Stylized Water Production Tips

Stylized Water Production Tips

Check out Eric Soares talk about his simple set ups in Unreal Engine 4, which helped him create stunning visual effects.

Eric Soares talked about his simple setups in Unreal Engine 4, which helped him create stunning visual effects.


My name is Eric Soares, but I usually use the artistic name Eris. I like to work with watercolor and 3D, cooking and, in the free time, go to the movies.

Currently, I work as a freelancer, with a focus on environments and shaders.

I worked most of my life making caricatures at art events and only had a job in the gaming market in a small company here in Brazil. I worked there for almost two years, on two projects: one aimed at mobile and another for pc, but the company never released them.

I spent the last two years studying game development. I was interested in Unreal in the first because of its material creation system, very similar to the blender that I have already a good experience, so starting from that, I discovered how powerful engine the Unreal is.

The river environment

The river environment was intended to test the shaders that I was developing.

My main inspirations come from Japanese games and movies too, especially one of my favorites Ghibli Studio’s Howl Moving Castle. The ways of approaching were by using hand-painted textures in almost the entire process, in addition to seeking a more stylized look for modeling. The main goal was to test how the shaders behave and if they were within the feeling that I wanted to pass the project.


There are few assets, I work with a simple concept philosophy for my projects, although the scenes can be quite fulfilled, they are thought and mounted as simple as possible, and the feeling is the most important part. In the case of this scene, I explored the idea of the nostalgic void. Blender is my main software, I use it in practically the whole process of my work. I have developed a workflow in it that join hand painted techniques with procedural generations, to speed up the work without losing the essence.

My method in Blender includes bake of high poly, cavity, normal, occlusion models and a diffuse texture, which is usually painted 100% by hand. I have not used other maps in this project.


I love plants, I come from a small city in the countryside and I grew up surrounded by them. I believe that the part where I pay the most attention is the vegetation.

The process is also simple, I paint a texture in Krita, make a simplified model in Blender and two more LODs. After imported in the Unreal Engine, I work the shaders, seeking for a simplicity in the concept. I made for this project three types of wind, to give a more natural feel to the final product.


Again, the secret is simplicity. I think in each element of the scenario individually, but I also think how it will interact with the other elements. The challenge is to always give attention to each part without forgetting the whole. In the case of water I choose for a simpler shader, nearly transparent because it was a small spring, the purpose was to give focus to the bottom of the water and the refraction. Almost the whole scene is surrounded by green and at this point, the bottom of the spring of a different color, and the fast movement of the water contribute to the balance of the scene.
Follow the water nodes.

Time costs

It took six hours to produce the scene, but I already had some shaders ready. I liked a lot the result of the shaders sets and they served as a basis for my current project. I believe that I could have made the scene a little bigger, exploring more the environment. This scene is part of a personal project called ‘HoS Zero’ that I would like to show you another time. The scene is running at 110 fps. One thing I really do care about is that optimization is an essential part of a good project, so from modeling to lighting and post process I consider this a lot.


My work with VFX is very recent; I’m the only artist on the project so I ended up having to get that part too and I’ve been trying to do my best. Yes the main inspiration are animes, after all my current project has a more aesthetic proposal drawn to Japanese animations. The most part of the effects are quite simple, they are drawn and animated by hand, with the frame rate between 6 and 12.

1 of 2
1 of 2

It is a mix of simple mesh and texture. The secret is on the distortion of the mesh, the texture runs through it and suffers deformation, and with a simple variation of speed the final effect is pretty cool.

The feeling

I think that feeling is one of the most important parts, but in the case of this particle, the speed is more important. The 3 main parts are:

  • A well-designed 2D texture
  • A simple mesh
  • And a variety of speed on each element.

This material is all unlit and does not receive or make shadows. In this part I control the velocity flow, separating the U and V from the texture to have more loop control.

And in the Cascade, it goes a simple emitter mesh.

Important parts of VFX

I do not know if I’m qualified enough to talk about it yet, but I think the project’s felling is important to understand the direction VFX should go.
I believe that optimization should always be a goal. Sometimes the simplest ways produce a nice and cheap final look.

High-resolution textures and complex shaders can affect the performance of the effect, especially if it takes up too much time on the screen. Again, looking for more simplistic solutions can save a few fps.

Eric Soares, Freelancer

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Comments 1

  • Peter Ashford

    I love the painterly style you've developed. Really nice work!


    Peter Ashford

    ·a year ago·

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Stylized Water Production Tips