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Behind the Scenes: Floating Cottage

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About me

Hi! My name is Louna, I’m a 20 year-old French junior 2D animator and 3D artist - which can sound odd but I enjoy doing 2D traditional animation as much as I enjoy creating pretty 3D scenes. In fact, I’m passionate about visual arts in general, I always look for various references and inspiration in order to stay open-minded and improve my creativity. I just finished my three-year university course in 3D design and animation in a French school and I’m currently doing an internship as a motion designer. In my spare time, I do my best to bring my ideas to life and create original and pretty pieces - and since I’m still a novice, I’m very enthusiastic about learning new things everyday!

Background and training in 3D

As I first discovered 3D modeling during my freshman year, I was blown away by the huge amount of possibilities it offered.

In the first place, I was taught how to use 3ds Max, Maya, and V-Ray in order to create very photorealistic scenes—because mastering PBR and realistic shading remains the most requested skill in the French 3D industry (for instance, if one wants to work in architecture or the luxury industry). But as far as I was concerned, I wanted to focus on a more illustrative approach and experiment with different techniques that would allow me to create very stylized scenes.

Therefore, the release of Blender 2.8 was a real turning point in my learning of 3D since it made the workflow way simpler and accessible. At that point, I started working on more stylized 3D illustrations and managed to emancipate myself from methods that were too ‘procedural’ compared to the result I was aiming for.

Inspiration

Actually, I’ve always wanted to create a hand-painted piece because I was curious about the process, especially about NPR shading and how to manage an unlit scene. I’d say that the artist that really inspired me the most while creating this piece is Catherine Unger. I greatly look up to her work and observing her illustrations gave me a better understanding of color theory and made me progress a lot.

Sketching

First, I made a rough sketch of the piece. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to create a cute and soothing scenery on a floating island - I wanted to convey a vision of a tranquil home, very far away from the noisy and stressful civilisation I live in. Designing the little cottage was kind of hard since I wanted it to be really neat, original, and stylized. I tried a lot of shape associations before getting the exact one I wanted.

Once I found the design of the house and the big shapes of the composition, I was ready to tackle the modeling part.

Modeling

The modeling part was quite simple since it’s all low-poly and simple shapes, but here are a few tips :

I used two different methods to stylize my shapes very quickly; these methods can seem obvious but they weren’t to me. The first one, which I used in particular on rocks and on the island, is useful if you want to make your shape more random, if you want to give it an “eroded” look without spending too much time moving vertices around: simply go into the edit mode, select the vertices of your object, then mesh > transform > randomize (feel free to click again to randomize it even more). And that does the trick!

The second method is good to use when you’re looking for a specific result, if you want to make your shape a little more crooked and characterized: use the sculpt mode. Indeed, Blender has a very powerful sculpt mode that allows you to quickly modify objects to your liking, and even more precisely than the soft selection.

Since it was my first time doing a hand-painted piece, I maybe over-detailed some assets of the scene, and it made me lose a lot of time. I was always told to take great care of the accuracy and the cleanness of my models, to put a lot of effort in detail and topology, but in  a hand-painted model, things are different: all the details are in the texture, so you just need to make sure that your UVs are clean and that your models remain as low-res as possible, in order not to make your scene too heavy.

Texturing

The texturing part is without any doubt the most difficult of the whole process. It’s the moment when you have to perform your artistic skills and mobilize all your knowledge about light, color, contrast, texture - knowledge I barely had when I started the piece. Indeed, since I wanted my piece to be completely unlit and shadeless, I had to imagine and manually paint each 3D pass directly into the base color channel. So I used my clay render to have some lighting landmarks, and I decided to do some paint-over to see what result I could get. This part was really exhausting and difficult because I had to study in order to make up for my shortcomings while experimenting at the same time. My first attempts were really hideous, but I got better as I spent a lot of time on it, and tried over and over - for that, there’s no secret: hard work is the only way to improve.

I assigned one material slot per object category (the house, the veggie garden, etc…), as you can see on the pic below, in order to make my UV sets more readable and easy to texture. I only textured the visible side of my scene because I was running out of time.

Once I blocked the colors, I textured the whole scene in Substance Painter and exported only the base color as needed.

The best advice I can give for the texturing part is to know what atmosphere you want your scene to give off; make moodboards! Once you know that, you can easily compose a palette and start to work with a good base.

Animation

As you might expect, I didn’t animate everything by hand: for the plants, the swing and the windmill, I keyed the attribute I wanted to animate (in that case, a specific rotation axis to mimic the wind) then simply added a noise modifier on it and tweaked its properties to my liking.

As for the cloth pieces, I went for a real cloth simulation. I gave the pieces dynamic cloth properties, pinned them to the ropes with the weight paint, and set a wind field to get a more natural result.

Rendering

I decided to render my scene with Eevee because - besides being a huge fan of it - I didn’t need a realistic render since my scene contains nothing but geometry and diffuse passes, so Eevee perfectly did the job.

I did some post-production editing to adjust the colors, and voilà!

Conclusion

When I started this piece, my purpose was to create an eye-catching image with vibrant colors totally from scratch, and I’m very proud of the result. I progressed a lot and had the opportunity to improve my skills in modeling, coloring and lighting, and I’m truly glad I worked on that because I really lacked knowledge in that area of subject. It’s just the beginning, there’s still a lot to improve, I have to sharpen my workflow and explore my art style but I’m proud of that first try. I’ll do my best to make the next pieces even better!

I want to thank BlenderNation for giving me the opportunity to write this article, and also thank you for reading it! Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions, I’ll be happy to answer it.

About the Author

Louna Boutayeb, Junior 2D animator and 3D artist

 

 

About 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.

6 Comments

  1. Looks lovely, very unique look and feel.

    Doing a quick draw-over is a very effective way to experiment with different color schemes and textures without committing too much.

    Keep it up
    Ciao

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