Bioluminescent Macaw

So after doing my turtle with the glowing crystals, I thought it’d be fun to expand on that world with more glowing creatures. I decided on doing an exotic bird with glowing fiber-optic feathers, kind of like one of these:

I worked out the composition by photoshopping a couple images off google together:

I did the composition after reading Canon of Design - Mastering Artistic Composition which I highly recommend

Of course, the final image will be a night time scene with a blue tone to it. This is just to get everything in place.

I might make the berries glow too. I’m thinking the bird could be glowy from the berries it eats, in the same way flamingos are pink because of the shrimp they eat.



ooh! cool project. I’m excited to see progress. Nothing to critique atm. Is it/ will it be rigged?

That chicken is ready to be fried. :D. otherwise its an interesting project and knowing the level of your work, im excited to follow the evolution of that.

Owww! Great wip!

nice model, jeep. here’s a pic of a bald cockatoo that shows the musculature of the arms:

Really cool base concept and composition.
A lot to do here but you can output something really gorgeous.

good luck, I’ll stay tuned

been a while since I worked on this project! time to bump this thread back from the grave

here’s a test render I did to see if my feather setup will work
the shader is pretty simple right now (no textures or anything) but I think I’m headed in the right direction


Feathers look really cool, want to share how you did them?

The model looks good as well, although the arms are too noodle-like. They should be thicker, more well defined and, most of all, they need straight bones. Looks more like tentacles than bone and muscle to me right now. =)

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Make it glow at night.

Thanks Owldude! My next post will have a few images showing how I did the feathers - but first I want to see if there are any improvements I can make

You’re right about the arms though - I made a few changes to make it look more like the image Modron posted, but it shouldn’t matter too much since everything will be covered in feathers anyway :slight_smile:

XeroShadow: I know my mockup doesn’t show it, but that’s the plan!

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EDIT I just found an incredible collection of feather references! Check it out!

Spent the evening modeling a few feathers…took a few screenshots along the way.
Here are the steps I took to model them:

  1. extrude a path of vertices following the direction of a single strand
  2. extrude that strand down to cover an area of strands all going in the same direction
  3. for strands that split or change direction, duplicate the path of vertices and offset them by a little bit

  1. continue doing the above for the whole feather (note: it’s okay if we cross the stem of the feather for now)

  2. add a bunch of loop cuts that are roughly evenly spaced

  3. add and apply a subsurf modifier

  4. select the edges that are perpendicular to the strands and delete them

  5. add a boolean modifier to cut off vertices going past the stem

  6. remove doubles and do some proportional editing with a random falloff to make it look more interesting

(continued from last post)

  1. convert to curves

  2. model out two bevel objects and a taper object (the circle is the barb bevel object, the wing shape is the barbule bevel object)

  3. duplicate the curves from step 10, then have one use the barb bevel object, the other use the barbule bevel object. Both should use the taper falloff curve

  4. repeat all the steps for the other side

  5. add a lattice modifier to everything to control the overall shape and curvature

  6. model the spine of the feather

hopefully someone finds this useful or at least interesting. I’ll upload some screenshots of the shaders tomorrow


The feathers look really nice. The only concern I would have about them is how much memory they might take up once you start layering them onto the Macaw model. I don’t know what kind of rig you’re running, which I guess would make a difference.

Premature optimization is the root of all evil! :stuck_out_tongue:

I have a fairly decent rig, so for now I’m gonna throw caution to the wind and assume I can render it out

If it turns out I can’t get it rendered out, then I don’t know… We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I’m not in a hurry to get this project finished, so I don’t mind long render times :slight_smile:

Wow! The parrot looks very nice but that feather, Awesome! Great work

Wow!, looks very nice, however i think it would look 10 times better with volumetric lighting

Looks really good.

I think if memory becomes an issue you could try rendering the feather as pure white against a black background and use that and an image texture to control color and transparent nodes in a material applied to a plane. Then use a particle system to duplicate the feather as needed.

Ok I did a quick test and memory may very well give you problems.

I followed your instructions and made a simple feather. Mine is not very pretty cause I was going for a quick test.

I added a subdivided cube and put a particle system on it set to render the curve based feather. At 1000 particles it took about 2.7gig of vram.

Then I baked the diffuse of the curve based feather to a simple plane. Setup the material to use the alpha of my baked image to control a mix shader with a diffuse and a transparent shader as its inputs.

Setup the particle system to use the plane as the object and this time the render only took 5.8M of vram.


thanks everyone!

tomtuko: I’m glad ya tried out the alpha baking trick :smiley:
however, I think I can still get away with the geometry.

I’m gonna be rendering on the CPU (which is marginally faster than my gpu, believe it or not) and i have 16GB of ram available

I haven’t found an exact number, but parrots should have somewhere between 2000 and 7000 feathers…
Cut that in half since I don’t need feathers for the front side, and I should be well under 16gb!

still needs work, but here’s the shader node setup for the feathers.

Barbule material (used on the curves with the wing shape bevel):

Barb material (used on the curves with the circular bevel):

Spine material:

The fresnel node group was copied from this video: