Create a medieval kitchen
Pietro Chiovaro shares his full workflow for the creation of a medieval kitchen using Blender and Quixel
Pietro Chiovaro shows how to use Blender and Quixel Bridge to make a detailed interior
Pietro is a freelance 3D artist. An expert in the creation of game assets and environments, he is currently developing a new game. www.pietrochiovaro.com
This medieval kitchen was created in just four days using Blender 2.9, the newest version of the software. Some assets and materials were sourced from the Quixel Megascans library, exported thanks to the companion app Quixel Bridge. Quixel Megascans is a massive online scan library of high-resolution, consistent PBR calibrated surface, vegetation, and 3D scans, also including desktop applications for managing, mixing, and exporting your downloaded scan data. One of those is Bridge, the best solution for exporting those models.
In these steps I will demonstrate the full workflow behind this interior to help you create your own medieval kitchen and many other environments using the Quixel tools.
Smart UV Project This script projection unwraps the selected faces of a mesh, and it operates on all selected mesh objects.
01 PLANIMETRY AND BLOCKOUT
Once you have a clear idea of the environment and location, we’ll start with creating a simple planimetry of the room (the kitchen) and create a blockout of the scene. At the beginning I started with a rectangular shape, and I created some window holes, the door, and the chimney using primitive geometry such as cubes and planes. I decided to give an ‘L’ shape to the room planimetry to add dynamism to the scene, and to enable me to place additional elements like wine barrels, here I created another door.
02 DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL QUIXEL BRIDGE
Once we have the base scene ready, we can start to search for props in Quixel Bridge, but before that, we have to set up the software to be able to import those models in Blender. The first step is to download and install Quixel Bridge. You can create a new account, sign in with your own, or with your Epic Games account if you are going to use these models for Unreal.
03 SET UP BRIDGE: PART 1
Once in Bridge, search through the extensive Megascans library for an asset you want to export. I made use of a range of different assets to build up my medieval scene. Simply select the asset you need and go to the Export Settings in the side panel, then set the application to Blender. Click on Download Plugin, and once downloaded copy the script with the path of the file.
04 INSTALL THE PLUGIN
Back in Blender, open the Preferences panel and go to Add-ons, then click on Install and paste the path of the script. Now we have to select the Live Link plugin and click on ‘Install the add-on from file’. Once done, we have to enable it by clicking on the little square near to the plugin name. Save the preferences to avoid repeating this process any time we create a new project.
05 SET UP PLUGIN IN BLENDER
Now the plugin is installed and enabled, so the only thing we have to do when we want to import props from the bridge is to activate the plugin for the current session. To do that we have to go to Import and click on Megascans Live Link. At this point, we are able to export models from Bridge, but before starting to export tons and tons of assets we have to set the quality of the props.
06 QUIXEL BRIDGE
All of the assets in the Quixel library have been captured using photogrammetry, which means that every model is really detailed, realistic, and at the same time really heavy to manage. Fortunately, Quixel also provides the models optimized with different levels of details in terms of polygons and texture resolution. For this reason, before we can start to export models, we need to set the right quality for our workstation – the number of polygons and the texture quality is related to our PC specs.
The Nishita sky texture is one of the new features added in Blender 2.9. This new ‘sky type’ brings a photorealistic sky model that allows us to work without HDRIS. It's a great tool and really user friendly, but unfortunately it is not implemented in Blender Eevee, and can only be used in Cycles.
07 SET UP BRIDGE: PART 2
Since I can’t provide a value for every kind of existing workstation, I’m going to share with you the values that I found work best with most computers. So for the LOD resolution, I suggest you select 4 or 5, while for the quality of the textures I suggest you set it to 2K. Here you can even select the type of textures that you want to download; personally I used the default option, but you can also download them in relation to the software in which you plan to use these assets.
08 DOWNLOAD AND EXPORT ASSETS
At this point we can start to download and export all the assets we want to place in the scene. Any medieval references you collected before starting the project will help to give you a clear idea of the elements you need to download. I downloaded different kinds of vegetables, fruits, wooden bottles, barrels, tables, spoons, stones, bread, pots and other medieval tools to fill the scene.
09 CHECK THE ASSETS
Once we have exported all the assets, one important step is to make some space in the 3D area to place all the imported assets, so that we can check all of them and fix the materials or scale of the assets. This simple step is really important, especially before furnishing the room, to make sure that everything is working properly and to check if anything is missing.
10 UNLEASH YOUR CREATIVITY
In this part of the process it’s time to get creative and use your interior design skills, as we now have a kitchen to fill with all of these props. Follow references of indoor medieval environments to help you with this. The only thing I did here was to select the props imported and duplicate them pressing Shift+d. Sometimes you may need to scale it a bit by pressing the ‘S’ key on your keyboard, and move the props to place them around the scene by pressing ‘G’.
11 CREATE THE MATERIALS
Once we have finished with our interior design, it is now time to set up the materials of the room, the walls, floor tiles, chimney, and the other elements that we created in our initial blockout.
In this next phase we have to decide which process to use; there are three main methods for the creation of materials, which will be covered in the next few steps.
12 METHOD 1: PROCEDURAL
The first method is the creation of materials procedurally. This is basically the same process that you would use in Substance Designer, so with noises, patterns and filters, mixed together to generate shapes, reflections and textures. This is a fun and innovative process, but it does require a lot of time and experience to do it properly.
13 METHOD 2: TEXTURES
The second method is to create the materials of the room with the use of textures like diffuse, roughness, metallic, normals etc. There are many websites available that offer great textures for free – one of the most popular is Texture Haven, which offers free textures licensed as CC0, with no paywalls, email forms or account system needed.
14 METHOD 3: PHOTOSCANNED
The third method is the use of scanned materials, which allows us to create material based on the real world for greater believability. In this case, one of the main sources of high-quality materials is once again Quixel Megascans, and as for the 3D props we imported, those materials can be downloaded and exported in Blender in just a few clicks. All the materials from Megascans are optimized for the most important 3D software, and you just have to set the resolution and the software to export to.
15 QUIXEL MEGASCANS MATERIALS
Since this tutorial is focused on the creation of a medieval kitchen using Blender and Quixel, I’ll take the materials for the interior from Quixel Bridge. I looked for some concrete, brick and tiles materials that match the style of the project, and I set the resolution in relation to my workstation (in my case 4K textures) and imported them in Blender. Before applying the materials to the models I did a quick Unwrap using the Smart UV Project tool, and then I applied the material to the chimney, the floor and the walls of the interior.
16 CREATE A CHANDELIER
Once I was satisfied with the result, I baked the lights. After placing some lights I realised that one important element was missing from the scene, a chandelier. Since it’s not available in Bridge, we have to create it from scratch; so with the help of concepts and references, we can draw a simple one and start the modelling process.
17 THE DESIGN
Early chandeliers in the medieval era were composed of two wooden planks used as candle holders. For this project I decided to make it a bit more complex, like the ones used in the later years of this era, so I created a simple iron hoop with eight arms (candle holders), shaped by a circle hanging on iron chains that have been modelled starting from a torus.
18 CHANDELIER MATERIALS
Regarding the material of the chandelier, I used a dark brown iron, imported from Bridge, and applied it to the model. Before that I did a simple UV map using the Smart UV Project tool – this helps us to speed up the wrapping process. Then I just slightly increased the value of the metallic of the chandelier shader; a good value is between 0.700 and 0.900.
Real time in Blender 2.9 Thanks to the new Eevee render engine, the gap between offline and real-time rendering has been filled. Now in Blender 2.9 the accuracy of the lights and shadows has been optimized and you can render faster than before, preserving the quality.
I exported the candles from Bridge, and once in Blender, I increased the Subsurface value of the material to make it react better to the lights that we will place in the future steps. Another simple method is to create the candles starting from a cylinder and then create a simple procedural material for the wax. For wax, just set a colour for the diffuse and increase the Subsurface value to 0.5.
20 LIGHT THE FLAMES
In order to complete the chandelier, we just have to light the candles. An easy way is to use some alpha images, so to do it we have to import an alpha image of a flame. We can use the ‘Import images as plane’ function and then select the alpha texture we want to use. With this same process, we can add some decals on the walls like cracks, rust, and other damages.
Open the Shader panel and change the material shader of the flame, and switch from diffuse to emissive.
21 ADD LIGHTING
Now the project is almost done, so in this step, we are going to place the lights and the HDRI map of the scene. For this medieval kitchen, I decided to use a few lights since my main goal is to create realistic lighting. So I used a point light for every candle in the scene, without changing the values, but selected a yellow colour like the flame. I used a bigger point light for the fireplace with a power value set to 700W, and one sunlight placed outside the room with a strength value of 1.000.
Regarding the HDRI, I used a sunset image from my personal library and I set the intensity/strength to 1.000. You can find a lot of free HDRIS on the internet from places like HDRI Haven.
Consider also trying different HDRIS to give a different atmosphere to the scene, or use the new Sky Texture available in Blender 2.9, simple and powerful.
23 RENDER PROPERTIES: PART 1
The render engine I’m going to use for this project is Eevee, Blender’s physically based, real-time engine that is a bit less detailed then Cycles, but lets us render animations and images ten times faster.
A few tweaks in the render engine’s settings will help us to improve the render quality and bridge the gap between Eevee and Cycles.
24 RENDER PROPERTIES: PART 2
The three things we have to enable in Eevee are Ambient Occlusion, Bloom and Screen Space Reflection. Basically, all the default values work really well, but my suggestion is to increase the Distance of the Ambient Occlusion up to 1M (metre), as this way we can increase the occlusion effect and the shadow of the props in the kitchen. Last but not least we can increase the value of the Threshold to 1.000. After that, we just have to press F12 and wait until the render is complete! •