Retro Robot 3/3: Posing and Rendering in Blender 2.9 | Daniel Kim | Skillshare

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Retro Robot 3/3: Posing and Rendering in Blender 2.9

teacher avatar Daniel Kim, 3D Artist and Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (1h 18m)
    • 1. Introduction and Series Overview

    • 2. Lesson 1 Setting Up Shader

    • 3. Lesson 2 Reorganizing Mesh

    • 4. Lesson 3 Creating the Skeleton

    • 5. Lesson 4 Limb Geo Adjustments

    • 6. Lesson 5 Weight Painting the Torso

    • 7. Lesson 6 Additional Weight Painting and IK

    • 8. Lesson 7 Posing the Character

    • 9. Lesson 8 Simple Background and Lighting

    • 10. Lesson 9 Finish Lighting and Render an Image

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About This Class

When it comes to most 3D art, it all begins with a piece of concept art. Something you drew up yourself, a piece of art you found online, or perhaps one given to you at work.

In this series of classes, we'll be starting with a simple shaded drawing of a retro sci-fi themed robot. With the concept art at hand, you'll begin interpreting and translating it to 3D as faithfully as you can. Then add additional details to fill in the gaps left by the concept art.


Choose your own materials and colors, decals and weathering effects to bring the 3D art closer to life. Hook it up to a simple rig and give a dramatic pose, then top it off with equality dramatic lighting. Finally, render out the final image.


By the end of this project, you'll have brought a flat 2D concept art to life as a fully realized 3D art.

In order to help you accomplish all of that, this series of classes will guide you through the following major steps:

  • Modeling hard surface character from concept art

  • Converting low poly mesh to high poly mesh

  • Baking high poly mesh to low poly mesh

  • Photoreal texturing of hard surface character

  • Rigging and setting up a dynamic character pose

  • Cinematic photo studio lighting and rendering

The tools we'll be using are:

  • Blender 2.9

  • Substance Painter

A summary of the skills you'll end up with after finishing the series:

  • Ability to translate concept art to 3D

  • Knowledge of photoreal texturing techniques

  • How to pose and light characters for beautiful renders

Meet Your Teacher

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Daniel Kim

3D Artist and Designer


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1. Introduction and Series Overview: Hi, I'm Daniel Kim, and together we're going to learn about how to create this retro robot character. Starting from this piece of concept art, I'll start off by creating the low poly model in Blender. Then we're going to convert that low quality model into a high polygon version. And that's going to come in handy later when we're texturing. So we can break down all those nice edge details. And this texture painting worse will be done inside of Substance Painter. Afterwards, we bring it back into Blender where we can set up a simple rig and pose the character for some nice renders. And this is the final result. Right? Let's get started. 2. Lesson 1 Setting Up Shader: Okay, we've come back full circle back into Blender. And here we have our low poly mesh. Now, notice, notice that when we select all the faces in our original mesh, go to the UV Editing tab. This is quite different from UV layout that we ended up with inside of Substance Painter when we use it's auto unwrap feature. So we can't apply the textures we made in painter onto this mesh. It's not going to display correctly. So let's hide this guy for a second and import the robot mesh that we export it out of Painter. And now if we look, select all the faces, if we look at its UVs different than the one we just looked at before, this will display our textures correctly. So with that out of the way, we're going to select one of the objects. And we can rename the material. And to retro robot mats, something like that. Let's go into the shading tab and find the textures that we export it from painter. In this upper left window, where you can go into the file directory where you saved it. And this is the node window where you can see there's a bunch of inputs on this big giant node. Start with the colormap. Zoom in to see what we're looking at. Let's connect the color output two, base color. And that's going to show us the diffuse texture. This is the ambient occlusion amine inclusion map. This also gets hooked into the base color, but we need to combine that together with the colormap. So let's look for mix RGB. Under add search. It's somewhere in here, but I already know what we need, so we're just punch it in the search. I can find it much faster. And since we need to combine these two maps before it gets plugged into the base color. This, this will be used, this mixed node will be used as our medium to do just that. So we'll plug in each of the color outputs into the color one, input and holler to input of this node. Let's then link the color out to base color. And we want to change this drop-down menu option to multiply. And that's going to multiply the ambient occlusion map over on top of the Albedo map. And you can see the effect that the ambient occlusion map is happening by pulling up, up and down this slider, right? And I like to leave it at 0.5 so it's not too strong. So let's push these guys up to make room for the other maps. Here we got an emissive map. I believe that can just be plugged directly into emission for our glowing eyes. This is our metallic smoothness map. And the way this works is it's two maps channel packed into one texture. Channel packed, meaning that every image file is divided into channels, RGB and alpha channels. The metallic map inside this texture is linked to the R channel and the smoothness map, or roughness map, is linked to the Alpha channel. We need to separate out the R channel from the, the color output here, which will do by using a separate RGB node. So let's link the color out from the metallic smoothness map to the separate RGB node. And then we can link the R output to the metallic input of this node. And the way that the blender treats roughness maps is a little different from how Unity treats roughness maps. Mainly it's inverted. So instead of linking the alpha output directly to roughness, which if we try now it's going to give us an incorrect I'm display. You can see that the seam here is shiny, where it shouldn't be, it should be dull, and the metallic surface is dL, where it should be shiny. So everything's reversed. We can fix that by adding a invert node. So let's plug in that alpha into the invert color and the output, the color into roughness. And now you can see the metal surface is shiny and where the seams are dull, as it should be. One last thing, we need to switch the color space and then metallic smoothness node from sRGB two raw. And you can see a slight difference there. We're doing that because we don't need color information from these maps, the the metallic map and is moved as mapper both grayscale. So said that the rock. And then lastly, we need to plug in our normal map texture. We'll output the color to the normal map node, which we need before we link that into the normal input over here. And be sure to set the color space of the normal map also to Raul. And now you see that the normal detail is incorporated into our shader. So if we zoom out of the shader now, we've got all five of our maps or four, depending on whether or not you outputted the ambient occlusion map. And this is what our shader should look like. Let's return to the layout mode. And then to see our textures, we gotta go to the upper right corner of the UI and switch our Viewport Shading mode to material preview. And now we can see the textures that we worked on in Blender, displaying correctly. 3. Lesson 2 Reorganizing Mesh: Before we do anything with lighting and rendering, we got to pose is character right now is just standing up straight. And it's not very interesting to look at. We definitely want to show off the fact that the lens can get very bendy and flexible. And that's simply not reflected in the current default pose where it's standing super straight. So we're going to set up a very basic rig just for the purpose of posing our character. It won't be a production ready animation rig because that's a bit outside the scope of this course. But we'll do just enough rigging to give our character a cool pose. After that, we can set up some lights and render it out. So first thing we wanna do, I'm looking at the way the geometry is currently organized. And we're gonna kinda separate and regroup different objects, make it more optimal for rigging. So I can see that the entire torso and hit objects can be added. The head can be left alone, so it can kinda swivel around. As for the shoulders, we're going to want the shoulders separate from each other. So I'll go ahead and select all the faces on one side and separate by selection. I'm going to repeat that step for the legs and again for the arms. All I'm doing is selecting the faces in edit mode with the X-ray turned on to select all the faces and separate them that way. Let's do the same for the feet. And we'll also do the same for the clause. And in fact, I'm going to separate the front and back clause from each other. So all that's gonna give us a little more flexibility in terms of reading so that they're not all lumped together. Now, I'm looking for opportunities where I could combine objects wherever it makes sense. So I'm going to join here the arm and the shoulder. Same with the feet and the legs. And now our character is spin reorganize in a way that makes more sense for rigging. Now we need to go through and rename our objects so that they more accurately reflect what they are. Left back. This will be right back, right front. This time. This would be left front leg lift. That's just the head. We'll call this the torso. This will be leg, right? Finally, arm, right. Okay, now every object has the correct name. Now that we have that out of the way, we might as well move it into a new collection to keep our outliner organized. We'll just call it the final GEO 4. Lesson 3 Creating the Skeleton: And so now let's start the reading process by adding our first armature bone. And I'm switching to the basic shader view so we can toggle the X-ray mode. That'll help us see our bones through the mesh more easily. So the first bone I'm setting down will serve as the root bone, which tends to sit at the bottom of the hip. And if you press this button on the upper right corner here and toggle on the selectable icon, looks like an arrow. Switch that on, that's going to allow us the option to toggle off selectable for the final GO collection so that we don't accidentally select geometry surrounding the bones when we're trying to just work with select the bones. Now to add more bones to the one we just put down, you have to switch to edit mode. And then on the left there's a button called extrude, where you can trade another bone connected to the previous one. So we'll just we'll just do that all up the back and to the top of the head. And I want to start with the new bone. Remember to switch to edit mode to manipulate the bone. I'm going to set down the first leg bone right at the hip where the leg meets. And I'm going to use the front view so I can more easily align the bone with the direction of the leg. I also want to shorten the length of the bone in order to be able to bend the limbs. Normally, if this was a human character, you would have that endpoint all the way down at the knee because that's the only point where it bends. But in our case with this character, by character has the ability to bend its limbs and a very flexible manner. So we're going to maintain that short bone length all the way down to the feet. And again, we're going to switch to the front view by clicking on the manipulator on the upper right corner. And I see that the angle of the leg bones is slightly off, so I want to make some adjustments. But I accidentally did that in the pose mode, which is not where you want to be working in while you're reading your character. Remember to stay inside edit mode. And we'll be using pose mode later for, as the name implies, posing. So I want the last bone here to point straight down, just like the feet. And I'm going to start with the new bone for the arm. I'm going to set the root of that bone right at the base of the shoulder where it meets the torso. Going to use the front view again. I'm going to set the end point of that bone to the center of the shoulder and then extrude another bone pointing down along the arm. The same direction as the arm. And similar to the legs. We want to, as we're extruding new bones, want to maintain short bones all the way down to the wrist. And that'll allow us to create a flexible bendy arm later on. I want to add a new bone separate from the arm bones just for the clause. Using the front view again to align the bone with the slant that the arm is in. I want to switch the orientation mode to normal so I can rotate it along that same slant. Obviously the the arch of the claw here isn't going to bend. It's only going to rotate around the joint at the wrist there. So we really only need one bone. Instead it up something like that. I want to duplicate duplicate this bone. For the back claw. I'll just move it backwards and rotate it into place. So there's a minor adjustment I want to make to the bone and the head here to make it easier to change the direction that the head is facing. I wanted to add another bone pointing forward in the direction that the head is facing. Before we go any further, let's take a moment to rename all of our bones. Pretty self-explanatory. Just go through each bone and rename it as the part of the body that it's occupying. Notice that for the limbs, I'm ending each name with an underscore L, which stands for left. And that's going to help us distinguish the bones that belong to the left side and to the right side. I'll call this bone the upper arm and actually switch this to just arm left. Finally, the last two bonds are going to be called claw, left, front, and left back. Now we need to parent these limb bones to the central route and backbones. But just before that, let's parent the CLA bones to the wrist bone at the very end of the arm bones. Do that by selecting the child first and then the parent last. Connect, keep offset. And to make sure it's working, Let's switch to pose mode. Move that parent bone around and we'll see that the club bones are correctly parented to that wrist bone. Its parent the shoulder bone to the spine bone. And when you make parents keep the offset, again, we'll switch to pose mode to check that it's parents at correctly and looks like it is. Finally, let's combine the hipbone to the root bone. And we'll check again in pose mode that it's parented indeed correctly. Now let's return to edit mode. And we need to copy and mirror the left leg and arm bones to the right. So select all of those bones. And under the armature tab on the upper left hit symmetrized. And it's going to copy a mirror over all of those bones. Now what's nice is because we went ahead and had an underscore L to all of our limb bones. The bones that have been copied over to the right have blender automatically changed the name to underscore R. For us. 5. Lesson 4 Limb Geo Adjustments: Now let's make the final GEO selectable once again. Now we want to bind the geometry to the bones by selecting all of the mesh. Then selecting the armature and were given more options as time in terms of parenting, will use armature deform with automatic weights. Let's make the geometry on selectable again so you can just select the bone. And now we see that they're attached. Let's go ahead and test some individual bones. See how the geometry moves. And we have a problem with the limbs in that it's remaining super stiff and not bending like the way we intended. But in check a few more bones, see how they react. And clearly there's something wrong with the limbs. So let's undo the binding. Disconnect the mesh from the bones again. And if we just take a look at the mesh for the limbs, will see that the reason why it's not bending right here, it's just a long continuous surface. Whereas what we really need is a edge loops all up and down the arms for there to be geometry to the form and bend. Now it's kinda hard to do that with all these faces currently in triangles. So go through, select the faces and this tube shape and convert it to quads. The reason why they're triangulated is because this is the mesh that we export it from Substance Painter. And there's an option to apply triangulation or not. The reason why I left that on as default was if you check it off and export the Geo, there's a likelihood that the, the textures won't display correctly, that there'll be some warping in the way the texture is displayed. So triangulating just ensures that it's displaying correctly. But in this case, we need to convert these triangles back to quads so we can add those edge loops. Are doing that by selecting the faces in edit mode. With x-ray turned on. And now we're going to use the loop cut tool to add a bunch of edge loops all up and down the limbs. Think we can get away with eight or nine here for the legs. Let's repeat that. And the other leg. Same with the arm. I think this time we can get away with about six. To add some edge loops for this arm two. Now let's repeat the process where we bind the mesh to the bones with automatic weights. Now in pose mode, if we move these individual bones inside the arm. Now the arm bends just like we intended. Because now it's got enough geometry to actually deform. 6. Lesson 5 Weight Painting the Torso: So we got to basic rig, hooked up to our character. But if you look, it's treating our character like, like an organic surface character. There are parts of our character that are moving and deforming where it shouldn't, because it's made out of metal. Really the only parts that should bend like that are the limbs. So let's make some adjustments to the the way that the mesh behaves along with joints, joint movement. We can do that by switching to what's called a weight painting mode. And we're gonna do that by selecting the mesh. And then once you click this drop-down menu on the upper left corner of Blender, scroll down to week paint, enter the weight paint mode. And you can see we have a different set of tools here. The surface of the torso that we had selected change to this flat blue. If we scroll down to the Properties tab, we see the list of influences that the bones are exerting to this mesh. Now, this flat blue means is there's no influence because we have selected foot are bone which shouldn't have any influence. But if we go and select hip, right. You can see this sort of almost like a heat map of where this hip bone is influencing our torso mesh. And since the entire torso is just made out of metal, shouldn't have this sort of gradual influence over the surface of a metal object. Right? So let's take away this influenced by painting it away. Can see if I just click over the surface. Right now it's set to add more weight. If we slide this down, we're going to erase it. Essentially. So let's go ahead and do that on this up to make this go faster. And pain out all the influence. Do the same for the other side. We want no influence whatsoever. Do the same with shoulder pain it all those weights away. Let's look for shoulder left. Now, the spine should have influence over this torso piece. But instead of just parts of it should be all of it. So let's wait slider all the way up to one. And we're going to paint the torso completely. So that's covered in red. Spring the radius down. Let me finish painting first. So now I'm thinking might have been better off if I had the the hips and the torso mesh objects separate. But I'm not going to worry too much about it. We'll just do the best I can manually. Keeping the weight painting Here's separate. I just don't think it's worth the trouble of unbinding, rebinding. Concerning all we're trying to do is get a pose. And we're now trying to animate the character. So let's leave it at that. Let's work on the head. Again, up into weight paint mode. We've got the neck vertex group selected and that influence should be total. So we're going to paint everything red, which represents weight of one. Okay. Same with the head. 7. Lesson 6 Additional Weight Painting and IK: Let's go to the arm. Skip ahead to the law. Not too worried about the shoulders because we're not going to move very much for our pose. Let's look for left, front to back and left side the clause pretty good actually. If we go back to the arm, see how the wrist bone kind of influenced the wrist bone has actually that the hand monoamine. And this should be fully read. For our purposes, it's okay if it's not perfect. Supply the same. Let's do the same to the other arm. Is pretty quick and dirty. Ok, and let's just go ahead and try and get our character into some poses. Let's go into pose mode. And you know what's going to make it easier to pose the arms as opposed to exciting each bone and bending them like that. Let's select the hand bone at the very end there. Look for this icon. Looks like a bone with something looped around it as blue. Let's add inverse kinematics. And then next the chain length 0 means it's linked to the root bone. But if we bump this up, this up, now we're telling it how far up the chain we want this IK to influence. And we want to stop right here. So I actually need five and that should bring us to here. And what that allows us to do when we move this bone. It's going to let this position of this bone influence bones up the chain to this point where we set the chain length. Very handy. Let's do the same here. Add bone constraint, select Inverse Kinematics and set this to five. And that's going to allow us to just move this n bone here, not worry about the rest because the rest will follow. Same with the feet. Chain length. Five, I believe. It's the same. Something strange going on here. Let's select the torso, hop into weight paint mode. And the root should have full influence over the hip here. Okay, hop out of weight paint mode. And if we try this again, there we go. 8. Lesson 7 Posing the Character: Okay. Tap into pose mode. Get this arm up here. And this arm raised as well. No, lower the hole. Model. Lower the whole torso so that there's room for the legs to bend. I'm going to try and align. Mostly. I think the IK constraints are making it hard to keep the feet flat. So maybe I need to add it to this bone instead. See if that helps. I think K and the legs are giving us kind of a hard time. So let's just manually set up the legs. Right. We could we could spend more time to make the rig more robust for different situations, but that would be putting in way more effort than it's worth. Because all we're trying to do is setup a pose and get a render. So in this case, it makes sense, more sense just to kind of do things annually. Okay. Yeah. So this way we see that the lung scan and shown off that flexibility could set the head to maybe turn a bit to the side, rotate the whole shoulder. And let's see what that looks like when it's in textview. And when we move the the upper arm bones forming the shoulder is a little bit, but not too much. So and get away with it. Can have 0s clause slightly open. And again, it's deforming parts that we don't want it to deform, but it's, it's the influence is small enough where I think we can hear. It's okay. Now it looks like over on this side we forgot to mirror over the claw bones. So we won't be able to change this very much. But That's okay. That one of the hands is slightly different. Pose. Think it's more interesting ones wide-open. Bring this up more. Yeah. Yeah, it looks a little more dramatic. When it's got its clock right up in front of his face. Put the whole torso at an angle. So it's not straight up and down. Again. I'm just going to make the pose look little more dynamic. Course we have to readjust the feet. Check different angles. Yeah, I think that was pretty cool. So let's hop into object mode again. And next we're going to create a simple backdrop. 9. Lesson 8 Simple Background and Lighting: We use some kind of a backdrop. Let's start with add mesh plain. Going to select it because the select Toggle was switched off. Grab this, stretch it out and grab the edges and extrude it up. Can get rid of the top face. And free turn back face calling option on into viewport shading, dropdown options. We can see that the faces are inverted. So let's just select faces under the Mesh tab. Normals, flip it. Now it's facing the correct direction. Make it bigger. And then I like to add a bunch of edge loops near the corners. Let's shade smooth and apply subdivision surface multiplier. All right, so we have this nice smooth backdrop. We can select color, adding materials like maybe a dark background. Let's go ahead and add a camera to the scene. And let's expand this little arrow here, right corner. Click this button to, toggle to the camera view. Zoom in. Click on the box next to camera to view. And that's going to, when we look around the viewport, That's going to lock the camera to that to our viewport view. So that'll let us kinda choose a camera angle. And that's going to be, this is going to be the frame we'll render. So we can put that away. And if we switch to the rendered viewport shading mode, see everything's very dark because we don't have any lights in our scene. So click on the Add tab, go down to lights. And I like to use area lights for a renders creates a nice soft diffuse lighting. Let's bump it up from ten to 500. And you can see now, when we switch to the rendered viewport shading mode, we're seeing has some lighting information to go on. Let's toggle camera view. And you can see our robot is kinda ominously lit from above and the face is dark where the GloVe I peers. Dramatic. Now we're in the EV render mode. If we switch to cycles, they'll give us a more photo-real render. 10. Lesson 9 Finish Lighting and Render an Image: Let's switch the render mode, toggle out of the camera view. And we're going to add another light source for near the camera and download to the floor. Let's give this a bit of color. The power value, and see how that looks too bright. I just wanted this to serve as a bit of fill light so that the shadow area isn't as dark. Move this off to the side, bring it down even lower. And let's see what happens if we change the hue to like a cold blue and sort of a point light, Let's see what happens if we convert this to an area light again. And I want it to be way less influence, right? Because the metal surface of the robot is really picking up a lot of this. Light source and the specular. And with this top-down light on a nudge it more towards the back. So it serves kind of Moore's a rim light to give our character is strong, contrasting outline. And this will be a soft fill light coming from the floor. Let's see, just as an experiment, let's see what a spotlight could do from maybe up here. Bump up the value, change the color. And we can see, take a look at what it looks like if we take a light away. Oh yeah, that's very dramatic. So we really don't need this spotlight. I think the original area light could use good tint of yellow, orange. The point light, which still got the name to it, but we've converted to area light and bring that down even more. Maybe make it less blue. Yeah, that looks really cool and dramatic. But I think we can pump it up again because overall our scenes looking very dark. But I think the dark background is working really well. We could experiment with its color, see what happens if we bump it up to a lighter gray. And finally, let's switch this the EV real quick. One final effect. That's going to make this our final render very cinematic. We select the camera and go to the Properties tab. Check on depth of field. And you can either use the eyedropper tool or manually set the distance. But once you do that, we can play around with the aperture settings. And I just want the eyes to be in full focus. And then the arms and the shoulders can be slightly out-of-focus. Okay. So I switched the EVs so that we can more easily preview the camera focus effect in real time. And now that we've set that out, Let's switch back to cycles. See how that looks. All right, very cool. Maybe we can make some final adjustments so the character is centered in the frame. And then before we hit the render key, Let's look under inside the render properties tab in the undersampling. Doesn't hurt to turn on adaptive sampling. So, so that we don't have to render longer than we need to. And under denoise, under denoising. Like they took that on. You can leave it at NLM. But I happen to have a NVIDIA graphics card, which takes advantage of optics. But you can't go wrong with any of these settings, all uses since that option is available. And that, that'll help get rid of this grainy look in the render. So with the lighting, the pose, the background, the camera focus, that the field. De-noising all of that setup. We're finally ready to render this image out. And it's going to take a moment. Okay, The render just finish. Let me zoom out to see the whole thing. And there you have it. You have awesome retro robot render. I hope you have fun falling along this course. If you haven't had a chance to go through the steps and build this character yourself. Please do so now, while the material is still fresh in your mind, and good luck creating your own robot characters and creating your own renders. Thanks.