Art Spotlight: Calvin & Hobbes 3D strip

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In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.

Hi! My name is Gabriel de Laubier or Elbriga here on Sketchfab, I’m working as a freelance digital designer and 3D artist.

I started learning 3D by myself while studying graphic design, using Blender, and I instantly got hooked. On top of being open source, Blender is the perfect tool to start learning since it covers almost every aspect of 3D creation.

About a year ago I discovered Sketchfab and since then, I’ve been using it every time I can. It’s an amazing realtime rendering tool, but also a great community driven by the amazing Sketchfab team, and I couldn’t do without it (or them) now.

Today I’ll walk you through the creation of my latest work, a Calvin & Hobbes comic strip that I tried to translate in 3D.

While researching some NPR (non-photorealistic rendering) techniques and looking at Sketchfab scenes like this:

it dawned on me that with the help of Sketchfab it would actually be possible to make something that would look like an actual comic, but you could see it from every angle. After making this Snoopy strip with encouraging results:

I decided to take things further with this one.

The final result:

Almost all of my workflow takes place in Blender. First thing I do is model the characters. Starting with Hobbes, I layout a simple mesh. To keep things simple, eyes, nose and whiskers are separate objects. Topology has to be okay for posing, but it won’t be animated, so I didn’t worry too much about making it perfect.

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One the mesh is done, I mark UV seams (you can see on the head, I misplaced the ears where the seams are, and had to fix it later.)

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Once the model is unwrapped, it’s easy to paint it directly using Blender texture painting tools.

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Then comes the cool trick: duplicating the mesh, scaling it up, inverting the normals, and applying a black material. That way, it will show the smaller mesh inside, and act as an outline from every angle.

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Once that is done, I apply a very simple rig with automatic weight, more than enough for posing. The process is the same for Calvin.

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Then comes the various assets in the scene. I use a decimate modifier on the outline meshes, to reduce polycount, and also because it gives the perfect effect of an ink brush with uneven thickness.

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Now it’s time to model the layout with simple box meshes, place the assets, and pose the characters. The parts of the characters that are not visible will be deleted to optimize polycount. Artifacts due to posing are also corrected directly in each mesh.

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You can see the effect of mesh decimation on the outline compared to the inner mesh, kept unchanged to preserve the texture mapping.

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All that is missing then are the speech bubbles. They’re a simple mesh and the text is an alpha texture on a black plane. Having a mesh text would be better in terms of readability, but also increase polycount too much, especially with a comics font.

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Now the scene is ready to import into Sketchfab!

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Sketchfab settings are easy as pie: shadeless PBR and single-sided rendering for the outlines. The rest is pretty much just plugging the right texture to the right mesh.

    Things I would improve:

  • Polycount: the whole scene reaches a 90k polycount, which is okay, but for low-end mobile users, a little bit more optimization is always good.
  • Text: There is definitely a solution to be found to counter the poor readability of alpha masked text.

Thanks, Sketchfab!

To me this project is the perfect illustration of how Sketchfab is an amazingly flexible platform to make your art look awesome unique, and also a extremely powerful media to share content: thanks to everyone sharing this model, it was viewed by an incredible amount of people, more than I could ever imagine while making it!

Thank you for reading!

I hope this was informative, feel free to contact me for more details or just to chat!

You can find me on:

Twitter

Facebook

ArtStation

My personal portfolio

Thanks, Gabriel!

About the author

Seori Sachs

Community Person!


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