Art Spotlight: Zebras

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About Us

Hi! My name is Eduardo de la O Chi. I founded Studio Ochi in 2011 when I finished my studies in architecture at Marista University in Mexico City. I started working in small projects and rendering for other students in their school assignments and dissertations. I got some projects in construction and remodelling, but always came back to CGI.

We offer various design and rendering services, from branding to architectural visualization. We love CGI and all kinds of artistic and creative expressions in the digital world.

Background & Training

I worked in Architecture-related visualization only for some years focusing on realistic finish but I have always loved the low-poly style and after more than 10 years of using CAD and SKP, I was interested in modelling organic shapes, which was very difficult in those two programs (at least for me).

I found Blender after looking for the best software for modelling, sculpting, architectural visualization and rendering all together. Eventually, after watching many tutorials and timelapse videos in low poly style, I decided to follow some of them and start with some animals.

It was scary at first, but as soon as I started, I uninstalled CAD and SKP to make myself learn Blender faster.

Why this model?

For a long time my girlfriend was asking me to make 3D zebras because she loves them.

These zebras were first made in quads-only, for better rigging. I really wanted to have many poses to be able to distribute them around and avoid repetition. In order to do that, I had to model a basic mesh, that later I could add an armature to and pose it.

The process

Following great artists for years like Mat Szulik, Alex Hogrefe, and Timothy Reynolds, I got very interested and I focused on the ‘faceted low poly’ style with real dimensions approach.

Looking at artistic and professional photos of the animal on Pinterest I got a great starting point. It is my first source of inspiration for final looks and reference images.

Later from Google Images, I did some research about zebras like height, colors, poses and details from the main silhouette and I got some anatomy references to make a board with details that had to be included.

Fun Fact: Zebras are actually black. Under the stripey hair, their skin is totally black.

I downloaded some references for modelling and mainly used a side view. In order to have a more natural proportion, I scaled the reference image to fit the real height of the zebra and placed the feet on 0,0,0.

I started making the main shape of the zebra using the Mirror modifier with clipping option activated. I did this mainly by extruding squares to fit the main lines of the animal, surrounding legs and shoulders and leaving extra loops there for better deformation when posing.

At the end more details were applied to the face, where eyes and nose had to be obvious, even in low poly.

When the main mesh was ready I started cutting the faces for the stripes, with the Knife tool, to go across the main body, taking care of edges and vertices. When triangles were made too small, I merged the vertices to reduce the number faces.

Finally I applied a “Triangulate” modifier so that every face was turned into triangles, because some cuts had made them too irregular, impossible to rig correctly. In this case it was necessary because of the stripes, even though triangles are not usually recommended for rigging.

When the base mesh was all done I started placing the armature. For this, I added a Human Armature, which has all the basic bones I need, placing all bones and joints in to their places and scaling them to fit the zebra’s body.

I applied the armature and set up automatic weights to do some minor corrections later.

Placing every pose with the animal was easy after setting up the armature correctly; the same mesh could be repeated and put in place for the final model.

Finally I applied 6 poses and set up the scene for upload!

Uploading and setting up in Sketchfab

Upload: The file was uploaded with Blender’s built-in add-on for Sketchfab, which makes it super easy to upload. The set of colors was developed in Adobe Kuler, to have a visually aesthetic mix of colors.

Camera & Background: I have seen that for low poly style, the less FOV in camera, the better it looks, so I put this at 10º and the background in a flat color, matching the color palette I created.

Lights: I set up two direction lights from underneath to make it look like the ground is reflecting back.

Post-Processing: I turned on Ambient Occlusion, Grain, Depth of Field and Chromatic Aberrations only, which combined give a nice extra 3D-feeling.

Materials: In most of our scenes we work with Specular set to 0 and Roughness set to 100, thereby avoiding extra reflections.


For a brief timelapse, please watch our video on Youtube, where we summed up about 2 hours in 3 minutes or so.

About the author

Eduardo de la O Chi

3D Asset Creator

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