Reading by the Window

TUTORIAL

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Get ready folks! It's time
for a new tutorial!

      When I launched my first tutorial, I made it so people could vote for the next one, and the most voted option was for my "reading by the window" project (or "Ready for Christmas?", depending on where you saw it first). Sadly I got a little busy at the time and decided to make something simpler. That also didn't come to fruition. So, after a while I decided to make a tutorial on Eevee, which was also quite popular. Ever since then I've been planing a new tutorial, but nothing really came out of it. So, I decided to follow up on those votes and make a tutorial on how to create the Reading By The Window scene.

      Now, I wish I could just say "well, duuuh, put some stuff on the window and render it!" (which really is how the scene was made, there's no secret to it), but I guess most of you want to see the process in it's entirety and want to reproduce very similar results to mine. With this in mind, I'll guide you through the entire process from start to finish. Without further ado, let's begin!

The room

      Pretty simple stuff for the room's shape. Room heights where I live are usually in the 2.4-2.7 m, so I went for a 2.45 for this one. The only difference from real life is that the wall's thickness are 30 cm this time instead of the real ~20cm measurements for exterior walls - I had to do this or my objects wouldn't fit the sill. It was either a deeper sill or smaller objects, so I opted for the former.

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The Window

      Feel free to use an already modeled window if you have one. Since the measurements for the hole on my scene are custom, I opted to create a new window using the ArchiMesh Addon. If you don't already have it enabled, please do so, it's a pretty handy addon.

      Simply put the cursor at the outer/bottom-most vertices (by selecting them and hitting Shift+S) and add a 'Rail Window' using the addon. Your result should look like this:

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      Now simply edit the window's measurements so they fit our wall (hitting N, going to the "Create" panel). Yours should look like this:

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      Notice how there's enough room at the bottom for us to put a sill? Now, don't add one via the create menu, manually make one specially for this scene. Make it 180x24x2 in dimensions and align it in it's place - but don't stick it to the window, leave a small gap of around 1 to 2 mm.

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      That's essentially it for the room. "But what about a wall material?", I hear you ask. There is none! Really, I couldn't really bother with a material for the wall as it's entirely out of focus. And as for window, it's the default window material created by the adon. Anyway, here's how your scene should look like:

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DOWNLOAD

Now, if you want to have my exact files (to have the same result as me, materials and everything), you can do so by becoming a Patreon.

Downloads at: https://www.patreon.com/BlenderGirl

The file with the progress so far is called "Reading_By_The_Window_001.blend".

Level 2 Patreons have access specific files (in stages) of the tutorials (such as the stage we are now).

Level 3 Patreons have access to the stages, more assets, and also the final completed files (among other benefits).

You can also donate to me at PayPal and ask for the files (following the same "levels" as my Patreons). You can donate HERE.

Speaking of Patreon, soon there will be a Lego minifigure available to every tier of Patron! 5$/month and you get this and many other great models!

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The Camera

      The camera and it's position/focal lenght/etc are perhaps one of the most important aspect of a scene. You need to be able to tell a story with the camera, you need to be able to capture a moment and that's not possible if you're facing the wrong way or focusing on the wrong area/object. Because of this, you need to think of your camera proportions and position. Can you render this scene at 1920x1080? Yes, but then you lose a lot of detail above and bellow the intended focus area. Take a look bellow at how much you lose by choosing said resolution:

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      Notice how your focus area is much smaller than my render? Not only are our thirds focusing on a very narrow area of the scene, we lost quite a bit of the upper window (which will have a nice rainy material) and a lot of the window sill (which will prevent us from placing some nice objects there. So, to fix that I'll make my camera render at 1080x1400.

Camera at 1080x1400

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Test Render

      We'll make a test render now. But before that, select your windows, enter Edit Mode and separate the window panels from the frame (by hitting P). This will make the glasses separate objects and is important because the ArchMeshaddon creates glass panels that are as thin as paper (it's only a plane) and we need to make it solid like real glass. Mine is 3 mm in thickness.

      Now that the glasses are separate objects, hide them from the render tab. Sadly this is necessary, because even if we create a simple glass material to our glasses and render the scene, the glass will make the scene dark (as if the glass is casting shadows). We'll solve that later, but for now we'll render with the panels hidden to avoid any problems.

Glass panels hidden from render

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Test render

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HDRi

      Perhaps the most important ingredient in the looks and realism of any interior project that is lit from the windows is the outside Environment. As you can see from our test render above, having a complete white environment not only looks bad, it's not realistic (something I explained on my first tutorial at the last paragraph of "Step 3"). Gladly, amazing websites such as https://hdrihaven.com/ exist :)
     You can grab any HDRi you want, but if you want the same one I used, it's called "belvedere_2k.hdr" with a Z rotation of 150º. After adding it to our scene, this is how it looks -------->>>>>

Already looking better! Don't worry about it looking pixelated. I've chosen a low-res HDRi on purpose as our Window will be dirty and have water droplets. This will make it impossible to distinguish any detail from the outside world.

Now, this was a project meant to be done quickly, so I didn't add much dirt, scuffs, dents and etc to most of the scene, only to the sill. For this reason (and because doing any texture work by Blender's texture painter is my definition of insanity), most of the details will be on the sill and window.

If you're interested in some detail, check out my BMX bike, my Sad Clock, or my Worn Teacup, I've done quite a bit of detail in these projects!

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Window Sill

      For the window sill, go ahead and unwrap it as a normal cube. That is, if you plan on doing any texture work on it. If you plan on having a plainly white sill, then unwrapping isn't necessary. For mine, I'll put a wood texture as a base and I'll add some dents on it's edge to give it more of a "used wood that has seen some action over the years" kinda vibe.

      As my sill will be completely white, I can grab any wood texture I want and use only the Roughness and NormalMap channels, manually making it's color fully white on the Principled BDSM node.

      Sadly I lost the original wood texture I used for the window sill, so I'll use a new one called "Wood003_4K" which you can find at https://cc0textures.com/.

Here's how it looks ------>>>>

Alright, not too shabby.

Here comes the worst part: texture painting in Blender. Now, if you follow me on Facebook you know my opinion on any sort of texture work inside Blender.... "it's dumb, slow, or impossible".

But, since I recognize not everyone can afford Substance Painter, I'll make the sacrifice of doing some texture painting inside Blender so everyone can follow me.

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Texture Painting?

      I knew doing anything texture related in Blender was a caveman-like process ever since I saw what programs like Substance Painter can do. This was confirmed by me when I was finally able to buy Substance Designer and Painter, there's literally not even a comparison between these and Blender's way of texturing. Still, not everyone can buy these programs, and so many would be stuck if I only showed how to paint in Substance Painter. Because of this, I'll go back to the old method and show you can you can add some simple dents to your model.

      The first thing to do is to open the Image Editor and create a new texture. The bigger the resolution, the more your painted details will appear. Since we're only going to use high-res textures on the sill, you can chose to create a 4K or 6K texture without any worries of running out of memory. This is possible because we're painting a black-and-white texture that won't have much of anything painted to it aside from some small details, so most of our texture will literally be black. The textures you should be worrying are the ones used for the window sill, the HDRi, and any textures used for the wall. For my sill, I chose a 6K res texture as the details may look pixelated otherwise.

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      Now that we created a texture, we'll paint the details on it. Select the window sill, go to the Texture Paint tab and press "/". This will separate the sill from all the other meshes and will make it easier to paint the details.

      Right now, we have two options: either paint the details with the default brush (which is just a circle) or use a texture as a mask. Using a texture as a mask will make it possible to quickly paint details, which are controlled by the color white: the closer to white a detail is, the more pronounced it will be once we render. This white control can be done either via the texture itself or by controlling the "Strength" of the brush.

      On the right you can see the mask I used for my "Lego Update - Realism" project. That project was made on a 4 GB of RAM + i3 laptop, so I only had about 2-2.5 GB of RAM available ;-)
     It's not a high quality mask or anything, but it's the only one I've got, I haven't used Blender's texture painter since this Lego project.

If you want to download this same mask, please

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Go to the "Texture Properties" tab and click New. Add the mask of your choice and set it as Non-Color.

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Next, go to the "Active Tool and workspace" tab, change the mode to "Single Image" and select the texture you created early. Your object should turn black. The video bellow shows how to do it.

Next, go to the "Brush" section. Change the Mapping option to Stencil. The mask should appear on the left of your screen.

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To position/scale/rotate the mask, simply do:

- Right click (hold/move) to position;

- Shift + right click (hold/move) to scale;

- Ctrl + right click (hold/move) to rotate.

      We're now ready to paint! Using the simple commands above, paint the details into the wood directly. You can press 0 to hop into camera view to see how they look. And since only part of the sill is visible to the camera, I'm first goint to paint a little outside this area, just so I don't have to paint the entire sill for nothing.

      Bellow is how I painted my sill. You can see that by the end the painter kinda stopped working xD I'm not sure why, but I needed to go back into the camera view to keep painting. This was done "off camera" after I stopped recording in frustration lol

After painting some details, here's my result. If you already know where your focus will be (Depth of Field, distance) then you can literally paint only that area, as all the rest will be hidden/out of focus. Bellow is the result without any DOF (left) and with DOF (right).

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DOWNLOAD

If you want to have my exact files (to have the same result as me, materials and everything), you can do so by becoming a Patreon.

Downloads at: https://www.patreon.com/BlenderGirl

The file with the progress so far is called "Reading_By_The_Window_002.blend".

Level 2 Patreons have access specific files (in stages) of the tutorials (such as the stage we are now).

Level 3 Patreons have access to the stages, more assets, and also the final completed files (among other benefits).

You can also donate to me at PayPal and ask for the files (following the same "levels" as my Patreons). You can donate HERE.

Window Material

      Here is where we come up to what is perhaps the biggest "wow" factor of the scene and could be the hardest part to explain: the window material. Essentially, we have two materials for the windows: the inside material, which is dirty, and the outside part which is dirty but has water droplets in the normal channel. Here's how they look:

      These are the nodes for the interior part of the window. I know it may look a little daunting, but I promise it's much simpler than it looks (I'll break it down later).

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      And these are the nodes for the outside of the window:

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      It's essentially the same material as before, but it has the droplets plugged into the normal map.

      So how about we break down this material?

First, go to Poliigon.com and download these two textures:

https://www.poliigon.com/texture/fingerprints-004

https://www.poliigon.com/texture/smudges-large-001

      The smudges texture isn't exactly the same one I originally used for my project, and I don't know if I can distribute them to you. Still, there are websites like cc0textures that have many fingerprint and smudges textures, so you can use any of those as well. It really doesn't matter which ones you use, because the idea is only to convey dirtiness and some fingerprints/smudges, none of which will be in great detail anyways. Also, download some scratch texture as we're going to use that too.

      With the textures of your choice downloaded, create two new materials: one will be assigned for the interior of the window, and the other one for the outside. The inside material essentially breaks down to this:

- Put any one of the textures and use a ColorRamp to make it more contrasty;

- Mix this with black using a noise texture as the factor (to erase some of the detail, otherwise the texture will cover the glass entirely and will make it difficult to see outside);

- Grab the resulting color and mix with another one of the textures, using the same method.

If that's not too clear, I also explain it in the video bellow:

      Befpre rendering we need to apply a "glass fix" that will prevent Cycles from casting a shadow from the glass panels and making our scene dark. Simply go to the Object Properties tab, then Ray Visibility, and untick the "Diffuse", "Volume Scatter" and "Shadow" boxes.

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                                                                            Let's see how that looks.

                           Alright! Much better!                                                                             With some DOF

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(Level2 Patreon access ends here. You can download the file with the Window Material, called "Tutorial_3_Reading_By_The_Window_002_Window_Material.blend".

VIP Patreons were already able to download everything, but will be able to download everything from now on as well, including the finalized scene).

Objects on the Window Sill

      If you want to put your own assets on the window, feel free to do so as essentially the bulk of the scene is done. And to be honest, anything can work in this case. Books? Work. Toys? Will work too. This is a great scene to put anything into evidence/focus (as long as the object(s) fit on the sill).

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      If you want to put your own assets on the window, feel free to do so as essentially the bulk of the scene is done. And to be honest, anything can work in this case. Books? Work. Toys? Will work too. This is a great scene to put anything into evidence/focus.

      As for the rest of the objects, here's a list of mine:

- Two plants (one will be duplicated to be inside a glass vase);

- A glass vase;

- Two candles and two glasses;

- A book;

- A coffee/tea cup;

- Two outlets;

- A radiator;

- A sphere to cast some shadow in the scene.

Here's how it looks from another angle:

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      Now, I'm not here to teach you how to model (yet), much less a simple glass vase or candle ;)    (and you should be able to model some with similar radius just by looking at them). Buuut, I am going to give you some tips on how I achieved the Bokeh and candle material. As for the plants: I got them from "Free3D.com" but the ones I've got only allow "Personal Use". As I'm uploading the Blender files to Patreon (a paid website), I'm not sure I can upload the plants too as that could constitute Commercial Use.

      I'm also not sure I can redistribute the book.

      The radiator I got from TurboSquid, so if it's not included in the Blend file you can download it from here.

      The cup and the outlets were modeled by me a veeeery long time ago, so I'll include it in the Blend file.

      In the end, here's is what I want to achieve: you, the reader, having your own freedom to put whatever you want on the scene. I don't want copiers, I want people to try different ways of achieving their own art. If you put another plant there, so what? Or even if you don't put any plants there, so what? It's your scene, so you can have it your way.

      Still, I am going to show you a few tricks. Let's start with the "Bokeh".

For my plants, I wanted something to be there with them, something else, and the best thing I could come up with at the time was putting some lights near them. I didn't want to model full-blown christmas lights, so I went with the simplest next-best-thing: a literal wire with literal simple cubes along the way... and it worked out great!

      In the video bellow, I show how I did it. Essentially, I extrude a bezier curve, give it some thickness, and place small cubes along it's length, and these cubes have an emission material.

      Pretty simple stuff, right? :) Now for the candle material:

- The candle body color is E6E7CA. No subsurface scattering needed as the candle material will cast some nice orangy glow onto the body. Yes yes, I know, not realistic, but that's how I did mine! I bet if I told you the orange glow was achieved via SSS you'd believe it! xD

- The whick material is essentially black with the rougness set to 1;

- The flame material has a BlackBody of 1400 plugged into an emission shader with the intensity set to 1000;

- The glass that surrounds the candles has only a glass node, with an IOR of 1.5.

That's it! Now put some outlets, a radiator, a book, and the scene is complete! The radiator and the outlets don't even need a material. My outlets have a color HEX of D3D2D0, and the radiator has a color of A3A3A3.

      "But what about that nice cup you got there?". Simple modeling! Here's how I made it:

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      As for the material, it's basically a reddish-orangy material on the outside (E73912), and a white material on the inside. Aaand, of course, some fingerprints which you can paint using the same method we did for the window sill, only now you'll plug the resulting texture into the roughness input of your BDSF node.

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That's it! All you need is to enable Depth of Field in your camera settings, focus on whatever you want to focus on the scene, and give it a render. Not so hard, eh? Simple scenes will always be simple, quick and fun to make. Bellow you can check my result from 6-7 months ago. BTW, my DOF is 51 cm with a F-stop of 3.7.

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      Oh shoot! I almost forgot. Add a screw head on the sill if you want to follow me 100%. For this specific project I made it so the head sticks out a bit, but if you want to, you can make it so the head kinda carves the wood. It's pretty simple: put two edge loops vertically and two horizontally, they'll limit how big or small the hole is. Now put some looks inside these loops (like 2 or 3) and go to face select mode. Select all the inside faces, press W, go to LoopTools (enable it if you don't have it already enabled) and hit Circle. Now extrude these faces down and then move some vertices even more down. Your result should looks similar to mine --->>>>>

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DOWNLOAD

Level 3 (VIP) Patreons can download the final file bellow. Sadly I can't upload all the assets as explained earlier, but it's pretty close to my original file! And, of course, now has different textures.

Enjoy!

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The night scene

      As for the night scene, it's extremely simple. We're trying to replicate a phone or simple camera taking a photo of our scene, so all we have to do is literally change the HDRi to one that is of a night scene, put the cursor at your camera, and add a spotlight (0.1 cm in radius) that is aiming the same direction our camera is aiming at - only slightly off-center - make it's radius around 120-130º, and you're done. Watch the video bellow to see how I did it.

      Simply adjust the light's strength and camera exposure and you're done!

PS: You may need to adjust how dirty your window is.

      Forgot to do it in the video: Select your light, change the Transformation Orientation to "Local" and move it a bit to the left on the X axis. This will replicate real flashlights being slightly off-center from the camera's perspective ;-)

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Thank you for getting this far!