Art Spotlight: Squid Ink Bottle

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Hello there, Sketchfabers! My name is Joe Velasco and I’m a 3D generalist and VFX artist born in Venezuela from a Spanish mother, raised in the Bloomington, Indiana, and now living in Spain. A world citizen as I like to call myself!

I studied both advertising, and audiovisual communication and I´ve been working in 3D and VFX for over 15 years, mostly for tv commercials but have done some photogrammetry, VR, and 3D printing as well. I’m now working as a freelancer.

Since I stumbled upon Sketchfab, 3 years ago I’ve been amazed by how good can real-time assets look on this website. Up until now, I was only a “lurker”, but I’ve decided to give it a go and start posting my PBR stuff. It’s extremely fun to tweak the looks and in a matter of minutes start building an online game-res portfolio!

I wanted to tackle glass because it’s easy to make cool glass using standard render engines and shaders but without refraction, real reflections and diffraction, real-time glass can be tricky. I thought an ink bottle would be a nice subject but had to add something else to make it fun so what else could I add but a squid? 😀

As always by gathering nice reference images you get half the job done:

I usually sculpt directly in ZBrush using Dynamesh, and most of the time I don’t even model a base mesh anymore, it’s faster to retopo in Topogun afterward. But both the squid and bottle were such simple meshes that it made more sense to create them with traditional poly modeling. Since the squid’s suckers would be small and looked at from a distance I decided to model them as simple cubic shapes on the low-poly mesh and check if that could do the trick.  I could have made less of them and made them bigger to save polygon budget but since it’s just a personal project and I liked the way it looked I did it that way, making it kind of in the middle of realistic and stylized!

Baking done in Substance Painter

My main aim was to keep the silhouettes as much as possible, as you can see in the bottle top and the squid head, for example. I sculpted the main ink spill using ZBrush and used this high-res mesh to bake the normal details on the floor. All the baking was done inside Substance Painter (the “bake by mesh name” option is a big time-saver)

Since the floor is completely flat and the ink pushes up I could use the baked Thickness map as the base for my ink opacity map with some levels adjustments to get pure black for the transparency and some slight fake AO shadows painted on top (In Photoshop). The roughness map was also created in Photoshop based on that clean opacity map (without the fake AO).

Creating the opacity and roughness maps for the floor plane (INK)

For the bottle, I wanted to fake some diffraction to make it more colorful. For that, I hand-painted and distorted some rainbow-like patterns In Photoshop which I then projected over the inner bottle in substance painter.

Fake Diffraction

For the squid texturing I used a combination of hand-painted splotches in Painter and 3 Photoshop generated “Filter/Render/Clouds” images which I projected as masks onto fill layers (in Painter) to be able to control the look non-destructively. Everything else was done with Painter´s own stencils and brushes, even for the eyes I used Painter´s coffee stain and circular stencils in several layers, nothing fancy.

Hand-painting textures and using stencils

I enjoyed quite a lot uploading and tweaking on Sketchfab, it’s an amazing tool for showing our real-time assets online with industry standard post effects that help us pinpoint the look dev since you can upload and publish only when you’re happy.

As a final note, I want to thank the Sketchfab team for staff picking this “Squid Ink Bottle” project! 

And I want to thank them also for taking it into account on this Art Spotlight!  Having over 1K views really caught me by surprise, so thank you all for visiting and liking it also, I really appreciate it!  I’ve not been very active online in recent years and decided to change that, so expect more from me soon. I’ll keep on sharing free models and having fun on my Sketchfab account.

Feel free to reach me out:






Twitter: @yov3D and @Polygon_Juggler

About the author

Joe Velasco

Animal lover, chocolate adict and 3d Artist


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