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Behind the Scenes: Nintendo Game Boy (Cycles)


Hiya, my name is Rafal, I’m currently working as a Graphic Designer in Poland. I picked up Blender a couple years ago but only recently decided to take up 3D more seriously. Not so long ago I decided that making some consoles in 3D would make for a fun personal project. Below you can read a little ‘something’ about my process and approach when creating the classic Nintendo handheld – Game Boy. We’ll focus on the comp that was recently featured by awesome people at BlenderNation:

Double rainbow all the way!

Grab yourself something to drink or a snack and let’s delve into the wonderful nostalgic world of modelling a retro gaming handheld.

Starting out strong

The absolute best thing that you can do with a project is to start it right. First, I like to make myself familiar with the subject. I’m checking out Google for images, looking at old ads from Nintendo Power, looking through eBay listings to check for closeups. Once you know what you’re looking for, it is time for gathering reference photos.

Another tip is to annoy a friend with requests for close up photos. Oh, hi Greg.

When you’re looking for inspiration don’t limit yourself only to photos of the thingy you’re trying to make. Look up editorial designs, browse through Behance and Awwwards, look at comics and movie posters, buy some coffee table books that you think you will enjoy. Don’t dismiss anything – all of these things will help you create more interesting work.

Once I gather a satisfying amount of reference images I take out my sketchbook. Make sure to try and plan things out on paper first. Pick up your favorite pencil or pen and doodle away. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come out looking like a long lost Degas painting. The point here is to let your brain process visual information you just fed to your brain and let loose your creative juices. Have fun with it!

Obviously I didn’t go with Game Boy burglar with a moon growing out of his head.

Modelling and patience

Once you gather all the information, it’s time to start modelling. Before you start, make sure that you’re using the correct dimensions and name everything as you go along. This will help you down the line, when you’re more focused on getting things done than on looking for one texture in a row of ‘New folders’. With this project, I started with creating the overall shape with the rounded corner and then proceeded to add booleans until I reached the desired effects.

Having fun with boolean.

There will be many times when finding it in yourself to stick with the project is much harder than the work itself. Don’t overwork yourself and try to manage a healthy work-life balance. When I’m working, I enjoy listening to crime podcasts. Listening to hour-long episodes also helps me to manage time. When I’m in the middle of a story I find it harder to just surf the web aimlessly. Finding something that will help you be productive may be the key to success in your endeavours in the third dimension.

Texturing and setting up materials

When it comes to textures and materials, you should always try to match the real thing as closely as possible. Sometimes it’s not possible – for example, if you’re making a Game Boy not all fonts may be available to you. If you’re not feeling comfortable with tracing elements from photos, try and look for a font that looks close to the original used on the product you’re modelling.

For the bump map I’ve used a simple map with monochromatic noise generated in Photoshop. You can also achieve similar results using the Noise node in Blender – it will just require some more tinkering. Parts of the small writing are also made using black and white height maps.

Textures and mask created for the project.

When it’s possible, I try to avoid color textures. I make black and white masks in JPG/PSD and feed them to mix node to separate where materials should be applied. This way I can switch colors in Blender, rather than constantly changing textures.

Hidden message lies within these nodes...

Setting up a scene and the importance of healthy criticism

Once you’re done with modelling, you can focus on the most relaxing and rewarding part of the process – setting up scenes. For this scene I decided to bend the rules a little. Classic Nintendo Game Boy wasn’t available in all of these fancy colors. It’s only later that Nintendo decided to improve the palette of their handhelds with more colorful choices. You don’t need to always follow everything to a T; see what works best and go for it.

When I’m thinking about my composition, I often go back to something I’ve read in How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. Stan Lee (or Buscema) said in it, that to captivate the viewer you need to make sure that your images are dynamic. Make sure to use perspective and try to convey the movement to make your art pop.

I set up my camera’s focal length to 85mm and tinkered with its position until I was satisfied. Lighting was a mixture of HDR lighting and a couple (well, two) of emission planes located around the scene to bring some more life into it.

HDR empty rotation and two fill lights adding more light where needed.

After rendering your scene, you might want to make it sharper or manage the levels/saturation in compositor. To make things a little more crisp I sometimes use the high pass filter with overlay mixing. Adding chromatic aberration is also a thing, just don’t overuse it. For this one, I just adjusted the levels and color saturation.

Dramatic reenactment of nodes I didn’t save because I’m dumb.

When you’re done with your piece, don’t be afraid to post it online. Receiving criticism is important in your overall growth as a 3D artist. Take it to your heart, be brave and make sure you’re not making the same mistakes over and over. Blender has a great community that is always eager to help, use that to your advantage.

Final result in all of its technicolor glory.

Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed making it. Until next time, stay awesome and keep on blendin’!

About the Author

Rafal Topolski, Graphic designer with a passion for 3D. Retro gaming, movies and comics lover.



About the Author

Abby Crawford

I've been a part of the BlenderNation team since 2018, producing Behind the Scenes and Meet the Artist features that highlight Blender artists and their work.


  1. So you still have the booleans in the final picture and they just not on render.. But with an animation would you do the same or go the hustle of polishing the boolean mess? BTW The pic looks great!

    • Rafa? Topolski on

      Thanks! Well, it really depends on the type of animation you're aiming for. Anything that won't distort the mesh would be okay, other than that you might want to tidy up your model.

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