- The Blend
- How I Start A Project
How I Start A Project
Reference → try → fail...
Become a better Blender artist in 5 minutes each week.
By Samuel Sullins
You didn’t get The Blend last week.
Must have been devastating. I know because I didn’t get one either.
I was sick.
It’s the first time I’ve missed a week in 49 weeks (unless I really missed a week and still don’t know about it.)
Today I was sitting around thinking how sad that was when I realized who’s supposed to be writing these.
So I dove into my desk and got typing.
When you sit down to start a new project in Blender (or anything) it can be somewhat daunting. It’s difficult to know how exactly to begin.
Today I’ll show you how I start a project. Maybe it’ll be helpful. If not, then ignore it.
The other day I decided I wanted to render the moon. Not the whole thing—just a surface view of the moon, like we see in Apollo pictures.
I did that once before, but it was very simplified and…lame. In that version, I used Geometry Nodes to make a simple surface plane, then I scattered some ecospheres. Nothing special.
This time, I wanted it to be totally realistic.
The first thing I did was reference images. I collected a few that looked like something I wanted to create. Since I’m going for a perfectly realistic look, I avoided computer generated or manmade reference photos.
Then I got started in Blender. My approach is usually just to jump in and mess around, with the goal of seeing how hard the project is going to be.
It was easy at first. I set up a quick ground, a quick material, and started playing around with space-y lighting. All the fun stuff.
After about an hour, I realized that this was much harder than it looked. That “the fun stuff” wasn’t going to make it work at all—it needed some serious work.
So I ditched the first try, and started again. Very detailed noise for the terrain this time, with several layers. A more carefully crafted material. A more interesting lighting setup. Everything was very high detail.
It’s going to work this time, I thought. Even though I’d only spent a couple of hours on it.
Of course it didn’t work. Didn’t look anything like my reference—which, I realized, was the problem. I decided to break my problem in to a lot of smaller problems. Lights. Materials. Moon rocks.
I decided to tackle the material first. I’m still doing that, now—the project’s not near done yet.
But I’m refining my process, I think. It’s important to jump in and start a project—but also to know when you’ve failed. I would have saved time by changing approaches earlier. I would have saved a lot of time if I’d tried breaking it down from the start, and paying really close attention to the reference images.
I’ll let you know how the project turns out. In the meantime, check out this miniature render:
Really Random Render
Some favorite things about this render:
It’s pleasant to look at. When you see it on the page you really do have to stop and look at it.
The tiny-ness of everything. That car. Those windows and buildings. It feels like a big place that’s really small—if you know what I mean.
The water. The waves were done at a tiny scale, so that the island would feel big in comparison. Also, whatever is under the water is awesome, because it gives it depth. Seems extra deep, but also like it’s no deeper than my fingernail.
Miniatures are some of my favorite renders.
Can't think what to blend?
A flower. A flower farm or a garden with flowers, or maybe a dried flower.
P.S. If you enjoy this newsletter at all, check out Voyage Fiction. I write short stories there. Here’s the latest one:
P.P.S. Some of you have been reading Voyage already—massive thanks to you!
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