How to Create a Painterly Lakeside Cabin Environment in Blender

Florian Renaux, also known as Florenaux, has provided a comprehensive breakdown of the Morning Walk Project, particularly detailing the techniques used to achieve a painterly look.

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Hey everyone I'm Florian, a 3D Artist from Belgium. I started my 3D journey 4 years ago. I have a computer graphics designer degree (2D) and I was always interested in learning 3D. So in 2020, after I lost my job, I decided to take an online course (Cinema 4D Basecamp at School of Motion). 

From that moment on, I practiced every day and I knew I had just discovered my passion. So, I was inspired by Beeple at the beginning and I started doing it every day. I was still using Cinema 4D not so long ago and switched to Blender a few months ago. 

I started having projects for event agencies and music bands. I even had the chance to create my own online course at Coloso (a Korean online platform).

Why Blender and How to Achieve the Painterly Look?

Like I said earlier, I started using Blender a few months ago. Cinema 4D no longer suited me, in the sense that I didn't have enough freedom to create what I had in mind.

The fact that Blender is open-source makes it so cool to use. People are creating so many add-ons that can be used to create detailed nature scenes.

For the painterly look, I guess it comes from my post process. I like to add my volume pass which can add a more atmospheric look and also the color grading. When I do still render, I like to add a paint effect with Topaz Studio as well.

About the Morning Walk Project

My inspiration often starts with Pinterest. For the moment I like wide fantasy landscapes, so I searched for this kind of piece. Once I have some that I like, I put them inside Pureref to create a mood board.

I like to feed some of the work that I really like inside Midjourney to get something unique. Once the AI generates something that I like, I try to recreate it inside Blender.

Once I have the blockout of my scene, I like to be inspired by the scene itself and don't need the initial inspiration.

Composition, Blockout, and the Modeling Workflow

Most of my compositions are simple. I sometimes use a grid inside the Blender camera to better position the elements inside my scene. 

For the blockout, as I said in the previous question, I like to position my big elements like cliffs, water, and the main element of my scene, like a house or something else, so I have the right sense of scale.

Also, I don't model a lot (especially buildings), so most of my assets come from libraries like Cargo (from KitBash3D) or models from artists on Patreon for example.

Most of my vegetation comes from add-ons like Forestation, BagaIvy, Treezy, or Botaniq. I created a water shader that I put inside my personal library, so I don't need to recreate it every time I have a new scene.


I use some materials from Quixel. Sometimes I even create my materials with AI (Midjourney), then make all the maps (roughness, normal, displacement...) using Substance 3D Sampler and recreate everything inside Blender. ( I did a tutorial on my YouTube channel).

So most of the materials I use are from the library, and then I modify the hue to match the entire scene.

If you want a detailed breakdown of the water shader, for example, I first start by making a rectangle that will be our water surface. 

I go to my object node editor and create a new glass material and a transparent shader. I mix them together with a mix shader. Next, I put the "light path" (in shadow ray) node to the factor socket.

To add details like waves, I add a noise node to the normal socket of the glass material. Add a bump between these 2 and modify the noise settings. 

To add depth to our shader, I add a volume absorption. 

Lighting and Rendering

I usually use simple sunlight, with a fog that encompasses the whole scene. Usually, placing the sun at the top right corner or top left corner can provide a good result. Of course, it depends on the scene you're working on.

For the render, I usually like to render a few passes like the Volume, Ambient occlusion, Mist, and of course the main color pass. I'm using them in post-production to adjust the color, atmosphere, et cetera. 

Most of my animations are simple. I make a simple forward movement with my camera, and then I use the Camera Shakify add-on to make the illusion that somebody is actually walking. 

For the foliage animation, most of the add-ons I'm using allow you to use a wind animation. I like to put a small breeze, so it's more subtle.

For the post-production, I first like to denoise as much as I can with the Temporal Threshold option inside DaVinci Resolve. After that, I upscale my animation to 4K/30 FPS with AI.

After that, I add a sharpened node, noise, light rays, and fog. I also make some color corrections.

Challenges and Lessons

For a piece like that, I usually take between 4-5 days. 

There are a lot of challenges that you learn to overcome with practice and time. If I have to name some of them, I would say: get inspired (this can take a long time depending on your mood, et cetera), and have a clear idea of what mood you want on your piece. 

On the technical side, you have to be really careful to not overload your scene, so optimization is super important. It took some time to understand that (at least for me). 

One really important thing I've also learned is to take a step back on your creation when you spend hours in front of your screen. Like take a walk or something, and come back later.

This allows you to have a new look on your piece and improve it.

Advice to Beginners

If I can advise a beginner, I would say to take your time and not rush. Everything is in the process and the process takes time. It took me years of experience to be able to create pieces like that.

First, learn how to use the tools by following basic tutorials. Everybody knows the donuts tutorial by the Blender Guru, which could be a great start I think.

I started with the School of Motion course which is for Cinema 4D, so I don't know if there is a complete course like that for Blender. But I think it's a great start to have a complete course on the tool you want to learn.

There are a lot of tutorials on YouTube as well. Check Max Hay's channel. He has a lot of tips that you can apply to improve the quality of your scenes. 

Also, check Sweeper 3D which is one of my favorite artists. 

Florian Renaux, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Gloria Levine

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