Blender 3.0 (alpha)

Same image as last post, but I rendered this with Blender 3.0. I’ve often thought that game engines have one advantage over Blender and that is an asset browser. Beats appending from some file (which one, what was the asset named? etc). A course I’ve been doing is by a AAA game developer who creates assets in Maya and ZBrush but imports them into Unreal for environment creation and rendering.

The new Blender (3.0) has an Asset Browser!! As I want to focus on more stylized environments with a more agile design process this definitely seems the way to go. Composition and lighting have always been more interesting to me than the quality of assets or the design of characters/creatures/mechs or arch. viz. stuff. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the new phase in my artistic career.

Something New

This probably doesn’t look very different from other recent work, but there are a few new features. One is that I didn’t use an HDRI for the sky, just the inbuilt sky texture. Also, I’ve used alphas for the clouds, render a lot faster than using any kind of volumetric cloud, while giving more control than an HDRI would.

The rock is a sculpting following the technique of Julien deVille. These are all insances of the same rock. I added a bit of grunge over the top in Krita after rendering – they were all a bit too squeeky clean. I’m going for a more stylized look following Tyler Smith’s tutorial on LearnSquared. He’s working with Unreal and I must admit just being able to paint on foliage and small rocks (like I could in Vue) is a very appealing workflow. Maybe I should start using Unreal for rendering!

I tried using Eevee for rendering but it was very slow. Cycles was actually faster, and that wasn’t even e-cycles. I must give that a go and see if it’s much faster.

In the spirit of keeping it more like an illustration I’ve upped the saturation a bit on the grass. I think it does give it a bit more punch. I noticed that Tyler Smith, in that LearnSquared course, spent a lot of time tweaking his colours.

And here’s the result of a couple more hours tweaking.

Path, with Atmosphere

The atmosphere is not so obvious here because the HDRI is blurry from being low res. I’ve found another tutorial on environments, this time on Learn Squared. It’s going for the stylized look, not sure if the above image qualifies for that. Part of his process involves sculpting individual leaves in ZBrush, going for a low poly, game engine result!! Crazy, I know. Of course, lots of baking of textures so I guess it works. He did work on Ghost of Tsushima, so there’s that.

Road to Nowhere

I found a new tutorial on procedural ground texture on YT, and here it is. Heavily complemented by plants from RealGrass and an HDRI from HDRIHaven. In this case displacement of the mesh was simply achieved by moving verts around instead of adding a Displace modifier or adding a Displacement node to an adaptive surface. As usual controlling plant distribution required a mesh of some density, not just a displaced plane.

Layers

So this is not too different from previous image, except that I rendered it in layers and assembled in Krita. Just reviewing that workflow. Also I installed regular Blender again because e-cycles has been giving me lots of problems – crashing, renders stopping due to memory errors, etc. Regular Blender might be slower but at least it works. The fault is probably mine, I just don’t know how to use it properly.

Duplicates!!!

I’m having a lot of trouble with unresponsive UI and even the occasional crash. Then I remembered the probably cause – duplicate images. When Blender appends objects it duplicates texture files if more than one object is using the same texture. And these are generally high-res textures. I need to see if I can nail the problem at source, or if I will have to fix it every time I append to another file. Of course I could link instead…

Ell

One of my favourite art books is Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne. He describes several compositional schemes, one of which is L (Ell) or Rectangular. Basically a framing device, as with the foreground tree and table here. Perhaps a fence would have been better than the table. Elm tree front left is a scan I did several years ago. Perhaps I should do a few more, especially now that it’s winter and the trees have all lost their leaves, at least the foreign imports. I used to do most of this type of image in Vue, but I need to keep paying a subscription even to open my old files. I’ll do it all in Blender henceforth.

Proxy

This image uses a mesh with adaptive subdivision with a 4k exr file, and another mesh with a displace modifier using the same image and settings as the displace node in the node tree of the first mesh. The displace modifier could be applied, or not, doesn’t seem to matter. The second, proxy, mesh is high enough res to closely conform to the first, and it has the grass particle system. In the particle settings Show Emitter is unchecked, which makes the actual mesh invisible. Has to be done in two places for viewport and render. I think the result is quite satisfactory.

Grass

The foreground terrain is 100m square, created in World Machine as usual. Adding particle systems (grass) works a lot better when I use a displacement modifier than if I use a displacement input to the Material Output in the shader. Seems I can still use an exr image for the displacement, although it probably doesn’t matter too much if it’s covered in grass. Using vertex groups for the grasses to keep the number manageable.