Create a sci-fi night scene in Blender - part 2


In this tutorial, I will include the importance of the theory “Form Follows Function” and talk about the working process from 2D concept to 3D final design. Blender has been used as a tool to try out various compositions and integrate different props into a final scene in Photoshop.

This is the final image of this project that illustrates how different props integrate together.

Search for references

As it was a space station, I wanted to give some thickness to the structures and add some volume into the design with a capacity of over 70 aircrafts. I then searched for aircraft carrier references to analyze its solid structure that offered better protection and stability for carrying and deploying aircrafts.

Look for references to understand its structure

Sketch with notes

I did a rough sketch to draw out the ideas first. My initial idea was to create two levels, adding more hangars to increase the volume and putting the main area at the centre for creating a clear focal point. I also added some spaceship functions in such as solar arrays, generator, solar panels, and so on,  to make the station design look more functional.

Sketch out idea first with annotations

Block out in Blender

After I finished brainstorming, I started blocking out shapes in Blender, fixing the overall height and proportion. This modeling was quite challenging as it was not symmetrical and I had to think how it looked in every view. Every time when inserting new geometry, I needed to consider the theory of “Big, Medium, and Small” to avoid repetition and try to make it look interesting.

Block out main shapes in Blender

Refine details

This step was the same as the previous chapter by using toolkit, Boxcutter and Hard Ops to build the model. My concept was to build structural details with thickness like the aircraft carrier and inputted sci-fi element into my design. As the draft was quite rough, I mostly worked on the designs in 3D, building props first and combining or arranging them in different directions to form a complicated shape. To increase more volume, I duplicated more hangars and scaled them in different sizes to prevent too much repetition.

3 different views of the final concept with some close-up

First composition of the space station

After modeling, I added a simple material texture and adjusted the emission lights to strength 30. To render the lights nicely in Eevee Render Engine, I enabled the Bloom in Render Properties. Next, I set up a camera in Blender and chose a preferred angle. Rendering “Object ID” pass was necessary as well for easily cutting out the space station from background that I demonstrated in next step.

Set up a base in Photoshop

Add background

After cutting the space station out from “Object ID” pass, I searched for a preferred space background in Blender add-on, Pro-Lighting: Skies, rotating to an angel that fit my drawing and modifying the settings as well. As the background looked too sharp, I blurred out the color a bit in Photoshop by adding some mist around with soft textured brushes and adjusted the overall color in “Color Lookup Adjustment”.

Choose a background and modify it with brushes

Clipping mask in Photoshop

Putting an Earth into the scene can make it look more like it is located in space with better storytelling. I firstly inserted a solid shape. Next, I searched for Earth texture and used clipping mask to clip it into the solid shape, doing paint over on top, adding shadows, and blurring out unnecessary details. When adding highlights, I usually set the blend mode to hard light, soft light, or overlay depending on the final result.

Use clip mask to add further details

Second composition of the space station

Working on two scenes could give me more ideas on my final illustration piece, trying to look for a better angle for the final scene that I would talk about in the next chapter. At this stage, I repeated step 6 by choosing the space background in Blender add on, Pro-Lighting: Skies. I really liked the green light at the bottom but for now, it had some lighting problems that needed to be modified in the next step.

Add background that fits the scene

Work on focal point

As the background was too noisy with too many stars around and missed out focal point, I painted over the top with big soft brushes. To focus on the main structure, I tried to darken the remaining areas and added a purple light gently at the top left, trying to lead eyes to the space station.

Blur out the unnecessary elements to focus on focal point

Color Lookup Adjustment

The overall color was a bit dull without highlights, so I added “Color Lookup Adjustment” to modify it. There are many happy accidents when using this adjustment, so it is better to do more experiments. To control the color manually, I used the soft brush and painted it gently in the mask.

Final image of the second composition

Do not stick to the first idea

It takes time for our brain to warm up, so it is always good to try and work on more sketches for more ideas.

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