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Carolina ReaperIllustration

Tools:
Blender
Finished Carolina Reaper Render

This project was birthed out of a random conversation with a couple of friends about the world's hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper. During this conversation I decided to look up the pepper online and was amused with how funky and peculiar the pepper looked in contrast to most other peppers. The odd visual texture of the pepper mixed with the name gave me the idea to try and create a 3D model of what a mascot for the pepper would look like. The visual popped in my head and I quickly took a flash card I had on my desk and drew out an EXTREMELY rough concept. With that my plan for the weekend was formed. I proceeded to spend the weekend working on concepts and modeling the 3D illustration you see above.

The sketch itself was done at my place of work. I did it quickly to extract the visual I saw in my head. I found this to be a good practice to keep up with as sometimes I forget some of the details I want to incorporate when I first thought of the idea.

Conception Sketch

Modeling the pepper was, of course, the most time consuming part of this project. I wanted to give the pepper a look that said it was cute but also slightly dangerous. I found that balance in giving it a big smile with large dagger-like teeth.

Giving the model its bubbly texture took some work in messing with Blender's sculpting tools. Finding a balance between too bumpy and not enough was tricky and required using a high level of subdivisions for detail.

The stem was a part I used to give the pepper a little more character and incorporate a little more funk. I modeled it with a couple of bends that gave it a wavy asymmetrical feel.

Pepper T-Pose Wireframe

To give the pepper a little more ferocity I modeled it with sharp fingers, claw-like in shape. Seeing the fingers grasping the scythe in the rendered shot is one of my favorite parts of how this render turned out.

To bring back balance to the cute side, I modeled the feet to have an elf-like curl.

After a few render tests, moving lights around the model to see how well the bumps and features looked on a stage, I started working on the color materials. The peppers in real life vary in color. Some are solid bright red while others are orange or are a mixture of both. I decided to give the tail of the pepper just a hint of orange and keep the rest of the body bright red.

I infused a noise bump texture to the body for an added level of wrinkly-ness.

Gradient Material Result

The scythe was relatively easy to create. Using Blender's deformation tool I was able to create a sort of aged wood effect for the staff. The blade color material took more time to create than the actual mesh itself. Blade metal has a hint of blue tint to it that you wouldn't notice until you color it gray and realize something is off. But there is a fine margin between not enough blue and too much when coloring a metal object.

Scene Asset Collection

Once the pepper was done, I had to create a few assets for the scene to make it feel more realized. The cactus took some time to create. I spent too much time trying to figure out the balance of cartoon / realism for the cactus. That is one thing I like about 3D illustrations; you can make cartoonish designs feel like they exist in a real world space. However, with that opportunity comes the disadvantage of sometimes not knowing which side to dip into more. Initially my cactus looked too real and didn't quite match the pepper's aesthetic. I scrapped the initial cactus design and created a more traditional / cliche design for the cactus.

After the cactus, I was able to make the sand floor and the skull with hardly any second-guessing or re-working.

Zoomed Out View Of Composed Scene

Once all the scene assets were created, it was time to set up the scene and figure out exactly what angle I wanted to position the camera. I initially thought I'd complete the sunset background in Photoshop, but after doing a small test using a gradient / emission material for the sun, I realized I was able to complete the scene in Blender. I aligned all the elements together in front of the camera and the final touch was adding the "Carolina Reaper" text into the scene.

And that was a weekend well spent honing my 3D modeling skills and creating a piece of art I am proud to say I made.

Oh and the company that created and sells Carolina Reapers liked it too!!!

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