In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
My name is Jakob Baldwin, I don’t have any fancy 3D education or job description (yet!), but I enjoy making 3D models and scenes in my spare time. I’ve been using Sketchfab as the primary place to collect and view my models for three years now, and right from the first day I’ve been awestruck by the amazing community and the very chatty staff people on here! I like joining the contests, reading the art spotlights and browsing the many models on the webpage, plus Sketchfab has been such a nice place to explore all the different approaches to making 3D art. It was actually from browsing around Sketchfab that I got this idea…
Idea and inspiration
One day while browsing around sketchfab, I was completely awestruck with the style from Tim Vizesi’s scene:
and Adam Bromell’s scene!
The usage of shadeless and flat, simple colours really got to me, and I wanted to try something similar. Check out my little collection of minimalist style scenes here:
My original approach was to take scenes from my personal life, places or memories that I know very well, and try to portray them in 3D with a simple shapes and colors. For this specific scene, I knew I wanted to create my home (I believe nearly all 3D enthusiasts try this at some point) and surrounding landscape, so I went for a walk with my dad and my dog to take some pictures for reference.
Modelling the scene
To make the fields I used three circles with 32 vertices each. I filled them in, then extruded the sides out and up a bit, and picked a warm yellowish colour for the innermost circle, while desaturating and darkening the color the further away you get, hopefully faking a sense of depth.
The road is created from a plane, here I scaled along the x-axis the further away you get, again faking that the road disappears into the horizon.
Now I wanted to make the house, using the reference pictures, I quickly block out a shape, and…
leave it like that, only adding some vertex rings so I could assign different colours to top and bottom. Afterwards I created a small grass platform for the house to stand on, extruded up some hedges, and created two very simple polygon trees, which are then placed around the house. The individual trees are then scaled, rotated and sometimes modified a bit, so they don’t look too similar.
After adding a quick blocked out model of my dog and I, I already liked where the scene was going, and moved on to work on details.
First I make the actual model for me and my dog. Starting off with a mirror modifier, I create the basic shape of me in my favorite jacket, add some quick colors and apply the mirror modifier. Then I start posing the character, by just pulling vertices around. I didn’t need to rig this character, since it wasn’t going to be animated, and was really lowpoly. By this point I had decided not to use textures at all, so I had to add some extra vertex loops for different materials.
The same process goes for Buffy, except she didn’t wear a jacket.
Next up I added wheat. This was done by making two different shapes of wheat in 2d view (as a plane), duplicating and rotating the plane on z-axis by 90 degrees, then modifying these second wheat strands a bit. the resulting cross-shaped model is then duplicated and scattered using a particle system. I also experimented with actual 3D wheat made from cubes, instead of planes, but this more than quadrupled the already large polygon count.
Then I added trees along the horizon as well, but unlike the 3D trees around the house, these were made in 2D view as planes, similar to the wheat, and then manually placed along the horizon. Just like the fields, the further the trees are away from the camera, the more desaturated the colours get. From the edges of the fields
I extrude upwards and create a small texture map with alpha, to transition the edges of the different coloured fields together. The last details added were some simple polygon clouds and some color variation in the fields, and finally a better grass edge along the gravel road.
Textures, lightning, and baking?
I didn’t have to concentrate on any of these things, since I was just going with flat colors and shadeless. The only texturing was the alpha textures for the wheat in the background, and just before I finished the scene, I decided to bake a weak ambient occlusion into the house and vegetation near the house, just because. This means that suddenly I was done and satisfied, and after playing around with baking some wind simulation into the wheat strands (which resulted in a VERY heavy scene for Sketchfab), I decided to keep the scene still, instead just applying the wind simulation to a single frame, to randomize the wheat strands a bit more.
TIP: I’ve since then learnt that it would have been smarter to uv map all geometry unto a palette with all the colours, since Sketchfab reads objects with more than one material as several objects. Doing this would make the scene much more lightweight, but hey, it’s been up for 2 months now, so I’ll leave it be.
The scene reminds me of home, a secure and safe place, even though it doesn’t exactly look like my reference photos, for example the house is much more visible in the scene, it sort of feels like how I remember my home before growing up,
I really enjoyed making a much simpler scene without normal maps, advanced lightning or tedious detailing work.