Making Of 'The Art Nouveau Room'
This scene started of as an opposition to millions of clean interior renders you see on the internet everyday. Not that those renders aren't good (many of them are superb), I just wanted to make something different, something that has a nice warm feel to it, something that has something to say.
I'm very fond of art and its history, among others I especially like the Art nouveau period (the French expression for "new art"), which emerged at the end of the 19 th and reached its peak at the beginning of the 20 th century. The style started off as a response to the industrial world of machinery and automation, which started to neglect nature and its diversity. The artists of that period, as opposing to the numb world around them, expressed themselves with curved lines, hyperbolas and parabolas, winding plant forms and nature motifs, which are the main characteristics of the Art nouveau style. Some of the great artists belonging to this period are: Antoni Gaudi, Gustav Klimt, Alfons Mucha, Edvard Munch, Henry van de Velde, Victor Horta, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Louis Majorelle, Hector Guinard, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Henri Rousseau.
So I decided to make an old room, which dates in the mentioned period that means it would be about 100 years old now. Making it look old and worn out turned out to be quite a challenge.
In this tutorial I will try to cover the key elements in making of this scene. The modeling altogether isn't anything special really, I put much more effort in texturing and lighting, which turned out to be almost the hardest part in making this scene.
I had the basic idea of how the space should look like in my head. Therefore I started of without a sketch, which I don't really recommend, because it took me a lot of time to define all the details and I changed a few general things along the way, which at some point I didn't like, etc. Anyway, it's good to have at least a basic sketch, before you start.
I had to get all the information I needed about the Art nouveau style. I already knew something about it, but needed more information in the terms of elements and their details. The art history books were a good start, but still not enough, so I started searching for reference pictures on the internet, which turned out to be very useful. I also needed some patterns, that had the characteristics of art nouveau designs, to use with textures, but I will explain more of that later on in the texturing part.
Setting up the scene
I started out with only one room at first, but then decided that it would be good to make one more, the back room, so that the view gets a little more interest and depth. That way I also got more space, where I could add some more elements in the distance, which adds a lot to the diversity and reality of the scene. You can see the setup of the two rooms in the picture below.
As I said, the overall modeling in this scene isn't anything special. Mostly it's all simple box, poly and spline modeling (plus booleans and some objects made with the lathe modifier) with some adjustments and smooth modifiers applied. However there are some detailed elements, which I will explain.
The basic structure of the room is a simple box, to which I added a shell modifier. I could have extruded polygons to make the walls, but I decided to use the box method, cause it seemed faster and easier, since I didn't have a sketch to work with. The downside of this method was, that I had to add some more boxes to make the remaining walls and then attach them to each other as editable polys, so I could unwrap it the way I wanted. If I had a birds eye view of the walls sketched, it would probably be better to use the extrusion method and avoid the additional procedures.
I used boolean operations to make the openings for the windows and the door which leads to the back room. And that covers all the boolean operations used in this scene.
The next step was modeling the floor. I decided to make it from wooden boards, which corresponds well with the period of art nouveau. I made a box, convert it to editable poly and chamfered its edges, then I used the array command to multiply it along one of the axis and attached all of the boxes to make a single object. To make it less uniform and therefore more realistic, I grabbed some of the vertices and moved them, so the boards got more diverse in width (b), and also cloned (a) some of the boards and adjusted their vertices to get more diversity in length (c) as seen on picture 3
The windows are also made from converted boxes of different sizes with the help of the inset, extrude and slice plane commands. A similar method was used for the stairs, except the basic shape was an extruded polygon made from splines.
Some elements were modelled precisely to the reference pictures (for example the table, chairs and the cabinet), some of them are combinations of different reference pics. However I was forced to design some elements on my own too (the staircase and the small bookcase); the reason for this was either the lack of reference or the dislike of it.
The radiators started off as instanced boxes with an edit poly modifier applied to them, so I could model the connections between them - again using the slice plane command, extruding the new polygons and chamfering some of the edges. At the top of the modifier stack there is a meshsmooth modifier, which makes the radiators look like they're supposed to. The pipes are just renderable splines; the connections to the radiator and the walls and also the knob are modified cylinders.
I tried to match the chairs and table from Henri van de Velde as close as possible to the reference pictures, which wasn't that easy, since I only had one reference view of the furniture.
I made the framework of the chairs from boxes and splines with an edit poly modifier added to them and then extruding, rotating and adjusting the faces. To make the task a little easier, I only made one half of the chair and then used the symmetry modifier on it. The cushions for the chairs are also boxes but with increased segments; I used the soft selection method here and moved some vertices to make the edges and the transition between the framework and the cushions nice and smooth.
The table legs are box modelled and the top part of the table is made of a few chamfered cylinders. The basic shape of the curved part which connects the top part of the table with the legs is made from a spline - also used extrude, inset and added a meshsmooth modifier.
It was a bit tricky to make the gramophone. I went for the NURBS modeling technique here to make one part of it. First I drew the basic spline for the shape of the gramophone, then I used circular array to duplicate it and so I got the edges of the shape made only from splines. Now I had to use the ruled surface option within the NURBS creation toolbox with two of the splines to get one basic surface. I modified this surface to get the rounded look at the top and then just arrayed this shape the same as before and drew some more splines for the remaining edges with the snap option on. The rest of the gramophone is just some modified boxes, splines and cylinders.
The staircase was one of the things I couldn't find a good reference for, so I 'designed' and modelled it myself. Nothing special really, I made the most of it from splines and just made them renderable. The spiral shapes are made from helixes, the bottom one which connects the staircase to the wooden stairs has also some height set up, so it looks like a spring of some kind. The balls are spheres, which sit at the ends of some spiral elements.
The ceiling light is made from some lathe objects, spheres, cones and splines. For the basic shape of the element which connects the light to the ceiling I used a spline and then added the lathe modifier to it. The spherical part of the light is made from two spheres, cut in half in the sub-object mode. For the small curved details, that start at the bottom, I used path deform. I made a cone, that had a few height segments and a spline (I had to use snap to get it on the surface of the light), that I used for the path. Then I applied the path deform modifier to the cone and selected the spline as the path.
The curtains were made with the help of the cloth modifier. I started with a plane, which had quite a few segments, applied the wave modifier to it and then converted it to editable poly, so I could fix the shape by moving some vertices with the soft selection method turned in. The next step was adding the cloth modifier - I could have used the garment maker to make the cloth behave in a more natural way, but the result with a simple plane was good enough for me in this case. I simulated the cloth and added some wind, ran simulate again and stopped it when it looked the way I wanted it. To give some thickness to the curtains, I used the shell modifier. Finally I put a noise modifier on top of the stack, just to make the curtains look a little more non-uniform.
That covers the modeling part of this tutorial, I'm not going to explain how I made the remaining objects, because it's just basic modeling and it is similar to the things i wrote before.
Texturing and Lighting
Texturing played a huge part in making this image. I changed my mind a few times during texturing and replaced some of the textures I didn't like, so this part took me, I believe, more than half of all the work.
The textures are mainly based on photo-reference, combined with custom made masks and lots of corrections in Photoshop. The shaders are all basic Vray materials with corresponding bitmaps.
Almost every object in the scene is unwrapped and has its own material with textures applied to it. I think there are about 20 or so different shaders used for all the parts of the image. I had to put a lot of effort to make the textures exactly the way I imagined them in my head. The fact that the scene is an old room, made the task even harder, considering all the dirt and wear.
Preparing the images in Photoshop
All the bitmaps are either high quality jpegs or tiffs with LZW compression to keep the file size smaller (LZW doesn't affect the quality that much so it's useful if you work with tiff files). The average file size for a texture is about 1 - 1,5mb at 72 dpi and around 1500 - 2000 size in pixels, but some of them are larger in resolution and size as noted below, so the maximum file size for the textures was around 4mb, I think.
The main textures (for example the wall and the floor) are in a bit higher resolution (about 120 dpi and 3000 x 3000 size in pixels), just to make sure the quality doesn't decrease, when rendering a larger resolution. This also helps to keep all the small details in your bitmaps, for example the small differences in the bump maps which can make quite an impact on the final result .
Texturing in Photoshop
After unwrapping all the objects, I had to get the UVs into Photoshop. Because I was working with 3Dsmax 7 which doesn't support exporting the UVW template, I had to either use the texporter plug-in or just take the screenshot of the Edit UVW dialog with the print screen button. I decided for the less accurate but faster and easier PrtScr button method. So I had to resize the saved screenshot in Photoshop to the size of the base texture which usually meant a decrease in quality of the UVW screenshot image. But that didn't bother me as you can always adjust the UVs later on in max if the finished texture doesn't match perfectly.
The two most important objects in the scene that required most attention in terms of texturing were the walls and the floor. These two objects had the most impact on the general feel of the room. I wanted to create a nice and cozy atmosphere, so I chose mostly warm colors, orange for the walls and brown for the floor. I actually had the most problems with the floor texture and had to change it a couple of times, before I got it right. Eventually I got a fence texture made out of wooden boards and cut out the most straight boards (about 6 or 7 different ones) and multiplied them according to the UVW map, then painted some differences on each of them just to get rid of the repetition. On a new layer I filled some areas brown with the help of the paint bucket tool (playing with the tolerance option) and the option "Fill all layers" turned on (thanks to Jure ZagoriÄnik for that great tip). That way I got a nice layer of plaster and set it to 70 % opacity.
The wall texture was a little easier and I made it a lot faster, although it consists of several layers and masks in PS. The scheme below tries to explain the basic steps of the process of creating it in Photoshop.
Texturing and Shaders
It is important that you know what you want to achieve, when it comes to textures and materials.
I will start with the wooden floor texture, because I think its creation best describes the basic principles I used at creating other textures for this scene as well.
The trick was to get the part of the floor where the plaster is a lot more reflective than the washed out part. To achieve that effect, I used the reflection map and also the reflection glossiness map. The reflection or specular map is used to define the area where the material reflects more and where it reflects less or doesn't reflect at all. The reflection glossiness map defines the areas where the reflection is more or less glossy and adds a lot to the realism. Both mentioned maps use the same color range as the bump map, from black to white. By the specular map, white means 100 % reflective and black means no reflection at all. Similar goes for the reflection glossiness map, but for the glossiness of the reflection of course. You may notice that at the wooden floor material the specular and reflection map are the same - this is because I wanted the parts that reflect less to also have less glossy reflections.
Other wood textures and the ones which contain dirt or scratches that reflect less, were made with similar procedures, where all of them use specular maps, but not the reflection glossiness maps, because it didn't seem necessary to use them in every case.
The curtains material was made with the help of the opacity map. I wanted some patterns to be less transparent, so I made a b/w map where the cherries pattern is almost white, which means that it has almost no transparency (black means 100 % transparent), and the other part of the cloth is medium gray.
Since everything else was more or less dirty or stained, I decided to make the glass on the windows in a similar way. I drew some quick dirt maps in a brown greenish color in Photoshop with a few different brushes for the diffuse map. Then I just converted them to grayscale, adjusted the contrast a little bit and they were ready to use as the refraction maps and specular also.
There is also some Vray displacement used in the process of making the image, you can see it on the ceiling lamp and the green vase on the window shelf. These displacement maps are just images with small white patterns on a black background.
2 Lighting & Rendering
For the lighting I used 7 Vray planar lights, one placed at each window. You can see the settings on the image below. That took care of the scattered, indirect light.
For the direct light that simulates the sun, I used another Vray light, but this time set to spherical instead of planar. Since I wanted to create a warm morning atmosphere, I set its color to a bright yellow/orange.
Additionally I used an HDRI image in the environment slot. It doesn't make a lot of difference in terms of reflections, because it is an interior scene, but it does affect the atmosphere in the room a little.
Render settings are nothing special: for the global illumination I used the Irradiance map for the first bounce and QMC for second. The irradiance map is set to medium (40, 40) - it was enough and I didn't want the render time to take too long (already it was about 12 hours). The antialiasing is set to Adaptive subdivision and the Catmull Rom filter is used to make the image as sharp as possible.
3: Post Production
Postproduction was done in Photoshop and includes some levels adjustments, because the original image that came out of the renderer was too dark in some areas and also adding volume light and the steam coming from the teacups.
The volume light was added on a new layer - basically I just filled the areas I wanted to have some volumetric light effect and applied the Gaussian blur filter to them, just to get rid of the sharp edges. Since I filled these areas with a solid 100% white color, I had to set the layer opacity to about 30 % and that way I got a nice transparent volume light. I could do it in 3dmax but decided not to, because it didn't work the way I wanted it and it would take a lot of adjustments and time to get it right and besides, it renders for ages! So I went for the post method which I think looks just fine and takes only a few minutes.
The steam was made in a similar way - on a new layer and just painting some masks until it looked good enough - I know it's not very realistic but it works in this case.
That's about it! Thanks for viewing this tutorial and I hope that you learned something new.