Hello, my fellow readers and Sketchfab fans, my name is TheLastAirblender, or TLA for short.
I hope you don’t mind me using my account name instead since I do value privacy on the Internet. I feel shy around people I’ve never met before; it’s easier for me to talk online and offscreen than face-to-face. And Sketchfab helps me quite a lot because it’s a super friendly community.
I’m an autist who has liked to draw since the beginning of my childhood. Why? Because drawing was something that would make me feel calm. While I did enjoy the process of drawing, I also suffered from a severe case of what is called “perfectionism”. In other words, I hated the end result. A simple chestnut is what finally made me break into pieces, like literal ragequit, because I wanted it to be photoreal… Thankfully, this didn’t mean the end of the world, but it took me years to realize that perfection is found in imperfection. So one day, many years later, I grabbed my pencil once more, went through a meditation process (repeatedly telling myself it was okay to fail while drawing) and with practice, perseverance and patience I finally started seeing results I was happy with.
How I learned to create
I’m a self-taught artist who learned to draw 2D and model in 3D simply by reading an art book (even though I never liked to read, besides comics) and binge-watching YouTube videos online.
But there was another problem to overcome besides perfectionism:
The lack of imagination… So I first started to copy on a piece of paper what I saw as best as I could. I drew humans and animals, experimented with shading techniques, etc. And this somehow allowed my fantasy to kick in.
My first contact with 3D was when a close friend of mine told me about Blender. I loved 3D movies like Toy Story and Finding Nemo; Blender allowed me access to create stuff on my own, in 3D. I couldn’t believe such a masterpiece of software existed for free. I was like :-0.
Learning, though, was only possible with a lot of sheer willpower due to its complexity, and sometimes I ended up being frustrated, but somehow I managed to pull through after a long time.
I recommend this software to everyone who wants to work in 3D, and if this is your first time, patience is the key to success. Get a feel for 3D by starting with something simple, even if it looks like a child’s drawing. My first 3D model of a human looked like it was some kind of alien haha. Start by getting familiar with the terminology, like what is raytracing, what are vertices, and so on.
I recommend paying a visit to Blender Guru’s YouTube channel, or watching other channels like Yan Sculpts, CG-Boost, etc. Without further ado, let’s skip to the main course, shall we?
How I created Witch-chan: Trapped inside the game
Part 1: Inspiration
I played games quite a lot in the good old days, and always wanted to be a part of the game worlds (Super Mario, Bomberman, etc.). Probably because I’ve felt comfier in the virtual world?
If you check my profiles on Sketchfab and DeviantArt, you will see that I’m using my mascot quite often in my works. She kind of represents what I want to be in real life, less shy, more open, etc. So why not send my mascot into the world of gaming?
Part 2: Workflow
This is part of a bigger project of mine, as you can see here:
The game-part was entirely modeled in MagicaVoxel. I thought that it would be nice to go for a middle ages theme. I started by blocking out the ground tiles, then added my character to get a reference for the scale. After that, I continued to add some other assets like the castle and trees. Even the enemies. There is one tool that I used quite a lot, and that is the pattern brush tool.
I just painted a few brick tiles, selected them, and used the pattern brush to quickly paste the same pattern over and over again, making sure it still looked dynamic. That’s how the ground and the castle were painted.
When the scene was ready, I turned over to Krita to quickly design a background texture and then used the pixelate filter to give it a retro look.
Now it was finally time to export everything to Blender and get ready for the animation.
Part 3: Ready to animate
Once I had imported everything into Blender, I had to do a bit of a cleanup, like merging together the dozen of materials and fixing mesh issues; as great as it is, exporting is a crippling weakness of MagicaVoxel. I used OBJ for export and somehow it didn’t look too bad when animated, so I went on with it.
I built basic rigs for all the characters and created a set of animation data blocks to establish the walk cycle, jumps, block behavior when hit, etc.
Building data blocks can be a bit time-consuming in the beginning, but will save you a lot of time in the long run—you can reuse them and blend them together however you like. The background image slowly follows the camera movement via constrainment, to create a parallax effect.
Sketchfab, however, has no support for camera movement, so how to make it look like there is a camera involved? To quote something I once read in the Forum: If you can’t move the camera, you have to move the world. So I had to get a little creative here, adjust the animation of my characters, etc. It was a bit tricky, but after a few hours of tinkering, I managed to get this to work.
Upload to Sketchfab
The Sketchfab editor allows for a lot of customization, which makes it possible to really get the most out of your model. What I really love are the post-processing filter effects.
As for the lighting, a simple HDRI was more than sufficient.
These are the settings I used.
Adding a subtle Vignette and grain effect really pumps up the effect of good old retrogaming.
And that’s the end of it, I do hope that you could learn something from it.