Model the Perfect Cup of Italian Coffee in Blender

Learn how to create a great Italian coffee using the open source software Blender, Gimp and Inkscape.


Here in Italy (especially in Naples) a coffee break is one of the most important moments of the day. In this tutorial will show you how "prepare" a great Italian coffee using Blender, Gimp and other open source ingredients. You can download my Blender file here.

Start by searching for some reference images (I used the coffee cups I have at home). If possible, go to an Italian bar and order an espresso. Take some photos at the cafe (from the top view) and you can use them as textures. Save the photos in a folder and open Blender.

Step 1: Modeling the Cup

Delete the default cube and add a circle (16 sides). Next jump into Edit mode (Tab key), select all the vertices and extrude (E key) along the Z axis. Continue to extrude and scale until you obtain a coffee cup shape. Don't forget to model the inside of the cup.

Jump to Side view and select two quads on the side of the cup. Extrude and scale along the Y axis, rotating and closing the handle using the Bridge Two Edge Loops command (Ctrl + E).

In Object mode set the shading to Smooth and add a subsurface modifier.

The next task is modeling the coffee inside the cup. In Edit mode, select the vertices inside the cup, duplicate them (Shift + D) and then separate them (P key > By Selection). Close the top of this mesh using the Extrude and Scale commands.

Modeling cup

Modeling cup

Step 2: Modeling the Saucer

Add a plane. Now add a Mirror modifier along the X and Y axes, before enabling the Clipping button. In this way we'll model only a quarter of the saucer.

In Edit mode, delete the extra vertex. Then, with the Knife tool, create the hollow for the cup and extrude just a little along the Z axis. Give thickness to the saucer using the Extrude and Scale commands, as shown in the image.

In Object mode, set the shading to Smooth and enable Subsurface. Model some extra objects to make the scene more realistic, such as a coffee spoon, some chocolates or a cloth.

Modeling saucer

Modeling saucer

Step 3: Lighting

The lighting setup is very simple. Position two large emitter planes at the sides of the scene, one with an emission shader with warm light and the other with cold light (also make sure that one light is stronger than the other to have more realism).

Use a small, front emitter plane to give highlights to the cup and saucer, and some diffuse planes on top to reflect and give diffuse light to the scene. In the World tab, set Strength to 0.

Light setup

Light setup

Step 4: Create Materials and Textures

The next step is creating the materials and textures. You can download the textures that I've used here.

Select the cup, jump into Edit mode and unwrap the mesh. Then export the UV layout, open the PNG file with Inkscape and create a nice graphic.

For the material of the cup (and saucer), use a glossy shader mixed with a diffuse (90% diffuse, 10% glossy).

Unwrap the coffee mesh, export the layout and then open the file with Gimp. Now use the photos you took earlier of the espresso as the texture. The coffee material should be glossy mixed with diffuse. The material of the spoon is a glossy shader. The chocolate material is a diffuse shader mixed with a subsurface scattering shader.

Material settings

Material settings

Step 5: Render and Post-production

Select the Cycles render engine. In the camera setting enable Depth of Field (Radius set to 0,05 and Blades to 5)

In the Render layer tab, turn on Glossy Direct and the AO channel, then set Render Samples to 1000, enable Transparent and hit F12. Save the images as PNGs with an alpha channel.

Open the composite image with Gimp, and adjust the levels and curves. Then add a new layer with glossy direct image and AO, and set the blending mode to Addition. Search for a picture of smoke with a black background and add this to the coffee as new layer. Add a dark background and now, the coffee is ready!

Final steps

Final steps

Top Tip 1: Improve Reflections

Realistic reflections are difficult to obtain if there is nothing to reflect in the scene. If you have HDRI files, then use them to make the scene more realistic. Otherwise you can use a simple photo applied on a plane around the cup and saucer.

Click HERE to see the previous tutorial in this series.

Want to start from the beginning? Click HERE to see the first tutorial in this series.

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