3D Anime Backgrounds

I have been working on creating more stylized background renders from LightWave 3D using some techniques of my own design. The goal is to create backgrounds that fit better into traditional Japanese-style animation shows (anime).

I have made good progress but I still have a lot of work to perfect the new techniques. My current goal is to create a reasonable likeness of a background from the show FLCL (one of my favorite anime shows of all time, although it’s a bit surreal and probably nonsensical if you aren’t already interested in the genre). Here is the background I am trying to duplicate in LightWave:

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Book: Steal Like An Artist

Book cover of "Steal Like An Artist", by Austin Kleon.
Book cover of “Steal Like An Artist”, by Austin Kleon.

While I was on vacation earlier this year and waiting a few minutes at FedEx for my turn in line, I noticed a book on display titled “Steal Like An Artist” (by Austin Kleon). I only had time to flip through a few pages, but I was intrigued enough to jot down the title and look it up when I got home. A few weeks later I looked up the book on Amazon and bought it.

 The book is fairly short and the pages do not have much text. I was able to read the entire book in 2 short sessions over 2 days. And I have already re-read the book, which I did in one session while taking some barebones notes.

But although the book is short, it has some great ideas and suggestions for improving your creativity, as an artist or in any line of work.

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LightWave 3D Outdoor Lighting Tests

Last week I created a basic outdoor scene and created multiple lighting setups for different times of the day (and night).  You can see a simple clay render of the scene in my “LightWave 3D Clay Render Tutorial”.  Below is a simple radiosity render after I textured the objects.

A render of the scene using only Final Gather radiosity.
A render of the scene using only Final Gather radiosity.

Using this exact scene, I used different lighting setups to give the feeling of morning, noon, sunset, and night. All scenes use the same textures/surfaces.

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Week in Review – Oct 20

It’s the end of my second week tracking my goals and I am happy with the results so far.  I did not check every box on my list, but I did just as well as my first week.  I worked out twice, used Lightwave for more than four sessions, wrote in my log book each day, and meditated five times (my goal is to meditate every day; this is the only target I missed).

I finished some basic lighting setups for different times of the day, but I still need to put together the final renders into a post, which I’ll take care of soon.  You can get a sneak-peak of the scene and objects by taking a look at my clay render tutorial.  This week I want to try to focus on some cartoon/anime style textures and rendering techniques for backgrounds.

I also made some small tweaks to the site this week, like improving some style sheet settings and making the site a little wider to better display content.

LightWave 3D Clay Render Tutorial

A “clay render” is a simple lighting and surfacing combination for an object or scene that causes the objects to look like they are made out of clay. Clay renders are often used to view or show off the geometry of an object without the distractions of the various surface colors.

Directions (for a single object — if you already setup your own scene, skip to step 3):

  1. Add a “floor” object to your scene. If you don’t already have one created, use Modeler and create a large flat square named “Floor”.
  2. Add your object and arrange the object so it is resting on the floor. Continue reading “LightWave 3D Clay Render Tutorial”


I mentioned a while back that I was working on creating long-term goals for myself. I still haven’t decided on any specific LightWave projects or concepts, but that doesn’t mean that I should procrastinate working on improving my artistic skills. To help stoke my creativity, I have created goals that provide simple structure to my day/week.

Write in a Logbook (every day)

I got this idea from a book I recently read (more on that in a future post). Basically, I plan on adding a new entry every day to log what I did. It doesn’t have to be long or detailed, it’s strictly a log book. I can write as much or as little as I want, as long as I at least cover the main points of what I did that day. This is a quick and easy way to reflect on the day, hopefully to revel in the positives or, if necessary, to help work out any negatives.

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Editing and Compositing Software

My goal for the week was to evaluate several compositing/editing software packages and decide which would best fit my needs. I looked at Sony Vegas, Blender 3D, and Lightworks. (I ignored Adobe Premiere because I do not want to pay $20-$50 per month to rent software).

If you do not care about the individual results for each software package, feel free to skip to the results in the last section below.

How I Tested The Software

Full Lightwave test render
An example render from the test scene after compositing all layers together.

I created a simple 1 second (24 frames) scene in LightWave at 720p and rendered out a series of PNG files. For each frame, I rendered out 2 layers — one for a foreground object and another for the midground objects. I also had a simple static background image to composite behind the scene. Finally, I also included additional channel renders, such as depth, specular, and transparency, to use for additional compositing testing.

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Goals for the week

Life has settled down a bit for me and I can focus on my LightWave hobby again. I played around with the software a bit this past week and re-familiarized myself with the modeling and basic layout tools.

One of the main reasons for starting this site is to document and track my goals related to LightWave. Now that I feel comfortable using the software again, I want to start setting some short-term and long-term goals for myself.

In the very short-term, my goals are simple:

  • Figure out my long-term goals and deadlines and post them to this site (deadline: Oct 6)
  • Evaluate different compositing and non-linear editing (NLE) software to find a pipeline that works best for me (deadline: Oct 6)

I have used Sony Vegas in the past for both compositing and NLE, but it’s been so long that the last version I used was 6.0 (the current version is 12). After doing some initial research, I have found three different products to evaluate:

I am going to evaluate each product separately as a compositor and an editor, which means I may decide to use a different program for each function. However, my goal is to only spend money on one product (which ultimately means that I will not use Vegas as a compositor and Lightworks as an editor, which I believe is the only combination that would force me to pay for two products).

Still setting up house…

I’m still setting up the site and unable to focus much time LightWave yet, so I thought I’d share a little more about myself.

You already have an idea where I live.  I also grew up in the suburbs, so I already knew what to expect after we moved.  I went to college at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, where I majored in Computer Engineering.  I now work as a software engineer.  But, since I already spend a lot of my life focusing on software, I don’t plan on posting about programming on this site.

The best part of my current job is that I work from home every day.  I’m often asked how I stay focused enough to work from home successfully; my usual answer is, “Because I want to keep receiving a paycheck.”  A lot of my company’s employees work from home, and we are equipped well to perform our jobs regardless of our actual location.  Working from home gives me a lot of freedom in my personal life, because I can easily schedule small breaks into my work day for running errands and personal tasks.

Working from home also makes it easier to spend time with my wife.  She has a pretty demanding job, so it works out well for her and our relationship that I can take care of a lot of the little details in our household.  And since I have such a flexible schedule, it’s easier to spend time together despite her tough schedule.