Today I would like to share with you the post I wrote for Artstation’s Archviz Week about the process I followed in order to create my project “House in the Woods”. Initially, this project was only going to be composed of interior scenes, but I decided to practice with exterior images using the techniques learned in the Archviz Master that I am currently finishing at butic The New School. The truth is that I enjoyed doing this project because, normally, I don’t have the chance to do outdoor scenes and I found it a very good way to learn new techniques and compositions.
Usually, when I start an architectural 3D project, I begin with AutoCAD drawings simply because of professional deformation. In this case, I only had very simple PDF documentation, so the first thing I had to do before starting with the scene in 3ds Max was to transfer those drawings to AutoCAD.
To do this, I imported the corresponding PDF into Photoshop and saved it as a JPG image. Once that was done, I had to import it into AutoCAD, scale the image correctly to match the real dimensions, and draw what is necessary over the image without saturating the material I was going to work with.
Once the plan was drawn in AutoCAD, it was time to import it into 3ds Max to use it as a base for modeling. I started by creating the piles that support the little house and continued with the rest of the structure. When it came to modeling, the building itself was quite simple. Since I had all the splines made from the CAD and correctly separated by objects, it was only necessary to extrude each one of them to the corresponding size.
After that, I modeled the fixed objects (windows, countertops, etc.) that made up the interior and that are not visible in this image.
Next, it was time to create one of the most important elements for the exterior view I wanted to achieve: the terrain. I didn’t complicate my life too much; once the camera was placed approximately, I created a plane big enough to make a horizon effect with a little inclination. I applied a Noise modifier to make the mounds more suggestive, although in this first test it didn’t look as good as I had in mind.
For the finishes, I wanted to use simple and suggestive materials. I gave the walls and roof a light plaster with some roughness to give a textured effect. For the decking that serves as a platform for the terrace, I used an IPE-type wood that could withstand the weather because of the imagined location of the project in Galicia, Spain, an area where it tends to rain a lot. Although this is a fictitious project, it never hurts to consider the materials used.
In the columns that go to the ground, I used a simple concrete material since they are not excessively visible. Finally, for the ground, I used a forest soil material, with pebbles and leaves on its surface. For the door, I wanted to use a lighter wood in which different shades could be seen. For the rest of the frames, such as the window frames and doors, I used a black lacquered metal to give contrast with the walls.
While texturing I had already decided on the color composition with the materials, so now I had to retouch them individually a bit. To give more realism to the corners of the plaster, I used a VrayBump material to which I assigned in the Bump Map node a VrayEdgeTex map to round the corners a little bit without having to do it in the mesh. One problem is that this gave the impression that the corners had a Chamfer applied, something that did not look very nice. So, in the Thickness Texture node of the VrayEdgesTex map, I added a dirt image to randomize those corners so that they would not be completely the same along the axes.
On the other hand, to avoid repetitions in the different textures, I applied a VRayUVWRandomizer map with Stochastic Tiling and assigned the texture size directly there, so that in the object I would only have to apply a UVW Map modifier in Box with Real-World Map Size so that everything would be correct. This way, in case I wanted to change the texture size, I would only have to go back to the VRayUVWRandomizer map and do it there.
With this, I finished the materials of the environment and the house, with the exception of some later retouching.
Vegetation and Other Assets
Once the texturing was finished, it was time to add vegetation and different assets that gave the effect of a “House in the Woods”. I had never had the opportunity to do a project of this style before since I usually make images of interior spaces.
The first thing I did was to think about what kind of forest I wanted to represent. In Galicia where the project is located the native trees are mainly oaks and chestnut trees, but we usually find many coniferous forests, as well as eucalyptus. The environment was based a bit on my grandmother’s village, on the forests surrounding it and the memories I have of the summers I spent there as a child. I decided to go more for a coniferous forest, with fir and pine trees that draw the horizon, while embracing the house that is in the center of the image.
To arrange them in the scene, I used Forest Pack, a fabulous tool for scattering vegetation (although it can also be used for any type of object you can imagine). After I’d used three tree variations, an application on the terrain plan, and a Dense-type distribution, everything was configured. Now I just needed to adjust the density and the position of the forest by playing with the density.x values and the offsets. One thing not to forget is to deactivate the Camera Clipping of the Forest Pack, so that the trees that are out of the camera are still there and can generate those shadows that, in the end, look so beautiful in the scene. When I was placing the vegetation, I saw that the terrain was a bit flat, so I adjusted the Noise Modifier and the inclination of the terrain with the trees on top until I found a position that I liked.
It was then time to make the undergrowth’s grasses, shrubs, and small plants. With trees, it is not very complicated to distribute them so that they look good; but with ground vegetation, it is somewhat more complex, at least for me. For it to be beautiful and eye-catching, it should ideally have several individual layers, with different assets and forms of distribution that make up the total of the low vegetation. By overlapping the layers with plants at different heights, some of them organized in clusters, I achieved a more realistic effect. Finally, with the Forest Pack tools, I excluded an area to generate a small path to the house.
To finish with the vegetation of the scene, the environment needed a little touch-up. This was the scatter of assets other than vegetation, such as rocks and pebbles. In this case, I selected some rocks with a bit of moss to use in the scene and placed them by hand in specific places. You don’t see them much unless you look closely, but a forest is not a forest without rocks because of the terrain. Finally, I added some dry leaves on the ground, especially around the path area. Although the trees are evergreen, I did use some deciduous shrubs in the scene.
For the lighting, as you can see in the process images, I started with a normal VraySun and a normal VraySky to give basic general lighting in the scene. In this way, I could see more or less how the materials were looking as I worked on them.
Once everything was ready and I saw that the lighting with VraySun was not bad, I decided to do some tests with some HDRI to see how they looked. These tests didn’t turn out very well, so I decided to discard them and stick with VraySun.
After I’d decided this, I increased the size of the VraySun to have softer shadows. After that, I played with the position and height of the sun to place it in a location that would give me more suggestive shadows on the ground.
Effects and Camera
To get a depth effect in the environment, I used a VrayAerialPerspective effect. The reason for using it instead of the volumetric atmospherics of VrayEnvironmentalFog is that the latter slows down the rendering process and the aerial perspective gave me exactly the results I was looking for. I’d wanted a slight blurring in the color depending on the distance of the house to the camera so that we see in the trees that different tone that provides the depth effect.
Finally, to finish the whole scene, I changed the camera ratio to 1×1 to center the house in the image. With some minor adjustments to the camera position, I could finish the 3D and rendering process.
Post-production was a straightforward process. Many of the corrections I’d already made directly in the V-ray Frame Buffer, such as the correction of Highlights and applying a LUT to give a touch of color. After that, when rendering the layers, in Photoshop I adjusted a little the intensity of the haze provided by the VrayAerialPerspective. I also made some small adjustments with the green colors to desaturate them a little to avoid color leaks in unwanted areas.
To finish everything, I ran the image through Lightroom, as it gave me more control in some aspects than Photoshop. With a couple of color touch-ups, more highlights, white balances, shadows, and blacks, I had a good base image to work on. After that, I kept making color versions of the image before finally choosing the resulting image.
A scene of this type may seem simple initially, but if it is your first time doing it (as was my case) you may find yourself in some situations that you don’t know how to solve from the start. The best way to do this is to go step-by-step and try to solve each one in due time. Also relying on real vegetation sets can help us to make the whole scene look good.
I wanted to thank ArtStation for this great opportunity to show how I’m working. Also to all those people to whom I was showing my progress so they could give me their feedback on it. I hope you like it.