Owl Garden Ornament (sculpture + views of stages + tutorial)

I continue to be amazed and inspired by Blender’s new sculpting tools. This morning I finished working on this Owl garden ornament sculpture after about 7 hours of sculpting the day before:


Here is how the workflow went for this project:

I began with a base mesh of 642 verts. For this part I used the mirror modifier across the x axis to develop the shape of the figure.

Once the initial shape was developed, I applied a level 5 Subsurf modifier on the mesh. This resulted in a mesh of 655,362 verts.

Upon entering Sculpt mode, I activated Partial Redraw, which enables you to work faster on such a dense mesh.

Next, I resized the Grab brush (G KEY for Grab; F KEY to resize) to around 30 with a strength of 50 (SHIFT F KEY to adjust strength).

Using a tablet, I rotated the model, beginning from the bottom and working my way up in order to draw out what would be the feathers with the Grab brush.

I activated x axis Symmetry (X KEY) (later to be deactivated for asymmetrical work).

Angling the model properly so grab went into the proper direction was essential, so I kept the model tilted and worked mainly from side views while grabbing parts of the mesh and pulling it downward/outward.

This went on for quite some time :slight_smile:

As I moved to the smaller feathers I reduced the size of the brush from 30 to 20 to 10 (F KEY).

Some feathers got snagged and overlapped while grabbing them, so to correct this I either performed an Undo (CTRL Z KEYS) or Smoothed the mesh (S KEY).

Once the feathers were done, I worked on the eye areas, using the Smooth brush (S KEY) and Draw brush (D KEY) to prepare the eye area for further detailing.

Once that was done I used a larger version of the Grab brush to slightly reposition parts of the mesh.

The Grab brush in this sense can perform comparably to dragging some verts in proportional editing mode. Grab mode actually works faster but only affects parts of the mesh it can physically touch.

Once that was done I worked on the feet using Draw mode, using both Add and Subtract. You can make the Draw brush carve into a mesh by pressing the SHIFT KEY.

When the final detailing phase was entered, I created a new procedural texture brush by going to the Textures buttons panel (F6 KEY), clicking Brush, selecting the first texture slot, then clicking Add New.

I selected a Distorted Noise texture.

Returning to the 3D view, I began apply downward Draw brushstrokes on the mesh, once again rotating the model. Strength was reduced to around 25, so that textural qualities could be applied to the mesh without disturbing the details previously achieved.

This went on for quite some time :slight_smile:

Sometimes there can be an overabundance of detail on a mesh that causes parts of the mesh to overlap, so the Smooth brush once again comes in handy.

Finally, the environment needed to be established. After exiting Sculpt mode, I created a branch beginning with a mesh circle and continued to extrude and develop it until the basic shape was there.

A quick Subsurf (level 3 I believe) modifier was applied to the mesh. Sculpt mode was once again entered. To achieve the ridges in the wood I used a Wood texture procedural brush.

Since the wood texture produced diagonal lines, I had to position the tree mesh in such a way that the procedural texture lines would match up with the tree mesh. This took several attempts to get right.

Next, I returned to the Distorted Noise Draw brush and added some details to the tree branch mesh.

The modeling at this point was done. Next would come lighting and texturing.

For lighting I used a fairly standard 3-point light setup, with the main illumination coming from a shadow buffered lamp overhead.

For textures I used a variety of Blender’s procedural textures.

After some test renders and lighting/material adjustments, I duplicated the tree mesh twice and revised it, using mostly proportional editing, to even out the composition and give it depth.

For the DOF I wanted I used the Blender render nodes, using the Map Value node, with Z input from the Render Layer, to control the Blur node. The Map Value Offset helps determine how far away from the camera the Blur begins. In this project, it was 3 Blender units away, so I used a value of -3, leaving Size/Min/Max at their default values. The Blur node used a Gaussian Blur with X and Y values of 10.

Add to that a RGB curves node (for contrast enhancement), a Sharpen node (.1), and a HSV node (Sat: .85), and we’re done :slight_smile:

I hope some of this information is helpful.

Thank you for your interest in my work,


wow! very nice pice, robert!
thanks for sharing your workflow as well :slight_smile:


oooo…ur getting really good with this sculpt mode…i really like the owl and mood…best one form you thse days…oh thanks for the tut…which io wont be attempting…:eek:

:slight_smile: Twenty hours after I post the above, this tutorial appears :slight_smile: Ask and ye shall receive :slight_smile: I love this place :slight_smile: Thanks RobertT :slight_smile:

5 smilies…boy ur happy…

nice work man, and thanks for sharing

cool model. nice lightnig. Really like it!

Great stuff man. Not as good as the ‘old man winter or whatever statue’, but it really shows that these kind of blendertools are your speciality.


Excellent use of sculpt, considering how simple the base mesh looks.

Sculpt tool is probably one of the biggest new features to come into Blender since…nodes:)

Wow, yet another astounding work by you! It’s amazing how realistic you manage to get your images to be!

Keep up the awesome work Robert!


Robert you skipped Shift-FKEY for changing the strength setting… but good tutorial.


I never imagine to make something like that, nice details and easy to follow (with practice).

Allways inspiring, your professionel work. Thanks a lot.

Nice work (and tutorial) RobertT- I had a feeling you’d take to sculpt mode :slight_smile:

How do you do partial Redraw?

Very…very nice lighting!
I would just like to see more content to the image…i like to see a story…a mood…an event…something that start to give the picture meaning/depth… its sometimes a shame when people do really nice work but they just ‘show’ the model…they dont always make a picture if you know what i mean… after all this is art!

@ndy: Thank you! If only all workflow were this smooth, straightforward, and simple :wink:

trak wrecka: Thanks. Go on, try the tutorial :yes:

Orinoco: Haha, thanks. I might write more tutorials when I get the chance.

solartic: Thanks, and you’re welcome!

Boogiem4n: Thank you. Sculpting details in a positive way draws even more attention to the need for good lighting, since so many of those details can remain hidden or lost in less than optimal lighting circumstances.

Sago: Thank you very much, Sago. I started Blender wanting at some point to attempt highly detailed poly work so this additional mode is exciting and something I hope to make much use of in upcoming projects. We are so blessed to have such a capable program and a great community to go along with it.

Cyborg Dragon: Thanks. I think any base mesh you anticipate taking into sculpt mode should be as “clean” and well defined as possible, establishing the form first as best as you can and then going from there to finer details. In an earlier example in another project I had used metaballs basically as a proof of concept. Due to the density of polys required for smaller details, it quickly becomes apparent how a few well placed edgeloops and subdivisions – before adding another multires or applying another subdiv level – can help conserve polys while allowing for denser details in the areas requiring it the most.

Cuby: Thanks for the kind words, Cuby.

LetterRip: Haha, good eyes, LetterRip. I fixed my top post to include that information.

The900: Thanks for the feedback! I think all sorts of projects that were never before attempted in Blender will now start to appear thanks to all these new tools being available.

Toni Grappa: I appreciate that.

slikdigit: Thanks, slikdigit! Yes, I’ll definitely be spending more time in this mode seeing what else I can create.

kramer3d: In sculpt mode, in the header menu that appears when you click Sculpt you should see a Partial Redraw option in the menu item list. It toggles on or off as you click on that option. With it on, the 3D view updates occur more quickly and make editing higher poly meshes easier in sculpt mode.

vega_mo: Thanks. As for stories being told, I must say I like that as well. This is a garden ornament situated in a tree. Why, in it’s own little world, it was even made, how it got there, why it was an owl and not a cat or a penguin or a frog that liked lightbulbs, why it was placed right there in the tree, if was it real before, or if it will ever become real and take flight and lead the other garden ornaments to reality and freedom, are probably all story possibilities, to name a few :eyebrowlift2:


Really nice piece, I saw the other stuff on your website…they’re all really good :slight_smile:

Great modeling and use of blender tool…thanks for sharing…

Very nice! thanks for sharing the great stuff with us.