Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tutorial: Render for a cartoon project.

There is a small tutorial to show how we make these nice architecture props for the social project colled Lovely Farm (c) games.
This tutorial is more for beginners who have just started with visualisation. But it also could be useful if you have never engaged in cartoon style render.

Before we start talking about render,  here are a few base principles for making game art in this style.
1) Use bright, saturated colors
2) Use outlines for increased detail
3) Use toy proportions, don't use proportions  directly the from real world.
That's all I guess. )

For our every day work we use 3Ds Max for modeling and V-Ray for visualisation. V-Ray's got a very useful plug-in called Vray Toon that produces cartoon style outlines of objects in the scene.  You can find it in the Environment dialog of 3dsmax. 
Rendering --> Enviroment --> Atmospere Effects (Or use shortcut "8" on your keyboard)

Unfortunately this plug-in has got a limited amount of settings. For example you can't set different colors and  thicknesses for every objects in the scene. It also can't be use for non - photorealistic render, so if you want to create a cartoon shader you have to do it in material editor. Vray toon is only for outlining.

Let's start from the very beginning. I've got this sketch made by my colleague Natasha.
This is a palace for  the east set. And it is looks really nice, doesn't it?

And I made the model. I didn't care much about the number of polygons, because  I only wanted to receive  a good 2d picture.

Now I have to assign materials on my model and begin to setup the render. Here is the default "scanline render"  with no light, and It looks pretty ugly.

Now turn on V-Ray
Choose Render setup dialog--> Assign render --> V-Ray

Note:  V-Ray doesn't come with 3Ds Max so you have to install it on your computer if you want to work with it.
After that go to Vray dialog (on the top) and turn on GI Environment (GI means Global Illumination)( This is skylight. Here you can also choose its intensity and color. I have left color on default. And Multiplier(intensity) can change depending on the scene. I usually use  something like 0,5.

Next go to the Indirect illumination dialog and turn it on. Next to the Irradiance map (below) here we can choose the quality of render. You have to remember improved quality takes more time, so it is not sensible to choose the "High" preset before you finish seting up  the scene.
I usually choose "Low" and "Very Low" for previewing.
Well, now I turn on show calc. phase - It's not nessesary, but this option let's you see the calculation of render. So it isn't as boring waiting for the result =)

Let's see what we have now:

In practice that's all you need to make a pretty good render 8) That's why I love V-Ray - you just need to push a few buttons to receive a  good result. But of course it is not the end of the tutorial.

Next I create lights.
Here is the  light scheme in our game:

And sometimes we add blue reflex in shadows.  Like here.

So this is how my light scheme usually looks in 3Ds Max:

 I use  the Target Direct as the main light and Vray Light for creating blue reflex (here is some of their settings - LINK). For this object I also add four small  Omny Lights to imitate  candles in the tiny pagodas near the stairs.
Here the result with light:

A bit abour Camera. I use Target Camera with Ortographic Projection because our game has ortographic perspective.

Now it's time to turn on VrayToon. As I have mentioned earlier you can do it this way:
 Rendering --> Enviroment --> Atmospere Effects --> VrayToon
And after that you can see dialog with settings

Mostly I use these two which I have marked.
1) Line color. It's normally darker than the object color.
2) Pixels  means the  width of the outlines in pixels.  Usually its value changes from 0.7 to 1,5 depening on the situation. For dark objects the outline is usually thicker than for  light ones.
And as I have already  mentioned - you can't set different colors for outlining so If I need a dark red outline for a carpet and light beige for a white stone  I have to do a couple of renders and after that combine it with photoshop.

And sometimes I  use the options Hide inner edges -  it can be useful if you dont wan't  to outline inner edges but only silhouettes. That picture shows how it works.

You also can Include/exclude objects  in the scene for outlining.
Other settings that may be usefull (but normally I leave them on default.):
Opacity - opacity of the outlines.
World pixels width - this is the width of the outlines in world units.  The Lines closer to the camera will be thicker.
Do reflections/refractons - this will make the outlines appear in reflections/refractions

Here is the result with outlines:

Note: For better anti-aliasing please choose the same Background  color as the Line color
Environment dialog --> Common Parametrs --> Background--> Color

That's all about VrayToon I guess, but not all about render. You may spot that the colors in Pixar movies are very saturated and cast bright reflexes on each other. Let's do it on our render.

There are two important settings we have not examined yet.
Indirect illumination (in top)--> Post-processing-->Saturation
Set it from 3 to 6 - it makes the picture more colourful
And turn Ambient occlusion on - it makes small, but important shadows to make your render look more natural.

 Final result:

The last step  - I go to Photohshop to make color correction and add some details, bushes and flowers.

That's it !
And thanks for reading! =)

PS. Main stages in one picture - LINK


  1. Great info at all! Thanks alot. Vray Plane for reflex and AO are great hints. After all, why don't saturate the whole picture in Photoshop as well as you use it for details?
    P.S. Going to be first reply in your blog )

    1. Hello dear first commentator! =)
      I'm not sure if I understand your question or not.
      Were you asking about the final picture in the game ?
      Do you mean it seems a bit desaturated?
      In this case I can answer you by saying that it look so becouse of the art style of our game. It's not as saturated as in pixar movies =)

      Or maybe you were asking about why you should use saturation in the render settings?
      Well, render saturation is not the same as saturation in photoshop. They are quite different.
      Render makes this these small color reflections between objects with different colors that makes the picture more vibrant, and photoshop just increases all the colors.

  2. привет, скажите пожалуйста, сколько примерно уходит времени на один скетч такого домика? Спасибо за туториал )

  3. Thanks for tutorial! Very helpful.

  4. Картинки пропали :\