It’s labeled as “WIP 011”, but for now this is the final version of the strawberry quartz material study. I have the cut gemstone model in place that I wanted for it, and the surface and volume shaders both look decent. I’m sure I’ll circle back around to it at some point for improvement, but there are so many materials to study.
If you’re interested, check out my (free) post on Patreon about it here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/67185571
I also plan to work on some tutorials over the next couple of weeks. I’d love to hear feedback on anything you might want to see. My current plan is a four-part tutorial: modeling the cut gemstone, creating the surface shader, creating the volume shader, and rendering it all to video.
As I mentioned on my Patreon, as part of my materials studies in Substance Designer and Blender, I really want to work on crystals and gemstones. I’ve been collecting quite a few reference images on this Pinterest board over the last few months, and have decided that the first one I’m going after is the strawberry quartz.
I have a few ideas for how to best do this. I’m initially working in Substance3D to create the surface material, but I’m also planning to use a volumetric shader combined with the surface shader in Blender to create an effect that looks more like the quartz. Those red veins are not just on the surface!
So, for my first iterations of both surface materials and volumetric shaders, I have the following first six WIP attempts:
#1 was just the first run at the surface shader. It’s a little too busy, and both the quartz and the veins are running a little too much toward pink.
#2 added a multidirectional blur to calm down the veining a bit.
#3 added the roughness and metallic channels to the texture and drove the veins more toward red.
#4 was a touchup to all of the channels, but the UVs on the model were also not right on two sides (visible on the left side in the image). It also added the initial volumetric pass inside the crystal.
#5 minor touchups.
#6 fixed UVs, fixed up some coloring and the density of the volumetric pass.
So, during these steps, widescale changes were made in Substance to the material textures themselves. In Blender, after getting Cycles setup the way I wanted, I made some minor detail changes to both the volumetric and surface shaders. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but not bad for a little bit of time in the morning.
FWIW, the blue cube in the background of the renders is there simply to verify the level of transparency. I’ll probably change the setup some so that there’s a white/50%/black background with some frosted lighting coming in from underneath and slightly to the front. The surface itself looks pretty decent, though I’m sure there will be some fine-tuning. The major changes I think still need to be made are in the volumetric shader aspect.
Something I’ve been wanting to work on for ages, and one of the key reasons I’ve started playing with Blender, is a great, fully-modeled alchemy lab or wizard’s lab. I wanted to model and skin every component from scratch, create appropriate lighting, and eventually animate a small scene.
That effort has begun…
In some cases, there are currently placeholder materials – currently just the walls and the ground. And everything is iterative in that I will likely go back to each piece over time to tweak models and materials as the scene (and my skillset) grows.
The very first thing I started modeling was a small double-bubble glass container for liquids. It turned out pretty nicely so far – standing at 0.299m tall (~11.75″), not including the cork. Doesn’t every alchemy bottle need a cork?
The red coming through is just a red cube I was using to get the alpha, transmission, and IOR dialed in. In this case the container has water in it. I also wanted to play around with some odd glowing liquids, so I just threw together green and red options as more of a quick placeholder.
I figured the next step was that I needed to make a table to start putting stuff on. Since reference images are an amazing tool, this is the reference I was using for the table.
Pretty simple, but it looks sturdy and timeless. I still plan to add the braces along the bottom and top of the legs, but for now I’ve got this:
I had a lot of fun with this one. While it adds complexity (and render time), I wanted the planks of the table top to be slightly different. Each one got a light level of deformation – small chunks removed, larger gouges, and other things that were better modeled than added via normal maps. Then using a single wood grain texture, I unwrapped the UVs for each plank and each leg and applied those unwrappings to slightly shifted areas of the texture. So one texture, but nine different results for how they appear. This adds to the feeling of a real table – all made from the same type of wood, but not with identical grain, which would be an odd thing to see.
Not a particularly great render, but definitely give the idea of what I was going for.
Next on my list was a coil candle, sometimes called an hour candle since you can control how long a segment burns before going out. My mom had one or two of these in her antique collection when I was a kid, and I remember thinking that it was just a really cool way to have a light source and a very rough timer at hand. Reference image:
This has been what I’ve worked on the last couple of days. I ended up using Blender Rookie‘s tutorial on making a coil as the jumping off point.
I was able to get a rough shape for the candle, and added a brass dish for the start. I actually still have that little tail at the bottom to fix up, and a variety of details to add, but progress was still made. I added the brass spindle and the mechanism used to “stop” the candle, as well as bending the top of the candle upwards, adding a wick, and a small flame… a flame that also still desperately needs some work.
There’s still some work to be done on this. Probably adding small bits of wax to the dish, definitely adding feet to the dish, and possibly a small handle. I’m also considering adding a glass baffle.
So far, there isn’t much. Given that this is all a learn-as-I-go process, it’s slow. I’m sure it’ll pick up quite a bit as I move forward. At least I really hope so lol. Right now, the scene as far as objects go looks like this:
Some things I plan to add:
A variety of jars and containers, glass, leaded glass, clay and ceramic.
A “lab” setup – small distiller and other chemistry/alchemy equipment.
Additional light sources – I’d like the entire scene to be lit via ray-tracing with Cycles, all from actual light sources: candles, sconces, torches, weird glowing objects, et cetera.
Various furnishings: tables, wall-mounted items, chests, shelving.
A hearth/fireplace of some sort, possibly with some basic cooking items
A banner or two, as I definitely want to also work with cloth
Animations – currently the candle flame is animated, but it sucks. I’d also like to have the light source for flames flicker and move with the flames themselves. I had done this for wall sconces in Labyrintheer programmatically, but am still trying to find the best way to go about this in Blender.
Packaging: If this actually works out well, and a good collection comes into being, I’d like to possibly sell this as a package, ready to go for Unity and Unreal as a sort of kitbash type of deal. Who knows how long it will take, but a production-ready kit is definitely a goal.
I haven’t forgotten about my many unfinished development projects –Labyrintheer, Deuta, Evocuration, Atomancer – or my more personal projects – Sudoku Solver, Image Tools, XephLibs. But lo and behold, I’ve dove into Blender recently, and it’s been a lot of fun. What better way to kick things off than the ever-present Donut Tutorial from Andrew Price (aka Blender Guru). A quick search of #DonutTutorial on Twitter shows how often this tutorial is done, and with millions of views on YouTube (across Blender versions, as new versions of the tutorial are created for various major releases), the #Donutverse has become quite expansive.
Above is a small gallery of my progress through the tutorials. They’re fairly inclusive tutorials for beginners, including modeling shapes by hand, using and painting materials, using particles, setting up lights and cameras, and basic scene layout.
Given that a lot of my hobbyist development time the past few months has been programmatic meshes, it was a nice change of pace to use modeling software to create meshes and push vertices around.
If you’re looking to learn Blender, definitely check out Andrew’s YouTube channel (linked above) and particularly his tutorial playlists.