New beginning

News / 06 September 2019


*puf* *puf* 

Is this thing on?

Ah, there you are! I know, I know, it's been a while. But with new subscription comes greater blog format and I might find out that I have something to say once more. Occasionally. Once in a while. (Yeah, you know me, I have a finger in every pie, so the "occassionally" can easily turn into "soonTM". But I'll try, I promise.)

You might have noticed that only 20 posts found their way here. That's the limitation on the import gate - bigger herds not allowed. Still, I'm very happy that the import worked as well as it did. There are probably some images missing from the posts - I'll be fixing those as soon as I can get to it. 

If you want to pass time by reading the older posts, though, this is the previous version of the blog in its full glory.

The end (of the blog as we know it)

General / 12 April 2019
The Mario box from last week marked two years (and one day) since I started doing the weekly projects. It's been a fun ride, but I've come to the conclusion that the weekly schedule is no longer helping me grow as an artist. I think I've learned the basics and now I'd prefer to be able to post new projects as soon (and only when) they are fully ready.

The time I can devote to Blender has shrunk somewhat in recent months, and as a result, I've been pushed to create simpler and simpler pieces to fit into the schedule. In theory, I could keep on doing this, but I don't think I'd enjoy for very long. And since the enjoyment is still my primary motivation, I made the hard decision to discontinue writing this blog (at least in its current format).

I'm going to move primarily to ArtStation and post new projects there. I've noticed that the site also comes with a blog functionality, so I might give that a try at some point in the future. I could also (potentially) create a Facebook page that would encompass all my 3D activities (projects and videos) - but I'm not super-crazy about social media, so that's a really big "maybe".

If you've enjoyed following my progress, you can still find me on the sites listed in the "Sites to visit" section on the left. I'll do my best to keep it up-to-date. And who knows, maybe I'll miss writing the blog so much that I won't be able to stay away from it for long. We shall see.

With that said, I'd like to thank you for hanging out with me in this nice cozy virtual space, and I'll see you, at some point - somewhere - again.

Mario box

General / 07 April 2019
The Mario plant turned out to be quite popular, so there is another piece from the same scene: a box. How exciting! (Also, how surprisingly painful to make.)

Concept, of course, by Sephiroth Art:
The box is a combination of geometry and texture painting. (Obviously.) But can you guess which parts are modelled and which are painted? I'll give you a moment...

Still here? And curious to know the answer? Well then. The modelled parts are the main box shape and the face extrusions. All the rest is painted. Which is why it took so long. I was experimenting some more with placement of individual colour layers. Early on, I decided to paint the question marks by hand (thank you Line Stroke Method, you are a real life saver). To make things easier for myself, I unwrapped the affected faces so that they lay on top of each other. You can probably guess why - I only had to paint the question mark once and it automatically appeared on all three sides. But there was a downside as well.

I didn't quite realize that I had to shade each question mark differently. So in the end, the question mark texture only has the basic shape (along with the four small extrusions in the corners). The rest had to be done in vertex paint mode. Which could mean only one thing: a lot denser geometry. With the basic box shape still intact I created a duplicate which I subdivided, giving me effectively a low and high poly version of the model. When I'm assembling the full scene, I'll look a bit more into texture baking in 2.8. The idea is that all the colour information (from vertex paint and the question mark texture) will end up in a nice bundled single texture. And if I find a good solution, I'll probably do the same for all the objects in the scene, which will help me if I decide to upload it to Sketchfab, too.

Before I wrap up this post, here is a screenshot of the material setup:

And with that out of the way, I wish you a nice week and I'll see you next time.

Mario plant

General / 31 March 2019
I'm back, baby! This week with another of Sephiroth's concepts (Anyone surprised? No, didn't think so.)

I did my usual 2.80 > 2.79 and back again tour, but this time I ended up rendering in Cycles, instead of Eevee. I didn't quite like the way the shadows were rendered, but I didn't want to spend too much time on re-watching videos on how to fix that. I still saved the render, though, so that you can compare the results for yourselves (there is a slight difference in the textures, but it's not too noticeable).

The modelling part was fairly straightforward, but would have gone even better if I remembered to use sculpting sooner. Not the dyntopo kind, mind you - the regular sculpting mode. It does wonders for curvy leaves and voluptuous mouths. I struggled a bit with the tooth, because it didn't work very well in 3D (the way it is drawn), but I managed to tame it in the end. The stalk and mouth both use a simple curve, and the leaves are planes. Nothing fancy. The real fun began when I started texturing.

I decided to try a new workflow, one of my own making. I made 2 texture sets: one for the pot, and one for the plant. Then I keyed in the main colours using the vertex colours mode. I did this so that each object (of the plant) could have its separate colour (each object gets a separate vertex colours container). I quickly found out that all the individual vertex colours have to be named the same for this to work. In my case, I stuck with the default "Col". And then I added one texture for the darker parts of the plant, and one for the lighter ones. Both are coloured maps (and not black-and-white as before) because I wanted to have greater range of colour, without having to create hundreds of maps. The dark one (which is blended with Multiply operation) work better than the light one. The Dodge operation should work well here, but for some reason doesn't. The effect isn't as noticeable as I was hoping for.

Here is a screenshot of my workspace, in case you are interested:

And that will be all for this week. I think I'm going to work on other Mario-related stuff so that I'm eventually able to put together a full scene. See you next week!

No post this week

General / 24 March 2019
I was mostly away from my computer this week, so I had little time to work on the project. 

The regular posts should resume next week.

Fishing bridge

General / 17 March 2019
Do you ever have a day when everything you touch falls apart? I'm having one of those today. My desktop has fallen apart just as I was about to write the blog post. I haven't been able to fix the problem yet, so I'm writing this on my laptop. And since one of my budgies has a laptop fixation, this is going to be a short and messy post. 

Despite the technical issues, I was luckily able to fish out the render:

It is based on another of Sephiroth's concept art (can you tell I really enjoy his style?). I went for a simpler scene again, because I wanted to try a new, pure-Blender workflow.

I modelled the scene in 2.8. Even though I hadn't used the new version in couple of months, I was able to stitch things together well enough. I used the concept art image as an empty, and that turned out quite well. But I had forgotten that I should keep the scene straight and turn the camera, rather than the other way round, so there was a slight hiccup in the beginning before I sorted things out.

After modelling I thought I needed the UV Atlas, so imported all parts of the scene back into 2.79 - only to realise I could've used the multi-object edit. But that's fine, I'll remember for the next time. I tried two approaches to texture painting. The first one uses a fairly complex material with multiple black-and-white textures and RGB inputs. The textures are maps that specify where the particular colour will be used. It gives me much more flexibility to adjust things later, but it also makes the graph too complex and I have to remember to save the textures regularly. 

The other approach, that I tried on the little rocks and leaves, is to have only one texture image and paint directly into it. This, of course, has the opposite effect: less room for later tweaking, but simpler graph and the option to have as many colours as I want easily added in. 

I suppose I'm going to combine these approaches to some extent and I'll keep poking around to see how I can improve things. See you next week!

Sword Art

General / 10 March 2019
I had a fair bit of soul-searching to do this week but I think it was time well spent.

Concept: Sword Art by SEPHIROTH * ART
And what was I thinking about, you ask? I've come to that point, once again, when I'm not quite sure how to move forward. The projects that I did lately were interesting, but they also felt a bit... disjointed. I've been doing this for a while now, so I can tell that what I need is a clearer focus. Which is why I've decided to specialise. Sort of.

My problem is that I enjoy doing a lot of things and I would feel very unhappy if I was limited to a single topic, or an area of expertise. So, to make it easier for myself and lower my scope of interest (without taking it too far), I had a long hard look at things I don't enjoy doing as much. I've realized that I'm not all that crazy about hyper-realistic stuff. I think I enjoy the most the kind of art that is clearly stylized, but still rooted in realism. So, that's what I'm going to do from now on.

But, to give myself a bit of leeway, I'll keep an eye on two more areas that interest me: animation (which should go well with my chosen art style) and natural environments (think the Overgrown Pond scene). The last one will depend heavily on whether I get myself a camera and start learning photography. And since I've been putting it off for ages now, I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

As for the blog posts, I'm torn between two options. I don't think the posts are very informative or fun to read, and they take time I could be spending on the projects. On the other hand, they force me come up with something new every week. If I switch to once-it-is-done-I-publish-it mode, I might eventually stop doing this altogether. Which would be a shame, I think. For now, I'm going to continue with unchanged schedule, but I'll probably revisit this on the second anniversary of the blog.

Oh, and before I forget, I really should say something about the render. It is the first time I've used someone else's concept. Tremulously, I reached out to Sephiroth Art on ArtStation, and he very graciously allowed me to do 3D renditions of his beautiful 2D concepts. I wanted to choose something simpler as my first project, but I still ended up overreaching myself. Painted textures are something I really need to get better at, since I won't get away with lazily piling procedurals on top of each other in Substance Painter. Speaking of which, SP might not even end up being my tool of choice for these projects - right now I'm finding the workflow quite awkward. Maybe I'll give Blender 2.8 another go in the texturing area.

Next time, I'm either going to pick another concept from Sephiroth, or start working on a new challenge. See you next week!

RNG 02: Unacceptable

General / 03 March 2019

You despicable ball of a slime!

I received your package all right. I could hear the postman laughing all the way to the Newman's house. He needed to take a breather halfway through! I don't know what you're playing at, but I'm not going to take it from you. I spent hours - hours! - working on that damn bird of yours and if you don't pay me properly, there are going to be consequences! What on earth were you thinking? Just because your papá runs a pomegrenate orchard, you can trade with those disgusting red lumps of sugar, expecting it to be a fair deal?

How do you even eat one of those?

Not that it matters. I expect to be paid in full as we'd agreed, or your crow friend ends up in tar, with some lovely goose feathers for ornaments (oh, you bet I still have those).

The clock is ticking!

Fricking finally! Not the best render I could've hoped for, but it will have to do. (As long as you don't look at the crow monster - and I implore you not to, because I'm really ashamed of it. So much so that it doesn't have its own close-up render. Bad bird...)

I spent most of the week doing non-Blender stuff again and it clearly shows. I managed to finish texturing the laptop (which I'm fairly happy with), beget the crow monster, and finalize the scene.

Turns out I wasn't kidding when I said I was going to label the keyboard manually. If I was making a professional-looking game asset, I would've gone for alpha images, but as it happened, I had free reign to do as I pleased and I used it to amuse myself by squiggling tiny white letters and red hieroglyphs on tiny black boxes. I'd be very surprised if that wasn't a universal definition of fun.

The laptop is a wanna-be-replica of a machine I have at home. I played with the thought of typing the story on it, taking a picture of the screen, and using it in the render. But I wasn't sure whether I could make it look like a real, lit up screen, so I abandoned the concept.

As for the crow, I used one of my SculptJanuary submissions as a basis, and melted it beyond recognition. Then I did a quick retopo, with a bunch of clumped hair thrown on top. A bit of tweaking later, and the definitely-not-a-crow bird was ready to be perched on top of the desk. It's a good thing that the story calls for a shabby-looking piece of work. (Yes, of course it is a coincidence, why do you ask?)

Since I don't have much more to add to this, I'm going to finish the post here. I'll have to carefully consider my next move, though. I quite enjoy this format, but I clearly don't have enough time to make a good job of it. And ever since I started to be more active, I feel less and less inclined to sit in front of the computer for extra 20-30 hours a week. At the same time, however, I don't want to quit doing these projects... Well. That's some conundrum we have here, isn't it? Let's hope that I can come up with a solution by the end of the next week.

RNG 01.75: A vest and a pomegranate

General / 24 February 2019
Alright. This is still not it. I've decided to listen to my back and move around more, which had the unfortunate side effect of me having less time for Blender. Right now, the scene is about three quarters finished (hence the title) and I might have pushed it to completion, but I would've had to use just a picture of a crow. Which I didn't really feel like doing. And since I'm the one making the rules here, I think I can get away with bending them once in a while.

Out of the four remaining items, I managed to make a male vest and a really weird pomegranate (I swear it looked better in the Substance Painter). I have also finished modelling and UV unwrapping the laptop, but I haven't been able to texture it yet. And it will be one hell of a work, because I'll probably end up drawing all the keyboard markings by hand.

Making the vest was surprisingly challenging. I still haven't found a good workflow for clothes that could be used in cloth simulation. I think the garments need to have thickness, because the outer and inner design is usually different, but that means not only more complicated UV unwrapping, but also, as I found out this week, really weird behaviour of the physical simulation. I intended to let the vest fall over the chair (which is borrowed from the Chippendale project, by the way), but the horribleness created made me quickly change my mind. Five seconds more and I might have summoned a demon.

Because of this failure, the vest is just... floating there, and the more observant of you have surely noticed that you wouldn't be able to fold it over the chair like this. I tried to manually position things, but it's just no good. If anyone is reading this and knows how to make clothes better, I'd really appreciate some pointers.

The second object I tackled was the pomegrenate. Its shape is not exactly complex, but the top baffles me. Since I don't see myself using this in a close-up any time soon, I cheated a little and I only made the little flaps, without fussing too much about the inner flowery remains. I did try to create a nice, varied texture, but for some reason, Blender doesn't pick up on it and it just looks like a red shiny ball. Which it basically is, but still.

Next time, I should have the individual images of the laptop and the crow, and hopefully also the finished scene and the story. See you next time!

RNG 01.5: Fancy desk

General / 17 February 2019
I don't have a new story-scene for you. (As you may have noticed.) My plans went out of the window this week and I ended up with complicated assets to make and not enough time to work on them. So I decided to be pragmatic about it and rather than do everything poorly, I picked the most complex one and spent the whole week on it. Here it is.

It is a carved oak desk I found on eBay. I tried to immitate it as closely as possible, but I still ran out of time in the end, and some details are missing—most notably the pattern on the edge of the green leather top.

I think that, overall, the desk turned out decent, but I'm not quite happy with the carving on the top drawers. I used a multires sculpting to create the pattern, but the normal map didn't come out well at all. And I'm not sure why. Maybe I went too low-res on the base mesh—but since it is a library piece, I'm trying to keep the poly count as low as possible, and I didn't want to go over 100k triangles (the fully assembled table has 95k).

The modelling was otherwise quite straightforward. The only piece I really struggled with was the wavy bit on the top drawers. I tried to use an Array modifier with object offset, but the pattern is not circular (it is more of an ellipse) so I quickly found out that the array was a dead end. I eventually modelled it by hand (just in case you were wondering why it is so uneven).

In the texturing realm, I somehow managed to get away with only importing the mesh once. No need to fix anything, no UV adjustments... highly suspicious, if you ask me. A 3D equivalent of a program that works correctly the first time it is run. It just never happens. Anyway, I had to go through a range of wood materials before I found one that looked convincing. Then I applied several layers of colour-dodging and multiplying (aka lightening and darkening) to get an effect similar to the original image. I wasn't entirely happy with the procedural state of things, so I also included a couple of layers with manual paintovers. And I'm glad I did, because I wouldn't be able to darken some areas in any other way, I think.

And that will be all for this week. I'll do my best to finish the scene next week, because I already have a fragment of the story in mind and it would be a shame if it went to waste. See you next time!