Cessna 177 Cardinal

Art Spotlight: Rainy Night Cessna 177 Cardinal

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About Me

Hello everyone! My name is Carl Damy, I’m 27 years old, I’m French and I have been a generalist 3D artist in the field of virtual and augmented reality for almost 3 years. I started making 3D at age 17 with Blender, modeling tables and chairs like many beginners. I liked it so much that I decided to follow a 3D animation training in the French cinema school ESRA. During this training I was able to develop my skills in the creation of animated movies and learned to use several softwares.

Being a perfectionist I like to push the detail of my models.

I also spend a lot of time observing models on Sketchfab to learn new techniques. Therefore it seems logical to me to contribute in my turn and share my process to the Sketchfab community.

About the Cessna 177 Cardinal Model

I made this Cessna in order to improve my skills in vehicle creation.

On this point, Karol Miklas‘s vehicles are among those that inspired me the most for the creation of this Cessna. I like the quality of these models, they are very realistic and he brings out a lot of fineness in the details.

But I also wanted to do this rainy night scene to have fun with all the possibilities that Sketchfab offers. My goal was to work around a particular point of view, as though for a movie shot.

For that I worked my environment and the composition according to the camera point of view. So I started this challenge from this image by Jeremie Fulleringer that inspired me:

Cessna 177

© Jeremie Fulleringer. I want to thank him for allowing me to use his picture in this article.


I created this scene in two stages. I started with this Cessna 177 Cardinal.

Then in the second stage I modeled the environment. Everything has been modeled in 3ds Max.

For this airplane I used blueprints. I started modeling the fuselage at first, all in symmetry.

Cessna 177 blueprint

A lot of references helped me to model it. Here are some of them.

Cessna 177 art references

Once the fuselage and the wings were finished, I modeled the empennage (the vertical and horizontal stabilizers), the landing gear, then all the outer elements.

Cessna 177 3D model

After the outer parts I modeled the engine and the interior.

Cessna 177 interior

Once the airplane modeling was done I unfolded the UVs and I distributed the elements between five materials while paying attention to the texture density.

Cessna 177 parts

For the environment I created a plane for the ground and several planes for the grass.

For the rain I modeled and animated several planes facing the camera.

Having several planes of rain adds depth and density to it, and it helps to add atmosphere and realism. In the background I modeled spheres to simulate lampposts and give even more depth to the final scene.

Rain simulation 3d

For more details I animated planes to simulate the rain splash on the ground.

Rain splash simulation 3d


Texturing is the part that I took the most pleasure working on. I made all the textures in Substance Painter.

Since I wanted a maximum of texture details, I decided to work in 4K.

The Substance Painter exporter is really handy and allowed me to do a lot of testing in Sketchfab very quickly.

For a good painting effect on the Cessna I added noise in the specular and normal maps.

This gives a softly grainy effect and avoids a too-perfect painting by blurring the reflections a little.

Cessna 177 Cardinal paint

The task that took the longest was applying all the rivets because I applied them by hand and they are everywhere on this airplane. For a better effect I duplicated the material of the rivets once they were all placed, then I inverted the height map and applied blur to give a hollow effect around the rivets.

The trickiest part was the white and red lines because I wanted the lines to be as straight and clean as possible. For that I used four materials with each of them a different black mask. In each black mask I mixed a 3D Linear Gradient for lines and 3D Distance for curved parts, which in the end results in White-Red-White-Red materials stacked like this:

3D stacked materials

I used this technique for all other parts of the Cessna 177 that had lines.

I also added a slight deformation in the metal for more realism.

Cessna 177 Cardinal Rudder

For the ground texture I divided the plane into several parts, the closest part to the camera with more detail, like gravel and cracks, then a part with less detailed asphalt and a last part with grass in the background to hide the horizon.

Here is the evolution of the ground texture. I started with an asphalt texture, then I added the puddles, the height map to create irregularity, and I ended up with cracks and gravel.

Tarmac pavement gif

Sketchfab 3D Editor

In this scene there is a lot of glossiness to give the wet effect. This is why the choice of the HDR map was very important to bring out as much detail as possible and give the atmosphere I wanted. So I had to do several tests before finding the right HDR map.

HDR map comparison

I chose the HDR map that gave, in my opinion, the most realistic effect in terms of colors and lighting, then I placed the lights. For that I already had an idea of ​​what I wanted.

I needed a yellow light for the spot in front of the Cessna and another light coming from the left that illuminates the airplane like light coming from an airport.Then I put a last blue light behind the camera to bring out the rain in the foreground.

3D model lighting

Regarding the post-processing settings, I used Bloom to give a fog effect with the background lampposts, however it made the Cessna too flashy. So I counterbalanced by adding SSAO with a large radius to soften the Bloom effect.

bloom and ssao

Here are the settings I used:

sketchfab post processing

The Sharpness allowed me to make the details more visible.

I also used the Tone Mapping in Filmic type to accentuate the contrast and give a more dramatic look.

Once all the settings were done, I added a rain sound to accentuate the atmosphere even more.

It was really a pleasure for me to create this scene in Sketchfab because this platform offers a lot of possibilities with good quality rendering. With a little creativity we can really do pretty things.

Sketchfab allows me to share my models very easily and it’s much more communicative than simple images. Being able to inspect the models is also a big plus.

I thank the Sketchfab team for allowing me to write this article. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Here is my ArtStation.


About the author

Carl Damy

3D Artist Generalist

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