[CENTER]MAKING OF: Cute Clown
By Leonardo Nahuel Belich
Introduction Hi my name Is Nahuel Belich, I have been playing around the CG world for more than six or seven years, but I have been using blender for less than a year. I hope you find this article useful or at least not too boring :D.
How did the whole process startí
This project started as a competition, a seven day duel, the idea or concept for the duel was “a ver que sale de una caja” the translation is something like “lets see what's coming from a box” referring to box modeling techniques, I tooque the idea a little bit more literal. The idea was to do a nice exotic clown, but suddenly while I was modeling it's eyes, (the masque eye holes), I felt something, something wasn’t right, that was when it popped in my mind, that picture, that soul trapped behind that masque for who knows how long, waiting for who knows what, the only thing that I could do is to show everyone that there it was, waiting, staring, and thinking about the next move . . . no one can be far from a trapped soul.
Which ones were my rules to follow?
I try to worque in the following order, first; modeling, second; light shading, third; materials and texture. This is just to structure my work, this doesn't always work. Often at the office, I'm obligated to mix all the steps because of different issues, but I try to keep an order over things, except naming conventions. . . . If you download the file you will notice that is a little bit messy, I’m still working on that area. . .
First of all, I usually create a box or a plane to start modeling from, in this case I used a box and modeled using box modeling, at least at the beginning. I'm used to modeling using poly to poly techniques instead box modeling, alos I made use of the sculpting tools. That is great resource to refine organic models, even if they don’t have many subdivisions.
The second thing that I usually do, is to divide the mesh and apply a mirror and subsurf modifiers (fig1). The Mirror modifier, as its name says, copies over any selected axis, the mesh from the other side of the center of the object. It alos has a “do Clipping” option which locks the vertex aligned to the center and avoids any new face creation from any extrude action over the mirror center, and finally this mod mirrors uv`s. So if the model is symmetrical, we only have to do the half of worque and if it is not, this modifier leaves a perfect base mesh to deform and distort, again saving us some time.
Modelando un payaso parte 1
Modelando un payaso parte 2
Cloth and candles:
The tools for this tasque were the sculpting tools, a great resource that allows us to give shape extremely fast to any organic mesh, in this case fabric and wax.
The main sculpting tools that I used were, Draw, smooth, pinch and grab. Using these four modes were more than enough to do the job,
- Draw(D): This mode tends to move the faces in the direction of its normal
- Smooth(S): As its name says, this mode tends to smooth the mesh surface relaxing the vertex position.
- Pinch(P): Pinch tends to drag the vertex to the center of the brush, its useful to accentuate borders or creases, be aware that this brush can reach high distortion levels on the polygons size, its recommended to use in wire frame mode.
- Grab(G): This is more or less like the proportional edit falloff, but much more dynamic.
- Inflate: This last brush is a combination (more or less) of the draw brush and a invert and software versión of pinch brush. It does exactly what it says, it’s like inflating the mesh
During the sculpting session there are a few useful shortcuts. You can change the different sculpting tools using, D,S,P,G, if you want to change the brush size, F. It will pop up a circle and that’s the radius. To change the strength press Shift+F, It will pop up two circles, but you will control only the inner one. The bigger the inner circle the less strength, smaller is strongest. To rotate the brush, in case you are using any texture as a stencil, ctrl+F. These controls are more than enough to play with.
Even when the overall was done by sculpt tools, for fun and tests, the cloth over the spring was done using cloth simulation. Essentially I made a hole on the cloth and set the vértices of that hole as a vertex group, then in the cloth panel, I used that VG for pinning them in place, that kept the cloth in its place for the simulation that was done using the cotton preset and nothing else, after simulating the cloth, I sculpted some details.
Cloth and Candles Video
About the environment, it’s quite simple really. Using the help of Google!, I searched for images of candles, churches, temples and things like that. Once I had those pictures, I just mapped planes that were placed strategically to give the right reflections, but to know the right position is a little bit hard. So I tooque the masque and applied to it a material with full reflectivity, that way I verified the position and size of the planes.
Lighting was alos a simple task, first I identified the main light sources. The candles behind and the pictures of the candles behind the camera. For the candles I placed three different Omni lights, and for the plane behind the camera, I used an area light. A few render tests without OSA and half size helped me to adjust intensity, position of the lights and alos very important, adjust the shadows. Especially the bias and software shadows sizes.
The second part of lighting belongs to my favorite pass, AO ( Ambient Occlusion). I’m not sure how or why, but in blender, AO, an internal render pass that affects directly from the world options, this property of AO inside blender allows us to use it for lighting purposes.
You may think, why put the lights first and then use the AO pass for lighting? Well. . . the answer is simple, I know that I’m going to use AO, so all the lighting is darker than it should be. Alos I don’t care much about it because at the last, it’s going to go through a node rig to make a color balance and contrast adjustment. The only thing that I’m careful with is to avoid any white or blak extremes. As long as the picture has enough color information, we will be able to correct contrast and highlights by using nodes.
UV and texture paint: The clown
After finishing the general setup, its time to detail textures. Before I start painting or texturing, it’s needed to Unwrap the UV map. This is because we are going to place a 2d texture onto 3d mesh, so each vertex of the 3d mesh needs coordinates to know which pixels should be used in which polygons. Using the LSCM, unwrap is a really easy task. Just select the edges to become seams, press Ctrl+E, choose “marque seems”, then select all polys and press U and select “unwra p”. There it is! If it would be necessary, the unwrap can be refined later.
[LEFT]To start painting, it’s needed to assign a texture to paint. If you want, you can start painting over that texture, but let’s suppose that that wasn't done yet. Hit tab to switch to edit mode, hit A to select all, then inside the Uv/image editor create a new or open an existing image. That’s it, now switch to texture paint mode, and start painting!
Shaders for face and candles SSS!!
The “face” (the area around the eyes) and candles both have a similar shader. They are both SSS(Sub Surface Scattering) and node composited. The skin shader was worked from the skin shader in the blendermag issue 16 Wow Factor, (Written by Victor Malherbe). My versión didn't have bak face scattering and I added a “paint” layer instead. If you look closer, there is red paint around the eyes. . ., the candles don’t have a dermis layer, but they have a SSS base for a wax effect and a procedural map to add that grunge. The fire of the candles is a geometry with a flame shape, but rendered in a different layer using compositing nodes like blur, color mix (Add mode) and a few things more that are all thrown over the background and there`s fire!! (a post effect, See below ;] )
Left candle wax shader, right face skin shader
Face Shading Video
Candles Fire Comp Video
The last step, post production, as you will see down below the node network, its not so complicated (if you are new in this, it may look as an ancient enigma, but it’s not so complicated). I used the usual defocus node, glare effect, added a separate layer for candle fire and a separate layer for the corner shadowing (I thinque it was called vignette but I`m not sure)and something that is not a great thing but in this first time, it looked interesting to me.
As a common use, AO(Ambient Occlusion) in blender can be used as a complement for lightning, but I'm alos used to using AO to add detail to creases, small holes details, etc. The problem was that the AO configured for lighting was right, so I had to create a different one without changing the original.
I have been using blender for 6 to 9 months, so this was a quite a pleasant surprise, especially for sequence composition environments, blender is capable of managing different scenes inside the same blend file. So even though AO is global for the entire scene and you only can have one, it is possible to create another scene, copying all objects, and set there a different AO, render the setup etc etc, that later will be combined by node editor (alos see below and blend file).
Multi AO Guide
I did two versións of this Cute clown, most of the videos that you will see are from the first versión, the only differences are only a few more hours of work, nothing else.
With every new render I do, I try to learn something new, every new image should have a new technique, a new challenge or a new knowledge, and even when the process is not complete in these pages and videos, I hope that this would be useful as a guide or a lesson to anyone who needs it.
The main reason for writing this article, is that this was a kind of lesson. Resuming it helped me to fix knowledge and opens the probabilities to someone more experienced than me to take these techniques and refine it or develop new ones, allowing more resources for artists to create.
Finally a phrase that I feel like a motivation to keep going (but keep in mind that I`m not a poet :]).
“I teach to learn and learn to teach, a circle that only leads us forward”
“Enseño para aprende y aprendo para enseñar un círculo vicioso que solamente nos hace avanzar”
Thanks for Reading,
Leonardo Nahuel Belich