale with Cheese’!

K I Cleaning and refining the

L Try to get the shoulder to

J Focus on getting the arcs and

M Capture the natural arcs that

curves will give us much smoother results figures of eight

oppose the hips to give you plenty of contrast


occur in the human body

K From the contact to the roll of the ground, try to make the speed constant

3D Art & Design



• Maya scene files • Image and video references • Final animation render


Animate a character lifting weights

Jahirul Amin helps us add realism to animations in Maya, although any software can be used


n this tutorial, we’re going to be looking at how to create a believable interplay between a character and a heavy object, to convey a sense of weight. Our character is going to lift a heavy ball from the floor and place it on a plinth. Not an everyday activity, I grant you, but if you want any character to interact with its environment – open a door, make a cup of tea, then sit down and read a copy of your favourite magazine – you’re going to have to be able to master the fine art of animating weight. Here we’ll be using Maya, but the same techniques can be transferred to a 3D package of your choice, so you’re not confined to one program.

244 3D Art & Design

First we’ll consider the physics behind what we’re trying to achieve. We’ll look at the centre of gravity of an object and a character and see how the latter shifts during their interplay. We’ll also revisit Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. We’ll then – as ever – move to the essential step of gathering and analysing good references. After that it’ll be time to block out the key poses. Sorry to disappoint, but we won’t be seeing too much of the Graph Editor this tutorial as by the end of the animation we’ll have keyed in poses every 2-4

frames in order to help transitions from pose to pose and to add subtle detail. This is something that the computer cannot achieve by itself. This is simply the way the exercise is approached here, however. It’s by no means the only way to skin this particular cat, so please find your own preferred way and try diferent methods. The centre of gravity, as you’ll all remember from school, is the average position of weight distribution in an object or character. In this exercise the ball’s centre of gravity will be its geometric centre, while the centre of gravity for our friend Box Boy – at the beginning of the animation when he’s standing upright – will be around the

Animate a character lifting weights

b height of his box belly button. However, as Box Boy lifts the ball, the centre of gravity shifts but has to remain over his base of support, otherwise in reality he’d fall flat on his box bottom. So, to get a successful animation that conveys the lifting of a heavy weight, we will have to demonstrate an understanding of how the centre of gravity travels. This ground work will ensure that we can achieve the most realistic results possible. We also need to keep Newton’s Third Law of Motion in mind. If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, then in order to move a heavy object, the force exerted on the object must be greater than the force exerted by that object. The ball in our example is very heavy, therefore the efort exerted by Box Boy must be seen to be very great in order to convey that sense of weight. Now to the all-important gathering and analysis of reference. Once you find solid reference, watch it over and over again to get a good feel for the motion of the body and the mechanics of lifting a heavy weight. Analyse the arcs in the back and the wave-like motion that runs from the hips and up the spine as the weight moves upwards. Observe how the weight is taken not just by the arms, but by the whole body. Note which parts lead or follow. Observing power-lifters is extremely useful, as those guys really know what they’re doing when it comes to lifting. Rob Orlando from Hybrid Athletics (www. has kindly allowed us

to reproduce his material. It provides invaluable reference and you will find it accompanying this tutorial for your benefit. See the subtleties involved in this great exertion: watch the hands shift around the ball in search of a strong grip and observe the feet shufing to attain better balance. These small details add such texture to the final look. However, always bear in mind reference is a guide rather than a template, as the proportions of the character are going to be diferent. For this exercise, as in previous tutorials, reference footage was taken into Kinovea and drawn over (please refer to the supplied files). The yellow drawings indicate the key poses that we’ll want to make clear throughout the animation and will be part of the first pass when blocking out the shot using the pose-to-pose method. The red drawings show the breakdown and in-between poses that will then come with the second and third passes with the curves set to Spline.

As we get into the animation process, consider the crucial roles of spacing and timing when creating the illusion of weight. In lifting a ping-pong ball, spacing would be large and timing fast, as the efort is negligible. In this exercise, to create a sense of weight, the precise reverse will be true. Spacing will be tight and timing slow. Keep weight consistent as the ball travels upwards or the illusion will be broken. Carefully consider how you’re going to approach the animation before you begin. Will you constrain the ball to the hands or vice versa? We need to determine what is leading and what is following. In reality the ball will be following the hands but technically it would be easier to constrain the hands to the ball. As we want the freedom to have the hands to be on and of the ball – and don’t want to be faced with the hassle of setting keys on the extra attributes for the constraints – we’ll simply parent two locators to either side of the ball and point-snap the IK hand controls. Break up the motion as you animate, as the body doesn’t move as one lump mass. Have the spacing diferent on the hands, for example, so one hand leads quicker than the other. Vary the tempo and delay some movement, as this will reduce any twinning of the poses where the left and right look mirrors. Remember to use your references as a guide only and push the poses further if you wish to achieve a cartoon-y efect. Constantly ask yourself if your pose is clear. So we’re ready to start, once the admin is out of the way. We’ll be working in PAL (25fps) and as we’re beginning pose-topose we’ll set the Default Out tangents to Stepped. Also, we’re going to be putting all four limbs in IK mode because it’ll enable us to edit the position of the hips and spine without afecting the hands. c

a Final render of the key poses

b Analysing and

drawing over the reference image

c The control rig

used throughout this tutorial, which you are free to experiment with 3D Art & Design


Animation f


d d Take your

references into Maya to view

e Animating to


camera enables you to ‘cheat’

f Loosen up the character and make it seem more relaxed

g Consider the

centre of gravity of the character

h Think about which e

Time to get heavy…


Take in the reference Open up

‘’ to find the Box Boy rig, a sphere, a pillar and a ground plane. Put the pillar and ground plane on a layer called ‘environment’ so we can show and hide them if needed. Go to Panels> Orthographic>New>Side to create a new camera and call it ‘referenceCam’. With the camera active, go to View>Image Plane> Import Image and select ‘atlasStonesREF_000.jpg’ from the referenceImages folder. Under Image Plane Attributes, edit the Display to Looking Through Camera and also check Attached to Camera. Now translate the reference camera away from the main scene and have the view as a floating window by going to Panels>Tear Of d.


Set up the camera Go to

Create>Camera>Camera and rename that new camera ‘renderCam’.

246 3D Art & Design

Position it and when you are happy with the view, lock all the Translate and Rotate attributes. This will be the view that we will mainly work with to check our animation and also do all our playblasts from. Although we recommend checking the poses from every angle, working with a camera will also enable us to cheat some things to get stronger silhouettes if needed. For example, the arm further away from the viewer is slightly distorted, which was a deliberate move to get a better silhouette. Now go to View>Camera Settings and turn on Resolution Gate. This will help you frame your animation as well as make it clearer what is in and out of the shot e.


Weight it up Begin by loosening up the main character and breaking away from the default T-pose. Add some weight to the initial stance by moving his weight to one side, relaxing the fingers and adding some curvature to the spine. This is the first pose the audience will

part is leading or following moves

Expect the unexpected: using anticipation Anticipation lets the audience know that something is about to happen. Before a pitcher releases the ball, he pulls his arm back. A car rolls backwards ever so slightly before it pulls away. In essence, anticipation ensures that your point won’t be lost as the audience will be ready.

see so let’s make sure it has some interest. Start adding in the first set of key poses, using the reference as a guide to help with the timing. Analyse how one hand moves faster than the other and observe the slight roll of the ball towards the character as he begins to weigh up the challenge f.


Move it down As he moves down to get closer to the ball, think about where his centre of gravity is. Move his hips out to help his balance and stop him from toppling over. Once you have him at his lowest point, really wrap his body around the ball and get the strongest C shape through the spine that you can. Spread his knees to really bring the ball closer to his hips and get both holds firmly below the ball. Remember the principles of the bouncing ball exercise and consider this to be the squashed pose that will nicely contrast the big stretched pose coming up g.

05 Move up… slightly

Before you make Box Boy lift the weight up, slightly lower him, then begin the up movement, leading with the hips, working down the spine and running down the arms. Keep the ball close to his chest but also straighten the arms to help sell the weight of the ball and the efort needed to

Animate a character lifting weights i



move it. We’re translating both IK hand controls and the ball together, while setting keys so as not to cause any floatiness between them. Having him rest the ball on his knees will also help to reinforce the idea that this is a heavy ball. Try to bend the legs as much as possible to again contrast the straight legs of the approaching stretched pose h.


The push of So, with the ball resting on his legs, we should now be ready for the final push. You could also reorganise his feet slightly to show the audience that he has to redistribute his weight to manage this large mass on his legs. Once his hands are firmly placed, again lower the body slightly and really get his hips under the ball before moving up to anticipate this big move ahead. Add contrast by switching from the C-shaped spine to a U-shaped spine and begin to use the legs to help lift the ball by straightening them out i.


Wave motion With the hips

leading and pushing the ball up, we now want to create a wave-like motion running up the spine that rolls the ball up as opposed to purely lifting with the arms. Really arch the spine backwards and

Squash and stretch As I animate, I’m constantly thinking of when to add squash and stretch, as wise use of these two concepts adds a great deal of interest to a piece by varying its form. In this exercise the squash is when the character bends to pick up the ball. The stretch is when the ball is at its highest point. In both these examples, the character isn’t physically squashed or elongated as it’s not a cartoon feel I’m after. Both poses form a nice contrast to the default standing pose by taking the body to its limits.

straighten the legs, slightly lifting them onto the balls of the feet. We’re really using the entire body now to get this ball up, so we can bring it down onto the pillar. This should be the pose where the body is at its most stretched. We’re using this broad shape, while before we used the small squashed pose to really add contrast and texture to the animation. Also, think about the line of action. Is the pose clear, strong and well-defined? j


Add the breakdown poses At

this stage, the timing should be firmly set and the animation reading well. If not, I recommend you re-jig the poses until you are happy, as it will be more difcult to make broad changes later. Next, open up your Animation Preferences and change the Default Out tangent to either Spline or Auto. Select all the controls, open up the Graph Editor and convert the Stepped curves to Spline or Auto. Now go through the entire animation again, adding in the breakdown poses. Here you can add further anticipation to the poses if needed and also start delaying parts of the body k.


Check your arcs When

checking the arcs, start at the hips and work your way out, as most of the motion for the entire character will feed of from there. Bear in mind that any changes we make to the hips will generally have a knock-on efect to the rest of the body. As we are using Inverse Kinematics for both the arms and the legs, it will be important to check our arcs, as IK will have a linear interpolation from one pose to the next. Also, check the arcs created by the ball itself and make sure the path of action is clean. To do this, select a control and go to Animate>Create Editable Motion Trail l.


Clean up and finish the animation To keep the hands firmly on the ball, create two locators and hold down V on the keyboard, point snapping them to the hand controls wherever they need to hold the ball firmly. Parent these locators under the ball geometry so they follow the ball correctly and then point snap the hand controls to these locators. This helps reduce the odd sliding that can occur. When dealing with the hands, try to keep them fairly close to the ball – almost penetrating if need be. Sometimes it’s better to penetrate the ball rather than have the hand slightly floating of it. Last, add some rotation to the ball so it feels as if it is being rolled up the chest with more conviction. Happy animating! m l i Alternate the

arc of the spine to add contrast

j Capture the

wave-like motion of the body during the lift

k Convert the

interpolation of your curves from Stepped to Spline as you add poses in between

l Use the tools to

check your arcs

m Check to see if

the hand intersects the ball

m 3D Art & Design



• Maya scene files • Scripts • Video references • Final render • Reference images

How to animate a jump


A giant leap for geek-kind: Jahirul Amin helps you animate a jump


n this tutorial we will be creating a jump animation. This will involve acquainting ourselves further with many of the principles of animation that we’ve been looking at in recent tutorials. The jump itself will only last a few seconds, but achieving that brief movement in CG will necessitate a sensitive and skilled handling of timing, spacing, weight, drag, overlap, moving holds, squash, stretch, anticipation and arcs. As a result, it’s a great exercise to flex your animation muscles. Before the fun starts we need to go through the admin. I’m working in 25 frames per second using Maya, although the same techniques apply to any 3D package of choice. Second, I will begin the

248 3D Art & Design

animation process using the pose-to-pose method, so my Default Out tangents are set to Stepped in my Animation Preferences. Third, I have the legs set to IK to enable us to have the feet planted on the floor, but the arms set to FK to take advantage of its naturally occurring arcs. There’s an issue with the FK arms, because as we are using rotations at some point we could hit gimbal lock. This is where two axes sit on top of each other, leading us to lose one axis. If you want to do your best to minimise this sticky situation, get familiar with arm rotation to work out which rotation is going to work best. For what it’s worth, I’ve set my rotate order as ZXY on the upper arm control. Last but not least, as far as

admin goes, we have very kindly been given permission to use and tell you about the fantastic bhGhost onion-skinning tool created by Brian Horgan. Please check it out with his other impressive tools at As usual, at this point in the tutorial, I’m going to wax lyrical about the beauty and importance of getting good reference. Unfortunately we weren’t able to reproduce the reference used in this article. However, do take a very good look at Eadweard Muybridge’s Human And Animal Locomotion (1887) and there is reference aplenty on the net. During this exercise more than any other, I found myself getting up out of my chair to replicate the movement and jumping across the rug myself.

Animation D


See the forest and the trees Getting an animation like this right is a time-consuming process. Sometimes you may feel like you haven’t moved on very far at all and no forest is visible for all the darn trees. However, a simple solution is to save multiple files throughout the process. This means you’ll be able to compare your before and after shots and perhaps give yourself some pleasant surprises.


Prepare to lift of…


Loosen things up Open up 00_

D Get him a little

more prepared for the occasion

E The squashed and

stretched poses as Box Boy lifts of

F What goes up must always come down

G The landing

squashed pose

250 3D Art & Design (supplied) to find the Box Boy rig and a rough environment. The environment is in a layer called ‘environment_geo’ so we can show and hide it if needed. Let’s create our first pose and make the character a little more comfortable. Relax his arms and fingers, add a slight angle to his hips and oppose that angle in the shoulders. Move his hips to rest slightly over one leg and rotate his head so it seems as if he is looking at the gap in front of him. Also, put a slight angle in his feet and bend in his knees – otherwise they’ll feel too tense D.

get a huge C-shape running down the spine, up the neck and head, then swing the arms out as we prepare to push him of. For the stretched pose, try to straighten the leg and start bringing those arms through. Have the back straighter, as this will produce a nice contrast to the C-shaped squashed pose E.


The apex & landing Once he is of the ground and in the air, try to think about what is leading and what is following. Rotate the core (here, the hips) as you would the bouncing ball and think about how the speed of him reaching the apex of the arc should be the same as the speed of him coming back down again. As a result, the spacing should be more bunched at the peak of the jump and

spread apart further either side of the apex as he pushes of and lands. Delay one leg and ofset the arms slightly so we don’t have any twinning issues. At this stage you can already start to indicate the efects of drag on the fingers and toes as he begins to fall, if you wish F.


Make a safe landing As he

lands, have him go down as you would squash the bouncing ball. Really compress his body to take the impact and push the spine into a strong C shape to once more contrast with the previous stretched pose and its straight spine. Going from these bigger to smaller shapes and back again will also add to the appeal of the animation. Really push these early poses, making sure they are as clear as can be. Spend time making your poses fully readable and, if needed, create a playblast and draw over it in Kinovea (www.kinovea. org) so you are not restricted by a rig G.


Create the squash & stretch poses Now we will create the

first two of our extreme poses: squashed and stretched. Begin with the former by really compressing his body down. Try to


How to animate a jump I



Rework the timing So far, if we

follow the timing set by our bouncing ball animation, everything will be a bit too fast. Since we are using Stepped mode, we can easily go into the Graph Editor or the Dopesheet and start pushing these keys around in order to re-time the shot. When you are all set, select all the curves in the Graph Editor for every control and go to Tangents>Auto or Spline. Also go to Window>Settings/Preferences> Preferences and change the Default Out tangent to Auto or Spline in the Animation tab. If you hit Play now you may have quite a flat, weightless animation H.

H Re-time the


animation using the Graph Editor

I Adding some

anticipation will enable the audience to prepare for the action they’re about to see

J Arcs are

stunning as well as naturally occurring – make sure you manage to get them in

K Hiding parts of the geometry can help you focus closely


Anticipation & weight Once

the main poses are in, we can start adding some anticipation. Place a key between pose A and B, then slightly lift the character up on the balls of his feet. Have him bring his arms up also, ready to swing them back into the extreme, squashed pose. Then, as he lands on the other side of the jump, push him down further than the squashed pose and as his hips lift up have his spine continue to go down. The opposing action here will help soften the potential rigidity of him standing up as one lump mass I.


Arcs, arcs & more arcs

At this stage, we should really start thinking about getting our arcs as clean as possible. Again, we’ll work from the core outwards, as changes to that region will have a knock-on efect on all four limbs and the torso. Try to mimic the parabola that we would expect to see on a bouncing ball. To help with this, select the root_ctrl and go to Animate>Create Editable Motion Trail. Once you have the hips worked out, move to the feet. As they are set to IK, you will most probably need to set quite a few more extra keys to reduce the linear transition from one key to another. This will be created by default J.


Focus in on areas

Animating the entire character at once can sometimes become overwhelming and fixing one area can lead

L Use the tools to check your arcs

M Just a small

movement can help keep the character alive

K to issues in another. Having the ability to hide parts of the geometry can really help you focus on the areas that need cleaning up. For example, you may want to get the spine working well without viewing how the arms are afected. Then you can unhide the arms and focus on them, knowing that the spine is how you want it. If a Hide/Unhide feature is not part of the rig, you can generally achieve the same efect by selecting the geometry that you want to hide and go to Create>Sets>Quick Select Set. You can then easily find that geometry in the Outliner and hit Cmd/Ctrl+H to hide the pieces. When you want to reveal them again, select them from under the set in the Outliner and hit Shift+H K.


Motion Trail a vertex When we create a Motion Trail on a control, we want to make sure that it’s creating the trail from the correct place. For example, if we make the trail for the hips, it will work fine as we want it to happen from the control’s centre. However, if we create it on the foot control, we don’t get the right result. As we use the Roll attribute on the foot, the geometry actually pulls away from the control and so the trail is incorrect. Luckily for us a colleague of mine, Constantinos Glynos, has kindly created a Python script, CG_VertexMotionTrail_ (supplied), that will enable you to create a Motion Trail on a selected vertex. I like to view the arcs being created in places such as the tip of the fingers or the end of a toe, so this tool enables me to do that with more accuracy and confidence.

the path of action. Also add some drag and overlap to the toes as they go through the jump. Then on the land, have them slam down in a couple frames to help bring some weight and impact to the landing L.


Use moving holds Right now, when our animated character hits his final pose, he stops dead. This really appears very CG, so to reduce this we’ll add a Moving Hold. To do this, copy the same pose another ten frames ahead, then make some minor changes but try to have the movement flow in the direction of the pose before. If the arm is swinging from left screen to right screen, continue that movement from left to right. I have made this quite subtle, but feel free to experiment and see what works best for you M.


Drag & overlap To make the

jump more fluid, let’s apply some drag and overlap. Start by adding some delay to the spine, neck and head. Ofset each section by a couple of frames and you should quickly get a more natural-looking animation. Work your way down the arms to the hands. For this exercise I’ve also added drag to the fingers so they flow into

M 3D Art & Design



Tutorial files: • Maya .ma scene files • Video Reference .mov • Final animation render .mov • Reference images to use in Maya • CG_VertexMotionTrail_V2 script


Animate action moves Hong Kong GUI: we’ve bounced, walked, lifted and jumped, so let’s put it all together in a 540-degree martial-arts kick!


rapping up our lessons on animation (see the previous tutorials for more helpful guides, including walk cycles and weightlifting), we should now feel brave enough to experience the creation of an action move. In this case, the tornado kick. This 540-degree move, practised in Taekwondo and other martial arts, sees the body at its finest. It is, without doubt, a very challenging piece to animate, but it brings together the work that we have already done to a pretty impressive crescendo. There’s so much here: timing, spacing, anticipation, weight, path of action, arcs – you name it! The poses are very dynamic and there are opposing tilts between hips and shoulders, as well as twists in the spine. We will be using the principles of the bouncing ball, which we covered on page 232, so our timing for this piece can be established using the ball as the hips of this character. However, the

252 3D Art & Design

obvious addition of limbs – not to mention the spin – will give us plenty to get our teeth into. As ever, the initial work must be devoted to reference. There is an abundance of excellent reference online, so when you find some examples that you like, make sure you analyse them over and over. It’s a very complex move and you’ll need to focus carefully on weight-shift, the spacing of the feet as they move through the air, as well as the natural arcs and flow. Listen to martial-arts trainers online talking about the move: how weight shifts and which parts of the body lead and which follow. I guess you’ll always be against the clock when animating, but it’s always worthwhile doing the prep, as once you’ve started the animation process, having to go back on yourself is even more time-consuming – not to mention dispiriting. Make use of free tools such as Kinovea ( to make your life easier.

In previous lessons I’ve encouraged you to try the moves you’re intending to animate. However, in this case it may not be such a wise idea if procreation interests you in any way. So in place of this I’ve provided some 2D reference that can be taken into Maya (supplied). This is essentially a series of loose drawings using a stick man, which can mainly be used to figure out your timing. When it comes to the poses, these can be pushed further to make the whole piece more dynamic and appealing. In the drawings, the key poses are in red and the breakdown poses are in green. The images also each have a frame number to help you work out where to put the initial poses – although this rough timing can very likely change. Because there’s so much going on in this piece, it becomes imperative that we decide which kinematic mode the limbs will be in, before starting. You should find arms fairly straightforward to animate. The hands do not make contact with anything, but only follow the

Animate action moves think opting for IK legs results in less arduous reworking. Now let’s get the admin out the way so we can start animating. I’ll be working in PAL (25fps) and as I’m animating using the pose-to-pose method to begin with, I’ll set my Default Out tangents to Stepped.

Kick of!

01 Use references

Open up ‘01_’ (supplied) to find Box Boy in his default pose. Let’s start by bringing in our reference so we can work alongside it in Maya. Go to Panels>Orthographic>New> Front to create a new camera. Call this ‘referenceCam’ and in the active viewport go to View>Image Plane>Import Image and select ‘frame_01.jpg’ from the Reference Images folder that accompanies this tutorial. Under Image Plane Attributes, edit the Display to Looking Through Camera and also check Attached to Camera. Now translate the reference camera away from the main scene and set the view as a floating window by going to Panels>Tear Of d.

02 Add key poses


a A final render

including some of the key poses

b It’s all in the arcs! c A further

breakdown of the key poses in the final animation

d Pre-planning your animation can save all the guesswork later on in the process

motion of the rest of the body, so forward kinematics will enable us to use the naturally occurring arcs. Your decision about the legs is harder, however. Your first and last poses have the feet in contact with the floor, which would suggest IK, while the fact that the legs often follow the hips suggests FK. If we opt for IK, we’ll have to add the natural arcs that are provided by the FK mode and manually move the controls to enable the legs to follow the rotation of the hips. Whereas if we use FK, we’ll be obliged to counter-animate the legs, as any changes to the hips will result in sometimes undesirable changes to the legs.

A third option would be to use FK/IK blending, but if there are no features in the rig that enable us to match the positions and orientations of one mode to another, this could lead to popping. Of course, you could wing it and do it by eye, but I’d advise against this. My decision is to go IK, as my major priority is to get the feet touching the floor without having to counter-animate. The price of this decision is having to force the arcs and getting the legs to follow the hips, even if it means sometimes animating the legs frame by frame. You have to weigh up your own personal pros and cons, but I

I’ll now scroll through the timeline and put in all the key poses using the red images from the reference as a guide. I’m mainly looking to ensure I put in all the contact poses for the feet as they shufe around, to get a better balance. I’ll also want to make sure



3D Art & Design


Animation e


that they are following the translation and orientation of the hips as the body spins. At this early stage I want to make sure I get some interesting and strong poses happening, as well as to play with opposing lines, such as those created by the hips and shoulders and the reverse C-shape in the spine. At this stage, try to consider which body part is leading and which will be following. Later on we can think about delaying some body parts to loosen the move up e.


Insert breakdown poses For

the second pass through I’ll start adding in a breakdown pose between each key pose. Adding these poses will enable us to better anticipate how the animation will look when we transition from Stepped tangents to either Spline or Auto. As the character is spinning and we are working with the legs in IK mode, we’ll also start creating the arcs that we can then finesse later on in the process. Focus on the path of action for each limb so they flow from one frame to the other without any sudden popping. We can also begin to indicate principles such as drag on the hands and toes, as well as anticipation of the movements to come f.

04 Get the timing right

Once all the main poses are in, I’ll go through and create a playblast of the animation. My main aim here is to check that the poses are clear and readable or if the action is too fast, too slow or possibly just right. I like to stand back from my monitor when doing this, as I think it reveals quite a lot that we just can’t see with the screen right in front of us. In doing so, I find

254 3D Art & Design

that in my animation I need a few extra frames on each spin, as they occur too fast and cause some popping – especially when the legs cross for the first time. To add the extra frames, I select all the controls and open up the Dope Sheet, which you can find under Window>Animation Editors. In the Dope Sheet Summary bar at the top I grab all the keys that I need to move along in order to give me the extra frames and push them to the right g.

05 Work from the core

Once you are happy with the timing, select all the animation controls and convert the tangents in the Graph Editor from Stepped to Auto or Spline mode. As always, I begin from the core outwards when refining, so my first port of call will be the hips. For this move I’m mainly using the root_ctrl for translating the character up, down and rotating him, then the hip_ik_ctrl to get some extra rotation in the hips, if needed. I start by going through and deleting any keys that are not doing much for the animation or are adding too much noise. We can then go through and try to mimic the motion and arc we would expect to see on a bouncing ball. Also, you can add extra keys if you need to get the arcs flowing well in other areas, as Box Boy shifts his weight about. Remember, it’s all in the hips, so getting this as refined as possible will be crucial for all the other elements h.

Tools & scripts I am using the bhGhost tool, created by Brian Horgan, which can be found at This is what I will use to check how one pose leads into the next through the blocking stages. To check the arcs of a selected vertex, I use ‘CG_VertexMotionTrail_V2. py’ (supplied), created by Constantinos Glynos. By default, Maya doesn’t enable you to motion-trail a vertex, but this tool will do just that.

g when the legs are in the air. Be sure to create motion trails – not on the controls, but on a vertex on the model, such as the ankle or the end of the foot. This will create an honest representation of the arc being created by the leg’s swing. Also, as the feet will be pivoting from the toe or the ball, it’s important that when this happens there is no popping. I like to create a locator at the point where the foot will pivot from, then use that as a guide to position and orient the foot. If the foot slides around, we will lose believability in our animation i.

e The many key

poses used in this complex shot

f The various

breakdown poses to finish the initial blocking process

g If the animation is

not clear and readable, look at retiming what you currently have

h Work from the

core outwards, implementing the principles applied to a bouncing ball

i Focus in on the h

arcs and check the movement when Box Boy pivots

06 Adjust the legs & feet

In this move the big arcs will be created by the legs, so as I am working in IK mode for them I will most probably end up setting a key on nearly every frame, especially


Animate action moves j

Reference Some people will sometimes frown upon the use of reference and will tell you that a good animator should be able to work without it. However, everyone from the early Disney pioneers to the brains behind Avatar have used reference. Whether it’s photographic reference that you will draw beside, or mo-cap reference that you can take into a 3D scene – whatever will get you to your goal in the most-efcient manner and give you the best results, do it. Be flexible and in the words of the mighty Bruce Lee: “Be like water, my friend”.


Animate the spine, neck and head We’re starting to work up

the torso, so as all the upper limbs are children of the spine we’ll start there. Again, begin by cleaning up the curves and getting rid of any keys that aren’t helping. Push the shoulders and hips to really get some striking poses from the opposing lines. Also, add twist to the torso, orient the chest in one direction, the hips in another and the head in a third direction. This will add further interest to the poses and make them more dynamic. Try to delay the neck and head slightly, making sure the path of action on the head is smooth and clean as it swings j.

08 Work those arms

When dealing with the arms, I like to work on them separately as I can really fine-tune one arm without the other distracting me. I use selection sets to hide some of the geometry and focus on those arcs once more. Although the arms will follow the torso, we will still need to go in there and clean out some of the poses as they may be jittery in places. Also, make sure to edit the spacing, as in some instances we will want to ease in and out of the key pose to reduce what could be some very quick movement in a small number of frames. This applies, for example, when the right arm reaches the peak of its move k.

drag & break up the 09 Add timing

At this stage I want to make the motion as smooth as can be, as well as begin ofsetting some parts so we don’t come to the final pose and hit it as one lump. I’ll delay the arms by a couple of frames from the spine and in the odd frame. I’ll then push the lower arm further back than naturally possible to really help sell the drag. I’ll delay the hands and also really push the fingers back to help sell the path of action that they’ll be following. To loosen up the approach to the final pose, I’ll

make sure the arms hit the pose a few frames later and also have one arm hit the final pose a frame or two before the second arm does l.


10 Keep on moving

As we hit the final frames, we’ll want to keep the motion and the character alive. To do so, we can employ the technique of using Moving Holds. For the hips, the upperbody and arms, I’ll add a small amount of motion, continuing through to the final frame of the animation. It’s important to keep this motion, moving in the direction that the body is travelling. The change in movement from the final pose to the final frame may be barely noticeable, but the diference between subtle movement and no movement can be huge to the naked eye. Finally, good luck and happy animating! m.


Show & tell I like to focus on a particular aspect without my mind being side-tracked. For example, when cleaning up the spine, I don’t want to look at the arms or even the legs. To help, I use selection sets. Simply grab all the geometry that you want to hide and go to Create> Sets>Quick Select Set. By the end of the animation I have a selection set for each part of the body. To select the geometry in the set, either go to the Outliner and open the specific set you want to hide/reveal or go Edit>Quick Select Set to pick the group. m j Use contrasting

l Add some drag to

k Work on each arm

m Apply a subtle

shapes in the torso and be more dynamic by adding strong twist poses individually and further refine those naturally occurring arcs

the hands and fingers to create a flexible and natural animation

amount of motion to the final frame to keep the character alive 3D Art & Design


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