I was recently a guest artist on Greyscalegorilla's Daily Render Project, where I was challenged to create seven renders: one for every day of the week.
I know a lot of folks in the 3D community do "dailies", but man, I ain't them! A week is about as much as I can handle. Still, my stint as a daily render artist taught me a few new tricks. I'd like to show you how my favorite pieces from this project were made.
Tower blocks are a recurring theme in my work. I find the repetition totally mesmerizing, especially when shadows are involved. Maybe it's because of the time I spent in Hong Kong as a kid.
So, what's going on here? This is one floor composed entirely of cubes, cloned and stacked repeatedly.
See?! I'm basic like that. The shadow being cast on the building is from a handful of primitives with a light source behind it.
My favorite part of this is the render settings, though. I was getting a little grain in the shadows and loved the character it was pulling out of the scene.
If you're in pursuit of the cleanest and most perfect render, grain is a mistake to be fixed. But I wanted to see if I could deteriorate it even further.
There's the before and after. And here are my Global Illumination settings for your borrowing pleasure.
This piece really gets to the essence of what I'm about: combining simple 3D techniques with strong visual design. Each of these shapes are primitives, the most basic of 3D shapes.
This gradient material was applied universally. It uses two channels:
- A 50/50 blue-to-pink gradient in the Luminance channel.
- A 20/80 black-to-white gradient in the Alpha channel. (I eyeballed the ratio.)
From there, it was down to the composition to make this a visually interesting piece.
Allow me to describe one of my favorite things. I'm on a flight at sunset and the airplane adjusts pitch during descent. An atomic orange-pink light filters in through the windows and cascades up and down the cabin. It's so beautiful!
I've wanted to express my affinity for this rare delight for-freaking-ever.
Modeling the cabin was mostly a matter of building an airplane seat and repeating it. The chairs were made up of modified cubes except for the armrests, which were drawn and extruded.
I really struggled with the lighting on this one!! I wanted the light as bright as possible, with everything else in shadow—but not hidden.
I thought Sketch & Toon would be my best bet, but I couldn't get it to calculate the edges in a satisfactory way. I ended up spitting out a black-and-white version without Sketch & Toon after many failed takes.
I re-mapped the color scale with the same Gradient Map technique I've shared here previously.
My friend EJ from Eyedesyn is a Sketch & Toon deity and sent me an alternative approach for the lighting. I thought it'd be cool to share the file so you can see both of our approaches. (Note: The camera uses Signal for animation.)
By the way, if you want to learn Cinema 4D's Sketch & Toon module, EJ Hassenfratz is your dude. He has Lynda tutorials on S&T for days and a blog packed with high-quality tutorials.
Ugh, the juxtaposition of a minimally-designed swimming pool and the complex, organic form of a palm three. I WILL NEVER TIRE OF IT.
Let me show you the model for this. PREPARE TO BE BLOWN AWAY.
Just kidding. This one is also basic!
Since the layout for this scene is so simple, let me get into the fine-tuning. Like Hong Kong, I tried to dial in the grain by cycling through the jankiest possible Global Illumination settings.
This is where I started and where I landed. I wanted that darker edge inside the pool.
Because then I could bring that edge into Photoshop and really make some magic happen. Here's a quick peek at my adjustment layers.
- Levels dial up the contrast and bring out that edge.
- Vignettes (I just painted these by hand real fast) frame the scene.
- Color Balance to crank the blue.
- Gradient Map to tint the darkest areas purple.
- Vibrance to maximize the color payoff.
- Curves to wash it in a low-key vintage purple. I have a custom Curves set I use almost exclusively.
- Photo Filter to get the most pure possible blue.
As part of the guest spot, I also did an interview on the Greyscalegorilla blog.
Here's an excerpt. You can read the full interview right here!
Do you have any advice for graphic designers looking to get into 3D?
Yes! To all designers and illustrators: 3D NEEDS YOUR TALENTS. You don’t need to have the latest hardware (I started learning on an old MacBook Air) or create realistic, chromed-out renders to be successful in this space. Bring your innate creative talent, excitement to learn, and find a deliberate action to take right now. 3D for Designers is a great place to start!
A lot of y'all know GSG is where I started learning 3D and Cinema 4D, so it was an honor to participate in their project. (Nick Campbell and Chad Ashley, you are the best!)
By the way, I have a ton of projects I'm really excited about coming up. I'm posting the process and behind-the-scenes stuff on my Instagram story, so come hang out in the studio with me.
Until next time!
Allison House is a designer and art director specializing in 3D visuals and motion graphics. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME, SPIN, Pitchfork, and many more.