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An Lei | Digital art overload

New model

Created a new model to start a collection of objects I can use to create an American Diner scene.


Bar Chair
by An Lei
on Sketchfab

Posted in Internal.

Abstractanks Game Art

It’s been a waaaay too long time since I posted something here, but for the last months digital art has been on the back seat of my life. That has changed recently though when my good friend @LtJ4x asked me if I would be willing to create an asset for his upcoming game Abstractanks (which you can already play by following the link and supporting it on Desura!). Ok, to be honest it took me pretty long until I actually got something done (did I mention that I had so much other stuff going on?). In the end though I managed to create something as you can see in the images below.

BasaltFormationPortraitModelling this was much more of a challenge for me than I initially thought it would be. But somehow creating stuff for games is always extra challenging as it has to be able to be rendered in real time which leaves much less room for cheating than if it is “only” to be rendered using a raytracer. In this case making all of the hexagonal pillars into one big mesh was the first challenge. I had to tinker a lot with that and in the end modelled the pillars separately and then did a retopology pass on top of that to create a single mesh. This resulting mesh was then subdivided and I sculpted the holes and craters using Sculptris.

After that I did another retopology pass to get the polygon count down to a level appropriate for a real time engine, this time taking the changed geometry from sculpting into account. You can see the resulting geometry in the wireframe below. It definitely is not the prettiest of meshes, but should get the job done. Still lots to learn when it comes to edge flow :)


Finally I neede to texture this. I first tried with some photo textures but that just doesn’t produce a good looking mesh, especially not for this kind of stand alone asset. So I had to dive into texture painting, something I never really tried before. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the texture painting in Blender to work in a way that I felt comfortable with, so I had to paint in an external application. Initially I used my trusty Photoshop Elements which worked ok, but still didn’t feel quite right. During my research on texture painting I came across this excellent tutorial by XRG81. Even though I didn’t paint in Blender, I went pretty much 1:1 as he did it, though I started out with a photo texture which I applied some filters on so I didn’t have to start with a blank image. On his channel I also saw that for illustration he is using Krita, an open source painting program, which I had heard about but never really tried. I gave it a shot and it is just a breeze to use, I’m very happy with it. It has great tool presets, works nicely with my Wacom and makes digital painting simply fun. So I ended up importing the initial work from Photoshop Elements into Krita (yes, it reads .psd files!) and painted the texture there. I had Blender open at the same time on the second monitor so I could see the changes to the texture on the mesh directly (by simply reloading the texture image in Blender manually and using OpenGL viewport preview). I’m quite pleased with the result, final diffuse texture below.


The asset has not yet made it into the game, Jax is busy with other stuff. I hope he gets around to importing it soon, I guess I’ll have to do some reexporting to different formats and with different settings until we find something that works. I’ll update this once a screenshot from the game is available.

Finally I purchased Substance Painter via Steam since it looks like a very promising tool for texture creation. Already played a little bit with it, nothing to show though. Hopefully I’ll get around to creating another asset soon which I will then try to texture using this new program.

Posted in Blender Modeling, Game Art Tagged , , .

Simple background setup

This is pretty simple stuff, but probably useful to some. Either if you want a simple scene to put your own Blender models in or use it as a backdrop for photography post processing. With this setup you can easily create your own background. Usage is pretty simple, just adjust the material for the background:


BackgroundSetupMaterialDiffuse BSDF is the main color of the background. Just click on the white rectangle and select your favourite color. If you want some structure in the background you can use the noise texture. Just drag the right color output (from the Bright/Contrast node) to the Displacement input of the Material Output node. You can adjust the structure using the Scale slider and the brightness and contrast sliders.

Here’s  a sample result:

BackgroundSetupSampleAnd finally, the download for the Blender scene:

Background Setup - Simple background setup.



Posted in Blender Modeling, Photography, Raytracing.

The simple lightbox

The pen is mightier than the sword. - Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Today I suddenly had an idea for a very easy light setup for macro or product shots. I was thinking about lightboxes and how to imitate one in an easy way. Building your own lightbox is not hard, but a fixed lightbox can be cumbersome to setup and need a lot of storage space. There must be something simpler, easier to set up and stow away.

In its essence a lightbox is nothing but a highly reflective environment for your subject which can be illuminated from within or from the outside (using transparent material for the walls). The goal is to create a light source that is evenly distributed around the subject giving diffuse light to suppress shadows and highlights. In 3D raytracing such a light source is often simulated by a large hemisphere around the object. Today I realized that in real life this can be your reflective umbrella! What if you put your subject under the opened umbrella together with a speedlite?

Such a setup could look like this:

Umbrella lightbox setup

It turns out that – at least for the scene I was testing it with – this setup works wonderfully! By repositioning the speedlight, you can adjust the amount and direction of the shadows you’ll get. Using differently sized and colored ground material (sheet of white paper here), you can also easily adjust the light even further. Below is a possible result created with this setup:

The pen is mightier than the sword. – Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Posted in Photography Tagged , , , , .

Ray Ban Sunglass Shoot


Got some new equipment bringing me closer to an amateur studio setup :)

Together with two speedlights with remote triggers, this makes for a decent home studio setup. Used it today for a fictitious product shot of my sunglasses.

Setup consists of two speedlights, one using the umbrella (not fully opened) and the second one pointed at a styrofoam board as reflector. For positioning check out this setup shot:

Post production mainly done in lightroom. Some exposure and white balance adjustments as well as crop. Removed a lot of dust from the shades, then added the logo in PSE.

Posted in Photography.

Blenbo light setup

Playing around with Blender and Cycles again a bit. It’s great how well photography light setups carry over!

Blenbo Light setup - Blenbo character light setup Blender file. Textures included.


Posted in Blender Modeling, Raytracing.

Photography + Blender = FUN!

Quick post right now as I unfortunately don’t have time to break this down in detail. I played around with compositing in Blender. This means that you can – for example – add virtual objects to photographs. I made a model of this little fellow (inspired by the Danbo) and tried to add him to a macro shot of mine. I think it turned out quite ok, though is still a lot of room left for improvements. Essentially you just have to get the perspective and the light right. And then it’s just compositor magic. Rendered with cycles using CUDA and 256 samples.

Played around with Blender compositing

Download the blend file:

Blenbo Compositor Testscene - Testscene for compositing in Blender using Cycles render engine.

UPDATE: Spent some time to refine this a little bit. I’m still not too satisfied with the results, but hopefully support from Cycles for this stuff will be better soon and things should be easier. For everyone interested just the short idea behind this:

You create a ground plane and recreate any objects in the photo that should interact (have a shadow) with the 3D content. In the example below it is the floor and the lemon. Then I created two render layers, one for the main subject, and one for the scene objects. The first is just your usual combined render while the second is a “shadow only” layer. These two are rendered and then the magic happens in the compositor where image, shadow layer and main layer are assembled into the final image.

Some minor adjustments

And this is to show how the 3D parts are set up:

Wire frame blend

Posted in Blender Modeling, Photography, Raytracing Tagged , .


Been in Frankfurt for some photo shooting with my friend Tilo. We went on top of the Main Tower where there is a observation platform located above the 54th floor. It was super windy and kinda cold but it was a great view. I tried different things, panoramas and HDRs and today managed to put something decent together. This is a wallpaper friendly size :)

Frankfurt by night HDR wallpaper

You can see the other results in my Flickr stream.

Posted in Photography Tagged , , .

How to: bright flower macro

Very simple and easy setup for bright white flower macro shots. What you need:

  • flower
  • two speedlites
  • white styrofoam plates

Place the styrofoam plates in a L-shape and point the speedlites at them. The flower is positioned in the middle of this setup with the camera on the same height as the blossom pointing towards the styrofoam plates. Now adjust the speedlites’ strengths as you see fit (I used 1/16 and 1/8). See this setup shot:

Setup for bright flower macro

And the result:

Resulting bright flower macro

Posted in Photography, Tutorials Tagged , , , , .

Something new

A lot of time passed, since I posted something here. It’s because I’m in the process of finishing up my PhD thesis which is taking a lot of time away from other (more fun) things. But every now and then I allow myself some time for recreational things like photography. Recently I saw an image at klick.de (ordered some prints there) which inspired me to recreate that. Recreating images that you like is really a good exercise, especially if you have no description of the light setup or camera settings. Makes you look at the image really carefully to try and find out what the direction of the light is, the camera angle and what post processing might have been involved.

The picture in question for me this time was something erotic. A woman’s legs in nice stockings, stretched to the sky and crossed. Together with the vintage style processing this gives a really nice image. You can check it out here.

To recreate this, there’s of course need for some beatiful legs, which fortunately were available :) I set up a white background and two speedlights which where pointed at two large white styrofoam boards to give a diffuse lighting. These lights were located left and right of the camera at a 45° angle to the model, straight forward and simple. I experimented a bit with the power of the speedlights and at the end the one on the right was set to 1/2 while the other was at 1/8. This way I had a little bit more light coming from the right. First result is this one:

Recreating vintage style photography

Post processing involved masking out the legs and replacing the background with a solid color. On this image I then added a texture to the background with very high opacity to just give a slight pattern. Some adjustments to the levels and a bit of vignetting complete the treatment in PSE. I then took it to Nik ColorEfex 3 and applied the Old Photo filter to give the final result.

The second image was a different take on the subject with a different pose. This was to get more attention to the nice shoes :)

Recreating vintage style photography

Post processing was rather similar to the first image, except no texture to the background. I also had to do some sharpening on this one and added a more pronounced vignette. Then again, ColorEfex for the final look.

Posted in Photography.