Art Spotlight: Handpainted Cactus

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About Me

My name’s Sophie Rose Stübinger and I’m originally a self-taught 2D artist from Germany. But ever since I discovered the world of 3D art I’ve been diving deeper and deeper into it, determined to gain more experience in that area. I think 3D art is a great way to test and improve your understanding of different aspects of the art world, e.g., composition, lighting, colors, etc., which can be transferred back to 2D paintings later on, as well and vice versa. About three years ago I decided to take my traditional drawing skills over to the digital world and started painting with softwares like Gimp, Krita, and, later, Photoshop. A little while ago I tried something new and discovered my passion for 3D modeling awakened by Blender, which is the software I started with and still do all of my models with. Since then I have been focused more and more on 3D art. Currently I’m about to attend the Cologne Game Lab university to study Digital Games with a specialization in Game Art.

Past artworks

Inspiration & References

To me, there’s nothing more inspiring than looking at other artist’s works and you can learn a lot from simply analyzing their paintings, sketches, 3D models, etc. So, I do a lot of browsing on Instagram, Twitter, Sketchfab and other platforms where artists share their work. When I was browsing on ArtStation, I stumbled over the portfolio of Madlen Zagorska, a freelance digital artist based in Sofia, Bulgaria, and immediately fell in love with one of her paintings.

“My cactus” by Madlen Zagorska (source)

After getting in touch with her and getting permission to do a 3D model of it, I opened up Blender and started turning this incredibly cute 2D piece into 3D.


The modeling part happens in the 3D software Blender. Most of the time I use a standard modeling process by simply starting from a cube or plane. For this 3D model, I mainly worked with cylinders and planes, though. Once a rough blockout was done, I focused on adjusting the size and placing of the objects to fit the original. I tried to keep the shapes as simple as possible because I wanted it to be a little personal project and therefore didn’t want it to be breathtakingly time consuming.

blender mesh

Usually, I try to keep as close to the original concept as possible. Still, with this one I found myself changing certain things during the process such as the floor, the shadow on it and the flower on the head that is visible in Madlen’s original concept.

concept art comparison

I tried out a version where I stuck to hers, but after changing and adjusting some of it, I was more happy to go on with a slightly altered version.


Once the modeling part is done and I’m comfortable with the shapes, I go on with texturing the 3D model which is my most favorite and most time consuming part of the process. Once the UV-Mapping is done (in Blender), I edit the textures externally. To do that I use Photoshop CS6, not because of the endless amount of brushes downloadable out there but simply out of habit. As mentioned before, I started to paint digitally some years ago and have always been fond of Photoshop and therefore, I still use it. I feel like I have more control doing the texturing in PS and feel most comfortable with it. For the painting, I use a simple round, hard brush.

To still be able to practice my digital painting, I hand paint all of my textures. Firstly, I block out the main colors in Blender’s Texture Paint to give me a guideline when I switch it to Photoshop.

I do most of the texturing in Photoshop but switch back to Blender every now and then to check how it looks. Switching between programs can be a bit time consuming, but it’s the best way to keep up with how your hand painted textures actually look on the model.

For the transparent parts of the 3D model, such as the ones on the hat and the flower, I simply imported images as planes in Blender and adjusted their size and position to fit into the scenery.

Uploading to Sketchfab

When I first got started with 3D modeling, I used to and still do spend a lot of time on Sketchfab. Looking at other artists’ models, analyzing how they created a 3D model, reading Spotlights and Tutorials helped me a great deal to get started.

As for the setup on Sketchfab, the most important thing in order to maintain the look of the 3D model I had in Blender was to change the shading from ‘Lit’ to ‘Shadeless’. After changing the background color I moved on to the Post Processing Filters and added some animated grain which I do with most of my 3D models. I think it makes it a little more lively. Also, I added a little bit of sharpness along with some bloom.

Once the main adjustments have been made, I go over to the Materials section and turn on the opacity for the materials I want to be transparent. Then a nice snapshot for the thumbnail is made and here we go with the finished 3D model:


With this being my second finished 3D model, I feel incredibly motivated to continue my journey of getting deeper into 3D modeling. Even though it can be very frustrating—being confronted with a problem that you can’t fix at first—I’ve found myself gaining some more knowledge of working with programs like Blender and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Maybe, I should have changed the shape of the transparent planes a bit more to make them follow the texture and focused more on the UV mapping, e.g., make the seams somewhere the viewer wouldn’t be able to see at first sight, but that’s something to keep in mind for my future 3D models as there are definitely more to come.

Thank you for taking the time and reading it. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it! It was an incredible opportunity and thank you Sketchfab for the Spotlight!

You can find me on ArtStation, Instagram and Twitter.


About the author

Sophie Rose Stuebinger

Game Art Student

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