Giant Fuel Tubes

Getting *slightly* closer to realism

The Blend.

Become a better Blender artist in 5 minutes each week.

By Samuel Sullins

The Blend

Remember my realistic lunar surface project from a few weeks ago?

Stop remembering it. I’m starting something better. (I’ll get back to that eventually.)


I blocked out a gigantic spaceship, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I had no idea how you actually build a spaceship, after the blocking-out process.

Instead, I’m starting a smaller, more manageable ship. It’s a fuel-hauling ship, used for refueling bigger spacecraft. I’m learning a lot of new techniques as I try to create interesting details and intentional bits of spaceship structure.

One thing stands out, though: pipes.

Big pipes, bundled together with small ones, look very realistic for some reason.

Today I’m showing you a great way to make these giant bundles of pipes. “Great” because it’s easy.

Today’s Technique

First, add a new Bézier Curve to your scene. Tab into Edit mode and make it into an interesting pipe shape. This will become your interesting pipe.

Next, you need to create a curve profile. This is a shape, made of curves, that represents a cross section of your pipe bundle. To create it, add a Curve Circle to your scene.

A Curve Circle is just a circle made out of curves—exactly the same as the curve you added earlier. Press 7 to view your scene from above, then select the circle and tab into Edit mode.

In Edit mode, create an interesting pipe bundle cross section by duplicating and scaling the circle. Keep it asymmetrical, use at least 3 sizes of pipe, and make sure it’s generally circular as a whole (so it’s not too weird when we twist the pipe later.)

Here’s my profile curve. It’s best to keep it centered around its origin point (yellow dot) but I forgot.

Since you made it entirely in Edit mode, it’s still one single object. That’s important for the next step.

Select your other curve, open the Curve tab in the Properties Panel, and under Geometry, set the Bevel Mode to Object. Click the eyedropper and select your profile curve.

Now BOOM! You have an awesome pipe bundle. To make it thinner or thicker, just scale your profile curves (in Edit mode.)

The last step is to twist the pipes. Twisted pipes would be very hard to create in the real world (how would you twist them all together like that?) but a little bit of a twist looked more realistic to me.

Tab into Edit mode on your big pipe curve (not the profile / cross section curve) and select a vertex. Open the N sidebar, and adjust the Tilt.

Your pipe will twist as you adjust it. You can adjust each point on the curve. The less points your curve has, the better the twist looks, since it’s not segmented / broken.

Final result:

It may be too twisted in this example. They’re starting to look more like wires (which is fine, if you want wires.)

I didn’t want wires.

Really Random Render

Today’s random render is by Jose Gordaliza.

I like this render for two main reasons:

  • It’s mechanical / manmade (which is always interesting, because it’ll be packed with details)

  • It’s ancient and destroyed.

Old, destroyed bits of machinery generally always make for amazing renders. The realistic texturing in this render helps a ton (he explains how he did it here.) He also explains that the rotting moss / jungle effects were painted on after the render.

The machine details are very interesting here. This would be very cool as some kind of animation.

Score: 8/10 (Relies a bit too much on post-processing work. I like nearly-all-3D renders.)

Samuel’s Selections

  • A detailed breakdown of a very cool street scene render

  • Just discovered Chris Brejon’s massive free guide to CG image creation. You will definitely hear more about this once I’ve finished reading it.

  • If you want to texture the pipes you made today, just follow the pipes tutorial by Ian Hubert.

Can't think what to blend?

Make something soft and kind of see-through. Cheese, apple slices, French fries, little bits of shredded furniture foam…

P.S. If you enjoy this newsletter at all, check out Voyage Fiction. Subscribe to get my new one this Friday (which will feature a cool render.)

P.P.S. Some of you have been reading Voyage already—supermassive thanks to you!

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