Professional Services
Order outsourcing

The Craft of Hand-Painted Food for Games

Jasmin Habezai-Fekri talked about her approach to stylized assets, sharing some techniques and advice on the way to create appetizing food in 3d.

Jasmin Habezai-Fekri talked about her approach to stylized assets, sharing some techniques and advice on the way to create appetizing food in 3d.

Handpainted Taiyaki Ice Cream by Curlscurly on Sketchfab

Food series

I always look for ways to elevate my digital painting skills to another level. The most important aspect of handpainted textures is knowing about different materials and their interaction with light and shadows. I felt like doing studies of objects that I would never really consider creating that would help me to push my knowledge in this area and get me out of my comfort zone of creating textures and objects that are considered “typically handpainted” and belong to fantasy settings. My initial inspiration was sparked by seeing @yasuta_kaii32′s food illustrations and material study challenges, in which artists paint cubes of various materials such as grass, ice cream, stone etc. I felt like it would be interesting to transfer these studies into 3D. This way, I’d practice creating quick, little models with interesting shapes and textures that look appealing from any angle, not just in 2D. The first model I created in this whole series was a simple fried egg on toast. Realizing how interesting it was to texture these everyday food objects in a handpainted and stylized way, started my journey in creating a whole banquet of various foods in the long term.


The key aspect of modeling low poly food is a ton of reference gathering and understanding the main shapes of the food. While doing so, it requires a lot of iteration and trial/error to get to a mesh that doesn’t make the food look too blocky but at the same time doesn’t lose itself in unnecessary details. During the time I created these studies, I gathered a big library of reference pictures from the different dishes I wanted to make from various angles to make sure the model is true to the original food and does not lose its appeal in terms of shapes from all viewpoints. I always set up a series of photo references inside Blender as a background to being able to check every so often with the proportions. However, another aspect I had to consider was the polycount. I did not want to create a model, that cannot be used for game purposes since my focus is 3D art that is suitable for games.

Generally, my process is recognizing the main shapes of the model from the references, breaking it into different parts and determine its important characteristics. For example with the Taiyaki, the cone has typical parts of a fish: the main body and different fins. At first, I wanted to model out the eye and individual scales, however, this would take away from the actual goal of this series: learning about materials and giving handpainted textures more depth due to the low poly count of the models.


While my focus was on being quick and not spend too much time on each model, I took great care about having UVs that enables me to treat the model as a free canvas, on which I can paint the light in and only rely on painting. On the Sushi model, for instance, I reused the rice texture for both sushi and mirrored them in the middle. Same goes for the tentacle, on which I only drew 3 individual suckers and then rearranged them cleverly onto the model to make it less noticeable but keep the handpainted effect. A lot of the model parts, however, are uniquely mapped (such as the croissant, Gyoza and Cream of the Taiyaki Ice cream) to achieve non-repetitive painting process with the opportunity to get as detailed as possible with the materials.


In terms of painting, I created all the textures inside Blender with the use of its texture painting set up in which you can directly paint onto the model. I relied heavily on a simple round hard edged brush and sometimes a smooth brush to create the highlight effects. The big difference with these textures however compared to my previous environment dioramas is that I did not want to use any dynamic light sources but painted in the light from a fixed light source into the diffuse texture. This way, I had a lot of control over the intensity, color, and influence of the light in relation to the 3D food and could analyze better the role of the light in my gathered references.

Initially, when I worked on the textures of the food models, I did not realize how realistic some of these ended up looking. In my mind, while creating them, I thought they would have a rather cartoony look due to the simplicity of the models and the bright color palettes. However, spending an extensive time of studying real-life references (which ended up in me actually cooking these things for my own dinner most of the time) I started to go into more detail and render each part out more by looking at the smallest details of each reference.


The light in each scene has to be determined very early in the painting process to make sure that all textures relate to it. Most of the food models are lit from the top left with either a warm-yellow toned light that hits the top surface of the object. With the light source being positioned that way, I can paint in the highlights accordingly to that, which makes the lit parts pop out more. To emphasize the shadow parts, I usually choose a cooler tone to create an interesting hue shift and contrast to all the warm shades within the scene and piece of food. This is achieved by a gradient which begins past the lightest part of the model and gets gradually darker towards the back. To give each model a more realistic look, I also make sure to paint in shadows in different colors that would be cast by the object, for instance with the Salmon, I colored the shadow underneath it that casts onto the rice in an orange/brown tone since its color reflects on the rice.

Gyoza Model:

Handpainted Gyoza Dumplings by Curlscurly on Sketchfab


The biggest lesson I’ve learned during this project is to never be afraid of using references, especially real-world ones, for painting, even if the goal is to create stylized artwork! Actually sitting down and analyzing how the fried part of the gyoza looks like from close up, what makes a croissant look crispy without relying on normal map information or in what way the texture of raw salmon interacts with light is way more helpful than trying to copy a specific painting style. Whoever wants to create handpainted and stylized textures should have a great understanding of the real objects and their textures to be able to stylize them in a natural and pleasing way. I feel like I had a great leap in quality in terms of my textures in the past months thanks to this delicious yet educational experiment. However, a challenge I faced throughout these studies was the danger of getting lost in too many details, which can end up in making the models look too noisy. At the same time though, I learned that it’s fine to scrap a failed (and even detailed and almost finished) attempt and just try to paint again on a fresh canvas. In the end, it all just boils down to practice and determination to learn through these challenges.

Handpainted Nigiri Sushi Combo by Curlscurly on Sketchfab


Handpainted Croissant Dessert by Curlscurly on Sketchfab

Jasmin Habezai-Fekri, 3D Environment & Prop Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

Join discussion

Comments 0

    You might also like

    We need your consent

    We use cookies on this website to make your browsing experience better. By using the site you agree to our use of cookies.Learn more