This Page is about my Studies and Experiences on Visual Beauty.
These notes are not base on any book or standard so its okay if you see someone saying something completely opposite.
If you want to use these texts or data in another website or blog please give me credit and leave my link at the end. Thanks .
NOTE: I wrote these notes for my self and some are really old, so not all of them may make sense to you !

My Personal Notes on Visual Beauty

  • its not about filling the scene with lots of object.

    its about making the proper image, a very empty room with one chair or even without that can look beautiful if you set it properly.

  • Avoid pure Sharp edges as much as possible

in Mentalray use Mia_RoundCorner
in Vray Use Vray Round Edge  Attributes > VRay > RoundEdges
in UnreaEngine Use a Proper NormalMap made with Xnormal or substance

  • Set sharp Edges to a different color:

    in some objects the edges are darker-Wet-dirty
    and in some objects the edges are white or lost their color, (like some type of Rocks ,metals or plastic)

in Vray Use Vray “DirtTexture” with “InvertNormal” chack
in UnrealEngine you can use a pixelnormalWS with RGB and some Power and multiply node to limit the dark envoronment (not so clean but good for now)
or you can use a Height Lerp with the assistant of your normal map and chose the corners
or just make an specific map for corners and areas where they had lost their colors

  • in most cases There is no Pure Material or texture (pure clean)

    even a mirror or a window on a building which reflects the sky, there is either a building,tree,glare, something on its reflection or window has some stain on it.

although you can use this to make unique and special scenes which blow people mind by its beauty. its rare to see clean environments but if you use everything properly you can make something special.

DONT OVER DO IT. you don’t want an ugly dirty world. just some stains and particles here and there.

  • Don’t make your model too dirty

Dirt is good as it adds details to your scene but beauty is in clean environment, those dirt that makes your scene looks better are not dirt anymore they are decoration and makeup and part of its beauty.
so use dirt-scratches-decals as long as it doesn’t make your model lose its shape or clarity.

  • Don’t Forget that its not just “model-material-light”, Post Processing can also make a Huge difference:

no matter how much you add detail to your models and materials and no matter how much you make the lighting looks good you still need post processing.

In pre-render use After Affect’s “Fishcult LensCare” + “TrapcodeSuit” + “OpticalFlare” + “MagicBulletLook (redGiant colorSuit)”
Some renderers has build in post procesing system “e.g Arion and NOX”
In UnrealEngine use PostProcess Volume + PostProcess Material.

  • Reflections can make the look of the model pretty different.

you don’t always need to have the real physical reflection sometimes beauty asks for fake reflections. cause other than that your model doesn’t look the way it should be.
in photography we add some large soft box around or on top of the objects to add those nice white reflections and we only capture a single view, but in video games those large soft boxes may not always work as you will walk around the scene and in some engines, only visible objects can be in reflections which makes it impossible to use light as reflection tool, in these cases use a cube map as reflection.
before using this technique make sure you game as well as that object is okay with fake reflection!
don’t go and add those fake reflection to a large table in middle of room which makes it obvious that this reflection has nothing to do with this scene, use it for small objects like pods, glass, cups, vase,…

  • Physical Accurate:

if you want things to look as real as possible you should consider physic, in light and material as well as your models:

in pre-Rendered: use physical base Renderers like Arion, Maxwell, Arnold which are physical based,
in unreal : unreal is physically based so you are good to go, just use proper color and specular values.

  • Bumps and normal Maps can make the object look a lot more realstic , specially the detail level, those small sharp bumps and hols (e.g on concrete and cement).

consider your model first, does it even need a sharp or detailed normal map !?

add 3 layer normal map. 1.shape of object 2.base texture 3.small details that are only visible when getting really close to surface
use height Lerp to make the top or inside of holes and scratches a different color.

and don’t forget about parallax occlusion mapping, its amazing

  • Don’t Make It Too Real:

what I mean is don’t rely too much on what you see in real world.

realistic is good but that’s not always what viewer wants, make it artistically beautiful. a little like in photography, it is real but the colors, lightings,reflections and many other things will change .
and don’t forget you are in computer you are not limited to anything you can make the most unbelievable environment ever existed.

areas: in reality a scene is beautiful but it has some part that usually can be better.
e.g. a Japanese or Chinese environment, in reality everything is fine but some one has make the wall dirty or during time a piece of a column has got fallen,I don’t need to make those if its not making it beautiful, when they first created that building everything use to be clean and fine and it was even more beautiful.

another example: in that Japanese garden photo with beautiful house and architecture and a fine static weather, everything may look good in your picture,why should the player walk in that exact environment.
you are in CG world you are the one who decide all the elements, isn’t it better if there is a wind and a lot of blossoms are flying in the air and some are movingsliding on the Ground and stairs maybe a tiny tornado like wind rises the fallen blossoms from the ground. isn’t it better if a rambling rose or an ivy was growing from beside of this column or wall and covers it. or event some plants with tiny flower grows from inside of that wall’s crack. water, rain,snow, seasons they can be change in a way that make your scene beautiful and a master peace.

  • always put a little more time on your scene to match colors and make a better harmony .

limiting you color is one way to have nice coloring in the scene.

in some scenes you are not the one who decide about colors there should be an specific way, like an street from reality, in those scene you can use post processing to shift colors to an specific style.
remember the Movies! those movies without any Post Processing and Those professional ones from Hollywood..

  • match scene color with subject!

like in that scene in Devdas, that they sing about that drink “Madeira”
the whole scene (atleast the start point) is kinda base on the color of that Drink and its Bottle

you can also use the relative colors.
e.g. if you want to match it with a wine , you can also use the color of the grapes

  • use vignette, specially if you want the viewers to look more at the center of view

but dont use it too much, nothing can make people say WOW like a Vidid scene where every thing is clearly/perfectly visible to you eye (clarity)

  • try to separate Background from subject.

this can be done by:
DOF (which in some case it also needs a little color correction)
Lighting and shadow
depth of scene when camera is moving

when showing something in a far distance try to having some blurry object close to camera specially when camera is passing by them (moving horizontally) it can be even large objects like columns

  • there are different situations that can give you success and you should consider them when making a scene:

-give unexpected to your viewers. in all aspecs (here on visual):
a single part surface made out of :
concrete and iron
concrete and silver
concrete and wood.
concrete and water
wood and water.
concrete and milk
iron and milk .
jewels and ….

+++ this is what I meant at the top of page where I said you may not understand some part, its even hard for me to understand  what I was meant by that ! +++

what gives that feeling in you like you are dreaming or make you feel like this day of your life is different, “you are not just seeing what you always saw” you are having a new experience , this is the core of videogame and entertainment. Morteza Ahmadi
( i though i should give my self an extra credit for that nice Sentence 🙂 , no !! you didn’t enjoy it! 🙁 okay forget it, continue reading)

-give viewers a memory from past:
something that they might enjoy or be interested in but now they don’t see it anymore. it depends on the age of audience/viewer.
e.g (a casete tape and Walkman for our generation or those old bicycles)

-give them the future

people are only paying attention to one thing at a time.
if you make them focus on one thing, they wont pay attention to other things around.

I can use it to hide the bugs in the game
spend less time on things that doesn’t matter and make them look at important thing,
make as much changes to my scene as I need to make it look good in the moment without player noticing.

  • Remember: its true that GOD is the best artist in the world but that photo that you took and want to recreate it

1. its not his best work!!
2. that photo is actually perfect in its own way but god didn’t plan that scene for your story or scenario.
3. you cant just randomly go to a place take a photo and say “well this is the best photo, god created this so don’t expect me to make anything more beautiful than this one!”
in most cases a scene can look 180^ different in one hour and just by changes in the lighting not to mention weather and season changes.
4. don’t bother your self with “God is created it this way so i should make it this way”, he has his own reason to make it look like that you have your own reason to make it look different, (e.g. when god created that landscape he didn’t wanted to guide the player to an specific direction !!)
5. many part of the nature is modified by humans, so god knows how to make this world so beautiful that you wanna faint but that architect who made that ugly building at the back sure don’t know how to make a good looking building. but you do! so feel free to remove or modify any errors that you see.
6. Consider Time, cause that’s how god is working, you are walking somewhere and it looks good but maybe god has a plan for future generation to make it look better or maybe that dry landscape that you are looking at, well that used to be a lake some years ago. (consider that: ruins were once a nice building, buildings are turning into ruins, plants are growing or dying, cliffs and rocks are moving,..)
7. think artistic first and then look at nature and ask god for help.

++ in case you don’t believe in god. just replace the word “GOD” with “Nature” , (we all believe in that thing that put all this in order and proper shape we just have different theories about it and call it by different name)

  • see how GOD is making the changes in our world to make the environments look different and beautiful and learn from them.

for example only in sky:
different shapes of clouds. different places that they have in the sky. (in photography sometimes you have a very nice composition and framing with buildings, trees or mountains but you still move to another location because there is an specific cloud in the scene that can really make your photo beautiful or you waiting for hours for it to change. in CG world you don’t need to move camera, just move that cloud.
lighting of the clouds, thickness of clouds, the empty spaces , rain bow, birds, color of sky, color of clouds , the size of sun, lens flare and glares.

By: Morteza Ahmadi