Art Spotlight: Refreshing Sweet Sweet Sweet Summer!

Back to overview

Background

Hi there! I’m Adox Roig. I work as a Creative Director in the sunny and magical city of Barcelona. My previous job was Game Designer and Art Director for the video game Otem’s Defiance. I define myself as a “polymath creative” because I can’t really keep my hands and brain to just one thing, I need to get involved in everything and learn it all. I first studied a 5 year degree in Graphic Design and Management, then a 2 year Autodesk Maya official training program, a Master’s Degree in Game Design, and I keep specializing in whatever I can.

In my work I like to combine the analytical aspects I learned from the publicity and marketing industry as a graphic designer with the artistic intricacies of the 3D/video game art craft. And always maintain a certain rebellious attitude towards trends mixed with a profound love for the fantastic.

Now, onto my entry for the Refreshing Summer Challenge!

Reference

We all think we know how an ice pop looks like, but as always, that’s our brain fooling us. So The first step is to look for some reference. I particularly liked this kind of ice pop:

Modeling

First of, start with a nice simple cube. Then scale it and slice it up so you can do a couple of extrusions here and there to give it the general geometry of the ice pops. It’s important to exaggerate proportions a little bit so the final result pops out of the screen!

Then it’s time to carefully select all the border edges, including the ones inside the creases of the ice pop and to a slight bevel. Even though the aim is to make a low poly model, this is going to be seen close up, isolated and in detail, so we can’t afford having those “CG” sharp edges. This can create some errors on the corners, but it’s just a matter of cleaning up a little bit.

With our bevels done, it’s time to deform and sculpt a bit. Take the polygon sculpting tool, change it to “smooth” mode, lower the opacity to about 0.3 and soften beveled edges, “melting” the ice pop away and giving it a more realistic look. Do short strokes here and there, more towards the upper part since it’s where the ice pop should be melting more. After that, wrap a lattice deformer around your ice pop and scale away to make it look less “boxy”, like it has been sucked on a little bit!

Now that we have our ice pop modeled, it’s time to break it! So duplicate the model (2 times in this case) and start slicing across some faces. It’s a bit painstaking, but worth it!

When you have a satisfying edge loop, detach faces along and proceed to separate the “broken” part a little bit. Like it just broke and it’s frozen in time. Naturally, you’ll have holes on the model where the breakage occurred. Use the “fill hole” command and then connect the edges on each side of the broken part. It’s even more painstaking, but you can manage!

Now for the juicy part! The fluid! 

These were creating using Maya’s nparticle system. If you’ve used particles before in any 3D program or video game engine then you are 80% there. As usual, we need an emitter, which will create default gray, spherical particles. Then it’s a matter of tweaking the values. The essential part for making fluids is playing around with the output mesh threshold. This is the value that tells Maya how much particles should be “fused” together, hence creating a blobby surface. You also need to play with the particle size and emission rate, since these values will directly influence the shape and how viscous the final fluid looks.

Then there’s the “motion streak” value, which controls the “fluid trail” drops leave behind. A zero value will make the fluid seem more viscous. Or like it’s frozen in time with an ultra high speed camera. Doesn’t look that convincing like this, so turn it up a little bit so drops leave some “trail” behind.

When you’re satisfied with the look and feel of your fluid, it’s time to move the emitter inside the fractures of our ice pops. To make the particles collide, select the meshes and turn them into active rigid bodies. Hit play and watch the magic happen!

Some collide values might need to be tweaked for optimal results. For example, keep the friction at minimum. If you don’t, particles will stick to the surfaces and the blob and drops will never form.

Another important step which doesn’t seem that obvious is to limit the amount of total fluid that’s exploding from inside the ice pops. At first I wasn’t happy with the results I was getting because the fluid kept coming out and look “wrong” somehow. The problem was that the amount of fluid was “infinite”, so the splash looked great on the outside, but it was too thick on the origin of it. What you can do to solve this is to animate the emission rate value. Start with a bit, then raise it up for a second and then drop it completely to zero in a frame or two. If you hit play and wait long enough, you’ll see how a “dissipation” effect takes place and the splash looks authentic! Like there was just a bit of juicy filling inside.

When you have a splash you like, stop the simulation, select the resulting mesh, duplicate it and move the emitter to the next ice pop to repeat the process.

Now that it’s all modeled, create different shaders for the ice pops, name them accordingly (having a well organized project is of utmost importance!).

For the UV’s…

Remember that the ice pops are “essentially” cubes. So make a planar projection on them to have all edges sewed and then begin selecting any loop you like on the rounded, smoothed edges of the model. And just like a paper cube, leave some edges unselected so the UV shell keeps connected. Then, Maya’s “Unfold 3D” should do the trick and give you a nice flattened, distortion-less UV. Don’t worry if it looks hard to understand, we’re going to be using Substance Designer magic to texture up!

The Magic of Textures and Maps!

This is the overall look of the final graph for the model. The fluid doesn’t really need textures, so we’re going to work only with the ice pops.

After importing your model inside Substance Designer, the first step is to bake each mesh’s maps: Ambient Occlusion, Curvature, World Space Normals and Position.

First off, for the base texture of the ice pops you can use one of Substance’s included noise patterns. Very appropriately, the “Crystal 2” one works perfectly to simulate the slight changes in shades that occur due to the ice pop freezing at a different rate, non uniform. Take a look back at the references and you’ll notice it! You can make it more swirly or crystalline.

Then connect this noise to the tri-planar node along with each mesh’s position and world space normal maps. What this does is to wrap the crystal texture around the object, disappearing UV seams completely. With this new resulting map, you can now color it to match your favorite tastes!

Now the most important part: the “frosting” effect. For this you can use the “Dirt” node in Substance, which applies the same principles as the tri-planar but with the added plus of actually adjusting the input noise texture to the creases and shape of the model.

And this part is all about experimenting a bit. It’s the artistry of “copying” reality. Look hard at references and tweak each value. Remember that first we just want the black and white “frosting channel”. From here you can create:

  • The normal map, by connecting the dirt note to a sobel node.
  • The PBR roughness map: this is super important. This is what will give out the super realistic look for our ice pops. The parts where there’s frosting, the “shininess” should be zero. And then on the melting parts it should be high. This, combined with the normal map is pure joy to see!
  • The diffuse map, which is basically white frost covering up the crystalline texture you made before.

With all maps, it’s to put them all together to create the final diffuse texture. You can use the ambient occlusion map on top of it all to strengthen the shadows and highlights a little bit.

Bringing the model to life with Sketchfab

This is where your model truly comes to life. Upload all the maps and adjust accordingly. And important part of the process here is to set up your scene background and lights before you start assigning the maps and tweaking values, like the normal map intensity. For the lights you can use a bit of environmental light as a base, a strong main light to produce all those fantastic highlights that show off the normal and roughness maps. And finally use a fill light to color your models with a warm tone a little bit. Avoid dark shadows, avoid the “CG” look!”. Sketchfab offers amazing tools and the finishing post production effects are pure glory. Add just a bit of bloom to break the limits between model and environment. Add some noise to make it feel photographic.

Sketchfab tools are so good that I’ve been using it as a rendering tool. When I made the jump from 3D animation to video game graphics I fell in love with real-time rendering engines. And Sketchfab is one of the best of them!

Lately I’ve been planning new models based on the fact that I want to show them specifically Sketchfab!

I used to be worried that turntable videos or screenshots would never really show the best attributes of my work. Now, with Sketchfab, an employer can even check out the wireframes to see if they’re correct!

I’m excited to be a part of this community and see what the wonderful experts at Sketchfab bring to us in the future.

One of the features I’m most excited about is augmented reality. I love my craft and I want to push it into new technologies all the time. And Sketchfab is right there with us on the edge!

Contact

I’d be more than happy to get in touch with other fellow artists, designers and entrepreneurs. Any feedback, business proposal or chat? Hit me up!

Facebook

Twitter

Email

Website

LinkedIn

About the author

Seori Sachs

Community Person!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related articles