Tag Archives: blender tutorial

The Quest For Photo Realism



For a long time now I have attempted to render a photo realistic 3 D scenes in blender.  Until recently the formula for achieving this feat had eluded me.  I tried in blender internal and failed miserable.  Then Blender developers introduced the cycles rendering engine and getting real world results was still a daunting task even with the more accurate cycles engine.  I played around in the node editor and tried many effects.  The secret just remained well hidden from me. The more I modeled and rendered the more I failed.

I got to be pretty good at texturing objects in the process of finding photo realism. I also learned some cool modeling tricks. In the end my renders still looked fake or they just wasn’t what I was expecting out of blender.

CLINGING IVYIn the above image I textured the building facade and added ivy with the ivy generator, textured the ivy, set up my lighting, and added a environment texture to the world, yet the image lack realism to me.  The color saturation seemed to deep and even cycles seem to miss the bounced lighting. So I figured pretty much it isn’t blender,  it has to be me.

Here are a few things I picked up along the way that helped me alot that I would like to share with you. These are not the absolute holy grail of achieving photo realism and they are not in any particular order but they all should be considered.

1. Modeling

You should strive to make and accurate clean model of what your trying to replicate. Use reference images so that you have a good ideal of what your trying to show. Look at lots of pictures and work from there. your imagination is good but sometimes it can lead you astray.   Here is an old tutorial but it is a good example and it should work in current blender versions.  Always try to use good textures, Normal maps, Bump maps, Specular maps.                                                      http://www.the-blueprints.com/tutorials/blender/

2. Composition

What is you audience going to see? What is the subject of your image?  What are we looking at?  These are questions you should ask yourself when creating a 3d image in blender. What to want my eyes to focus on? The main subject of the image is important, you dont want your viewer to try and look at to many things at once, besides the human brain gets frustrated and will not make sense of any of what the eyes are showing it. Pick an object as the focal point of your image and let everything else in the image point to it.  Knowing a little about photography helps.   These thing are important in an image

Framing                    ( your main subject)

Perspective          (where am I looking from or what am I looking at)

Space                         ( create closeness or distance)

Balance                    ( how much is in frame and what is important )

Color                        ( what drives a viewer to or distracts them from your subject)

Try the rule of thirds it helps you to follow the above five principles.


Jonathan Lampel explains his secrets to a more interesting render.

3. Lighting

Is it day or night is it inside or outside? Light your scene and subjects based on the environment you put them in. Try to understand how lighting works in the real world. Look at the differences between hard and sof shadows. Learn how bounced lighting works and it influences othe objects.  Learn about 3 point lighting and also learn how to use HDR images in projects. Hdr images can provide the correct environment effects to your images. You can google Hdr lighting in blender and also three point lighting.

This is just a short list of helpful tips to improve your renders. I left out post processing basically because that is a subject unto itself. There are lot of things you can do in blender compositor but the key is learning what each node does. I suggest you look at painting and professional photos to get an ideal of what a good image should look like.  Also look at images on some of 3d forums to give yourself something to shoot for.

Thanks for reading. Always learning and always sharing.

Additional reading






Blenderguru xmas tree tutorial results

christmas tree

I rarely do a commentary when I post results from tutorials I try but this one I felt pretty good about. Why you might ask, well I,ll tell you. The first thing for me is the fact I finished the complete scene. For me that is an accomplishment considering how critical I am of myself and how easy it is for me to find something wrong. Secondly I modeled everything myself except the paint splash picture on the wall, And lastly Blender didn’t act to crazy on me this time.

I encourage you to check out the Christmas tree tutorial at Blenderguru.com and hey have fun with it. I think blender is a great tool once you harness the understanding to make it do what you want or need it to do.

Happy Holidays everyone. put Blender down for a little while and enjoy the season and those you love

How To Create Textures Maps In Gimp

How To Create Texture Maps In Gimp

You just modeled the perfect scene and the only thing left is texturing and lighting. You get some great textures from cgtextures.com and apply it only to find your image still doesn’t quite have that pop. The reason for this is, that an image texture is merely a flat projection on your model. It is the same as putting a picture on a wall the photo is only a flat projection. The texture needs some depth and definition. To give the texture what it needs is simple a matter of adding a few things to give it more realism.

Your texture needs a normal map, a specular map, and some displacement to give it the detail it needs to mirror realism. If you have gimp you have the power to generate these maps within that one little program. Gimp can generate normal maps ,bump maps, displacement maps, and even specular maps. You can do it pretty fast with some short and simple steps.

I use a normal map and spec map with my textures. I use the spec map for displacement so I only need to generate the two maps.     

example 0

Creating the Normal map In Gimp:

  1. Open up your texture in GimpScreenshot from 2013-07-27 19:04:55

  2. Select color scroll down to desaturateScreenshot from 2013-07-27 19:27:05

  1. Select filters scroll to normal map in the normal map tab just click ok.

Screenshot from 2013-07-27 19:12:51Click file export, select your texture folder and click export and your normal map is ready to use.

Creating the Specular map In Gimp:

  1. Open up your texture in Gimp

  2. Select color scroll down to desaturate

  3. Select colors scroll to levelsScreenshot from 2013-07-27 19:39:59

  4. adjust the input levels towards the middleScreenshot from 2013-07-27 19:42:23

Click file export, select your texture folder and click export and your spec map is ready to use.



You may want to put your textures in a folder for example brick texture and place your textures in with names such as brick.jpg, brick_normal.jpg and Brick_spec.jpg. This way all your texture maps are in one place.

Bonus Time

Here we have a basic plane with a diffused textureexample 1

Screenshot from 2013-07-27 18:12:24

Now we add a mix shader and a glossy shader

Screenshot from 2013-07-27 18:14:48

Now we have this

example 2

Now if we add the spec map and a color mix node we will put the texture in the top , set the bottom to black and change the blend mode to multiply then  put that in the factor input of the mix shader.

Screenshot from 2013-07-27 18:15:59

Now we this

example 3

Now let select the specular texture and the color mix node duplicate it and place it in the displacement socket

Screenshot from 2013-07-27 18:18:04

you have this

example 4

Then we add our normal map as an image texture connect it to a normal map node the connect it to the normal input of the glossy and diffused shader

Screenshot from 2013-07-27 18:22:16

Which gives us  this result

example 5

example 1example 5

On the left just a plain image texture on the right our better texture. Which do you prefer?

Additional Resources

The Secrets of Realistic Texturing


Introduction to Texturing with Cycles in Blender