Art Spotlight: Water Type Pokemon Terrarium

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About Me

Hi! My name is Natalia and I am a 3D artist from Poland. In 2016 I realised that I would love to create graphics for games. Before I decided to do 3D modeling I experimented with 2D illustration, concept art, and animation. I worked for a VR/AR company for two years, but in 2020 I decided to quit my job to focus on personal stuff and make a portfolio. This is my fourth finished project as of this year and hopefully there will be more.


I was scrolling through Pinterest when I stumbled upon some cute keychains by Gloria Kang.

I liked the water Pokemon design the most because it reminded me of a sunny vacation on the beach. There was also another reason why I felt drawn to it, because as a kid I was a huge fan of Pokemon. I would talk about them non-stop and draw them with crayons. It was obvious for me to make them in 3D this time. I gathered some more reference images from anime and games to be sure I wouldn’t miss anything important.


I believe that planning is crucial no matter how big or small the project is. It helps me stay focused and organised throughout the whole process. I break the project into small tasks to easily fit them into my schedule. I write them down on a piece of paper or use a planner app on my phone. This is useful when I have a lot of other things to do and need to manage my time more efficiently. Besides, I feel satisfied once I cross out a finished task.


Firstly, I created the environment in Blender. The biggest shapes were very easy to make from primitives such as Sphere, Cylinder, and Cube. Then I moved on to the props, and again I used only basic mesh operations. I also added a Subdivision Surface modifier on the terrarium and water. Once I had the environment and props in place, I began sculpting the Pokemon.

I sculpted and remeshed the Pokemon one at the time. Since I didn’t plan to bake normals or to animate, I focused on the proportions and shapes, and then having enough polygons to retain their appearance. After I placed the creatures in their correct spots, I placed some bubbles underwater.

pokemon water terrarium sculpt

When I’m happy with the models I begin UV unwrapping. I usually assign a Color Grid texture to the material in order to easily identify any mistakes.

blender color grid texture


I mainly use Substance Painter for texturing. In this project, I needed Base Color and Opacity channels for the transparent parts of the model. Right away, I baked mesh maps because they can be used for Generators and other cool effects. Having only a low poly mesh, I checked the Use Low Poly Mesh as High Poly Mesh box.

Next, I coloured the mesh using Fill Layers and masks, then painted the details on regular layers. At this point I had only a flat coloured mesh without any shading. I could paint light and shadows by hand, but that would be time-consuming. This is where the previously baked mesh maps came in handy. I made a Fill Layer with an Ambient Occlusion Map as the color input and set it to multiply. After that, I created two Fill Layers with black masks and added the Light Generator on both. One of those layers served as an ambient light the other one as a highlight. I tweaked the Generator’s settings and added Paint to refine some areas.

substance painter texture

I highly recommend this Hand-Painted Texture Guide if you’d like to learn more about this technique. It really helps speed up the painting process and is non-destructive.

Sketchfab Setup

Presentation is as important as other parts of the process, so let’s not skimp on those final touches. It took me quite a while to get a pleasing result with this particular scene. Here’s what I came up with. I went back to Blender, duplicated the glass mesh, pushed it a bit further out, and flipped its normals while remembering to assign a new material. I also assigned separate materials to the water mesh and the interior layer of glass.

pokemon water terrarium normals

I re-uploaded the whole scene and set up the materials. In order to achieve this transparent glass with outline, I did the following:

  • Set the Base Color of the exterior glass layer to white.
  • Turned on Opacity with Refraction mode, pushed the slider to a very low value. As for Refraction settings, I set the IoR to 1 with very low Roughness.
  • Assigned texture to the Base Color of the interior glass layer.
  • Used the opacity map in Blending mode, pushed the value a little lower.
  • Assigned texture to the Base Color of the water.
  • Turned on Opacity with Refraction mode and opacity map. Pushed the slider halfway. As for Refraction settings, I set the IoR to 1 and Roughness to 0.

Other materials only have their Base Color textures assigned.

That looked quite alright. There was still one last thing to do—Post-Processing Filters. This is hands-down my favourite part of Sketchfab Editor, I have so much fun with it. Before turning on the filters the whole scene looked a bit bland and blurry.

pokemon water terrarium final

I tested all of the filters and chose the ones that really spiced up my scene. These are the filters I used, and why:

  • Sharpness – when I increased the value I noticed the accidental outline effect on the mesh. Super cool.
  • Chromatic Aberrations – very delicate color shift on the edges, I never go without it.
  • Vignette – subtle effect that helps focus attention on the model.
  • Bloom – for emphasizing the highlights and brightening the scene.
  • Tone Mapping – to slightly increase contrast and brightness.
  • Color Balance – to adjust the colors in midtones and shadows.

sketchfab 3d editor settings

Much better!

Conclusion and Thanks

To sum up, I will say that I am happy how this turned out. I like publishing my models on Sketchfab, it’s such a powerful tool to showcase 3D art in real time. It’s also a great community where artists can find support and get feedback.

I would like to thank Abby for giving me the opportunity to write about this project, and Bart for staff picking my work.

Thank you for reading his article! Now, go create something and have fun 🙂

About the author

Natalia Słomowicz

3D artist who enjoys creating art and playing games

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