Monthly Archives: August 2014

Procedural Skin Material

Lots of little stuff in this one.

First off, if you haven’t, check out this video on a super simple setup for the SSS node in Cycles. It’s a little long winded on the setup, so you can skip to about 7:30 for the actual nodework.

For my part, it’s a lot less complicated thinking about the node set up the way pauljs does in his video. The official stance is that the RGB colors in the ‘Radius’ setting are presented in that order from top to bottom. Presumably, the ‘1’ means full color and less than that is some percentage of that color coming through. In most cases, your main color is going to line up with your SSS color. Even with skin, the SSS color isn’t going to be terribly far from your base color for the model. Assuming that is the case (and even if not you’ll find some useful stuff in here) we’re going to make Suzanne pink.


So here’s the basic setup. Black body point light at 4800K / 100 Strength and .1 Size. Panel sized x3 rotated to 90 on the X and emitting at 5. Camera set at -4 Y (640X480) from full front. Suzanne is smooth shaded and has a subsurf on rendering 2 subs. (For the eyes, I duplicated the eye mesh, shurnk it along the individual origins to .95 and then set up two other materials, which I’ll talk about in a minute.)

Doing this with a skin tone of (.991,.440,.238) gives the following:


Diffuse Only



Diffuse and Gloss (settings to the right)


Diffuse, Gloss and Subsurf (super low)

Couple of things to note here. First, the color (mentioned above) is input into both the Diffuse and the Subsurf, it also goes somewhere else, which I’ll explain next. The gloss is striaght up white. The order of the mix is important, because we want the information to fall together correctly. The Subsurf, then whatever isn’t covered by that take the Gloss, and whatever is left take the Diffuse. I’ve also tweaked the mix settings to look nice. I set the SSS up for Gausian (it’s faster) and notice that the Scale of the subsurf is super tiny. Here’s what it looks like when full 1:


so you decide how supple you want that skin. I don’t have a good method for this, other than just toying with it. [I decided on a different number by the time I was done with this post than the one I started with. (0.25)]



So where does the color go?

This is the really interesting part from the YouTube video above. Why toy with these setting independently if you don’t need to. Take your input color, flush it through a Separate RGB node, multiply each of them by a value, and then combine them back to make the Radius. Simple. The great thing about this is that you can pull the value and color out to input nodes for a group later, and if you want, you can separate the RGB value multipliers (so if you happen to want a blue blooded pink thing, you can make that happen.) Separating and recombining the values might seem like a chore, but it is necessary for the proper outcome of this method, beyond giving you the control options.

The image is still a bit flat at this point, but that might be all you want with it. Notice, you can stick a texture in rather than just a color for that input slot. Very useful if you are creating skin with a texture to go with it. But lets say you want more realism, without painting a whole bunch of textures in. Here you go, procedural bumps:


Notice the add node, this is important as it will alter the behavior of the textures interacting. Also, the conversion to B&W is important, I tried it with the factor and it didn’t come out looking near as natural. This bump gets thrown into all three shaders.

Final product:

Right now, I’m toying with a way to make a voronoi cell texture (slightly disrupted by a wave texture) put some veins in the SSS color. It would be really neat to see that kind of thing work out. Some other considerations: run a dirty vertex and place the input from that as a modifier for the bump maps to create some wrinkles (dirty vert hits the crevasses where wrinkles would normally be), use a voronoi input to the vector of a noise shader to create fingerprint like structures,  grouping and saving the node groups for use with other projects and as varied inputs.

Happy Blending.

Oh, I almost forgot the eyes. This is very basically how I model all my eyes. Grab the exterior portion already on Suzanne and duplicate, then scale along individual origins to 0.95. Next grab all the stuff that’s in the front of the eye, and pull it back. Like this (interior on left, exterior on right)


For the materials, the interior gets this treatment:

notice you can replace the white with a texture, and I recommend bump mapping your veins, it’ll really add to the realism.

then the exterior gets this tear treatment:


Boom. That’s it.

Blend available here: Skinned Suzanne.

Share your results with me, I’d like to see this material put to use!



Glowing Electric Material Without Compositing

Yesterday I shared a tutorial on making some glowing, animated cylinders. I composited some ghost blur on them, and it looks great, but it really bothered me that the cylinders were so ‘solid’ as emitters and I had to composite the glow on afterward.

So I made a new material.
First I made an emitter out of this sphere: (generic settings)


Then I mixed it with transparency:


But that did nothing that I wanted, it just dimmed the emission (and kinda made it see through) So I added the ‘Layer Weight input and stuck that in the factor for the mix:


and now, we are talking. Notice that slight blur on the edges, that’s what I’m looking for. So I cranked up the Blend setting on the ‘Layer Weight’ input and came up with this:


but now the sphere was really dim, so apparently the more transparent the less light it gives off, fair enough, just crank up the emission:


and viola, glowy sphere of light without hitting the compositor.

Try it out on some other shapes and get some interesting results:

CylinderWisp CubeWisp SuzanneWisp

All of those were with untweaked settings as follows:


Happy blending.


EDIT: forgot to add the inverted effect. If you flip the Emission shader and the Transparent shader and then crank the Layer Weight ‘Blend’ down to 0.1 you get this neat glowing bubble:


Imgur Loading Gif in 3d

So, Alex Otten posed a question about this animated version of the Imgur logo. I decided to try my hand at it using curves to deform a cylinder. So here’s roughly what we’ll be making:



So, clear a fresh scene and we’ll get started.

First step is to go to front ortho view and then add a circle curve: (Shift+A Curve->Circle)

Make sure you tick the ‘Align to View’ box if you want easy numbers as we go forward. There’s a small point to be made here about the radius of the circle, which I’ll come back to in a moment. For now, leave it at 1, but just keep it in mind for the future.

Now, add a basic circle mesh (we’re going to make it cylinder in a moment): (Shift+A Mesh->Circle)


The settings I’m using are for 16 verts and a radius of 0.1 (I want this cylinder to be very thin and long.) You won’t be able to see the circle, because it’s flat from front view, so alter your view slightly and then tab into edit mode.

In edit mode, duplicate the vertices (Shift+D and right click to commit) then grab and move them up 1 unit on the z axis (G, Z, numpad 1 and Enter to commit.) Now we have two circles of vertices, 1 Blender Unit away from each other. Select all the verts (Ax2) and then bridge the loops (Ctrl+E, L).


This is the point where we’ll pick the resolution of our curve. To illustrate what I mean, go ahead and add a modifier to your cylinder so that it runs the course of the circle: Curve mod, Object is the BezierCurve, Deformation Axis is Y.

You’ll notice That our cylinder is on the circle the way we want it, but isn’t deforming and isn’t covering the whole thing. We fix the deforming by giving it more geometry to work with. Create loops in the cylinder until you are happy with how many you have for the resolution. For this example I’m going with 63 loops (creating 64 vertical pieces.) Tab in to edit mode, mouse over the center of the cylinder and then push Ctrl+R and scroll up on the mouse wheel. You can look at the bottom left to see how many cuts you are up to. Left click then right click to accept and place evenly. Tab back out of edit mode and you should see a difference in the way it curves around the circle. (if you haven’t yet, change the shading on the cylinder to smooth.) But there’s a problem.


This problem (the cylinder not going around the whole circle,) is exactly what we are going to use to properly animate the ring as it goes around the track. Remember back to my comments about the radius of the circle initially, we left it set at one, so now we need to set the size of the cylinder to match the circumference of the circle. Fortunately, we can animate this!

Steps6Bring up your right panel with the N key (if you haven’t already) and look at the cylinder’s Z size. It should be set at 1 if you haven’t done anything to it. Change it now to 6.283. It fills the whole circle because 2πr is the circumference of the circle, and since we left the radius at 1, that means the circumference is 2 times π. So the length of our cylinder needs to be 2π or 6.283. Use this value to animate the cylinder by setting 3 key frames, first frame, middle frame, and last frame.

Set the first frame to the full circle (6.283 in this case), the middle frame to 0, and the last frame to the opposite of the first. (-6.283 in this case.) simply mouse over the Z value in the right panel after you’ve set it, and push ‘i’ to set a key frame. You may get a squashed image in the middle frame, and there are a couple of ways to tease this out. The easiest is post processing the middle frame out of the compiled gif. The more complicated way is to set a key frame immediately to either side of the center frame after you’ve already keyed the middle frame, and then key the x and y values on the middle frame to zero as well.Steps7


At this point, we’ll want to make all the circles, and the best thing to do is clear all the key frames (right click on whatever frames you’ve keyed and then select ‘clear keyframes’) so that there isn’t any confusion. To get a smaller circle inside this one, we’ll simply duplicate the bezier curve and then scale it to half its size. (S, .5) It’s important to pick your end caps at this point for the cylinder, as we’ll just be duplicating it. If you want, you can just grid fill it, though I recommend extruding in a couple of times before you do this and then beveling the edges.

Now that the end caps are established, go ahead and duplicate the cylinder from Object mode. You should see no change, but now you can go in to the modifiers and change the object influencing the curve to the other curve you just duplicated. You’ll notice it is already filled with the cylinder, but something isn’t right. Check the settings, and you notice that the size of the cylinder is off (should be 6.283) change this to 3.142 and you’ll have it set to the appropriate circle size. Go ahead and duplicate another version of the cylinder, remove the modifier and then hide it so that we can use it as our ‘blank’ for any future circles. Obviously the easiest values to work with are going to be direct multiples, but just remember, 2πr for the z size of the cylinders and you’ll be fine. If you get lost on how big your circle is, just look at the z dimension when it is selected and divide that by half to get the radius. If you want the cylinder to get thicker as the circles get bigger, just apply the modified circle size to the curve with Shift + A while you are in object mode.

Add a sphere to the center, smooth shaded, 0.1 size, 16 and 16 on the rings and segments. If the cylinders aren’t moving to your liking, you can simply rotate the curves (which can also be animated for a very cool effect.) Now, for materials, I just set a light blue emission at 5. I set the background to pure black, and then did some post before exporting the animation.

After you render a single frame, go to the Compositor and set up the following:


for a light glow effect. Play around with the settings to taste. Then render the animation and load it up as a gif.

Keep in mind that all the circles are running in time in this tutorial. To get closer to Alex’s challenge, you’ll have to play around with the key frames a bit. This should be a pretty solid start though!

Indirect Glory

There’s a great moment in Moses’ story about God hiding him in a cleft in the rock and then letting him see the passing image of God because

“[Moses] cannot see [God’s] face, for no one may see [God’s] face and live.”

This is to say, no one can see the direct glory of God and live. Even the two great prophets, Issiah and Ezekiel have an indirect experience of the glory of God.

Ezekiel has this line in his vision of God:

Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.

Seeing God directly isn’t helpful in causing or building our belief, but seeing him indirectly is. Many unbelievers will say, ‘if God would just show himself, how could we not believe?’ They don’t realize that that’s not really what is keeping them from believing, while the inability to acknowledge God from the wonders of the universe is.

Our big problem is that we are content worshiping the effects of God, rather than God himself. We are content accepting his miracles here and now, rather than coming to know him more deeply and forgo those comforts of temporal life. We want his glory to be defined in this space, where we can categorize, analyze, and criticize it, rather than accept that it is beyond us. We forget that the basis of this existence is in him, and that even the greatest wonders we experience now are but a pale reflection of his glory.

Day Zero Survivalism

The concept of ‘Day Zero’ is a pretty prevalent idea in our society, from what I’ve seen. It’s the day before you start doing something, because the first day is Day One. When talking about survivalism, the concept of Day Zero preparedness is extremely important. Typically, people who agree with Day Zero prep fall into two camps: catastrophists and pragmatists. I tend to be a pragmatist, thinking that the things survivalism can teach us (conservation, situational awareness, generalist self-sufficiency) are worth thinking about even if a horrible, apocalyptic situation never occurs. Don’t get me wrong, those types of things are never far, and the concepts of survivalism, in a broader sense, are dependent on thinking of so called ‘worst-case scenarios’ so no conversation about survival skills can avoid them, they just don’t have to include zombies or asteroids.

The reason I’m starting with Day Zero prep is because this is a concept that a lot of people (survivalists included) forget about. They think about what they will do when disaster strikes, but not how they will be ready for it before hand. Most people think you have to prepare for everything if you are going to prepare for any one event in which your priority will be survival, but that’s not necessarily true. The other end are the people who are ‘preparing’ now by stocking up on caned goods, ammunition, and other things they want to have lots of when society ends. Problem there is that the stocks will run our as well. I’m going to lay out a few concepts of Day Zero prep here that are accessible to just about anyone. Call this an ‘Intro to Survivalism for Pragmatists.’

Prep Step 1. Think of things that you take for granted on a daily basis.

If you live in the first world, there is an entire supply chain that gets necessaries to you on a regular basis. Food, water, electricity, climate control, garbage disposal, news and information, communication methods, etc, etc. Just as an example, potable water is one of the most basic necessities of life. A well-hydrated, moderately healthy person can survive for weeks without food. A person suffering dehydration can die within hours, depending on the weather. Get to know your supply chain, and see if there is a way you can begin to have a more local control on your supply. On the cheaper end you could create a rain collection system, locate and meet some local farmers, start a garden. On the more expensive scale, you could install solar / wind power, install a well, eliminate your petroleum usage. Realizing how much of a distance there is between you and the things that keep you alive is fairly important to your life now, not just for survival when that chain breaks down.

Prep Step 2. Meet your neighbors

This may sound silly, but in a situation in which most infrastructure is defunct, the people you are going to rely on are not your online friends, but the people physically near you. Your chances of survival are dramatically increased if you just know the people next door simply because then you can collaborate rather than target each other when things get scarce. Imagine a transformer on your street blowing up, then think who all will be standing in the street. Those are the people you need to get to know. But do more than just say hi, thinking about prep 1 you could form a community gardening plan and cover just about everyone’s food needs through a produce share plan. Talk about cutting the supply chain to nothing.

Prep Step 3. Identify the things you are responsible for

Start with yourself, because you can’t help anyone if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Then move on to the people you are responsible for. This may sound harsh, but pets are a secondary consideration (even though they do come before ‘stuff.’) Be aware of the things you are responsible for on a regular basis, knowing roughly where they are, what they are capable of on their own, and how they can be helpful to the group as a whole. Clearly identify strengths and weaknesses, and factor those in to your decisions about where those people need support, and where they need to lead.


There is a lot more to talk about with Day Zero prep, but these things are a great starting point. You’ll realize that it is more of a mental shift than it is any real system of being ready for the worst. Being a pragmatist, I’ll be offering some more thoughts on your ‘Survival Team,’ your ‘Survival Cookbook,’ your ‘Survival Skill List,’ and your ‘Survival Bag’ (and offering some resources for you to learn.) Hit me up here or on Google Plus with questions or comments, but remember, I’m a pragmatist, not a catastrophist, so I’m not going to have a ‘Zombie Survival Plan’ mostly since I don’t narrow my scope down that much.

The Moment of Faith

Gospel reading: Matthew 14:22-36

When Peter walks on water, but that’s not the moment of faith.

This is a very well recounted story of faith. It’s probably one of the images of the apostles that is most well worn and remembered. It has everything, Peter doing something miraculous because of Jesus, then doubting and sinking in the process. As Christians, we can relate to this ‘but what if’ scenario that complicates this amazing story. We can also all wonder ‘what if he had made it to Jesus?’ The problem is, as is most often the case, that the miracle gets in the way of the lesson.

The disciples are afraid, being tossed about on the sea (they seem to have this happen to them often, even though they are fishermen, which is another tale of how doing the right thing will often cause you to encounter storms) and see a ghost on the waves. These don’t seem to be overly superstitious men, they are all practical professionals. Not skeptics, to be sure, but this isn’t the kind of thing they would have assumed lightly, and even less likely than before having joined Jesus’ ministry and having their eyes opened to the spiritual battle happening around them. But they have seen strange things, and they have started to learn that they are facing the full force of the spiritual battle invisible to most. Peter has enough faith to step out on the water and join Jesus, even if for a short moment. His faith causes a miracle, so you might be asking, ‘how does the miracle get in the way of the lesson.’

It’s how Peter responds to Jesus declaration of who he is that is the moment of faith. Peter calls out to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Notice here that Peter is praying for a call. How often do we pray like this? Do we ever? Do we ever see something that needs to be done, become inspired to do something about it, and then pray for that calling in our lives? Peter already knew he was going to get out of the boat and walk on water when he asked this. He also knew he needed Jesus to speak it.