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How To Cook Scrumptious Ghibli-Style Dishes In Blender

Rabia Türkoğlu has shown us how her mouth-watering dishes were created using Blender and its Grease Pencil tool, sharing her tips on how to set up an anime-like smoke effect and outlines.

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Hello, I am Rabia Türkoğlu, a 3D Artist. I have been interested in 3D designs for about 4 years. After the 3D modeling course I took at the university, I decided that this is what I wanted to do, and I have been trying to improve myself since then. 

I owe most of the skills I have acquired on my journey to the tutorials I watched on YouTube. The 3 years I spent in the animation industry taught me a lot about industry standards. I have contributed to 2 animated films and 2 animated series in my full-time job, and the knowledge I learned and the revisions I received there are, of course, reflected in my personal work. 

Anime-Style Food Challenge

I've always been a big fan of Studio Ghibli movies. The food scenes in Ghibli movies have always intrigued me. The food scenes in these movies leave an impression on me, like a hot soup on a cold day. So, I rolled up my sleeves to make scenes like this and got to work. 

I set myself a challenge in terms of continuity, and I'm still doing it. Although I started out using food concepts from the movies, later I decided to make my favorite dishes that warm my heart. 

The Modeling Pipeline

I don't know if you've ever had kimchi stew before, but seeing this dish warms my heart and makes my mouth water. I decided that such a dish would be nice on these cold days, and I started modeling by finding reference images. 

Based on the videos I watched before, I decided that Blender was the best software to provide a 2D view to 3D models, so I started visualizing the kimchi stew. As a result of the references I looked at, I decided that I first needed to make a soup and tofu, scallions, kimchi, and appetizers. I needed things like smoke and bubbling effect to add warmth to this dish, but I didn't know how to do it. So I started researching. When I combined the techniques I learned with my own knowledge, a hot bowl of soup came out. 

There was no need for a special topology or unwrap for this project. I did most of the textures procedurally in Blender, so I didn't need to unwrap them. I needed movement to bring the soup to life and the Displace Modifier was very useful for that. I connected the Displace Modifier to an object and gave the object a location animation so that the soup had a bubbling effect. I applied the same technique in the smoke, and when the motion and shader came into play, I got an anime-style smoke effect.

To achieve the 2D effect on a 3D object in Blender, I created simple materials for each object and applied them to the others by adjusting their colors. The material contains basic elements like the Shader to RGB node that captures the 2D look. I also added a Color Ramp to determine the main color of the object, and for a better result, I added at least three shades of the color to create a painted effect. 

I applied these two main nodes to each material. I needed to create an oily look for the broth of the soup, so I added a noise texture to the main material and played with the scale settings, the resulting colors and shapes gave the soup an oily look. 

I also realized that I needed some outline lines on the objects to make the render look like 2D and here the Grease Pencil helped me a lot. I added a blank Grease Pencil to the scene and moved all the meshes I wanted to have an outline into a collection. Then I added the Line Art modifier to the blank Grease Pencil, selected the collection of meshes, and baked the line plus since there was camera movement in my scene. This step was to prevent the outline from distorting when the camera angle changed. Thus, I obtained a clean line art. 

As I mentioned before, I used the Displace Modifier for the smoke, but it was not enough for the smoke look. I made an alpha shader for a transparent look. I mixed noise texture and gradient texture for movement and animated the location of the noise texture.

The soup material:

The smoke material:

I used the Grease Pencil to create outlines for my project. I think outlines are one of the most important elements to capture a 2D image. With the Grease Pencil, you can make 3D sketches in 3D software, and you can also choose whether they are affected by the lights in the scene or not. The tiny search lines added with the Grease Pencil give the render a more anime-like 2D effect. 

After adjusting the composition to look good to my eye, I wanted to give movement to the materials on the soup. I added a keyframe at location Z and added the Noise Modifier in the Graph Editor so that I had materials floating on the soup.


For lighting, I added a main light source and a fill light. I chose simple lighting so that it is not too complicated, and the shaders are fed from a single source. I used the Eevee render engine. I increased the cube size and cascade size to 4096px to get better shadows. It is also important to set the view to transform to the Standard Setting in Color Management for flatter images, as this greatly affects the colors. 

I noticed that there is always a soft image in the food scenes in anime movies to capture this image. I activated Bloom in the Eevee and played with the settings until I set a dominant color and got the image I wanted.

Tips And Advice

I think the main key to making delicious stylized food is, first of all, love to eat. Maybe we should add some love between the ingredients. Joking aside, of course, like any other concept work, I think good preliminary research and examination is to see the differences between reality and drawing and combine them. It is very important to look at the works of other artists. 

My advice for beginners is to choose a dish they like, get to work right away and don't be afraid of making mistakes. As long as there are mistakes, we make progress. I have made a lot of mistakes in my 3D career and I continue to do so, but that doesn't stop me from trying new things! 

Rabia Türkoğlu, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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