Hi all, my name is Farid Ghanbari, and I have been working as a CG Generalist for about 10 years. My overall experience includes games, advertising, architectural visualization, motion design, and VFX mostly created in Maya, Realflow, Marvelous Designer, C4D, Substance Painter, Photoshop, and Aftereffects.

In this post, I'll show you the process of my last artwork “Bottles of Life.” I intended to achieve something eye-catching with perfect lighting and detailed textures.

1. Start the Project (References and spices!)

The most important fact for me as a CG Artist who must deeply go inside professional 3D apps with a thousand tabs and windows, is to keep the creativity and artistic look of the final result. Not something awesome only from a technical point of view!

So I always spend some time studying art fundamentals like Lighting principals, color scripts, photography rules and then finally fire up the project by the first step which is always gathering references!

Just look at these references. They are awesome, Aren’t they?!

But, as I mentioned I don’t like to just create something crazy realistic! I need it to also be artistic, magical and a CG artwork! In fact, in this part I usually add some spices to my cookie! For example, how about adding some extra lights which we don’t have in the real world! How about some levitated grapes in those bottles which have not been affected by gravity! To be honest some of these spices will be added during the process. So don’t push your whole energy to finalize your concept at this level - e.g. The last thing I added to “Bottles of Life” was the rat tail.

2. Modeling and Setting Up The Camera - Overall Look

After gathering references and creating your own first concept, it is a lot of fun with working in your apps.

I usually use Maya for 80 percent of the project. Started from scratch by modelling initial shapes and blocks!

After playing with object positions and different camera angles, I choose the best camera view and best composition for the scene. Of course, this may change as the project goes forward. But not too much - 
maybe just slight adjustments.

You may need to spend hours to find the best angle for your camera. Care about golden points and concentration on your heroes in the scene. Do not forget to play with all the camera parameters such as angle of view, film gate, camera rolling and focal length, besides tilting, panning and zooming. I chose 55mm lens for Bottles of life - love this focal length!

3. Lighting

I prefer to have a schematic look of the final result as the project goes forward. So once I achieved my first setup in modelling with main objects, I add a key light to see if I should continue or pick some other road to drive. I have a lot of fun in this part when I'm tweaking lights and try to setup the balance of darkness and lightness.

To recap Lighting part: I used a V-ray Rec light in directional mode as Key Light. Some V-ray Sphere lights were placed among bottles. Also, I applied a dim dome light for a tint blue over dark shadows.

4. Create Textures in Substance Painter

Back to reviewing my goal in this particular project, perfect lighting and realistic detailed textures with extra spices. So it’s time to meet the Swiss army app in 3D texturing. I mean the Great Substance Painter!

Without SP, “Bottles of Life” would never be born intact. It's easy to use, smart and user friendly! By importing your object with simple UVs and baking the texture in SP, you will have many abilities such as brushes, alphas, smart material and lots of procedural textures.

I usually start by using a simple fill layer for the base color and then proceeding with smart masks.

There are several magical maps that help you when working with SP.

Curvature and Ambient occlusion are the most important. You can also benefit from world space map to define the top parts of your objects to easily apply the dust effect.

The important point with creating realistic textures is to not rely just on smart or procedural pre-provided nodes. You should care about all man-made imperfections such as footprints effects on dust, wood scratches, special dirt or even effects of some absent objects on your scene which may have been there in the past.

For instance, look at the blue color print on the table wood which tells you there had been a bucket of paint!

When I get the satisfying result with all the desired detailed textures, I will bake them in 4K or even 8K for some larger objects. For instance, I created 8 UDIM textures for the table in Maya and 8k export from SP.

5. Spiderwebs - Bringing Mysterious Feelings to Your Old Scene

When you want to show an old forgotten place, spider webs come into play!

I used 2 techniques for spiderwebs: modelling with surface curves and textures with opacity map.

Many thanks to the SPIDER’S WEB MAKER script. you can easily define your web between objects with your own options.

For the opacity web spiders I just used a simple B&W texture which I found from Gleb Alexandrov's website, with a simple V-ray material!

6. Adding Final Details


We are almost done!

Fine detailed models with perfect lights and decent textures!

What more do we need?

Just spending some time with final touches in the 3D app! As I mentioned above, I added the rat tail at this level. (Believe me or not this idea was created in my mind right after seeing a big rat fooling around in our apartment dumpsters when I stood up for getting fresh air in front of the window!)

7. Final Render Setting & Render Elements

I rendered Bottles of Life in 2400 res.

As we have many refractions with 4k and 8k textures, this is really important to have an optimized render setting to save time. Don’t forget to bake irradiance and light cache maps - they really save your time!

8. Final Touches in Post-Production App

Now it’s time to composite the layers in your composition app, which is Photoshop for me.

I am not a fan of many post productions. I ;ove to achieve the highest percentage of final result in 3D application rather than post apps!

So, I just added some fog effects in the Left side of the image and a little bit color corrections.

There you go:

“Bottles of Life” is ready. Quite Easy :) 

At the end, I just want to recommend CG artists to use their own objects, own artistic style! Do not try to fill up your scene with pre-provided objects found on the internet.

Hope you like this written breakdown and will benefit from it! 

Also, here is the making of video for “Bottles of Life”:

You can find the final high res of this artwork at my CGSociety Profile.

Thanks for reading,

Farid Ghanbari