Becoming a Blender Citizen… And the Cute Elephant Tutorial

My cute elephant modelAfter a little over half a year of going it alone, I’m now a Blender Citizen. My immediate reaction on signing up for a 3 month plan was “why oh why didn’t I do this sooner?”

I began experimenting with Blender at the end of last year, and was eased along the learning curve by an excellent beginner’s book. From there, I moved on to free video tutorials, some of which would have been well worth paying for (special credit has to go to LittleWebHut here for great Blender novice tutorials, with Andrew Price and Sardi Pax having some quality offerings for intermediate users).

And this was fine, I picked up some skills and learned some new tricks. I’m also hugely grateful to SickleYield for sharing her Blender to DAZ Studio workflow.

I even reached the point where I had the confidence to submit products to a broker. I’d worked very hard on these, and was excited when interest was shown in them. Sadly, after the initial interest, I was met by an impenetrable wall of silence. All that work for nothing. I’d been prepared for outright rejection but what I got instead was, well, let’s just call it an emotional rollercoaster. After that, my confidence deserted me too. (You can play a violin here if you like.)

But you know what they say? Get back in that saddle! Onwards, ever onwards. I love creating in 3D, pushing and pulling vertices and coming up with just the right texture. I want to learn to do all that and much more, quicker and better. CG Cookie and its Citizen membership was the logical next step.

One great thing about Blender Citizen membership is you don’t just get access to all the members-only Blender courses. You also automatically get access to the rest of the CG Cookie sites, including Concept Cookie (for digital artists), Sculpt Cookie (for sculptors of physical materials), Unity Cookie, Modo Cookie and Max Cookie. OK, for me only the Concept Cookie is likely to be of interest but for those of you with access to the other software this could work out to be quite a bargain.

In any case, just the Blender side of things looks set to justify the membership. I’m going to keep track of my progress here on my blog, so if you too are working through the tutorials or might be interested in joining up as a Citizen feel free to ask questions.

My first tutorial with Blender Cookie: Joshua Maule’s Create a Cute Little Elephant Character

The first tutorial I worked through this weekend was Create a Cute Little Elephant Character from Josh Maule. What a great instructor he is too. Clear, pleasant to listen to, and entertaining. It was a very enjoyable tutorial and Josh made it easy to get professional-looking results that were a close match to his own.
 
The Elephant Before Texturing
I took my time with this one, working on it over a couple of days. Despite being filed under beginners and being achievable by any patient Blender user familiar with the basics, it’s far from simplistic. There’s a whole lot of learning packed into it and within the first 5 minutes I had learnt something new.

In fact, here are some of the things I learned, in no particular order:

  • How to create a fabric weave to use as diffuse and bump texture.
  • How to create stitches.
  • How to create a fuzzy surface with a particle system.
  • Proper mirroring of details that have already been rotated.
  • When to separate parts of a model.
  • An easy way to make a tile effect floor.
  • Likewise, a plank effect wall.
  • A cool way to make and texture a peanut.
  • How to make something look ‘cute’.
  • Using rule of thirds with the Blender camera.
  • Something involving nodes and surfaces that I need to go back over.
  • That Josh is really good at drawing mice. 🙂
  • And much more…

Josh does a great job of making sure you don’t get confused so there isn’t much to trip up on. I only had a couple of things not turn out as expected. Firstly, on separating the elephant’s trunk, I was left with a small gap where it meets the mid-point of the head. I figured I’d fix that by dragging the vertices around, but that caused some distortion to the texture after UV unwrapping.

Creating the fabric tile was a useful thing to learn and I’m glad this was included. Mine didn’t look quite as good when finished though. Good enough, yes, but I didn’t manage to get it perfectly seamless. Also my ‘yarn’ texture wasn’t as distinctly striped as Josh’s, despite following the exact same steps (far as I could tell).
 
Cycles Render
Finally, sensibly enough, Josh didn’t leave us to watch him create every stitch (the most tedious and frustrating part of this model for me, but I suspect extra tutorial minutes wouldn’t have changed that). Having been left to my devices on this, I forgot to add stitches to the ears. I decided to live with that.

Ear stitching or not, I like the way my little elephant turned out. I love the fact too that we weren’t just abandoned at the end with a model, but were taken through every step of the composition, backdrop creation and how to light this little guy and his mouse friend.

Best of all, it was a charming and adorable model to work on. I do get why there are so many sci-fi, weapons and vehicle tutorials. You do what the majority enjoys and as long as they are good tutorials then everyone can learn from them. All the same, I appreciate that Josh and Blender Cookie did something different with this cute, fun and achievable tutorial. I can’t wait for more like this.
 
GIMP Post work to Blender render
I did some post-work in GIMP on this last one, as that’s part of the process I enjoy. It’s not necessarily better, but added a unique touch. I’d also gone back to add some tile grout which you can see in both images, and textured the mouse. To finish it off, I added an extra peanut on the floor.


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About Indigo

As a digital artist on a budget, I'm fascinated by what happens when art and technology meet, and love discovering affordable ways to make that happen.
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