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Crystal Speculars

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Does anyone have tips to make speculars better affect faces for crystals?

I'm not looking for depth or to use PBR, I'm looking to make light faces realistically as possible, without relying on diffuse maps with lighting baked onto them. I've seen most people use baked lighting for stunning results with jewelry, but the necklace I'm working on has a large, cartoony gem, and I feel the baked lighting pushes the cartoon feel too far lol.

I have seen items make full faces light up in Second Life, instead of the directionless, soft light the generated AO map is giving me. Figuring out how to do it is another thing!

First picture shows what diffuse map with lighting baked onto looks like, second picture shows what it looks like with the generated AO map at around Glossiness 100, third picture is the generated AO map for the second picture. The first picture is ideally what the speculars would act like.


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There's a whole bunch of little things you can do to affect how the surfaces reflect light.

  • If you want the whole front of the crystal to light up, you might actually want lower glossiness, because it will spread the light over a larger area.
  • You'll also want to adjust the color of the specular, because pure white rarely looks good on any surface. A jade/teal colored gem should probably have greenish or bright teal tint, for example.
  • Another trick is to add very subtle glow (no more than 0.04) to the surfaces, because it helps soften the light up close (and appear brighter of course), but won't show up from usual camera distances.

Here's an example using 40 glossiness, 2% glow, and green tint: https://imgur.com/a/LSH1POf

If lower glossiness doesn't cause enough light to catch on the front of the gem, you can edit the normals of the mesh in Blender. You want to make sure all the normals point in the same direction, that way they'll react to light sources at the same time as each other.

As an aside, you can increase the resolution of your texture a lot if you remap your UVs. Even if you just use a mirror modifier, and maybe split the gem horizontally, you can get 4 times the texture resolution: (You can easily get even more resolution with auto-unwrap if you're just creating baked textures instead of hand-painting.)


Edited by Wulfie Reanimator
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