I realized (this is the very small breakthrough I mentioned yesterday) that I could use Blender to add 3D texture to my pieces. Verisimilitude has been the goal all along, and using an actual 3D renderer brings so much to the table that it boggles my mind that I didn’t think of this much earlier.
A closeup of the texture:
How I made this piece: I mocked it up in Illustrator, then exported it to SVG where I manually added the turbulence and displacement filters (in Vim) to distress the edges of the white square, which you can see in that closeup. I used Inkscape to export the SVG to a 6500×6500 PNG.
Then, in Blender, I created a plane and went to town on the shading, using a combination of procedural and image textures to mix the colors together and displace the geometry of the plane. There’s a key light and a dim fill light. And in the compositor I added a little chromatic aberration around the edges with the lens distortion filter.
Rendered it at 5200×5200, which took about two hours on my 16″ MacBook Pro. I tend to work a little smaller and then upscale to 6500x6500 (for square pieces), since Photoshop’s upscaling is fairly decent these days. After upscaling, I added my signature thingie, which I’ll add in Blender in the future so it fits in better.
Here’s the node setup on the plane (and in the future I’ll use groups to make things more manageable):
Overall, I’m happy with this technique. It’s more time-consuming than painting textures in Photoshop, but I can do other things while it’s rendering, and the result looks much better to me. Working in 3D is more fun, too. Most importantly, using Blender gives me loads of new options that would have been harder to do well with my old technique — shiny paint, glowing materials, etc.
I made the initial animation in Blender, using the wave and displace modifiers and some postprocessing in the node editor. Then I imported the frames into After Effects and did a little more processing (added grain, some color adjustments). I exported the frames as a PNG sequence and then converted them to a GIF using ImageMagick on the command line:
Done! Today was my last Daily Blender render (since I’m not doing Sundays). Whew. Here they all are:
Other than feeling guilty about spamming people on Twitter and Facebook about it each day, it’s been fun. I’ve pushed myself and done far more Blender than I had in the whole year before this month (just six pieces), and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve started using the rigid body sim, the cloth sim, the hair sim, the cell fracture addon, and environment maps. I’ve done a little more sculpting (can’t say that I’m any good at it yet, though). And, from looking at this overview image, I’ve learned once again that my artistic style is all over the map.
Things I still need to work on:
Modeling. I found myself avoiding it as much as possible this month. I can do basic stuff, but not much beyond that. (What would probably be best, I think, is a “Daily Modeling” challenge. But not just yet, and I’ll probably keep it private this time.)
Lighting. Environment maps helped a lot, but I still feel like it’s purely accidental when I end up with good lighting in my pieces.
UV mapping. I’m still scared of it.
I only used Freestyle on one piece. I wish I’d used it more.