Blender Non-Destructive Panel Lines

I’ve been working on various models for my book trailer and have tried to find a good way of creating panel lines for projects such as spaceships. This can be done with materials, but I’ve had better luck creating physical detail rather than using texturing.

Up to now, the method I’ve used has been slow and cumbersome, but after recently going through a bunch of tutorials on adding this kind of detail, I’ve found a method that seems to work well (at least for me) and is non-destructive to the base mesh. So I thought I’ share it for anyone interested. This introduces more polygons, so may not be suitable for models intended for real time rendering, but works fine for still images or video/animation.

Personally I find that a clearly written set of instructions is much quicker to follow than a video tutorial, so here goes:

  1. Add lines(edges) on model where panels wanted (might be able to use existing edges depending on surface)
  2. Mark desired panel lines as “sharp”
  3. Add “Edge Split” modifier, uncheck Edge Angle
  4. Add “Solidify” Modifier. Adjust Thickness to taste, check Only Rim to avoid back facing polys
  5. Add Bevel modifier, Adjust Width and Segments to taste.

You can now add or change panel lines by marking/clearing sharp on edges! Also, this method would allow you to turn off the panels completely if needed for a particularly complex scene render.

Here’s a shot of the modifier stack (Click to enlarge):

And an example before/after shot (click to enlarge)

Thanks to the following people for their helpful  youtube tutorials:

Andrew Price

Jason Clarke

Dan Brown CGI

The Making of Ben

When I’m writing a story I build up a collection of images that act as references for what’s in my head.  Much of the time these are things I find on the web, but as I write science-fiction sometimes I just can’t quite find anything that looks right. Or sometimes I want to work through how something might work if it were real.

When that happens I often build the object in 3D. This allows me to get more of a feel for the object in question and can help solidify my ideas and furnish me with details I otherwise might not think of. Many times very little of this detail makes it into the actual writing–it’s really background for myself. But sometimes these designs see the light of day in my book covers, such as the Three Lives Of Mary cover and the additional “character image” of Ben.

With Ben I had something very deliberate in mind Continue reading “The Making of Ben”

My God, It’s Full Of Stars!

Recently I’ve been researching and world building for an upcoming novel and came up against an interesting problem. If you’re writing science fiction that’s set in a galaxy “far, far away” then you can just make up any setup you want, but my novels are intended to be more realistic than that and so I need to reference real star data.

If it was just a case of setting the story on another planet around another star, this also wouldn’t be too much of an issue. There are numerous very good star charts and Continue reading “My God, It’s Full Of Stars!”

My Open Source Challenge – Pt2

A little while ago I set myself the challenge to only use open-source tools for all my graphics work. The reasons for this were varied. Some tools that I’ve used in the past such as 3DS Max are simply way beyond my reach, while some others (Adobe’s Creative Cloud)–while not completely unaffordable– are still expensive and have numerous usability issues (over-riding Windows settings for someone with visual impairments being the most insulting). Plus I don’t like the endless Pay-To-Play syndrome where you’re treated as nothing but a cash-cow to be regularly “milked”.

The replacements I chose were Gimp for image processing and Blender for 3D Modelling/Rendering. I’ve been working on them over the last few weeks to try out their features, stability and overall functionality.

The best proof of any software is in the results you can achieve Continue reading “My Open Source Challenge – Pt2”

Maps in Fantasy Books

Today I’m sharing a post from Dianne Lynn Gardner, the multi-talented author of The Ian’s Realm Saga on the intricate and spell-binding topic of fantasy map-making. High fantasy can be confusing. It’s little wonder that readers find the inclusion of a map a welcome relief. I know as a writer, it definitely makes it easier to keep track of my characters and which way they are headed.

But map making has also become a beautiful addition to fantasy literature. Not only does it help the readers understand where a story’s characters are traveling, what sort of dangers lie ahead, and illustrate Continue reading “Maps in Fantasy Books”