Iso-landscape: Happy Country

Just a little animation of a toon-styled country landscape made in 3D!

This article is also available on Medium.

To follow up my previous low-poly models, isometric rooms and “Voxelish” renders, today here is a simple isometric landscape of a piece of country. I went for a toon-style with a “play dough” render feel, and I even had some fun with animations…

So – can you spot the 4 types of animations in this looping movie of the scene? 🙂

About this render…

My goal with this quick project was to work a bit on my set dressing skills, but it was also a nice opportunity to do some modelling and shading!

Toon models

I knew I wanted to go for a low-poly toon style with smoothed meshes, soft lights and simple materials. So I used the Blender Bevel modifier a lot to make sure that no edge would be too hard and that we would get this overall “play dough feeling” 😉

Of course, I also focused on primitive shapes to create basic trees and rocks.

Materials & lighting

At the heart of this render was designing and implementing “sweet” materials to get this nice toon feel. The main idea is to have very rough (i.e. not reflective) materials with sharp shadows. For this, I re-used the toon shader technique I’d presented in an episode from my “Voxelish” series and relied on a constant-thresholded colour ramp to get my clean shadow:

Then, I just varied the tint of the colours depending on the object to get grass, leaves, wood, and so on.

The lighting also needed to be as soft as possible. I sticked with Blender’s EEVEE engine and a point light, rather than a directional light, to get a more diffuse ambient light source.

Animating the water

The water’s shader is a bit more complex because I wanted it to move a bit throughout the movie. So, to do this, I mixed two blues together using a noise as the mixing factor.

This is how I got these “spots” of dark in the light water:

Then, I just set a keyframe for the noise size at the beginning and the end of my animation so that the river would be animated 🙂

Adding the clouds

Also, to give a bit more depth to the scene and to add some dynamism, I decided to put some clouds above the landscape with a slight movement. I drew inspiration from Minecraft blocky clouds for the modelling, and then added some bevels on the vertices to have something consistent with the rest of the scene.

The animation once again uses the Displace modifier with an object as an anchor to slowly change the shape of the clouds; this is the same technique as the one I’d used for the smoke above the boat in my first “Voxelish” scene:

Compositing the sky

Finally, I used Blender’s internal compositing system to add some background gradient for the sky. This process works in two steps: first, I made sure that I did renders with transparent backgrounds; second, I pasted this result over a simple procedurally generated gradient.

Conclusion

This little render was a really great way of having some fun with Blender and improving my CG skills. It was very interesting to search for an overall consistent and appealing design and “feel”, and it allowed me to discover some new Blender modifiers that are really cool!

I hope you like it, and if you want to see more of my CG stuff, don’t hesitate to check out my dedicated Instagram 🙂

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