I’ve been playing around with animating patterns in Hexels and then applying them to a simple 3d model. I came up with this simple but quite effective animated wave pattern using Hexel’s half-tone mode on a circle shape pattern.
The half-tone mode swaps the opacity for “pixel size” so if you make a pixel more transparent it appears smaller. It allows for very quick painting of different sized shapes, in this case circles.
This was animated frame by frame, so literally doing 20 or so drawings and then playing them in order.
The animation wasn’t quite right in Hexels so I imported it into Photoshop to change the levels and crop it a little bit.
After that I had to research how to actually make an animated texture. Initially I was going to use an animated gif but apparently that doesn’t work and all the links I came across were telling me I had to make a giant image with every single frame laid out in a grid, which seemed like a hassle. I then tried converting it to an avi movie but I had trouble using that too! In the end I used an image sequence which basically just involves creating a lot of pictures from your animation which are numbered in order, and then telling blender to use the first one, but then also telling it that there are 25 frames and it automatically sees the other 24 pictures and plays them in order.
I made a solid flat hexagon and applied the animated texture to it.
In Blender you can you can “mix” two different surface materials, so I mixed a black diffuse (matte) material with a white emission (light emitting) material and then used the animation as a “factor” in determining how the materials are mixed. When you do this basically an areas that are white become material A and any areas that are black become material B and any shades of grey in between become a mix of the two, the ratios of which are determined by how dark or light the grey is. Because the animation frames are fully white dots on a fully black background there is no mixing and you just get light emitting dots appearing on a black background.
Also because this was an animation I thought I would learn how to animate the camera. I tried manually moving it from point to point and then tweening (telling the computer to fill in the gaps of) the motion but it did some strange stuff, so I had to look up how to get the camera to follow a “path”. Once I figured that out it was pretty easy. I just drew a circle path and the camera automatically did a full 360 in the time I had set.
Lastly I hooked up my animation to the displacement output. I had no idea if this would work but it did! It gave me a simple bump map based on the animation, where the circles either appeared recessed or protruding. Ideally one would generate a normal map for this (bump maps are outdated ways of simulating topography on the surface of polygons) but for a little experiment it was fine. Normal maps take a lot more work to make.
This was my result… Well actually I nerfed the quality of this gif to keep the file down, but it kind of adds an interesting quality to it, I think.
I also added an animated simple gradient over the top in photoshop which is why the image is dark around the edges and changes colour a bit. I thought it just made it a little bit more interesting.
You can’t really see the bump map clearly so I made another variation where the circles were made of a metallic looking glossy material and the rest of the surface was a white matte material.
I also added an environment map (an image of sky and clouds) to light the scene and also have something for the circles to reflect that wasn’t just a solid colour.
I put another subtle rotating gradient over the top again, this time with a lighten blend effect just to make it a little bit more interesting. You can see the bump map much more clearly here. The circles appear recessed into the surface.
Just because I was having a lot of fun with this, I decided to do one more with a slightly more complicated material. The surface was a mix of glass (with a bit of roughness added) and translucent. I went back with an emission material for the dots. I wanted to see if the light would enter the surface of the material even though it was being emitted by the same object.
Also I reversed the bump mapping using a multiply maths node and putting in a negative figure so the dots appear to protrude rather than recess.
As you can see the light does reflect inside the material, which is pretty nice.
It took around 5 hours to render that animation because the materials were a lot more complicated to render, and it’s still quite grainy. I need to save up and buy a better PC really!
This is the set up I had for my nodes for the last one. Itprobably looks complicated but the set ups that experienced Blender users have tend to be much more complicated than this.