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Behind the Scenes: Little Unicorn


About Me

Hello everyone! My name is Laura Mercadal and I live in France. I'm a freelance 3D artist. I work for advertising or animation studios. Most often I work on modeling, shaders, and lighting.

I learned to use 3ds Max and Maya with V-Ray and Arnold at the Emile Cohl school in Lyon, France. I received very general training.

It will soon be a little over a year that I have been using Blender for my personal AND professional work.
I always find this software amazing.


The idea for my 3D came from the beautiful drawings of Annie Stegg. I really like the atmosphere of her drawings. It is often very dark but very pure at the same time. I really wanted to keep this aspect in my creation.

It was, however, important for me to have a unicorn with more realistic anatomical proportions. So I did a lot of research on foals and sleeping horses:

Some of my reference images

With all that I could start my sculpt!


I used ZBrush for sculpting, Substance Painter for texturing, and Blender for lighting and rendering my scene.

For the hardware: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X, 80 gigs of RAM, Nvidia RTX 2070 Super.


Usually, I make a base mesh in Blender before I start sculpting but this time I started modeling directly in ZBrush, making a blockout with spheres. And little by little I started to sculpt.

When I was satisfied with the sculpt, I did an automatic remesh with the ZRemesher in ZBrush to decimate the number of polygons to be able to work better in Substance Painter. (The best would have been to do a retopo by hand but laziness hit me….)


For the texturing, I worked in Substance Painter.

At the beginning, I had the idea to make a little unicorn in a marble color, in a very light tone with a few touches of gilding.

But I was not satisfied with the rendering. By testing the textures quickly in Blender with lighting, the unicorn did not come out as I would have liked.

So I went back to Substance Painter and I started again.

I used as a raw material the Bronze Corroded smart material, onto which I added the Bronze Armor smart material with a mask.

Then a little Dust material, on Iron Forged Old to make the unicorn look dirty. And again the Bronze Armor smart material to add a few touches of shine.


For the lighting of my scene, I used Blender, with the rendering engine EEVEE.

I used an HDRI in the background to create a few more reflections in the golden part.

Then I added my main light on the top of the stage. Then I added a colored backlight behind the unicorn to detach it from the background. I added a small light on its left side to lighten the shadows slightly to regain volume. And to finish, a small light to create a small reflection in his right eye, to make it a little more alive.

Render and compositing

After baking the lights and reflections with the volume irradiance, I rendered my image, with a separate bloom pass to have more control during compositing.
I changed the colors slightly and added some sharpness, some noise, and some blur.

And tada, we get a little unicorn!

Unicorn in her setting (collab with Antoine Bagattini):

Thanks to BlenderNation for this interview. and for allowing me to talk about my creation!

About the Author

laura mercadal 3dLaura Mercadal, 3D Artist



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. ImagineCGimages on

    What absolutely lovely work! It has al the perfect innocence of childhood, beautifully captures the mood of the inspiration image - really this is wonderful! Well done!

  2. Gil R. Grandimaj on

    Bravo et félicitations à Laura Mercadal pour cette belle interview et d'avoir détaillé son wip. C'est vraiment enrichissant et instructif pour nous permettre d'améliorer nos techniques lorsque l'on débute dans la 3D.


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