Mini Zen Garden

Mini Zen Garden

Jérôme Farzamfar
by jeromefar on 3 Nov 2020

Mini zen garden props look dev and lighting mood exercise.

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Stumbling accross pictures of mini zen garden tool sets I quickly got attached to the idea of recreating a simple small-scale scene out of them in 3D and started to sketch in Maya.

Thinking of Japan-inspired cartoons and Japanese cinematography I decided to go for a mysterious night-time look with moonlight and hazy air. Even though the tools look quite modern and clean, a simple background of old bricks (as can be found in old Japanese temples) helped to sell the look.

My Work

I did the modeling in Maya and textured all the assets in Substance Painter. Lighting and Rendering with Arnold in Maya. Post-processing in Nuke.

After getting into look dev in Houdini for another professional project I wanted to use it more for smaller tasks and started learning some basic modeling, scattering and HDA creation, which is super fun and interesting to do procedurally. I used it to create the pebbles here. I will definetly look more into this for my future projects!

Most challenging for me was the raked sandgravel. Creating convincing sand textures to work on a simple plane turned out more difficult than I expected it to be. I ended up investing a lot of wok in the shader, playing around with the sheen and adjusting the height. For the rakes I actually took a premade substance from Substance Source and used Designer to modify the straight rake lines to form a circle, which I could use as a mask to blend over the base material in Substance Painter. I used Substance Painter for the first time to do some actual hand-painted texturing and I don't miss Mari a bit!

Shifting my focus a little more too the gardening tools themselves, I looked up typical product photography for hand tools and reintrodcued more atmospherical lighting into the scene along with shallow deph of field to put more emphasis on their mini size:

I mainly did everything from modeling to rendering in one scene (referencing workflow can get very annoying with a Maya home student license), but made sure to set up a relativeley neutral studio turntable scene to take the single assets through and to make sure they would all work in lots of different lighting situations:

I am always happy and thankful for comments and feedback on my work!
Thanks for reading :)

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