Blender: Alchemy Lab, pt. I

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?

Double Bubble Container

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.

Alchemy Lab Simple Table Reference

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:

Alchemy Lab Simple Table

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.

Alchemy Lab Simple Table

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:

Coil Candle

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.

Coil Candle with Brass Dish

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.

Coil Candle

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:

Coil Candle and Double Bubble on Simple Table

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.