[Tutorial] Modeling/Compositing 3d Wallpaper (Intermediate)

Abstract Models for 3D Wallpaper

Before we start, you need to know what kind of effect you want. Most of the wallpapers I like make heavy use of reflection (mental note: lots of reflection). They also have sharp, well-defined edges on top of round surfaces (mental note: spikes and spheres). They look cool (mental note: yeah!) Anyway, here’s a list of things I’m considering before I even open blender:

  1. Reflection needs to be through the roof for this scene.
  2. Everything is going to be the same color (material) and we’ll depend on the renderer for detail.
  3. We don’t want multiple light sources, so we’ll stick with having our material emit.
  4. We want our objects to be defined (I’ve got a good looking technique for this later in the tutorial)
  5. We want to composite this into a 2D finished project when we’re done.

Part I: Material Setup

Okay, most of our scene is going to involve round objects. Because of that, we’re going to make our material on an Icosphere (in a 3d viewport press SPACEBAR then choose “Mesh” -> “Icosphere;” keep it at 2 subdivisions). Clean it up a bit by pressing the “Set Smooth” button with all the vertices selected.

Now, our first thought is to choose a color for our scene. Green is what I chose, but try to keep it dark so the reflections will show up well. Now, make a new material with the Icosphere selected, set the color to whatever you want, and then turn the “Spec” (specularity) down to 0.000 in the “Shaders” tab. We don’t want the user to be able to tell where the light is coming from for this, so we won’t have ANY highights from a light source on our model, everything will be done through reflections/emit. Speaking of “Emit,” turn that up to about .300, this causes our object to send out light, kind of acting as a lamp. Also, we want it to receive as much “Amb” (ambience) color as possible, so jack that up to 1.000.

We need to make a serious consideration here. What diffuse shader (lambert, oren nayer, toon, or minnaert) do we want? Well, since we want more control over the color of our object, lambert, which only controls how much light is reflected, is out. Oren Nayer is probably okay for this, but we want this to be kind of dark, so that won’t work. I hope you understand that Toon was not a serious suggestion at all… So! We’re left with Minnaert as our diffuse shader. That’s great, because it’s “Darkness” control is exactly what we want. Turn the “Ref” (amount of reflection) all the way up along with the “Darkness” control (of course, you can turn it down a bit to get it to where you think is good).

The material is coming along nicely, but now we need to handle how our object reflects other objects and the atmosphere. Flip over to the “Mirror/Transp” (Mirror and Transparency) tab. Press the “RayMir” button so that it is turned on. Push the “RayMir” silder all the way to 1.00 (remember, we want a LOT of reflection). Now, we don’t want to see just the reflected objects… that would be pointless. So, turn the “Fresnel” control up to around 2.500 so that we can see more of the color of the object than the reflection.

Now, here’s the trick I promised you at the beginning of the tutorial. It involves Ramp Shaders, which basically provide more control over a material by allowing you to add color information depending on a certain parameter. Okay, maybe that wasn’t a very good explanation… Let’s look at it in action, maybe that’ll help.

Click on the “Ramps” tab and press the “Show Col Ramp” button so that it is on. Now you should see a gradient bar. What we want is to outline our object, so, try to follow me, if we map a white line around the object, it should provide the desired effect. Here’s a screenshot of my settings: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=855 . Basically, we just want a white line around the edge of the sphere (which is what we have). Set ramp shader’s “Input” to “Normal” (I don’t really know how to explain why this works, but it looks awesome) and set the “Method” to “Add” (this will brighten whatever color it falls on top of, since the line is white).

You’re ready for a test render now! Make sure you have “Ray” turned on. Also, make sure you selected “Full OSA” on your material. Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to turn the background color in the World Settings to black. Now, render it and check it out. It should look something like this…


Now, that may not look like much to look at, right? Well, duplicate (shift+d) your sphere a few times and you should get something like…


Okay, you’re right. It’s still not much to look at, but trust me that it gets better.

Part II: Using that Material

If you haven’t done so already, duplicate your Icosphere a few times.

The Ball of Spikes

Now, we’re going to change one of them into a ball of spikes… Go into edit mode for one of the icospheres. Change the selection mode to “Faces” (it’s a button on your 3d viewports header). Now, select faces at random (press SPACEBAR -> “Select” -> “Random”) with a 50% selection. We’re going to extrude them, then scale them down into the ball a bit. You can’t scale them right after you press “E”, so you’ll need to right-click to finish the extrusion without moving the selected faces. THEN, you should press “S” (for scale) and move them in. Here’s what yours should looks like: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=848

Now, select one of the outermost faces, extrude it a good ways, then left-click to confirm, and hit “S”, “0” (that’s “S” for scale and zero to make the face into a point). Screenshot of where you should be at: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=853

Turn “SubSurf” and Optimal on. Make sure you set the render-time subsurf level to somewhere around 3 so that it looks nice for the render (“2” isn’t sufficient, since we don’t have that many vertices). You need to repeat this process for a bit until you’re satisfied with the result. Here’s what I came up with… https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=852

Rendered out with subsurf level of 3, that looks like… https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=851

Part III: Compositing

Well, I hope that you’ve been able to get a render that you’re satisfied with from this tutorial. If not (or if you’re lazy) you can just use my final render for this part: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=856

This section is split up into two parts. There is a part for compositing our render in Adobe Photoshop, which I’ve been using for years, and a part for compositing in the Gimp. The Photoshop part is written to be applied generally to whatever 2d application you’re using. Before you read through the compositing part for the Gimp, this was my first time actually using the Gimp, so bear with me.

Sub-Secton I: Compositing w/ Adobe Photoshop

Cheap Trick

Okay, open up your 2d compositing application (I’ll be using Adobe Photoshop) and load the image you’ve made. Now, one of the fastest, cheapest, dirtiest tricks of all 2d is to simply take your image, duplicate it, and rotate the new one by 180 degrees (or you can flip it vertically and horizontally once each) then set the blend mode to something that brightens the image (I chose “Screen”) https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=869


Now, we want to highlight the cool parts of our image. To do this, we use a technique lovingly called “brushing.” Basically, you draw over the image to cover up its problems or enhance the look. Check out step 2: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=868 On two different layers, paint some white (layer 1) where you want the brightest parts to be and paint some grey (layer 2) where you want bright parts to be. You probably need to “Smudge” them (it’s a tool) so that they don’t look like a two-year-old’s crayon drawings before we go any farther. Anyway, now change the blending mode of the two layers (I chose “Overlay” and “Color Dodge” respectively).

Now, before you scrap something because it ruins the image, try lowering the opacity and fill of the layer it’s on. In most cases, this decreases the effect enough that it fits into the image. This is just something you’ll have to get used to doing.

Another Cheap Trick

Our scene in Blender was pretty cluttered, right? There’s really not that much depth, so we’re going to have to fake it. Render some clouds (Filter -> Render -> Clouds) in your 2d application and set the blending mode to something that simultaneously brightens and darkens the image (I chose “Color Dodge” since it brought out the bright parts even more). Here’s a shot of the image prior to changing the blending mode for the clouds layer: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=867

Finishing Touches

You’ve got a killer image that you should be proud of, but maybe it’s missing something. Now’s the part where you add in text and stuff. For my composition, I also threw a pattern on top of the image: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=870

If you don’t know how to make a pattern in Photoshop, here’s a tutorial: http://www.jooldesigns.net/?photoshop&tutorial3 You should probably change the blending mode for the layer you put it on, and I went the extra mile of painting a vector mask for it. Google that; it’s pretty easy to do, but this isn’t the place for that.

And now you should have a pretty good looking image! Here’s what I got with the image I made using this tutorial: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=859

I’d really like to see what you guys come up with after this.

Sub-Secton II: Compositing w/ the Gimp

Cheap Trick

Open your render in the Gimp. Duplicate the “Background” layer (note: if you can’t see a layers palette, “Dialogs” -> “Layers” [Ctrl+L]) Now, right-click on the image, select “Layer,” then “Transform,” and finally “Rotate 180 Degrees.” Screenshot: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=920 (what I did in the screenshot was copy the background layer, paste it, and then I anchored it to get the duplicate) and https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=919.


Now, we want to highlight the cool parts of our image. To do this, we use a technique lovingly called “brushing.” Basically, you draw over the image to cover up its problems or enhance the look. Check out step 3: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=918 On two different layers, paint some white (layer “brightest”) where you want the brightest parts to be and paint some more white (layer “bright”) where you want bright parts to be. You probably need to “Smudge” them (it’s a tool) so that they don’t look like a two-year-old’s crayon drawings before we go any farther. Anyway, now we need to give these two layers color data so that when we change the layers’ blending modes they do what we want them to do.

So, right click on the layer “bright,” select “Layer,” then “Colors,” and finally “Colorize…” Tweak it to a pastel (for a darker look) or saturated (for a lighter look) color of whatever color you’re render is (i.e. mine is green, so I chose a satured color of green). Screenshot: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=923 Now, I set the blending mode for this layer to “Dodge,” but do whatever one looks best to you. Because I chose “Dodge,” I wanted my layer to be a bit brighter than it was, so I adjusted the contrast (“Layer” -> “Colors” -> “Brightness/Contrast”): https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=922

Do the same thing for the “brightest” layer, but make it have more brightness, be more saturated, etc. to get the desired effect.

Now, it’s up to you to smear the color around so that it looks good. I also added a pattern like I did for the Photoshop composition, and played around with plugins (lava plugin, which got set to overlay, but I didn’t use it for the final: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=921). It wasn’t hard to make it (new 5x5 document, transparent background, pencil tool, save as “linePattern.pat” in the patterns folder) and apply it with the fill tool. It got set to overlay, so there wasn’t a need for a layer mask to hide it where I didn’t want it, because it just nicely blended itself into the image. Anyway, for the last step, you can see what my layer setup looks like: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=925

And that’s it! Here’s the finished product: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=924

I’d really like to see what you guys come up with after this.


That’s it for now. What I’ve provided for you should be enough of a push to get you going in the right direction. Let me know if there’s anything you’re not clear on or whatever. Please show off your work here!

By the way, here’s the final piece I came up with: https://blenderartists.org/forum/download.php?id=856

Good luck!


P.S. Shameless plug: go vote for the “Tutorial Category” in the “News & Chat” section, if you liked this tutorial: https://blenderartists.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=50938




(images; settings + final + compositing)


Nice tutorial, if/when you add more to this I would love to see how you went about your compositioning. The composition is what really gave your image pop.

(images; compositing steps 1 - 3)


(images; compositing step 4)


thank you for this tutorial… it was very well written!

heres what i came up with:


Wow, that’s a huge work you’ve done.
Thanks for sharing.

DedKnight: Thanks for the compliment. :slight_smile: Looking good!

edheltar: No problem! After I got the first part of it up, I was kind of worried that no one would read it because it looked so long. :stuck_out_tongue:


(edit: hijacked for images)


Thanks for the great tutorial!
Here is what I came up with, probably should have added a little more stuff, it still looks a little empty.
It looks great on my desktop, thanks again!


quantum: Thanks! I’m glad you got such a nice result. :slight_smile:

On a side note, I’m kind of wondering if maybe fewer people are doing this because I didn’t write the compositing stuff for a free program like the GIMP. Do you think I should write a separate piece specifically for compositing in the GIMP?

Keep it up guys,

(edit: hijacked for images)


Most definatatly. Gimp is the complimentary 2D app to blender. Or at least a lot of people think so. In my case I cannot affored something like Photoshop so I use Gimp. Same thing with 3dStudioMax, so I use Blender

Well, the tutorial has been updated with a compositing tutorial for the Gimp version 2.2.


(images; gimpStep #7 and gimpFinal)


i love this tut!

Thanks! Don’t forget to post your work or a link to it.

Glad you liked it,

watch my new avatar