Florian Barnier - Sketch #59: Dark


Finished entry

So here’s my finished entry for this Sketch!

(by the way, you can find higher quality images at the end of this thread!)

It was a pleasure working on this and posting the process on this forum with everyone being so lovely! Now I’ll take a few days off, and then start a portfolio/sketchbook thread so see you there I guess!


Original post

Hi everyone!
This is my first participation to the monthly sketches (and actually my very first post there!). I have been willing to participate in one of those for a while now but could never find the time, but here we finally are!

The idea (at least for now) is to have some sort of gooey, dark puddle from which some arms will come out and move around, maybe grabbing some nearby objects too. I want to make it look like the arms are just extensions of the puddle itself, rather than it being some sort of portal through which they come out.
Here are a few rough sketches of the idea:

So I started with the puddle itself!
I used the excellent EffectTextureMaker to generate a splatter texture, then used it to displace a plane in Blender, before sculpting it a bit to get a better shape.

Puddle mesh

The shader is a super simple one, just a basic Lit Shader Graph sampling two normal maps, a smoothness map and a color map (which are all pretty much just builtin Substance Designer noises):

The color map is sampled with an offset along the view direction to get that parallax effect you can see on the video below. There’s also some slight vertex displacement using a 3D Perlin noise moving along global Y (using these great subgraphs), as well a some slight depth fade on top of all of that.

And here’s how it looks like in motion!

It’s not perfect yet, but that’ll do for a first pass! I’ll try improving things such as the vertex motion when the rest of the effect is in place. Next up, I wanna try adding a decal around the puddle to blend it better with the ground. Thanks for reading!


So I just added a decal below the mesh to get more details on the edges of the puddle and make it look kinda sticky:

It’s been a long time since I’ve drawn anything so I’m quite rusty, it took wayyy more time than I would’ve liked but I think the result is neat! I simply took a top-down screenshot of the mesh and painted around it in Photoshop to create this texture:

I then duplicated the puddle shader, removed all the useless bits, slapped it on a decal projector and that’s pretty much it!
I want to do a few things next before adding the arms, not sure what I’ll tackle first yet:

  • A flowmap, to move either the normal maps or the color map (or both?)
  • Bubbles, to make it look even more gross
  • Mist/ground fog coming out of the puddle
  • Maybe some particles flying around

I added bubbles to the puddle! Here’s how it looks:

And here are a few closeup stills:

The particle system is very simple, it spawns the bubbles on a mesh and that’s pretty much it.
Since the VFX Graph places particles depending on the vertex density, the particle distribution was very uniform and boring, so instead I spawn the particles on this (ugly) mesh:

This way I can control which areas have more particles, as well as spawn particles at places covered by the decal but not by the actual puddle mesh.
It might not be the best way to handle this but it works, though if anyone has a better way of doing this I’d be very interested!

The bubbles’ shader does most of the work there, and mainly those two things:

  • The “pop” at the end. I simply scale the bubble a bit on the Y axis and dissolve it using some noise. The pop factor is controlled from the VFX Graph itself.
  • The movement applied to the bubbles to make them follow the surface of the puddle. For that, I sample the same 3D noise I used in the puddle shader at the particle’s position, and add this offset to the vertex position.

Also, my friend @Wallcoeur (check out his event thread!) suggested that I add some slight movement on the decal:

It really helps making it feel a bit more “alive”, but I’m not really fond of the way it kinda slides on the ground. I’ll leave it for now until I can (hopefully) think of something better, but if anyone has suggestions for that please tell me!

Next up, particles flying around!

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The idea with these particles was to make it look like bits/droplets of the puddle have a different gravity and detach themselves from it, here’s how that looks:

I thought that would be a piece of cake, but it turns out this was the thing I struggled the most while working on this (yet?).
The tough part is that I wanted it to keep the “sticky” feeling of the matter. At first, I tried with a Particle Strip attached to the droplets, that was scaled to be very wide at the bottom and then thinner and thinner as it got higher. It didn’t work very well, and completely fell appart when the droplet detaches itself, since I couldn’t find a was to merge it back in the puddle.

What I ended up with is this simple mesh that is spawned at the droplet’s position, and then scaled on the Y axis at the same rate as the droplet moves upwards. Then, when it detaches, the mesh is scaled down very quickly on all 3 axes.

Droplets Mesh

Next up, flowmaps!


I think, if you find the time, instead of scaling down the “stringy part” of the droplet when they detach, I’d have it “explode” aka dissolve + some small particles flying away. Would give it a more gooey look.

I love how gooey everything looks and reading about how you achieved it!


oh thats a really cool idea, looks great


@felitastic thanks! I agree that this part of the effect isn’t the best so I’ll definitely try that, thank you for the suggestion!

@Rensei thank you so much! :smile:


Flowmaps are nice, I like em.

I painted a rough flowmap using this Blender addon, and applied it to the main normal map and the color map, on both the mesh and the decal. Also, the flow is slightly slower on the color map to reinforce the feeling of depth.


I also added SSS to all shaders (puddle, bubbles, droplets), which I think helps quite well to make it look less plastic-y:

Also tried with an area light inside the mesh just for fun, and I love how it looks like a galaxy! Kinda makes me want to change my FX and lean more into that :sweat_smile:


Wow, super cool :+1: :+1: :+1:
By the way. Any modellers are here? I’m not a modeller, but I know that mesh can be done better with less vertices, especially those really small triangles on the corners.

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Yeah it was a bit dirty, I cleaned it since and baked it to a point cache, which seems to have shaved about 1.5ms on average GPU frame time (which is much higher than I expected!).

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Added some mist around the effect:

It’s a simple mesh with straigthened UV islands and some noise texture scrolling, nothing too fancy.

I’d like to do a few more things on the puddle before calling it a day, like:

  • Improve the droplets “stringy” bit (following felitastic’s suggestion).
  • Improve the droplets themselves, for now it’s a billboard so it doesn’t work very well when looking down on the effect.
  • Improve the mist.
  • Maybe add a second color layer with a lower parallax distance?

…buuuuut I’ve been pushing away the arms for far too long now so I’m finally gonna start working on them!


I love this so much! It’s one of the coolest shaders I’ve seen!


Wow that’s way too much praise :sweat_smile: Thank you so much :pray:


Arms! Arms! Arms!
⁽ᵘᵍʰ ʷʰʸ ᵈᶦᵈ ᴵ ᶜʰᵒˢᵉ ᵗᵒ ᵐᵃᵏᵉ ᵃʳᵐˢ⁾

I used the MBLab Blender plugin to create a base character mesh, stripped everything but the arm and edited it a bit until I got this:

I then proceeded to animate it, but since I’m definitely no animator let’s just say this was a giant pain quite time consuming. Here are the animations:

I’m quite happy with the first two, not fond of the last one though so I’ll probably redo it from scratch later on. But for now that’ll have to do!
Next step, adding the arms to the puddle (and trying to find a way to blend the two)!

EDIT: Just added the arms, I plan on making a specific shader for them but I figured I should at least try with the puddle shader:


I’ve been struggling a lot to find a good way to blend the arms and the puddle together. For now, I have these two options:


I feel like the top one is too stringy, kinda makes the matter look more elastic than gooey. The bottom one I think looks okay-ish, but I’m having a hard time blending it with the puddle itself…
I’d love any suggestions and ideas on how I could blend the arms and the puddle, cause I’m kinda stuck there for now :confused:

On a more positive note, I’m quite happy with how the whole thing looks in motion now!

And here’s a still:


Maybe making them transparent/dither and depth fade?
Or some kind of smoke/fluid around the area where they need to blend to cover them up!


Damn dude! Looking good!


Holy shit, that looks so cool. Well done


The problem is that both the puddle and the bit around the arm are transparent, so depth fade can’t work there (which is why smoke particles wouldn’t work either). But that got me thinking, does the arm even need depth fade? So I just switched it to opaque, and now the depth fade from the puddle does the trick!

Still not perfect but at least it gets rid of the ugly cut that was there previously. I’ll try to improve the blend, maybe with hand-placed bubbles emitters to cover it up, or some other fluid-like effect like you suggested!

@Niels @Azeros thanks a lot! :blue_heart:
Love this community, everyone here is so nice!


In other news, I whipped out a quick normal map for the hand in Substance Painter:

Works nicely when added to the rest of the effect: