Blender Experiments - Toon Shaded Shadows and Gobos

October 10, 2023

It's Sunday and I'm experimenting with toon shaded shadows in Blender. As you do.

I've always struggeled with shadows, since they're really hard to nail using these shaders.

Anyway, I modeled a basketball and a court. Cool. It's really simple but the ball was good modeling practice. It looks something like this.

Basketball court

Okay, so that's great and all. However, I feel like the court is lacking some shadows.

I've always loved shadows that are being thrown by things out of frame. Like buildings. Like people. Like trees. So why not just Google some free tree sihouette JPEG's and throw them in?

Transparent image silhouette shadow setup
Basketball court with jagged shadows

Well that's not very beautiful.

I think the problem comes from the silhouette being too detailed while not detailed enough to actually "sell" the trees as trees.

These trees would probably have worked in a "traditional" 3D setting, where shadows are super smooth and the details of whatever throwing shadows doesn't really matter.

But what if we go into the overall shadow settings and decrease the cascade size? This should smoothen out the shadows.

Cascade size settings
Shadows with lower cascade size

Yeah, not much better.

The jagged edge problem is kinda solved, but it creates an even stranger effect with rounded jagged edges. Not what I want. Let's continue.

What if I use the soft shadow setting instead?

Soft shadow settings
Soft shadows

Yeah, nah. This shadow effect is "too realistic" for this type of illustration. It doesn't really fit the flat style.

So let's just play around a bit instead.

What if we add some noise nodes that manipulates the tree silhouette? This could possibly dissolve the image into some kind of smoother, but not too smooth, shadows?

Musgrave noise node affecting the shadow silhouette
Musgrave noise shadows

Hmm, maybe not exactly what I was looking for. But actually kinda cool. Let's keep going.

Wave noise shadows

The wave texture noise node is weird. Kinda cool as well. The court almost look like water.

Magic texture shadows

Now things are getting weird. Too weird.

What if we instead use a noise node that manipulates a noise node that manipulates the shadows?

Double noise setup
Noise texture manipulating voronoi texture

Haha nah. This looks more and more like water (which tbh also could be a cool effect). But that's not what we're going for.

But what if I just use another image of some simpler shapes of some vector plants and leaves? Something that usually could be found in illustrations like these?

Simple plants shadows

There we go. Finally. That actually looks pretty cool.

And look at the shadows bending over the ball. So much better than anything I could achieve manually in my 2D illustrations. That's why I love 3D.

The shadow setup is also really simple. It's just an image that I found online, but that easily could be created by myself in 2D. The only hard thing is positioning the image in a place where light goes through it and throw the prettiest shadows.

Simple shadow setup

That's all for tonight.