Before I get started, I just want to say I’m super hyped about making and taking you through this tutorial as it is the first time making one so bear with me! Many thanks to Stefan for allowing me on the site too.
About the tutorial in short: I’m going to, as any other tutorial, show you the step-by-step process of making our image, but I’m going to add some flavour of my own and once in a while you’ll see me talking about my thought process at that particular step and also adding on some of my own philosophies of art which I refer to as “elements” and “constraints”. Not sure if these already exist but I haven’t read them anywhere.
Short info about the idea for the image:
The idea for the image sort of grew out of me. At first I simply wanted to make some sort of abstract 3D image, but quickly my head started spinning. Quite early I get an all-round sense of what kind of feeling I want. I’m a person that likes experimenting and I believe 50% of this image is made from experimenting or getting new ideas along the way of making the image.
Let’s get to it!
Today we’re going to go look through how to make this piece below
First off, since this piece contains 3D objects I will start by loading up my 3D application of choice (Autodesk Maya). Any 3D application out there, be it 3Ds Max, Cinema 4D, Modo or any other can handle this pretty well.
Load up your 3D application. Choose the CV curve tool (optionally click the option box). Create CV curve tool (the option box is the little box on the right hand side of the tool name).
If you clicked the option box, you can in here set the curve degree. For this example, I chose 1 Linear. Meaning the curve won’t be a curve, but straight lines combined. The “3 cubic” option works just as well. Thing to remember is that you get different results and it all comes down to preference.
Before you do your curves, hit spacebar to bring you up to all available views. Make your curves, one for each orthographic view (top, front and side).
Go back to perspective view (click once in perspective view while you have all 4 views available and hit spacebar). Now select your curves, and do a loft (Surfaces panel Surfaces Loft). Or hit the shortcut button like in the image.
Once you’ve hit the loft button, you should see a lot of “extra curves” come about. Hit “5” on the keyboard to go into shaded mode. You should now see something like this.
Next bring up the attribute editor (Ctrl +A) or hit the left button of the top right 3 like in the image. Then hit the “loft1” tab and change the section spans to a value which seems reasonable. I went for 15.
We’re going to add on deformers. I will take Bend, Twist and Sine. If you take them in another order you get different results. I usually mess around with different deformers from time to time but these are the ones I use the most. I take it this is pretty standard for maya users so no magic as of yet.
Now, select your mesh (the actual mesh, not the curves). Then go to Animation panel Create DeformersNonlinearBend
Now in the attribute editor, click the “bend1” tab. If you can’t see your bend1 tab, click on the tiny “show” button as displayed in the image to show everything the object is being manipulated by.
Start pushing the “Curvature” handle to make our mesh bend. Play around with it until you’re satisfied.
As this is abstracts, we usually get different results constantly (since we probably didn’t have identical curves from the beginning). So in my case I got this:
Add on another deformer. Go Animation panel Create DeformersNonlinearTwist
As in step 3, click the twist1 tab, and play around with the settings. Move “Start Angle” or “End Angle” to gain a twist effect.
As this is abstracts, we usually get different results constantly (since we probably didn’t have identical curves from the beginning). So in my case I got this:
Now as in the previous 2 steps, add another deformer. Go Animation panel Create DeformersNonlinearSine.
With the sine I’m doing something about special, I’m only messing with amplitude and wavelength and after I move my mesh in y-axis to gain an effect.
I experimented with settings and different curves until I was satisfied and settled with a shape looking like this.
My thought process at this stage: To me the mesh I had at that point just didn’t seem to have “enough”. I wanted something more. In my head I had a picture of my 3D abstract pointing in all directions and have a sense of huge volume and detail at the same time.
So I decided to copy it a few times and spin them around the original to give birth to a whole new mesh.
My thought process at this stage: So I had something bugging me while I was working. When working with art, the thought I originally spawn tend to not be the result. I decided to stick closer to my original thought of having an effect of external glass in the same shape as the object surrounding my mesh.
So I yet again copied my meshes and scaled them up and fitted them in where I thought would be according to what I had in mind. The image below might not give you anything as it’s just A LOT of meshes going around. I have to select them cause they’re totally transparent (we’ll get to that in the next step).
So let’s create the glass shader for our external glass mesh. Start out by opening up the hypershade. (Window Rendering Editors Hypershade). Middle-mouse drag a blinn shader onto the empty canvas. Select it, and roughly make the following settings: decrease colour to black, set the transparency slider to max, increase the specular roll off and specular colour and set reflectivity to value close to 0.
Select the meshes that we copied earlier for the glass effect and assign the newly created glass shader (Our blinn shader). Right click your blinn shader in the hyper shade and on the top click “Assign to material to selection”.
Now we’re going to create the shader for the “non-glass” meshes.
My thought process at this stage: Due to choosing an external glass shade I felt I wasn’t in need of much more reflection. So at this point I went for a pure lambert shader with a dark grey colour.
We do the same as in step 9, middle-mouse drag a lambert shader (here you can experiment, see how it looks with reflection, in that case, choose a blinn shader and mess around!) and set the colour to dark grey. Select your meshes and assign your material to your selection.
We’re pretty much done with the meshes themselves and we’re henceforth moving along to rendering and rendering setup.
Here we’re going to make a backdrop for our scene.
Render basics note: This is very basic and quite necessary for rendering, we won’t however show the actual backdrop in our render but it helps out with reflections and overall realistic feel of our render.
Step out of perspective view (hit spacebar). Select the side view (In my case I went into the front view since my whole scene was rotated 90 degrees, so choose the side view depending on HOW your scene is positioned.) Go CreateCV-curve tool option box. Check the “Cubic” box. And make a curve similar to that in the image below.
Go into perspective view again. Position the curve like the image below.
Duplicate the curve (Ctrl + d) and position it like in the image below.
Select both curves and hit Loft (Surfaces panel Surfaces Loft).
Hit the “r” key for scale. Scale the backdrop as in the image below. This big scale is just a preference of mine, it can do without.
Now assign your backdrop to a layer like in the image. Set the mid box to “R”. This will make you unable to select your object which in this case can be handy since we might just want to select our mesh and not the backdrop at the same time.
NOTE: You will see me use a different backdrop, the purpose and effect are the same since I made the image before the tutorial and not simultaneously, so don’t let it bother you.
Let’s set up the lighting. Go CreateLightsArea light. Position the light to your liking. This will be our key light.
Bring up the attribute editor (Ctrl +a) and do the following settings as in the image. Unfold the “Shadow” tab and scroll down to the “Raytrace shadow Attributes”. Check the “Use Ray trace Shadows” box. Increase the raytrace depth limit to 2.
Under the mental ray Area light tab check “use light shape” box and in the dropdown choose “disc”. Set your High sample to 16 and further down check the box saying “Visible” and increase the shape intensity to 40.
Render note: Checking the Visible box is very important. Checking this box will allow the light source to be visible in the render which is a super important if you’re looking to have those small light spots reflected on your mesh. This feature might be the single most important thing to the light itself for me. Without it according to me, most renders will end up looking horrible.
This is what the finished lighting-setup looks like:
A few notes: All lights have only been copied from light we created earlier.
Rim Lights: These lights are spotlights. I changed it from area light to spot light in the top most drop down in the attribute editor.
Some render tips about Rim Lights: The meaning of rim lights is illumination of your object from behind to get that nice looking string of light over the silhouette edges.
These lights have been positioned so that they shed light in the backdrop and then it bounces onto my mesh. This gives it a softer look. Alternatively you could aim them right at your object giving it a stronger look.
Fill Light: This light is a pure copy of the key light we made earlier with the exception of lowered intensity in the area light attributes. Set the slider to a value that suits you.
Render note: I won’t give out my exact numbers for what I set them to as we probably don’t have the same distance from out light to our object, we’ve set our backdrop slightly differently and we got different computers (hardware have impact on end result).
Bring up the render settings and in the drop down select “Mentay Ray” as the renderer.
If you for some reason do not have mental ray it could be disabled in your current loading of autodesk maya. Make sure that Mental ray is loaded by going WindowSettings/PreferencesPlug-in Manager. Make sure you have a plug-in called “Mayatomr.mll” loaded.
In the common tab in the render settings scroll all the way down and unfold the “Render Options” tab and uncheck the “Enable Default Lights”.
Go in to the “Quality” tab and change the settings as in the image.
Go into the “Indirect Lighting” tab and change the settings as in the image.
These settings will bump up the quality of your render without too much of an increase in render times. If you’re going to do a lot of test renders, I advice you to switch off final gathering as it bumps up render times more than necessary for test renders.
Image based Lighting
In this step we’re going to set up our image based lighting.
Render Note: Image based Lightning creates a dome around your object. You then apply your .hdr image, or something I’ve found is that you can get away by applying a really big image instead (only you get an ugly seam in the dome, but if you’re only making 1 render and not a rotatable short film, you can hide it in a blind spot). You can also light a whole scene by only using image based lighting. This is a particularly good alternative if you’re trying to incorporate a 3D object into a photograph as your object will get the exact same lighting as its surroundings as well as reflections from the environment.
Make sure you’re in the Indirect Lighting tab and in the “Environment” tab click on the “Create” button next to the “Image based lighting” text. (if you lose your selection of the dome which now has been created, you can always go back into the render settings and click on the button next to where the “Delete” button is and where the “Create” button previously was).
Once you’ve click on the “Create” button for the image based lighting, you automatically receive the attribute editor on the right hand side. Make sure you’re under “MentalraylblShape1” tab and click on the little folder icon as shown in the image.
This is where you look up your .hdr image or pixelwise large image to work as your environment reflections. If you do not have an .hdr image I can recommend this site:
It’s the homepage for Paul Devebec, who has been/or is studying 3D at a high level. He’s extremely talented and I have huge respect for him. Big thumps up for him letting us use his .hdr images!
Once you’ve loaded in your .hdr image, scroll down and unfold the “Render Stats” tab and uncheck the “Primarily Visible”.
Render Note: We uncheck this, otherwise out .hdr image will show up in the background of the render. Why is this not good? Because once we save our image, we want to bring in an alpha to make selection in Photoshop easy. If we render out a background it will be applied to the alpha and we won’t have the shape of our mesh but just an alpha of the image itself.
Creating the camera
Create the camera as in the image below.
Position it to your liking. Look in the attribute editor for the camera on the right hand side. We’re going to leave most of this untouched but for one thing. We’re only going to mess with the focal length. Towards the center the view is mostly untouched but as we go further towards either of our edges it gradually gets zoomed in. That’s basically what the effect of the focal length is. You see this effect all the time from people doing abstract 3D art.
The lower you set your value for the focal length, the more extreme effect you get. I went with something quite modest, from the normal value of 35 I went with 25. This is all about preference really. I went with 25 only because I wanted my mesh not to bulge outside of the render frame. I knew I was going to mess a lot with the render in Photoshop later, hence I didn’t want any weirdly cut off edges.
All that is left now is to press render. However let me go through some small issues first.
• I chose not to use an ambient occlusion for the final result. I knew I wanted to mess with it a lot in Photoshop later so determining depth with an occlusion pass wasn’t in my interest.
• I did not make use of Z-depth for the same reason as above.
• I personally hardly use passes. I know I should and sometimes it’s really useful when trying to achieve true realism, but for the project, I figured it wasn’t needed.
• Since I didn’t use passes, I won’t use batch render. I just save out my image from the render view.
Now all that it’s left is to determine the size you want for your render. I chose 1300×1300. The size of your render makes a huge impact on render time. Choose your size after the power of your computer. I chose 1300×1300 since I knew I was going to work in an A3 format image. 1300×1300 takes up about little more than a quarter of an A3 image. I knew I didn’t need any higher resolution so I didn’t have to have a bigger size.
Also, make sure to check “Alpha Channel Mask” as in the image below under the “Renderable Cameras” tab in the “Common section” of mental ray.
Now bring up the render view as shown in the image below. Make sure you render out from the camera1 if you went through step 15 like in the image below. Once you press the button like in the image, the rendering starts. It took my computer 48 minutes to render at 1300×1300 with the settings shown in the previous steps.
When your render is done and you’re happy with it press “File” in the render view and then “Save Image”. In the pop-up window save it as a .tga-file. I choose this format is the alpha is added in the channels in Photoshop once open up the file.
My results below:
Step 17.) – Photoshop
Our render is done, so let’s get into Photoshop!
Once in Photoshop, go FileCreate New and create a standing A3 image. (choose A3 format under International paper and then swap the pixel values to get a standing one).
Now, before we get our heads into the details of this image. I want to take some time to talk about general workflow tips I use to help my decision-making process. What do I mean with decision-making process? I use something I call “Elements” and “Constraints”.
Elements: When I look at pictures made in Photoshop I usually start thinking “how did he/she do this image. I’m trying to depict what kind of images, forms, light, shadows, basically anything you can produce in Photoshop, the artist has used. I refer this to Elements. Now the decision-making process of this artist has been, I’ve decided to use “This instead of something else”. Why did he use in particularly THIS element that we see in the image. This is a quite interesting subject and most artists will probably just answer “I thought it looked good there”. This is probably very true as well, there’s no mathematical conclusion behind using an element instead of another, and this is what we call an “artistic eye”. But what I particularly am looking for in Elements, as we just concluded they seem to be selected by ones “artistic eye”, is not the way we select them, but instead comparing the elements in the picture to each other. What does each and every element bring to the picture? With the question refined I get: Where do I find harmony in between elements? As stated earlier, elements can be anything you can produce out of Photoshop. For example, harmony between two elements can be a zebra and a fluid with similar stripes that you find on a zebra. That to me can be two elements working well in an image.
Constraints: This is something I’ve used in the past to help me in my decision-making. As we talked about not looking at why an artist chooses an element over another, this is to simplify that process. First I will give you an example of a commercial project for Volvo trucks that I heard of through my school.
Example: “Volvo Trucks needed a new advertisement for their new product line. They wanted a really good commercial so they assembled a team and gave them massive funding. The newly assembled team sat down and got to work. After a while they discovered that with the massive funding they were given they had endless possibilities. They could practically do whatever they wanted. What happened with this project? It died. Nothing came from it.”
Why is it that the project died? It had everything to succeed and yet it didn’t. My answer to that question, and some of my teachers answer was, they had too many possibilities to choose from. As we all now, a possibility brings us to a choice; to do or not to do. With endless possibilities come endless decisions to make. This is a quite frustrating situation to be in. As with this team, you have endless possibilities within Photoshop. So in order to limit out possibilities and decisions sometimes I feel the need to constraint myself. A constraint for me can be “for this image I shall only use Photoshop”, or “In this image I shall only make use of circles for the art”. Those examples were pretty simplistic, but consider what you “can handle well, and what techniques you are comfortable with” right there a lot of possibilities are discarded and you don’t have to make a lot of decisions. You should of course take the time to experiment. But experimenting for every single project you make takes a lot of time and can be stressful.
Ok, so I’ve talked enough for my own good, let’s move on with the tutorial.
I added a picture of a gas cloud. You can basically find just search on google.com for “gas cloud” or similar tags.
I reduce the opacity to about 30% and the fill to about 40ish and set the blend mode to screen to get a very subtle background look.
I added my render to the project.
My thought process at this stage: At this stage, I’m usually responding “what now…?”. My brain starts spinning while I try out different ideas to position the render or likewise. I later determine that I need some sort of other element that my render can work well with. I found an image on www.istockphoto.com that I liked. Mostly the attitude he expressed, confidence in a suit more or less. This is where I came up with the text for the image, as with the more confidence you have, they more you’re willing to try, in this example, maybe a shot at ruling the world.
I added the image I found on istockphoto.com.
I cropped the image using the path tool, selected the path I made (Ctrl + left click the path like in the image), inversed the selection (SelectInverse) to get everything else as a selection and pressed the tiny mask button in the bottom right to get my selection to be added as a mask onto my currently selected layer.
(I will not go through how to work with the path tool as there are plenty of tutorials on the internet, for example this one; http://psd.tutsplus.com/tutorials/tools-tips/photoshops-pen-tool-the-comprehensive-guide/)
Incorporating the render with the istockphoto image
My thought process at this stage: I wanted the render to mix with the photo like it was more a part of him than just some static image in front or behind him. I had something like a transformer in mind or just like parts of him where gone and there a mix of abstract 3D popping out here and there.
So I started copying my start render and scaled them down, rotated, fixed some of them to his arm, chopped off a favorite part of my render and replaced his right leg. See image below.
I continued to rotate, scale and fit my render copies all around. Occasionally if I chose a big render copy I could mask out half of it and leave pieces that I liked and the rest I masked away. I good trick in doing this is to lower the opacity to 50%, locate the parts you want, and mask away the rest.
My thought Process at this stage: Since my idea of “claiming the world” sort of stuck in my head, ideas about using a picture of the earth came into my mind. I particularly liked the idea of him being above the earth and having his sort of abstract 3D elements flowing into the earth. Best way I can describe it. xD
I googled “earth” and found a ton of images. I took the first one that I liked and brought it into Photoshop.
Then I continued to add my render copies around the earth aswell.
Adding more elements
My thought process at this stage: Since my image started to more and more take place in a space other than on earth itself, I figured that stars, galaxies and gas clouds could work well with the dark background and the picture of the earth.
I googled “gas cloud” on and found a ton of images to use. I selected the ones I liked and brought them into Photoshop. I masked away some edges from the galaxy images and added a slight highlight behind our scenery.
I then added some more elements to the picture I find appealing. Some teal highlights to our render images. The highlights are nothing more than choose the colour teal, decrease the fill on your brush to about 20ish percent and painting away with a soft brush.
I know added two larger highlights, one pink / purple and one yellow and set the blend mode of the layer to screen. I also added on some extra stars from other galaxy images.
Then I added some fast stripes (don’t know what to call them really). The effect can be achieve by simply path a straight line, go into the layer attributes and add a slight glow and mask off the ends. Or you could mark an area with the marquee tool and quite softly paint on one of the ends, then copy the layer and flip it vertically or horizontally, whichever direction you painted in and position the layer so they almost overlap to get the effect.
Next I add a lens flare. This is quite basic stuff, but I’ll go through it. Make a new layer, fill it with black (shift + F5). Set the blending mode to screen. With the black layer selected, go FilterRenderLens Flare. In the options I personally use the 105mm Prime lens and occasionally I choose the movie prime lens. Position your lens flare to your liking, I added mine around the top part of the earth. The brightness should all depend on how big your canvas is. Don’t copy my settings from the brightness slider.
Here on and out we’re just going to deal with detailing and final touch-ups.
Personal note: Vectors in my opinion make great for adding quick detail. They seem to add more to an image than there really is. Why add some details and leave some out. The best answer I have is I’ve followed the process of elements and constraints and my artistic eye. As I’ve said before, there’s no mathematical answer to it. So I’m just going to show you my results, when the process is so much more important. =)
Next I added quads in a pattern, each of the outer quads having lower opacity. I’ve made them with the marquee tool and fill option (shift + F5). Quite simple.
Next, I added grey, slightly transparent rectangular shapes standing up in a horizontal repetitive pattern. Also made with the marquee tool.
I continue to add small doodles over the canvas, still using only the marquee and fill tools and spreading them out on the canvas where I see fit.
Personal note: When spreading your doodles, make sure not to cluster them too much. Less is more sometimes.
One vector tip I have that requires some knowledge could be this next step. This is what I’ll make, look at image below.
Firstly, select the Polygonal lasso tool (L), Make sure it’s the polygonal one, not the lasso or magnetic. Draw a simple shape as in the image below. Press (G) to use the gradient tool. Choose colour and set a gradient with a bright version of for example as in our image purple and in the other end dark purple. With your lasso selection active draw a straight line with the gradient tool to fill the shape. One end is dark the other is bright. Make sure the bright one is towards your supposed light source in the image.
Make another selection as in the image below. Not make sure the dark area of the gradient hits most of this lasso selection.
With the technique displayed above, I used it in the image twice, once next to the face and on his left leg.
I added additional highlights in yellow and light purple. I copied another image from our render, blurred it out with Gaussian blur and motion blur and added it in the top right corner of the image to give some more randomness and speed in the image.
Next, I added the text. You can find fonts all over the web. I could recommend looking into www.dafont.com or just search google.
Quick tip: I have when it comes to black and white colour levels. Never use pure white or pure black if it isn’t for some obvious experimenting with it. Take a colour “Almost” pure white. To me, the effect is usually better. Pure white and pure black are too harsh. The colour for the text is white with a splash of yellow.
My thought process at this stage: Here I thought the image looked fine. But I wanted a more ragged feeling of the image.
For the finalization of the project I added an overall bluish colour gradient. Light blue towards the top and darker as towards the bottom. Opacity set to about 50% and Fill set to about 50%.
Thank you all for following my tutorial, I hope you’ve all enjoyed it. As this is my first tutorial, I hope you didn’t find it difficult to follow or read. Thanks again for featuring me on this great site! If you want to check out more of my works, go to http://www.behance.net/ESPjo