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Image: Gotcha! ~ Feathered Bird Project



This image by Matthijs de Rijk caught my attention yesterday, and I asked him for its story.

Matthijs writes:

Quite some time ago I watched the movie "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" and I was really amazed by the beauty of the owls In the movie. It made me in an instant a fan of owls, snowy owls especially. I wanted to portray the beauty of an owl in a render, but at the time I didn't had the skill to make an high detailed feathered animal. After some failed attempts I put my fondness for owls in the aside.

Some years later, the game Guild Wars 2, revived they idea. In the game you are able to play as a ranger with the ability to control a pet. A snowy owl was one of those. I got some new ideas of making an action scene of the owl grabbing for a prey.

Still there was a challenge, I did not really knew how to do the feathers, and there were no real tutorials to be found on the internet. The particle system gave to little control over the placement and orientation of the feathers. Then I noticed that there was the option to render hair as objects. After some puzzling I found the perfect formula. The big flight feathers were placed by hand, and all the small feathers with the hair particle engine.

After rigging the animal and the feathers, the finished result is as you see. It's not a perfect realistic scene, but I feel it doesn't have to be because it catches just that what I wanted it to express. I really enjoyed making this and there is still so much more to explore in the world of birds.

Check out my website if you want to see what else I made.

About Author

Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-)


  1. I love this. I am a fan of owls as well. The composition of this image makes me feel as though I am the tasty morsel in the grass about to be snatched up and eaten. Nice job!

    Kent Trammell over at Blender Cookie has an interesting approach to feathers as well, as one part of his huge tutorial series, Piero. The series is available to Citizen members (paying members). $18/mo, I think., search word Piero.

  2. Very nicely done. I know I struggled for a while on a project trying to achieve a very similar feather effect. I think I ended up using some combination of a spline, a curve modifier, a deform modifier, and dupliverts to get the normals that I wanted, and it still wasn't quite right in my opinion. Really with the time I wasted coming up with that solution I could have just placed them all by hand. I'll have to give your technique a shot next time I'm working on a bird.

  3. Beautiful work. I also have a project on hold of a macaw that I think I will dig up and work on some more. Rigging of the large feathers is a lot of work, but if I work on it a little at a time I should eventually finish it. Thanks for your inspiration!

  4. This is my first comment I've ever made on this site to just tell you how beautiful this piece is. The feather work is what really got me. It reminds me of one of my favorite artist's painting style.

    Great job.

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