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Behind the Scenes: Beach Loft



Hi all! I’m Victor Duarte and I live in Barcelona, Spain. I’m licensed in Mechanical Engineering and I’ve been working in this field for 10 years.

My passion for 3D visualization and the CGI world has always kept me constantly learning, both through specific courses and teaching myself.

I’ve regularly worked with 3D softwares like Solidworks, Autocad, etc., which are focused more on engineering projects, but I remember myself looking at animation films, architectural visualizations, and games done with CGI and thinking: what software are they are using for it? I discovered some 3D softwares like 3ds Max, Maya, etc. It was quite frustrating because I realized that I didn’t know anything about CGI and I couldn’t even afford those licenses.

I don’t remember very well how or where I discovered Blender… ¡BOOM!
Two years later I decided to become a freelancer doing 3D visualizations.

I never studied 3D art or anything related. In fact, it’s hard for me to call myself an artist of any kind (I have to label myself this way on social media). I would like to go to some 3D art academy and learn from the best people on this, but since I can’t afford it, I open Blender every day and I keep training thanks to the awesome community out there.

I do mostly archviz projects, but I’m open to any kind of 3D “stuff”.

Project Beach Loft

Most of my freelance projects are for archviz, either interiors or exteriors. So keeping this in mind I do some personal archviz projects to optimize my workflow and grow my asset library at the same time. And, of course, because I love it!

In this particular case, I wanted to improve my lighting workflow in general.

As I’m not an interior designer or architect, I almost always look for real references pertaining to what I want to do. Sometimes I get inspired by the references and I say: I want to try exactly this! It was this case here.

For references, I grabbed some from and I put them on PureRef, an amazing tool for keeping your references organized in a very easy and cool way.

By the way, you can see most of this process in this timelapse video:


First Stage: Modeling walls, ceilings, doors, etc.

For this project, I decided to use Blender 2.8. I was trying it before and I felt comfortable enough to use it for the entire project.

I only had to switch to 2.79 version to do doors and windows with the archipack add-on. It was not a big problem because you can copy-paste between both very easily.

I didn’t have any measurements on this so I just started modeling, thinking about measurements that seemed correct. It’s not the best way to do it, but in this case it worked for me.

From the very beginning I took advantage of the new collection system to manage doors, walls, ceiling, and so. I also enabled the length overlays while modeling.

For windows and door openings I used boolean operations. I set the “operators” as wireframe objects in order to not disturb them, and put them in a separate collection.

Set main lighting

Once I had the general “shape”, I started setting the lighting with an HDRI (from HDRI Haven) and I tried to achieve the main lighting without any materials. I just played with different HDRIs, adding sun, and looking for cool lighting that made me feel happy. Of course, I used Filmic.

Continue modeling

Once I felt comfortable with the overall lighting I continued modeling other secondary shapes of the loft like beams, doors, windows, “fixed furniture”, and so on.

Here is when I switched to 2.79 for some specific things.

One important thing to keep in mind to achieve better results is to set bevels (everywhere if it’s possible!) to achieve more realistic behavior of light on edges.

NOTE: I tried to do the same bevels mentioned above with Bevel node input on shaders but the render times increased a lot! So I went with modifiers.

Shading and texturing.

At this point, I start texturing floors, walls, etc. With the new shading workspace and lookdev mode in Blender 2.8 is so easy to pick your textures from your library and visualize materials in a very fast way.

I usually use textures from Poliigon and other free resources like Texture Haven, CGbookcase or CC0 Textures . Also, for some simple materials I use some nodes of Chocofur. In some cases, only one map is needed (diffuse or albedo) and you can “extract” reflection, glossines, bump, etc. It’s easy to use and very cheap in terms of memory usage.

Placing details and furniture

At this stage it was time to decorate and place other objects in the scene. I used a mix of models made by myself or downloaded/purchased. I took advantage of this stage to grow my library for my professional projects and test them.

Some downloaded assets/furniture required that I retexture them (either because it was ugly or simply needed adjustments, always).

Here I looked at the references but I preferred to place some items to my taste.

Final rendering

Since I set the main lighting at the very beginning of the project, I knew very well how the lighting was going to work.

I placed a few cameras and did some tests regarding composition of the image.
Then I looked for how many samples I would need to use denoise without having artifacts. In this case, I needed 800 samples.

I found it difficult to place the background. I knew it could be done in postprocessing but I always try to achieve near-final results from Blender.

Finally, I came up with this configuration using one HDRI for lighting and a panorama for background. One of the issues I had was that window glass was reflecting the HDRI and revealing it. I’m pretty sure there is better way to avoid this. I’ll be glad if someone can give feedback on this.

Compositing and postprocessing

I try not to do a lot of postprocessing if it’s not required, or if I don’t have to achieve a special look in the images. Especially for archviz. So in compositing I just added a bit of mist and glare.

I also saved other passes just in case I needed them, like AO or ID (with Cryptomatte).

For postprocessing I just adjusted color temperature, a bit of contrast in illumination and shadows, and gave more clarity to the overall image.

Raw render


Final renders:

That’s all! I think now I feel a bit more comfortable during the lighting stage and this workflow gives me more control over the overall result. I’ve not invented anything new here, I think. It was just an exercise and I’m happy with the result.

I hope you enjoyed the reading or at least learned something. Again, if anyone gives me some feedback or advice I’ll be very glad.

About the Author

Victor Duarte, 3D visualization





  1. Your final images were a bit splotchy due to the denoise dealing with a lot of well... noise! There's a new ai denoiser plugin coming tomorrow or Saturday. (It's using optix denoiser.) I suggest giving that a look! I'll link it here when it's out:
    Feel free to check out some of the early results from this plugin on that forum as well. Great work! I was really digging your use of Boolean and 2.79 hopping. I have two questions:
    - How did you jump back and forth between 2.79 and 2.8 so easy?
    - How did you bring your models in so quickly? Were they already in the scene? I didn't see any append/link action going on.


    • Hi Riley!
      Yep, maybe a bit more samples can help. I'm aware already of the D-Noise of Grant Wilk, in fact I can't wait to see if it comes out today :) , as Grant said.
      I had the two versions opened at the same time so I can Ctrl+C - Ctrl+V between them. For example for kitchen, I copied the walls into 2.79, I used Archipack to model the kitchen and then I copied that to 2.8. I hope we can get Archipack on 2.8 soon :) but this is no time consuming!
      I prepare those models apart from this .blend file. So I just avoid that part of searching models in my folders because there's nothing interesting there. Once I have a model prepared I just use copy-paste.

      Thank you!

  2. Hi Victor, thank you for your thorough explanation of your process. I can see you have been reading a lot Making-of on :) But it's great to see your whole process. I am an architect wishing to improve my realism skills, so this is hugely inspiring.

  3. Fascinating! And what modifier/technique were you using when you made the gate on the sides of the ladder to the loft, or the guide rails for the ladder? I'm not sure if you did something fancy here, or if the video just made it look quick, but it looked super fast!

    • All the openings on walls for windows, doors, and shelves were done using boolean operations.
      For the rails, simply I model the shape and apply a wireframe modifier, nothing fancy at all! ;)

  4. Don't worry Riley! I'm glad to help :)

    When you are in edit mode, go to the overlays tab (on top) and you'll find the options for show lenght, area, etc...

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