Here’s a non-humorous portfolio entry for a change. I’ll also really go into detail with this one.

The cool guys from Splashpixel asked me to create a 3D area map for one of their customers. The map was supposed to show the area around a car dealership and their service center buildings to help their customers with finding their locations.

Get things rolling

To get things rolling I did two quick renderings of their buildings to give my Splashpixel friends something to give the customer a first impressions and to get a feel what they like better.

3D area map WIP 1
First work in progress rendering with colorful materials.
3D area map WIP 1
Second work in progress rendering shows different materials to see what the customer likes better.

You can see that not too much time was spent on these two renderings. Their purpose was to show different material styles and the lighting. They were meant to get the first feedback from the customer to see if I was on the right track. The customer explicitly wanted a sketchy or abstract appearance, by the way, so creating a realistic look was never an issue. It’s supposed to be a fancy map after all.

Modeling the area

These first two renderings were based on a top down view of the area. Soon after those renderings Splashpixel sent me photos from the scene and more directions. I had to zoom out more to show the important access streets and modeled the shapes of the buildings. In the next picture the bright buildings were modeled from map data and photographs, as they belong to the customer. The grey blocks are irrelevant buildings that were only implied to aid in orientation.

3D area map WIP 3
After receiving further instructions and on-scene photographs I modeled the buildings and important streets.

Then I fleshed out everything a bit more. In the next rendering you can see additional tarmac areas and a grass material on the ground plane. Also more details on the buildings. At this point the amount of detail in the shapes was enough to clearly identify the buildings so I opted to not add further details – it’s a map after all.

3D area map WIP 3
Tarmac areas and further details were added.

Adding details and descriptions

Now some trees and the descriptions that the customer asked for were added. The material colors were changed to look more pale, working towards the sketchy appearance I had in mind at this point. If you click on the following picture to enlarge it, you can see that the building hover above the ground. This is intentional as outlines would be added later and lifting the buildings above the ground would allow the darkest edge of their shadows to show up underneath the outline later. It’s a subtle effect but I did this kind of thing before and liked the result. It also allowed me to just layer the streets and tarmac areas above the grass plane without having to worry about Z-fighting.

3D area map WIP 5
Trees and descriptions added. Materials changed.

Now here comes something special: The customer had a pylon planned (that’s some kind of sign(post) or shop sign, don’t know what you call this thing in English) and wanted it to be added to the map. Well… that thing was going to be pretty small if I kept the real world scale but it was a very important request of the customer. It wasn’t too much work so I added it at the position they requested and even though I upped the scale a bit for the final rendering, it’s barely visible. So here’s a little close up preview rendering I captured while I worked on this object in Blender.

3D area map pylon
A soon-to-be-present pylon was modeled

Everything coming together

The important parts were now done and some fine tuning followed. After everything was to the liking of Splashpixel and their customer I worked on making everything look sketchy. I won’t bore you with all the details. I basically rendered the whole scene in two more render layers: One layer swapped all materials with a sketchy paper material and the other layer only rendered the outlines of objects. This resulted in three renderings (Colored materials, sketchy materials, outlines) that were combined and this yielded the next picture.

The finished 3D area map
The finished 3D area map

The scale paper texture wrapped around the buildings is nonsensical of course… but it looks cool. There was a time when I cared about unrealistic stuff but today I feel it often stands in the way of good or nice looking design.

Here’s a close up. The map was rendered in a high resolution to be ready to be printed in local newspapers and whatnot (always think big!). I’ve only spotted it on their website myself, though. I don’t read local newspapers anyway.

3D area map close up
Close up of the final rendering of the 3D area map

Alternate design

But wait! There’s more! Before I finished up that final product (sorry for my non chronological writing style) one of the cool SplashPixel dudes had another idea: The whole map could be placed on top of a cross section of the ground to make it look like a pedestal. So I gave that a try. It wasn’t a big deal. I changed the materials so be more plastic looking, extruded the ground and added an earth- and a stone-like layer along the height of the extruded ground. Then I added a plane with a wood material underneath it to make it look like a model. I used the procedural wood material by Dale Cieslak found on for this.

3D area map
Another pitch late during production

This pitch isn’t polished of course. The customer liked the sketchy design better so I never had the chance to improve this one (and get paid). I still think it looks pretty nice.

  • Type 3D illustration
  • Skills 3D modelling, materials, compositing
  • Tools Blender
  • Year 2014
  • Final product can be found on