Interview: Iván Batalla

Hi everyone!


This time Iván Batalla (first place winner of challenge 121) from Asturias will answer some questions and give us a look behind the scenes of his winning entry.

Iván Batalla
from Asturias, Spain


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Winning entry of Weekly CG Challenge 121 “Dieselpunk” by Iván Batalla



1. Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you

Hi, I’m Iván, and I live in northern Spain. I’m currently studying Concept Art, Illustration and 3D, although I originally was a Chemistry student. Around 2 years ago, I discovered my passion when I started using Blender, and since then I have been modeling almost everyday.

2. What was your main motivation for participating in the challenge?

I think that, since my first entry on the WeeklyCGChallenge almost a year and a half ago, my motivation has been to improve my skills and become a better artist. These kind of challenges are great, as they can make you escape from your comfort zone and explore other topics, and also have the community for feedback, pointing out what could be improved on your model.

3. Where did you find the inspiration for your latest entry, or in general?

As a child, I used to play a game called Train Simulator. It had plenty of trains, and I spent quite a few hours driving them. There where steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, electric trains… So when I read the “Diesel” part of the topic, trains were almost inmediatly on my head. A little bit later, searching through Google images for Dieselpunk, I found an image with a flying diesel train, and the whole project took form inside my head.

4. What software and plug-ins did you use to create this image?

All the modeling and texturing was made using Blender 2.79, although I used the 2.80 nightly build for material preview with EEVEE. The render itself is done inside Sketchfab’s viewer in realtime. The only plug-in used was the TexturesAtlas add-on for some UV Unwraps.

5. Are there any particular techniques that you use often?

I don’t think it can be called exactly technique, but as I usually work with Sketchfab, I have learned to fake realtime rendering on Blender Internal using OpenGL on the viewport. The results are way below the quality you get on EEVEE or Sketchfab, but they give me a nice idea of how it’s going to look, especially with the specular workflow.

6- Can you give us a short breakdown of your entry?

I began modeling the locomotive. I knew it was going to be the focal point of my scene, but I was still unsure about how it would be. My first though was to make it be attached to a zeppelin, flying through the clouds, but at some point it was discarded in favor of the bridge and wagon. It didn’t affect the model, as the decision was made before I finished the main body.

fig. 1 Main train modeling

fig. 2 Cloud mesh. Wrong approach on the left, final approach on the right.

This was a key point for the project. I knew for sure that I wanted the scene to be above the clouds, but I was unsure about how to make them. I decided to create an Icosphere and apply a soft noise displacement to it. That gave me a nice background for the clouds. Then, I added a bunch of planes using a particle system. They would use an alpha image to fake the smoky effect. But the problem was to make the colors right. I decided use a single point light inside the Icosphere and to bake that ilumination into a texture, but the result was unmatching colors between alpha planes and background. A few other methods were wrong as well. At the end, I decided to bake the light only into the Icosphere. Then, I added a Shrinkwrap modifier to the planes, so they would be superposed with the Icosphere’s faces. Then, I baked the color from the Icosphere into the planes (same way as you would do with a normal map from a high poly to a low poly model), and that gave me smooth and pleasant colors on the alpha planes.

After the cloud mesh was finished, I modeled the bridge, the robot, the cargo and the planes, and moved into texturing. For the materials, I created different slots with different Diffuse textures, and applied them to the desired faces. After baking into a single texture, I changed the Diffuse textures with Roughness textures, and baked again. And the same again with Metallic, Bump, AO maps… At the end, I could apply a single material to the model with all the info.

fig. 3 Creating materials

fig. 4 Testing materials on EEVEE’s viewport.

fig. 5 Editing the model on Sketchfab


7. What was the hardest part?

It was, without any doubt, getting the clouds to work. I mean, it’s not like it was actually hard, but it was not a matter of time and patience like modeling. Currently, Sketchfab doesn’t support volumetrics, so I had to look for a workaround. If it had not
worked, I would have probably abandoned the project, so it was a critical step.

8. Any advice for people who want to learn 3d art?

Yes. I would tell them to follow tutorials, but really learning what they do. Once you finish it, don’t jump into the next one. Create another scene or model applying what you have learned on it. If it taught you how to model a car, do it again modeling a different kind of car, perhaps a truck, for example. Feel free to watch the tutorial again, but just to remember how a tool was used, not to do it exactly as you see. I think that’s a great way to actually learn and practice what you do, and keep improving. So, be patient, and practice a lot. And also, listen to the feedback you receive!

Thanks for the interview Iván!