I wanted to explore dynamic paint for adding ripples to water. A simple scene where a leaf has just landed in a puddle seemed a good place to practice.
For the leaf, I traced the outline from a cc0 texture to make a mesh, then deformed it with a lattice modifier. I think this method would work fine for background leaves, but here I think the leaf could have used a little more, so I’ll be looking at other options for modeling leaves for closeups like this.
For the lighting, I mixed an HDRIHaven environment texture with the sky texture node. I think that worked well, and I expect that I’ll use this technique again.
The forest is a biome from Botaniq. The models are great for filling in backgrounds, but a bit too low-poly for closeup work. DOF to the rescue. I probably would have used a little in any case, to improve the depth feel and to focus the attention on the leaf texture… but maybe not as much as I felt was necessary to hide rectangular leaves on trees in the background.
I had a bit of trouble with the wave displacement not showing up in the render, while present in the viewport. Reading up on it, others had this problem when subsurf levels mismatched, or the modifier order was wrong. I had no subsurf, just subdivided the mesh a bunch. Adding a subsurf fixed the issue! Also, make sure the cache is up to date.
The last bit of trouble caused a lot of grief, and took a while to find. The lighting of the render didn’t match the viewport, it was much too bright and washed out. I’ve had issues with volumes in the past, and assumed this was the cause. Turns out the problem was with my mis-use of Scatter. The trees and bushes in the forest which act as gobos and create the shadows needed for the light rays were not consistent between the viewport and render. This was caused by two factors: 1) I had a subsurf on the ground plane with different levels for render and viewport, 2) Scatter enables “use modifier stack” in the particle settings. So there were two fixes which worked, either make sure the subdivision level is consistent, or disable the use modifier stack option (or both).
The final problem I did not overcome. The biome created four particle setting groups. I applied a mask to prevent generation in the puddle and in front of the camera. This worked properly for 3 of the 4 systems, but the 4th ignored the mask no matter what I tried. In the end, I just fiddled with the particle count and seed until those plants weren’t in the way.
In the end, a good day. I learned a bunch, and got a decent render from what started as just a learning exercise.