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Making of 'Pirate’s Nest'

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Date Added: 29th June 2015

João Jacinto shares with us his workflow for creating an atmospheric pirate scene

In his spare time João likes to work on personal projects, he feels it is important to experiment with new tools, techniques and workflows, and to always ask yourself how you can improve!



For several months I kept starting personal projects but I quickly lost interest, there was always something not quite right. One day I was doing some research and I came across Artyom Vlaskin's pirate tavern concept. I immediately felt that I wanted to bring it to life or, in other words, I felt that "click" of inspiration! So a big part of my final result is due to the amazing skills of this artist.

Concept art by Artyom Vlaskin. © Artyom Vlaskin


Once I had found my inspiration I used 3ds Max for some basic blockout modeling, to figure out the proportions etc. Usually when I start something new, I have some basic ideas that I always keep in mind, one of which is scale. For me, it's really important to lay down some basic shapes with real world measures to guide the rest of the scene. I like to create objects with real dimensions, which is an added bonus when it comes time to do shading, displacement, lighting and rendering, therefore it's best to keep to the proper scale.

The basic blockout of the tavern

Wooden parts

I started out with some boxes for the roofs, then I played with the Bend modifier to achieve the desired effect. I removed some of the thickness, to cut all of the cracks and imperfections on the wood while keeping clean topology; if there had been too much thickness then this process would have been a nightmare.

After that I added a Shell modifier and the necessary segments to support the TurboSmooth modifier. While creating this kind of aged and damaged assets it's important to keep things in place and not to overdo the effect, it's pretty easy to get lost in excessive details.

Roofing detail

The rocks

When making the rocks, once again, I started with a box and then subdivided it four or five times with TurboSmooth. On top of that I added some Displacement modifiers with Cellular and Noise maps to create some rock patterns. For the chimney, I only modeled one rock. To add some variety to the rocks, I changed the rotation, scale, UVW size and position, and finally, with the FFD modifier I was able to change the silhouette itself. The final details were added in the texturing phase with Bump maps etc.

Chimney and rock details

Final model

For the ropes, straws, and bird's nest I used basic lines and modifiers, later on I used a cool plug-in, "Houdini Ocean", to make the water; I also added a small boat to help sell the movement of the waves. I also think that it is important to do some early post production. This helps to point the direction on where the image is going; also getting some outside opinions is important because other people sometimes can see mistakes that we might not.

The untextured final model

Lighting, camera and settings

To light this scene I used V-Ray Sunlight; I wanted set the scene at sunset so I kept the sun low and increased the size multiplier to 7 so that I'd get soft shadows. I pretty much stuck with the default settings for the camera, except for the White balance and the f-number. With the render settings, I also kept things pretty simple, I just increased the sampling for better definition, set the noise threshold to 0.001 for less noise, and turn on GI etc. For the Material ID pass remember to turn on the anti-aliasing!

Lighting and camera settings


For this particular scene I used five main textures: wood, glass, metal, rope and water. In order to save some time and keep things simple, I just made some slight color adjustments to account for material variation. As for the mapping part, I used box mapping for 95% of the scene and some Unwrap UVW modifier here and there, as needed.

Some examples of different textures


The water shader was the most complex. I used a V-Ray Blend Material containing the water material and added a reflection coat material to get some variation. The main material had a basic water material and a couple of foam materials in the coat slots. This brings some life to the ocean and helps to break the tile pattern from the modeling. For the rest of the shaders I had a base material consisting in color and bump, a coat that is a copy of the base material with some color variation (usually a lighter color) and V-RayDirt maps.

Screen shot of the V-Ray settings I used


During my modeling and texturing process, to see how the scene is coming together, I do a lot of early renders and some simple post production. In the process I also tweak a lot of stuff, so when I get to the final render I have very little to correct and I can focus more on the color correction and mood. For the final result I went for a more dramatic approach, for this result I just played around with curves, selective color, replaced the sky, sharpened the image and added some camera effects.

Rendering the model

Final image

So this is my final result! I sure had a lot of fun with this project and I really hope that my tips can help you in some way. Thanks a lot for reading and I hope you guys enjoyed it!

The final image

Related links

Visit João's portfolio to see more of his awesome work
Check out Felipe Bassi's tutorial for more piratey goodness
Looking for inspiration? Then have a peek at Sketching from the Imagination ? Fantasy

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Dr Guerrou on Wed, 28 October 2015 8:36am
happy to read this.i would like to do a such similar wooden construction in BLENDER.i understand that i can use displacement and ben modifier for the wooden wall. but how did you do to have a so beautiful texture?
Milad on Mon, 29 June 2015 7:16pm
Thank you very much for sharing!,i am a fan of this kind of works...Verry nice! :)
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