Sophie’s Progress – Balloon Text Project

Sophies Progress

The next challenge I was set at Lightmap was to create balloon style text in Cinema 4D, Modo, Maya and 3ds Max; rendering in Octane, V-Ray and Modo. The purpose of this project was to expand my knowledge and skill-set using a variety of software to model, sculpt and develop the perfect balloon text. My plan involved creating plastic and nylon metallic style balloons using  ‘HDR’ as my design, which may seem straightforward enough, but for a relative novice in balloon creation, it presented numerous challenges.


Part 1: Plastic Balloons

3D modelling is a technique I have had experience with previously as an artist, however, balloon creation is a complete unknown to me so I had to carry out research to find techniques and tutorials as a guide. During this process, I came across this particular tutorial which demonstrated the end-result I wished to achieve for my particular model:

This tutorial highlighted the ‘Mo Text’ tool within Cinema 4D, a very handy feature with a range of settings that can change the overall look and thickness of the text, resulting in a chunky balloon effect. However, the tutorial only demonstrated a limited amount of letters so I had to tweak my settings for the lettering and font. The images below display my model in-progress highlighting changes in the model and textures.

Work in Progress



Once I was happy with the progress of my modelling, my next focus was the materials. This important part of the design can make or break the overall result, so I had to find a tutorial which utilised both Cinema 4D and Octane to create a realistic material. The tutorial I used taught me the general set-up and methods required to create a plastic style texture so I could alter the materials for a more life-like render:

HDR Light Studio:

With the help of HDR Light Studio, I was able to easily paint lights and add highlights to specific areas of my model and scene which really brought it to life. The multipurpose nature of HDR Light Studio meant I could develop and use the same set-up for other renders in different software packages without having to recreate the lighting. Below is an image of my HDR Light Studio set up to show how I composed the lights for this scene:


Final Render


Importing to Other Software Packages

The next objective was to export the balloon scene and import it into Modo, Maya and 3ds Max to replicate the render I had previously created within Cinema 4D.


I found Modo the most difficult software to work with because it has a completely different layout and process for creating materials compared to the other software packages used in this project. However, with the help of the very useful Foundry Modo guide I was able to understand Modo a little better when trying to create my materials:

From using this guide, I found that the object has to be selected and a material assigned using the hotkey M; this process then adds a material layer similar to other software packages. The image below is my final render, which turned out to be very similar to those previously produced.


Maya and 3ds Max using V-Ray

To render my Maya and 3ds Max scene I utilised V-ray, a relatively new renderer for me to use within both packages. This inevitably created certain technical challenges, particularly in the material creation stage, but I came across these two tutorials, available below, that demonstrated the main process of creating materials similar to the those found in Cinema 4D and Octane.                   



Final Maya/ V-Ray Render


Final 3ds Max/ V-Ray Render


All Renders



When I finally started work on the metallic balloon phase of my project, the most problematic part was the creation of nylon effects and creased elements. I have never created either effect on letters before and it can be very tricky to get right. Luckily, I found several tutorials which highlighted a variety of ways to create balloons with the creased nylon effect. The tutorials I used are:

From following these invaluable tutorials, I learnt how to use the cloth dynamics in Cinema 4D along with sculpting tools to add further detail. The difficulty I found was making this work for the text as I had issues with it becoming too flat or distorted using these methods, therefore, I had to combine techniques, including trial and error, to overcome this problem.

Work in Progress



The penultimate stage of the project was to create the materials, a task which required the recreation of specific effects and imperfections found on real-world nylon balloons. The issue I found when trying to recreate these effects was how unrealistic they appeared when initially editing the material. This specific area of materials is definitely a topic I need to further enhance my knowledge of, but I found this tutorial really helpful when trying to create a realistic material:

HDR Light Studio 

As HDR Light Studio is versatile and simple to use, I could implement the previous light set-up for the plastic balloons, but edit and add new lights and settings to enhance this scene and highlight the main details of the metallic balloons.  Below is an image of my HDR Light Studio set-up to show how I composed the lights for this scene:

The Final Render



I found the balloon text project to be a fun and rewarding task, which provided a number of new challenges allowing me to learn valuable skills and techniques. The biggest challenge I found during this project was creating the nylon balloons because it was a new technique and there were not many tutorials focused on text or letters to help guide me towards the specific detail and realism I was after.

The final results of both my plastic and metallic renders were far from perfect, due in part to my inexperience in creating this type of balloon effect with creases. However, I was able to enhance my knowledge and skills in modelling, balloon style text, material development in different software packages, crease detail, nylon effects and nylon metallic material.