Tag Archive: 3D


A 3D rendering of a Viking shield along with a battle ax and spear hanging on a rough wooden plank surface, perhaps the interior wall of a longhouse. The shield is decorated with a black raven (Corvus corax) painted on red leather.

There are many misconceptions about the Vikings. For example, no horned Viking helmet has ever been found. Such a helmet would have endangered the wearer in combat. And dragon-headed ships were rare. Only one has ever been found. The dragon head did not survive, but the ship is decorated in such a way to suggest there was probably a detachable head.

The stereotypes and cliches began with German Romanticism in the 18th and 19th centuries. The actual Vikings, or Norse, were much more interesting. Even the word “viking” did not denote a people, but a profession. The Norse would “go a Viking”; to sail in search of lands to settle, trade opportunities; and, if commercial conditions were not good, to steal anything that was not nailed down.

Here I’ve rendered a Viking axe and spear, along with a shield, hanging on an interior wall of a longhouse. Click on the image for a full-sized view.

Methods and materials used in the construction of Viking shields varied with place and time. This reconstruction is based on known examples. Norse shields, in contrast to those made by other groups were often made from relatively soft woods such as poplar and birch. Intentional or otherwise, this helped the shield absorb blow without failing. And, instead of a solid piece of wood, horizontal planks were joined – as is indicated by the bolt heads seen on the front of the shield – to prevent spitting along the grain. Metal for shield rims was difficult and expensive for early viking Age inhabitants of Scandinavia to obtain as they had to rely upon bog iron. As a result, to further reduce the possibility of damage the face of the shield was often covered by leather and a leather rim strip was added. Both absorbed blows, protecting the underlying wood. The bowl-shaped metal boss in the center protected the warrior’s hand.

As usual, you can find a number of variations of this image, appearing on various backgrounds, at one of my Zazzle stores.

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Despite being partial to kayaks I have wanted to build a birch bark canoe for many years. I also would like to build a traditional skin-on-frame kayak as well. Any way for a number of reasons I’ve never gotten around to it. Now however, I have begun building a virtual canoe; with my computer. Once done, it can be used as an element in my art.

There are several styles of canoe; different tribes had their own traditions and construction methods. I have chosen an old Algonquian style as seen in the photo below:

algonquian birch bark canoe

An Traditional Algonquian Birch BArk Canoe

I am following this plan as a guide:

3-view plan of an algonquian canoe

Algonquian Canoe Plan

You can see the three views of the plan, with inverted colors, in the screen shot of the 3d modeler, called Art Of Illusion, below. To be as authentic as possible I am going about this “the hard way”, modeling each part, thwarts, ribs, etc., individually. The colors of the elements are a temporary measure to aid visualization. Wood and bark textures will be added once the model is finished. The red curves are the gunnels, though I think they are not quite wide enough and will probably redo them. Blue, green, and yellow are parts of the hull.

3d birchbark canoe model under construction

3D Canoe Model In Art Of Illusion

I will post updates as the model progresses; and then a textured render of the finished model. After that I want to model a few birch bark items, bowls and baskets; and then that kayak.

A modified Mandelbulb 3d fractal which reminds me of the Idaho panhandle. There is only 1 fractal in this image. The second and third hills are merely copies of the first; the image was reversed for the second hill. Adjusting the color balance toward the blue and the addition of “fog” gives a sense of depth.

green hills of earth

The Green Hills of Earth

An icy moon orbits a frozen world. You can decide which is which.

mandelbulb 3d fractal landscape example

An Icy Moon in Orbit Around a Frozen Planet

The mountains in the image above are merely a rendered 3D fractal. If you are not familiar with fractals they are never-ending patterns, infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. In other words, as you enlarge a fractal you will see the same, or very similar pattern emerge repeatedly ad infinitum as you enlarge the original fractal. This is called expanding symmetry or evolving symmetry. You are already familiar with fractal patterns, the natural world is full of them. Take a tree, as a simple example. The pattern of the trunk and branches and secondary branches is repeated as you move to the scale of branches, secondary branches and twigs. Another example would be the tiny rivulets of rain or melting snow water running onto successively larger flows until they are a large river emptying into a sea. Physical laws dictate that flowing water moves in similar ways at all scales. The same thing is true for coastlines at any scale; similar patterns reappear over and over and over as you look at ever smaller scales. As a result it is practically impossible to actually measure the exact length of a coastline.

The math behind fractals is very complicated, and I don’t understand it anywhere well enough to explain it. Even the experts are not in complete agreement as to how they should be defines. Even Benoit Mandelbrot, who is generally credited with developing the modern idea of self-similarity, fractals, in nature, once characterized them as, “beautiful, damn hard, increasingly useful. That’s fractals.” If you want to impress people at a party with how smart you are repeat Mandelbrot’s 1982 definition: “A fractal is by definition a set for which the Hausdorff-Bescovitch dimension strictly exceeds the topological dimension.”

So, enough with the heavy-duty science. You can find much more about the science of fractals on the Internet. I generally think of fractals as coming in 2D and 3D varieties. I do some work with both types, examples of which have appeared on this blog. 2D fractals are generally backgrounds or some other element; with the 3D fractals often being the mountainous terrain generated by various software packages.

Abstract, 2D fractals can be generated by a computer calculating a simple equation over and over. Here are a few examples, all made with the Apophysis fractal generator:

multicolor apophysis fractal

Brainstorm

swirling, multi-colored apophysis fractal

Gravitational Blueshift

orange and green apophysis fractal with a starry background

Quantum Entanglement

multi-colored apophysis fractal

Structural Iridescence

Then there are 3D fractals. I used a free software package called Mandelbulb to create the examples in this post.

This is a very simple one in which the 3D nature is evident:

simple mandelbulb 3d cube fractal

Simple 3D Cube-Style Fractal

Of course, 3D fractals can be much more involved:

blue mandelbulb 3d fractal

A Blue Hatch, A Red Atmosphere

red-toned mandelbulb 3d fractal

Alien War Helmet

And one I like very much – a habitat on a rocky moon or asteroid. The fractal reminded me of the cartoon-like atmosphere of some of the stories by the great Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem, author of Solaris, The Cyberiad, Tales of Pirx the Pilot, and many others. I added a few elements to complete the scene including a spaceship Pirx would have been proud to fly.

modified mandelbulb 3d fractal in memory of stanislaw lem

Stanislaw Lem Station

Science and art! Cool, eh? You can do this too.

Puppy Ray is a ray tracing filter included in recent versions of Project Dogwaffle. It can run in the graphics processing unit (GPU) of a computer. I have recently acquired a new machine which allows me to better utilize the GPU. Here are my first two experiments running Puppy Ray in the GPU.

The first is a night scene. I have a particular liking for such images perhaps because I have spent so much time living in northern latitudes where winter nights are so long. I also like the bluish cast common to snowy scenes and the contrast between dark and light. And the lack of illumination can make successfully putting together a pleasing image can be a challenge.

Then one when the sun is up, fjords. Water planes processed in Puppy Ray are semi-transparent, allowing for more realistic rendering; i.e. you can see down into the water. The refraction index of the water as well as wave height and frequency can also be fine-tuned.

Click on the image for a full-sized view.

Here’s my latest experiment in combining the best features of Howler and DAZ Bryce. An arctic coastline, perhaps Greenland; with the familiar Flying Moose Aviation de Havilland Otter to indicate scale.

The mountains were rendered in Howler. I really like the degree of control one has in developing the texture, or image map, afforded by the use of an image editor such as Howler. Howler’s 3D Designer has two adjustable light sources which can be of different colors, typically orange and blue shades, resulting in very realistic lighting.

The seaside rocks and water surface were rendered in Bryce. I was not 100 percent successful in integrating the two images; a bit of tinkering will be required the next time to improve the results. This image is a study or sorts; I want to make a similar scene depicting the houses typical of coastal Greenland with a whale breaching in the foreground, and improved floating ice.

Click on the image for a full-size view.

Rendering Trees in Howler

I use DAZ Bryce quite a bit to render landscapes. A useful feature is the capability to “stack” terrains. Stacked terrains offer a quick way of adding trees or rocks. Here’s a simple mountain terrain rendered in Bryce.

daz bryce 3d mountain terrain

Simple Terrain Rendered in DAZ Bryce

To add trees I duplicate the terrain then modify it in Bryce’s terrain editor. Generally I first add a bit of height and slope noise so the result will be more interesting. The terrain editor can add “spikes” to a terrain bump map. This can be done at several resolutions. In the screenshot of the terrain editor below you can see spikes added to a terrain map. The size and number of spikes generated vary with the resolution chosen. Here the resolution is very low so that you can see the spikes, they are not just dots.  Simple dots would probably render as cylinders, not cones. You can see a rendered view at top right. When rendered in Bryce some of the cones are truncated.

screenshot of daz bryce terrain editor

Adding “Trees” In The Bryce Terrain Editor

When the two terrains are rendered together the spikes of the “tree” terrain protrude through the original terrain. After selecting a texture for the “trees” there are a number of ways to further modify the terrain. By simply raising or lowering the tree terrain relative to the original you can vary the size and number of visible trees. Areas without trees and treelines can be made my editing the  bump map. Such tree layers work best for mid-range or background terrains. With a bit of work you can a quite realistic image.

bryce terrain - spikes, or trees

Same Terrain With Trees

I wondered if I could do something similar in Howler, so I rendered a terrain bump map with spikes, or trees, in 3d Designer; this is the result. The grass color was set as a reddish hue to resemble soil or conifer needle duff. Snow and rock were set as similar shades of green.

example rendering of trees in dogwaffle howler 3d designer

Conifers Rendered in Howler’s 3D Designer

As you can not work simultaneously with multiple bump maps in 3D Designer it would be necessary to edit the bump map to make areas without trees, such as on the peaks and steep, rocky slopes. A better texture map and some method of distorting the trees, so they do not render merely as smooth cones, would improve the results. Post processing might be required to distort them for added realism. I usually have to do the same thing for trees rendered this way in Bryce.

Here’s a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter (which you have seen before), operated by mythical Flying Moose Aviation of Talkeetna, Alaska, flying over a snow-covered mountain range. While Dogwaffle began as a 2D, raster-based paint program, Howler can model landscapes with multiple ray tracing utilities. This image, of stunning, almost photo-realistic quality, was rendered up in the 3D Designer utility. 3D Designer also has the ability to insert localized cloud formations of several types into your image. In this example you can see the leading edge of an approaching snowstorm just beyond the mountains.

outrunning an approaching blizzard

Running Ahead Of The Storm

Dogwaffle has an amazing array features – 2D, 3D, particles. There is also a large and growing number of video tutorials to help you figure out how to use them. Look here for more examples in the future including landscapes rendered with the Puppy Ray ray tracing utility.

A New Toy

Like most artists working with digital media I use several software applications. Sometimes I may use as many as six or seven programs to produce a single finished image; especially if it involves 3D modeling – whatever works to get the job done. One program I have used for quite a few years now is Project Dogwaffle. I began with the freeware version and was very impressed; it was also a lot of fun. There have been many updates over the years and I upgrade every so often. A few days ago I upgraded to the latest version, known as Howler. No single application does everything, but Howler is a very sophisticated, though generally easy to use program. In addition to the standard painting functions that you would expect you can also make animations. Special settings for “painting” foliage are also included and some time ago the ability to generate 3D terrains was incorporated.

I have been tinkering with my new toy and thought I you might interested in the results. There will be more examples and explanations of how I use Dogwaffle in conjunction with other software posted here in the coming weeks. I am always experimenting and trying to push the envelope of what can be done. My friend Philip Staiger who helped develop various versions of Dogwaffle will also probably be posting some of it and additional material at his website, thebest3d.com. He has also made some very good video tutorials. My thanks to him for his recent assistance.

As I said 3D terrain modeling has been a feature for some time and, like the other capabilities, it gets better with every new version. The ability to work both 2D and 3D in the same software makes some things much quicker and easier.

Here is the first image I worked up in Howler. I probably should not have put my copyright mark on it as I, more or less, slavishly followed the steps outlined in a video tutorial by Dan Ritchie who developed Dogwaffle. I really like how Howler handles fog.

Desert Sunset

Desert Sunset

To generate a 3D terrain you need a black and white image where the lighter the shade the higher the elevation; I call this a bump map. Here is a bump map for mountainous terrain. A simple, black and white, overhead image – think topographic map where the lightest shades are the mountain tops and the dark shades are lowlands. These are very easy to make by rendering plasma clouds.

black and white elevation map

Black And White Elevation Map

Here is a screenshot of the same bump map inside Howler’s 3D designer filter. Notice the terrain is a light neutral color. On the right you can see a panel with some of the many settings you can adjust.

screenshot of project dogwaffle howler 3d designer

Draft Terrain Render In Howler 3D Designer

The next step is to apply an image map, a texture, to the terrain. This is a simple image map made by again rendering plasma clouds, adjusting the color and adding a rock pattern to make it more interesting and realistic. As with rendering plasma clouds this is quick and easy to do. For the sake of brevity I left out a couple of steps required to add the snow.

terrain image map

Terrain Image Map With Snow

The same image map applied to the terrain bump map in 3D designer.

image map applies to the bump/terrain map

Image Map Applied To The Terrain

By adjusting a multitude of settings – elevation amplitude, illumination, point of view, etc., etc., etc.,  anyone can make a nice scenic view.

Here is another doodle I made. Except for the Northern Lights, which I made with other software, everything in this image was done with the Howler version of Dogwaffle on the same manner as outlined above. You can also make some very nice Northern Lights in Dogwaffle.

example 3d terrain render in project dogwaffle howler

Aurora Borealis Over Snow-Covered Mountains

One other thing you might find to be interesting.

Here’s a fractal image I made some time ago.

fractal magen david/star of david

Fractal Star Of David

After running it though the same process as above – I was curious what would happen – this is the resulting image with the illumination set to make the relief more visible.

fractal image rendered as terrain

Fractal Image Rendered As Terrain

I definitely recommend Dogwaffle to anyone, from beginners in digital arts, to professionals with many years of experience.

Thin Air

 

When making images I may use something I draw/paint from scratch, objects and landscape modeled and rendered with 3D software, or photographs I have taken – sometimes I make use of all three in one image – whatever works. I do a lot of experimentation. In this doodle of stark, high mountains I am trying to “automate” the irregular presence of snow rendered in 3D; so that the snow line is not just that, a line. I haven’t perfected the process, but I think I am on the right track.

In this case I applied a terrain image map which I made in the PD Artist version of Project Dogwaffle (which, by the way, has a very useful 3D terrain modeling filter) to mountainous terrain in Daz Bryce. I duplicated the terrain with a snow material. Repeatedly applying a variety of random variations (noise) in the geometry of the two terrains gave the effect I was looking for. A bit of post-processing produced a rather nice result.

thin air - snow on the mountains

Thin Air