Expresso (Updated 08/08)


This is a project I started several months ago and I come back to it regularly as I’m never satisfied with the result. It is rendered with Yafray but it’s not a closed environment and it seems to be very hard to well tune the light in an outdoor situation. I did not used photons in Yafray settings as I knew that in outdoor environments, most of them are lost, so I just used GI with full method and medium quality which seems to be enough. I’m quite happy with this result after some light postprocessing mainly to accentuate the shadows and to soft the light but something does not fully satisfies me and I can’t point it, maybe a radiosity issue. So what do you think ?

Thanks for your comments

This looks awesome! The thing that doesn’t look right to me is where the froth on the coffee meets the cup. Perhaps this is what doesn’t sit right with you?

wow…that’s amazing…i think the ground is the problem, it seems like it doesn’t fit in the picture (it also looks as though it is endless…

Doesn’t the edge lip that sticks out of a coffee creamer have little dimples or ridges. Otherwise i think you might be at the point where the image should be considered done. You might consider putting a very light cloudy specularity map on some of your most shiny objects (to make them seem a bit dirty). I think what you may be seeing is the “too perfect problem” where things look too computer generated from lack of imperfection. Add some dirt, scan fingerprints, take photos of random marks on walls and other surfaces. If you add these chaotic elements to your very orderly perfect surfaces i think you will be pleased with the results. I think the spoon might be a little too shiny.

Otherwise, the image is beautiful. Keep up the good work. I look forward to seeing what you do to the image.


to me the camera angle doesn’t feel comfortable and composition could be better, i guess the focus is the coffee cup to show your excellent skill (Re your other high quality and interesting images) but it’s boring and the additional elements don’t add to the interest.

The sugar cubes look like expanded foam.

The render’s too clean.

Yes the marble table top feels like it goes on too far in the background if it’s supposed to be like a bistro / cafe circular table.

Maybe a different camera angle, edge to back of table and out of focus ouside cafe scene in the background, maybe a fee raindops on the marble table. something interesting to look at.

excellent skills though.

The sugar and milk are a bit strange, but the rest is fantastic

Some very minor critiques: the three drops of spilled milk look like they are floating, and yes, the sugar cubes look like styrofoam rather than crystals. The shadow line falling across the foam in the cup is too sharp. I just tested some espresso foam under a point light source, and the shadow line was fuzzy. Under outdoor lighting, the shadow line would be even more indistinct. The surface of the coffee where there is no foam is highly reflective, of course, that’s without the added milk.

What I don’t get is the story line. Someone’s ordered espresso at a cafe, it’s been delivered and the bill is on the table. Mr. X has added some creamer to the cup, took out a couple of Euros to pay the bill, picked up one of the sugars, then, rather than add it to the coffee and stir, he puts the sugar down on the table. Sherlock Holmes would instantly deduce all sorts of significant things about the habits, whereabouts, state of mind and culpability of Mr. X, but me, I’m Dr. Watson here.

You may have a scale issue with the foam. From the size of the creamer container, the sugar cubes and the coins, the cup looks to be a full size coffee cup, but the foam bubbles look to be the right size for a demi-tasse.

The table top is strange. The marble pattern gets more distinct the further it recedes into the image and the pattern closest to the viewer is the fuzziest. Seems to me it should be the other way around.

Now, mind you, I had to really study the image to find these picayune critiques. My initial and continuing impression of the work as a whole is to want to reach out, pick up the coffee and taste it. Great work.

Wow, great and very usefull comments and crits here, thanks for the time you spent to analyse and comment this work. I think that you pointed several problems which could be corrected to improve the result. Let me just the time to apply the suggested changes and I will present you a new version soon.

Thanks again

You may find an updated image based on you comments (see top of topic).

What do you think about this new version ?


A nice pic, my only crits:

  1. It’s espresso :stuck_out_tongue:
  2. Orinoco’s comments about the story behind the pic are right. Plus, if it is an espresso it should be in a smaller cup, without sugar (well, it shouldn’t have sugar, but many do) or milk.
  3. The coffee looks like it has been stirred recently, this is good and looks excellent, I like the marks on the cup. However, the spoon is pristine, maybe add some coffee stains to that too.
  4. The handle on the cup. Looks fine, but it should be smoother and it looks like it was just glued to the cup.

Good work though!

Haha, I’m Italian and of course I’m fully agree with you it should be espresso and yes, it should be in a smaller cup but I live in Belgium and here they use to call it expresso and they serve it in big cups :stuck_out_tongue: , this is not always true but very often it’s the case. The coffee is not stirred yet (but it’s true that the milk is a bit swirled), that’s why the spoon is still clean. Indeed the handle is glued on the cup, maybe not the best choice, in the first version the handle was in gold metal and I finally changed it, I probably should extrude it from the cup mesh.

About the story behind the pic, that’s true this is a mystery :wink: , the phone just rang or finally X decided to not put the sugar in the cup, we’ll probably never know :rolleyes:

Thanks for your comments IanC

I really, really, really like the way the crema (technical term for espresso foam) is riding up the inside of the cup. Very realistic. As IanC points out, this may be because it’s been stirred, but might also be caused by normal jostling of the cup on its way from the espresso bar to the table.
The far edge of the marble table top and the close up camera angle is accentuating the scale issue. The cup now looks very large, if so, it’s got about eight shots of espresso in it to be filled to that level. Can you say “caffeine-induced free-floating anxiety?” Is it even legal to sell that much espresso as a single serving?
Now this is a coffee snob critique (I admit it, I brew my own espresso, even roast the beans myself…) which IanC alluded to, but I’ll say it outright: only philistines put creamer in espresso. If someone wants milk, they order espresso macchiato, cappuccino or latte, depending on how much milk they want. Unless you’re making an ad for Nutroma, ditch the creamer.
Coffee snobbism aside, the only discordant detail left in the image is the texture on the sugar cubes. They still look like styrofoam instead of sugar crystals. Maybe add a noise texture affecting specularity to get little tiny sparkles coming from the surface?

The foam in the cup is much better, I love it! :slight_smile:

I really, really, really like the way the crema (technical term for espresso foam) is riding up the inside of the cup. Very realistic.

I agree, can I ask how you did it? Is it just a mesh+texture? I’d love to see a wire at some point, if you could.

I agree with Orinoco, the main issue is just the sugarcubes. To me, they are too regular, the only ones I have seen are cubes and are broken + tattered. Added spec would really help.


Can you say “caffeine-induced free-floating anxiety?” Is it even legal to sell that much espresso as a single serving?

I drink 6 shots of ristretto or espresso per serving. I’ve had 3 cups of that before, too.

(I admit it, I brew my own espresso, even roast the beans myself…)

Oooo, someday I’d like to do that, but I’m poor atm :frowning:

Good image indeed! Almost realistic!

I recon what really “breaks” it for me is:

  • The hard shadows. They should be softer, and have area shadow like qualities.
  • The drops on the table - especially the one in the middle thats kinda long.
  • The brown plastic look kinda more like chocolate than plastic.
  • All of the reflections are too perfect. Give 'em some noise!
  • The stones in the background needs to be blurred much more. Now it looks
    like the tableplate is lying right on the ground.
  • The post-processing. The overall color spectrum of the image is way to grey.
    It could really need some more post-processing to spice it a little more up.
    (I might return with an example image of what I mean later. So hang on…)

That was kind of the main things. Still a lot of things that you can do. All those
little details can make a wonderful image like yours 10 times as fantastic!

Keep up the GREAT work!
//The M.h.p.e.

IanC, my friend, I really wasn’t joking (well, maybe a little bit) about the free-floating anxiety. Long time ago, I was up to 22 cups a day, and got really twitchy. Had to cut back. Felt anxious and apprehensive for no good reason. Caffeine is psycho-active and the overdose side-effects sort of sneak up on one. And being poor is actually a good reason to buy your own roasting and brewing equipment. At one tall Starbucks a day, my Pavoni paid for itself in 18 months. I’m making double-shot lattes for under a buck these days. Tastes better, too.

Back on topic:
notice the size of the bubbles in the foam: most are too small to see, there are only a few large enough to be distinctly visible, over on the right by the side of the cup. Also, notice the reflection of the cup rim (the whitish patch toward the top of the coffee surface) in the coffee. Visible even through the light layer of foam on the coffee surface. Of course, in this photo the coffee is sans creamer, which might make a difference.

22 cups, damn!

And being poor is actually a good reason to buy your own roasting and brewing equipment. At one tall Starbucks a day, my Pavoni paid for itself in 18 months.

I buy my own coffee and have a little french press. Tastes better than you get in shops and smells so good while its brewing. Plus it’s cheap.

Looking at the photo you posted, I noticed the spoon. In the render the spoon is fairly dull, not like polished metal.

Look forward to updates!

Well, the spoon in the photo is a typical cheap stainless steel cafe spoon, probably made in Japan and seen all over the world. The spoon in the render might be a classy cast pewter spoon. Notice the greyer base color, less reflectivity, the thicker edge around the bowl of the spoon, the lack of a smooth transition from the handle to the bowl so indicative of stamped out stainless steel spoons. No, this is a classy cafe, and they use classy pewter spoons.

Of course, a really classy cafe would put the creamer in a pewter creamer container, or in a ceramic pot shaped like a cow that you pick up by the tail and pour cream out of the mouth, not hand out cheesy single serving ersatz cream substitute.

enricoceric, are you getting all this? are we off topic yet?

And the bill! What’s up with the bill? Isn’t that an awful lot of numbers just for a cup of coffee? [insert smiley here]

The spoon looks wierd, the cup is too reflective (I’m not sure how else to say it), and the sugar cubes look like foam, other than that it’s good.

i’m not sure if it’s really possable to accurately render CG sugarcubes. Anybody who has ever taken a photo of one probably knows what i mean. It’s made up of thousands upon thousands of little translucent, reflective, crystals that do all sorts of things with light. You could try a voronoi bump map.

The foam looks a lot better than it did before. That part, i would say, is done. The inside of the creamer seems too bright to me, especially the sides of the bubbles. Other than that it is coming along well. I would recommend, however making the image taller (so that the table takes up about 2/3 of the image. If you can’t get the sugar cubes to look right you might use sugar packets instead. I can also see the tesselation of the paper receipt (perhaps increase subdivision one more time). The spoon still seems a bit too reflective, It looks like silver right now. Other than that, if you get stuck you cound always take a picture under similar lighting conditions and tweak things in blender until it matches the photo.

Other than those minor quibbles, it looks fantastic.