2023 - Blender Progress and Practice

This is a long thread, many of the replies are highly comprehensive. If you want to learn more about animation and animation production, read on. If you just want to see my art this year, see the gallery below. You can jump to the most recent entry with this link:
https://blenderartists.org/t/2023-blender-progress-and-practice/1441749/last

2023 Gallery

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Dec.

Introduction

Last year’s sketchbook was an immense success- having a log of what I’ve done, and a challenge to myself to do more, enabled me to push myself and grow faster and better in Blender than I’ve ever done before. This year, I hope to grow even more.

This sketchbook is going to be slightly different; I realized last year that it’s kind of a pain to have artwork scattered throughout an ultra-long sketchbook. For that reason, I’m going to add a gallery of everything up here in the initial post.

What you can expect to see here

Animation and character work- the two things I need to drill down on, and the two things I’m most likely to avoid. I spend a lot of time faffing around in Blender avoiding these two things, because they’re very difficult, so 2023 is going to be my year to have a refined and purposeful focus.

There will still probably be other things as well.

Can I add comments / side discussions / critiques / etc?

Yes! Please! There is nothing I would love more than for this thread to be a congregating place of amazing individuals and excellent ideas. If you have something to say, please say it :smiley:

30 Likes

Jan. 4 - Rayban 5228

The beginning of a New Year is always a crazy time, between work and slow-moving I haven’t opened Blender at all this year until today. I haven’t done much yet, but I’ve decided to make a stylized self-portrait of myself as character practice. This won’t be cel-shaded, contrary to my normal practice; I’ve often wanted to make a portrait of myself in the Spider-Verse style, so I’m going to :smiley:

Currently, I’ve made my glasses - they’re an exact 1:1 replica, since it’s pretty easy to find spec drawings online for glasses frames, although I’ve taken some liberties with the properties of the glass (and added some saturation to the frames themselves):

It’s not much, but there’s some interesting stuff happening with the shaders- which is as always my strongest point.

Next steps

I have several base meshes ready to go- I like the lips of one of them, the rest of the face of one of them, and the body of a third, so I’ll Frankenstein those together and then do some sculpting on the face to get it to match my own more closely. With stylized work, exaggeration and caricature are important elements of character - I’ll be making it recognizable, then, but still heavily stylized. After all, none of you know what I look like :sweat_smile: I’m going to try and be fair with my stylization- accentuating both my good features (my jawline has been known to make grown women swoon) and my less-good features (my eyes are slightly uneven vertically, which annoys me as an artist, but what can you do?)

I’ll then clothe myself- feels weird to say- in a day-to-day outfit, which for me means looking like Kevin from Brooklyn 99, or Schmidt from New Girl. My goal is to speak someday at a Blender conference, so my self-portraits I do should help lend me some recognizability at that point. Shouldn’t take long, I’d guess a few days at most

7 Likes

Jan. 5th - Clothes (minus shoes) done

That was fun, if a bit eerie- I’m wearing this outfit right now, and it’s odd to see it on a screen like this.

The things on my socks are toucans, not guns. All my socks have some species of bird on them. Nor do I wear my pants that high, although it’s quite difficult to find pants that fit when you’re 28-32 (in US sizing)- rather, I’m using the length both to show off my socks and to emphasize how long my legs are. I’ve done the same thing with the shirt- by making it slightly too short, I’ve created an impression that the character here is a long, lanky, fellow, which is entirely correct. See yesterday’s notes about caricature.


2023-01-05 12_56_55-Blender H__blender_projects_2023_1_self_portrait_self_portrait1.blend

9 Likes

Jan 13th - playing with line art and geometry nodes

I was recently reading the new Nightwing volume, and I was struck by the opening spread:

Bruno Redondo (the artist) is a master of inking, and I really like his style. I want to create this apartment building in Blender, and so far, I’ve made excellent progress.

I decided to challenge myself and build the entire building with geometry nodes. As you can see, I’ve got the middle section done (except the window frames), and I’ve used a highly modular approach that makes this a breeze. I have groups for Molding, Crossbeams, VerticalBeams, Windows, etc, that I can snap together like Legos. It took a while to create them all, but now that I have, making the rest of the building should take minutes. Currently, I’m using flat shading to really make sure I’m getting the line-art and overall forms right, once the building is done I’ll texture it… and then what? Who knows, probably make a whole scene and try and get some really pretty renders :slight_smile:

Note that the balcony / air conditioners / etc were placed by hand quickly just for the sake of the render. A later update will have them placed procedurally by geometry nodes.

The line art is being done with the grease pencil line art modifier, which is extremely powerful. It’s a tiny bit laggy for me in animation playback, but nothing is currently animated, so it’s not really a problem. I’m not seeing any lag in just normal viewport usage.

There will definitely be another update today, I just wanted to throw this out there- I’m really happy with this so far.

13 Likes

I’ve got the apartment portion of the building done:


I’ve made sure to assign each separate component a unique material in geometry nodes.

Randomizing the blind height and instancing the AC units was absurdly complicated. Because I’m only building one “panel” (a panel being a block with two windows), and then instancing that into a 2D grid, I’m unable to make changes to previous instances after that instancing takes place. It’s a deceptively simple problem- you can’t go backward in a geometry nodes evaluation tree.

I’m sure there was an easier way to do this, but what I ended up doing for the blinds was using Material Selection and Mesh Island Index:


Pretty simple, but extremely effective.

The AC units… oh man, the AC units. What I needed to do here was in addition to moving backward, create one point per mesh island. Something Geometry Nodes does not allow you to do. I mean, I found an extremely hacky way, but it’s definitely not intended use. Steel yourself, this screenshot is a doozy:

Essentially, I used Merge By Distance to reduce each window frame to a few vertices, made curves with only 1 point per vertex, and then used some particularly clunky Boolean math to reduce the resultant 2 points per window frame to 1 point per window frame. As you can probably imagine, this only works with certain combinations of seeds, but it works well enough for my use case :slight_smile:

Just for fun, here’s the whole top-level tree:


Quite a few of those nodes are actually building block mini-trees, there’s probably a few hundred nodes total at this point. But it’s all procedural!

Next up: the ground level with store fronts, which will use building blocks I’ve already made, so it’ll be fairly simple. I mightttt make that a separate object, just because this tree is getting unwieldy. Or I could add a second geonodes to this object, but I like 1 per object, it makes switching easier.

Lastly, the colors aren’t permanent- they’re just so I can quickly tell materials apart. No texturing yet

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It’s extremely difficult to get good quality thin lines… currently I’m rendering at 500% and then downsizing, which is working decently well.

I’m getting BlenderArtists warnings now when I try to post- “you’ve replied too many times in a row without anyone else, you need to stop”, and so forth, which is annoying, so someone, please leave a comment so I can resume normal posting without having to close a pop-up? Thanks :sweat_smile:

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Ha Ha, Just replying so you can reply without annoying pop ups :rofl:

Keep up the good work.

Edit
I thought that being your thread you could post as much as you want, sounds silly that you get those warnings.

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It’s just that lately your posts are getting way above my ability to keep up and leave any sort of meaningful comment =) You’re doing great, btw. Also, those socks look fun)

Something I’m curious about is: do you really keep such a huge node tree, or is it un-grouped for the sake of presentation?

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This is great! Really got the right feeling for it, even with provisional materials.

I was also thinking one day of playing more with grease pencil line art modifier. Which issues have you been getting with the thin lines? Do they look jagged?

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Now that you mention it, I probably could organize my node tree a little better, but yeah, that’s a direct screenshot, I didn’t change anything before taking it. Having a big node tree doesn’t usually bother me because I usually have a node editor open on its own monitor separate from the viewport. Right now I only have one monitor connected to my personal computer, my other ones are in storage for a couple weeks, so it has actually been a fat pain working with this node tree. So thanks for the reminder to clean things up :sweat_smile:

Any comments are welcome, they don’t have to be meaningful :slight_smile:

Yeppppp… rendering at 1920x1080 is a horrible pixelated mess, and half the lines don’t even show up at all. For close ups I’ve been able to get away with only 200%, but to get all of the lines on the whole building, I have to do 500% to get them all to show up. However, this might be a limitation of the workbench renderer- when I switch to Eevee for texturing, I’m hoping to get better quality lines

4 Likes

Jan. 14th - So. Many. Crashes

I’m not technically done modeling, there’s still a couple things I’d like to add, but it became necessary to apply the geometry nodes modifier:


My poor CPU was audibly begging for mercy:

And just to stress StrayBillie out ( :wink: ) here’s the complete tree before I applied it:

This is everything I’ve got so far, in the viewport:

The magenta things are windows, there are extruded walls behind which adds some nice depth.

Rendering a progress shot turned out to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in Blender. After a billion crashes, I remembered you can Bake the Line Art modifier, so I did, and then I could render. Now, the problem was, rendered Line Art doesn’t match the bake… at all. It’s not even close, and it looks nothing like the viewport. The only way I could get something even halfway decent was a Viewport Render at 900%, and then down-sizing back to 1920x1080:

Honestly, this whole experience has soured me on the Line Art modifier a bit. It’s super cool, in theory, but it’s almost impossible to render, and it requires truly insane amounts of RAM. I have the RAM to spare, but I don’t think you could use this modifier with anything less than 64 GB of RAM. There’s not really a lot of great alternatives, either, Freestyle is even worse and the inverted hull method leaves a lot to be desired. I dunno what the answer here is. Either way, I’m going to finish this and get some good-looking renders out of it, one way or another.

I did a very quick test in Affinity Photo just for fun to see what this would look like with color:


This is super imprecise and not the colors I plan on using, but it’s a good demonstration. The end result will be much prettier.

I like the style, although I think the lines need to be thicker in some places.

13 Likes

:face_with_spiral_eyes:
I would’ve freaked out - I’m terrified of anything so complex :laughing: And then there are booleans… my thoughts and prayers are with your CPU :melting_face:

Is there a way to do line-art in post-processing maybe? Like in some UE games, Borderlands-style? What you’re describing sounds… extreme Oo

3 Likes

There are definitely some ways, but they require a lot of manual input. There comes a point where you’d get better results in the same amount of time by just drawing the lines :sweat_smile: the advantage of the line art modifier is you can toss it on and forget about it - essentially sacrificing quality for speed. For stuff like this, where it’s essentially throw-away background work, quality isn’t as important. For character stuff… I still prefer my dynamic UV inner lines method, from my last sketchbook

5 Likes

Hand-colored in Affinity Photo - I used Cryptomatte to separate each layer into a matte, made each matte into a mask, and then used watercolor brushes on the masked layers. I then mixed the lines back over the top. The end result is great- I’m really happy with it, and it definitely looks like Bruno Redondo’s work (of course, his is a lot better)

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Hey ! Super cool !
This procedural building reminds me a lot of silly creative problem solving.
GN asks a lot for inventing quick hacks to get a result. Well done !

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Reminds me of a cover of The Invisible Man by HG Wells.

Also, way cool socks.

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Horray! Bit late, but I wish you a better year.
Great topic layout btw. Should organize things myself :sweat_smile:
Great stuff for the building, looking forward to all the things you’ll do!

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@sozap I’m confident there’s a better way to do post-instancing randomization, but maybe it just doesn’t exist yet :sweat_smile: I could probably pick up some tips from your generator if I could understand it, but you’re using geo nodes at a level way beyond me :wink:

@piranha4D for sure, I love H. G. Wells :grin: I also love socks with birds on them. Really I’m a simple man, doesn’t take much to make me happy.

@Minamookevlar organizing is over-rated, I’m shocked I did it at all. We’ll see how long I can keep that motivation :sweat_smile:

4 Likes

January 17th

Earlier today I was explaining to someone how to procedurally have a circular ring of light around a knob and make it adjustable, after the explanation I just kept going and ended up with this. Heck if I know what it does, or what it’s supposed to be, it’s just material practice.

Truth be told, I’m not having a very good 2023 so far- I’m pretty sure I’ve been in a depressive state all year so far, I feel like garbage mentally and emotionally and I can’t seem to snap out of it. I just want to crawl into a hole somewhere and sleep. Sadly, I must work, so not really an option. Oh well.

Music

Classic rock earlier (Pink Floyd, David Bowie, U2, Queen, The Clash, The Cure, Rush, Ramones, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, REM), Coldplay now.

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Jan. 18

I’ve been hired to make a short animated music video for something called “outrun”, which is apparently similar to but different from “vaporware”, and more “lo-fi” than “hi-fi”. I don’t know anything about electronic music, truth be told, but it seems like this kind of stuff is a bunch of blue and pink glowy lights against black, big skyscrapers, 80s cars, palm trees, and lots of parallel lines.

Anyway, I want to break out of the set formula a bit, so instead of a glowy pink and blue 80s car, we’re going to have a glowy pink and blue 80s motorcycle. But futured-up, with light tires like from TRON. I’ve started modeling an 80s-inspired light cycle:

Going off of this bad boy:

I should note that I know nothing about motorcycles and the 80s ended a decade before I was born, so I probably am talking out of my butt… but oh well :grinning:

That’s all I’ve got so far. Honestly doing anything in Blender is a miracle today, with how I’m doing emotionally, so I’m calling it a win :slight_smile:

8 Likes