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Behind the Scenes: Agony Floats Airship



My name is Pham Nguyen Anh Khoi, I call myself Gebalt, and I am a 24-year-old 3D artist from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I was formerly a graphic designer, but I now enjoy expressing my artistic freedom as a 3D artist instead of being stuck to only 2 dimensions.

Being able to expand my portfolio with unique projects is truly one of my greatest passions, and I plan to continue doing so in the future. I am also passionate about discovering my own art style and transitioning gradually until I find the one that resonates with me the most, the one that I truly love. With every new project, I am one step closer to achieving this goal.


This piece is a part of my "Vile Metal" series, which explores a style and theme that I have wanted to do for a long time. The series depicts a world in which machines have taken over humans and feed on their anguish, rage, and desperation. These war machines have taken on the appearance of those they have devoured, and the world they have created is now shrouded in a dreadful cloud.

Most of my inspiration for this series came from the Half Life 2 Beta concept art, and the lighting and composition were also influenced by Piotr Jabłoński's paintings.


The entire piece was created and rendered in Blender, with multiple layers of paint-over added later in Photoshop. The texture was made in Quixel Mixer and heavily painted over in Photoshop for additional passes and adjustments. The paint-over process is one of the most important steps in making these pieces stand out and define the style because the primary render lacks sufficient grime, grit, and atmosphere to distinguish it from previous artworks I've created.


I like to start my process by establishing the mood for the scene, which is easily accomplished by including a sky, HDRI, necessary lighting, and volumetric elements in the scene to enhance depth, vibe, and art direction.

For this piece, I wanted to render the airship from a dramatic angle from the ground, and the crowd in the foreground adds to that effect. Any changes made to the scene can be easily edited later.

The modeling process for the main objects in the Vile Metal series always begins with human figures in different emotional states such as anger, sadness, desperation, etc. These emotions are vital to the main scene.

The hard-surface style I use for these things is inspired by the machinery in Half Life games, especially Half Life: Alyx. I try to follow the harmony of the B.M.S order of Big, Medium, Small shapes. This creates a sense of complexity while also allowing the main shape and form of the model to be observable, avoiding confusion and chaoticness in overly detailed models.


The textures used for the whole ship are pretty minimal. I only reuse a single rusty and gritty texture that I made and put it through different nodes to modify its look for any area where secondary and tertiary material is applied. This is to keep it close to the concept of a full metal army.

Since I don’t plan to fully UV unwrap this monstrosity, I decided to use an AO node to create dust and dirt around the corners of the model.


I wanted to achieve that unreal painterly effect for the project, so what I needed wasn’t realistic lighting, but cinematic and dramatic lighting. So, I used an area light with a beam shape reduced enough to focus on important areas of the composition, such as the face and the arm. Some other smaller lights also focus on the details of the scene, such as the crowd from far away.


I rendered the scene with all possible render passes exported so that I could use them to help with the paint-over process.

Some effects, such as smoke, fog, and dust/dirt particles, are better to do in the paint-over stage instead of entirely in Blender.


Thank you for your time, I hope you enjoyed reading this article and learned something useful from it.

Have a nice day!

About the Artist

Pham Nguyen Anh Khoi, a 3D artist from Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. He is currently working as a freelance artist



About the Author

Avatar image for Alina Khan
Alina Khan

A self taught 3d artist, who seeks to excel in the computer graphics field. Currently a student, freelancer and the editor for the 'Behind the Scenes' at Blender Nation.

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