Presenting your art with Blender!

General / 27 May 2024

Presentation is everything! 

As a 3d artist, it is very important to know how to present your work as best as possible! This article covers the basics of the process I use to render my work using Blender.

For many years i tried different ways to do this in multie apps. Maya, Max, Keyshot to name a few.  I cannot stress enough how easy blender does this out of the box. And of course, with a little bit more elbow grease you could take things to new heights. For now lets keep things easy and take a look.

I rendered my recent portfolio pieces for God of War Ragnarok and Jedi Survivor using Blender.

For this article I will introduce you to a piece i made many years ago, that i decided to revive recently. Inspired by a fantasy French artist Batist Monge. I am calling this little guy Mic Mac, and ive made it for the purpose of making it into a 3d print. Which will definitely be part of another article. For now lets focus on rendering in Blender!

In this time and age it has become more common for everyone to know that good ligthing breaks or makes a good photo. We have gone from the old school bathroom selfies, to highly tailored spotlights in front of our screens to present ourselves in the best possible way to our audiences through zoom calls, streams, etc. And of course, lets not forget about all the proffesional photography!

Using a 3 point light rig

The idea is simple, 3 lights ( or more ) to highlight and frame your subject to show all your beautiful crafted details on your models. In the image below you can see how I used what is a called a Key Light, a Rim Light, and a Fill Light.  I also have made a bit of a stage and have set up my camera closed to my subject.

The Key Light, is the main source of light. Its job is to highlight most or all of the details of your 3d model.
The Rim Light, is the secondary souce of light that is will highlight the silhoutte of your model. So that it doesn’t go into total darkness.
The Fill Light( or plural) are there to make sure that your model does not catch darkness. 

All the above are just the basis in which this theory is set up on, and is all personal preference and style as to how they are used. Some people use HDRI as fill lights instead. Other people use more than one keylight. Whatever you do, what matters is that your model gets presented well.

Blender's rendering is almost real time, you get a super accurate preview of what the final output will be in the viewport. As you are setting up your lights you can see what the end result will look like. This is currently using the Cycles renderer which is Blender version of something like Arnold. Blender does also have a real time game engine like renderer called Evee. 


But of course results vary with experience. And dialing the values of the lights, and the position of the lights does and can more often take a lot of time. In fact, there might  be times where your models might react different to these ligthing setup and you will have to tweak the ligthing rig and or the material itself. My biggest advice for all of this would be to set up a default scene with all of these things so that you don’t have to reinvte the wheel every time. 

The process is simple, create some sort of plane that your model will stand on, without it will feel weightless. Shadows play a  big part in all of this. For this piece i chose to use a beveled plane to have a nice transition between the floor and the wall. All of this is optional, and you should know that you can add your own background later through Blender or Photoshop.

I like to start by first importing my asset into a blank scene and without moving it, simply position the camera to frame the object. I then add the lights around the model to make sure that they are working with the presentation. This process is the most time consuming because its all dependant on the model.As an added note, i often rotate the model while leaving the camera locked in place. In case i wanted to show another angle, i can easily just rotate the object and know with full confidence that it will look as dramatic as the last shot.

To view from a camera, you have to have a camera in the scene. "Crtl + Numpad 0" will make any camera the active camera. "Numpad 0" will change the view to that camera.

Lights Settings

During this process i also take some time to  play with lighting intensity and colors. Is helpful to isolate each light to see how the object is reacting to it. Below you may see what each isolated light is doing for the model.

As mentioned earlier, half of the time is spent trying different positions and values of your light. It helps a lot to find reference. Reference can come in the way of other artists renders, portraits, museum catalogs etc.  

It really does help during this process to isolate your lights. Having all the lights turn on at once all the time makes it very hard to dial down the settings you might be after.

Material settings

Materials in Blender can be built in two ways. You may set up the values in the "Settings Window", or go into the "Material Editor". I prefer to make the materials through the material editor.  All of the rules of pbr apply to blender materials. I will go ahead and explain the materials as an artist, and not a scientist, since to get the look you have to cheat a bit.

I used two materials on this render:

RenderHighPoly_mat -  which is the material assinged to Mic Mac. Ive set its roughness to a bit low to catch the highlights of the mesh.

Floor - This material has duller roughness than the last, trick here is to keep it shiny enough, but not reflectiive.

World- the world material is what the render would use if you had an hdri image plugged in. Since I do not, im using a very dark color so that the scene isnt in total darkness.

An additional note, is that the colors of your asset and floor does matter. Using different colors will bring contrast to your render.  

Render Settings

Below are my render settings for this scene. I am using cycles and have set the max samples to 10. This isnt a super intricate render so I didn’t think I needed to go higher than that. For the image itself ive set it to be 1500x2000.

Final Result

Below is the result from the Render Output window of Blender. And here is another piece ive been working using, using the exact same ligthing scenario!I hope all of this sheds some light on how you can render your models using Blender! Thank you for reading!