"One Small Step" Is something like this possible in Blender?



I recently saw a short film on Youtube called One Small Step, by TAIKO Studios.

This short is so heavily stylized I didn’t even realize it was CG until about half way in when I had to pause it and look up the studio. But this really is fully 3D.

Is something like this possible in Blender? Ive seen the old cel shade + inverted outline look but this is on a whole other level

I don’t even understand how these rigs work. Whats really getting to me is In a panel discussion the crew mentioned the characters are using a shadeless material with textures but they are still reflecting light and catch shadows. Ive never seen a shadeless material in Blender do that, most ive seen is a shadless with fake shadows drawn in as a texture like below

(Artist, Jord https://twitter.com/atelierjordan)

Id really like to know if anyone has any input on this. I could probably sit here typing all night about every little thing these rigs do that just blows my mind

(Blender Foundation CERTIFIED TRAINER) #2

Yes totally it is possible to work this style on Blender. I am doing something stylized right now, as well. You can’t imagine the joy of tracing on top of a moving 3d model.
They got this look in compo. I can tell you more. Contact me through my site or DM I´m doing videos about this workflow.


As David said, yes, a lot of this is achieved as I imagine through post processing. I also remember watching the behind the scenes talk with the crew. I remember that they showed that the girls hair was created in multiple pieces. Which is one of the benefits of using a shadeless material. Your mostly just dealing with color and shape. With shadow and other elements added through post process.

So is this achievable in Blender? Yes! But a raw render is not going to give you these results.

(ouraf) #4

Grease pencil shouls make this a bit easier now than it was before.

(Blender Foundation CERTIFIED TRAINER) #5

Guys, do you have that “behind the scenes” video URL? I seemed to have missed out on that one.



What exactly is being done tho?

Are there any good stylized post processing guides that can help nail this look?

(bernardothecat) #8

I would look into NPR rendering

There are plugins

And native Eevee support


Not that I know of, but a stylized post processing guide would be pretty cool actually.

I can’t tell you how they achieved the look for their film, as all I can go by is what they show in they’re behind the scenes vid, but I’ve been dabbling with Npr for a while now, and found interesting techniques for things. You can use toon shaders/materials like bernardothecat showed above, but the problem with those, at least for me is that they don’t always give you the exact look I want. But if you set up lights in your scene just right, toon materials can work perfectly fine. And I do use them still definitely, but it doesn’t work for all styles.

Then another technique is to use a shadeless material, this will make the character look extremely flat, like they’re body is made of blobs of color. Some people like this look just as is. But through post processing, you can change the color of the object, make it lighter or darker to match the mood you want, add rim light or shadow, or something. You can obviously apply postprocess in the previous method as well.

Rendering your characters/objects and backgrounds on seperate layers is very important for post processing. Often the backgrounds are 2d painted for more of a cartoony style. And then you can add effects to your characters.

I have no idea if what I said was helpful, maybe I’ll post some examples later or something…

(Blender Foundation CERTIFIED TRAINER) #10

One thing I really want to get clear on, here: is the fact they DO DRAW OVER THEIR MODELS.
And the second thing is that at SOME FRAMES, they ENTIRELY DO THE DRAWING and INTERPOLATION in post!
This ensures you don´t know when you´re watching the 2D interpolation over the 3D animation. That “skip-a-frame” effect has been done thoroughly on other films like Spiderverse. This is the REAL appeal of producing things like this, that “organic feel” that everything deforms, nothing is constant shape.
Lots of work for a small team I tell you.


Been doing tons of research and have been finding out all kinds of stuff.

I found something pretty great. For me personally I don’t like toon shaders, they are stuck in this limbo where they are cartoony looking but you can still tell its a 3d object with a shader. Same thing with fake outlines either free styles or the inverted trick. But I didn’t really know why, like I can’t put into words why it doesn’t work.

But I found this combined with something DavidRivera said it makes sense to me now.

The toon shaders most commonly used in Blender just don’t look organic enough and look too calculated. Same thing with free style lines they are too perfect. I think a big key to getting a 2.5D style down is to find ways to fake imperfections with how the character is shaded, moves, and is outlined.

Ive been messing around with some shader set ups and found a way to have non lit areas project a single solid color and lit areas project a texture which is colored based on how much light is hitting it. I used a Japanese sumi e to give sort of a live painting effect. Its not that great right now but im gonna keep messing with the node set up to see where it goes

Its not just that the texture is too dark to see it works with any color. With the Monkey on the left the solid black parts are with low or no light hitting and it goes all the way up to green where light source is almost touching it. Its not actually being effected by the worlds light you can change the lights color or even add volumetric lighting and it will be the same colors. The shader is actually shadless and its seeing what is and isn’t lit.

Here you can see it on a flat plane. Here it goes from black to red, black being no light red when its extremely lit. It makes a pretty cool effect kind of like the Japanese rising sun blocked by clouds that can be used as a sky box. The red sun is simply generated with a point light really close to the object and coloring that part of the texture red.

The only thing I did was move the light to the right

Im gonna fiddle around with this. I think this could be a good way to make textured shadows. For example you texture a character in their lit state then re texture them with darker colors almost like a mask layer. If anyone wants to play around with this that would be great!


BTW this set up is heavy based on this video by Ian Pitkanen so credit goes to him. I simply swapped around and edited a few nodes.