Nicholas Quackenbush - Stylized Sketchbook

For a compact look:

Hey everyone! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted and thought it was about time.

I wanted to share the current art direction I’m aiming for and what I have so far. As well as a small breakdown of the effect.

I decided to make something that was a composition of my own but in the style of the League of Legends Dark Star skin line up. This effect was definitely a challenge for me as it was my first time working in Unreal but I think it turned out ok.


This puff of dark flame was a technique I picked up from Jason Keyser’s VFX apprentice. Rather than using generated noise, I painted a dissolve map using a drawing pad in Photoshop to create the dissipation. This takes much longer but I really like how it adds a personal touch to the effect I’m making.

Here’s the main block of how this works in the material editor. I added an additional texture in the form of a mask so that the texture fades at the end more naturally instead of having a hard edge. Using a sphere mesh you wouldn’t have to do this.


Ribbons were quite a new experience for me. Originally I just had a texture repeating itself along the particle’s lifetime. This was ok especially with the added parallax material but it was way too repetitive. I looked around to try and figure out how I could break up the repeating texture and I found a great guide by Jordan Hey that I highly recommend.

This method worked really well in breaking up the trail and dissolving it through its lifetime. Do check out the guide for a deeper dive.


Finally, I used a simple parallax set up to give that outer spacey void look to the projectile and part of the explosion flame. I used a royalty-free outer space picture and cut it down for the texture to save time. Now normally I think you would want to use a tileable texture but for my purposes, it wasn’t necessary.

That’s it, for now, thanks for reading through! I plan to work on improving this style more down the road.


This looks fantastic, great work!

You’ve really nailed the style of the Dark Star Thematic, and there’s loads of interesting subtle motions that add a lot of depth to the visuals. I like the anticipation before the missile fires, and that trail looks great - enough motion to be interesting, but the head of the missile is the clear primary element.

If I could give some constructive feedback, though overall the sequence of the explosion is good, with some anticipation and an explosion, I think you could tighten up the timing of the explosion to make it feel more punchy - making the sprite with the beams fade out faster when the erosion mesh pops in would help to make it feel like the energy that built up had exploded out quicker.

Overall, fantastic work though, well done!

1 Like

Also, if you’re interested but haven’t yet applied for our internship, please do before January 15th

1 Like

Thank you so much for the feedback! This effect definitely gave me a real challenge when it came to timing. I went back and forth on whether I wanted to delay the explosion or just have it explode right on impact kinda like a Graves Ultimate from League. I’ll have to play around with it more.

And I had definitely planned to apply for an internship once I had filled up my portfolio a little more. But I would love to see how it goes if I try now!

1 Like

Made some timing changes to be more of an immediate impact. Would love any feedback on whether this is a little more satisfying or not.

The projectile feels great, my only feedback is the impact feels like it happens all at once.

I really like the initial impact effect, but it feels overshadowed by the cone of energy moving around the sphere. Watching, they feel like they play at almost the exact same time, and that radial “pop” with the light rays and purples/blacks gets lost as my eye is drawn to the larger mesh element. Give a bit more delay between the two, and I think that will help blend them together better. Let that impact play out for a few more frames from the spot in the screenshot before starting the elements playing around the sphere.

The cone also starts at 100, so to speak. It’s just instantly there with the material covering the entire shape. I’d suggest either panning a mask from the tip of the mesh to the end, or scale your mesh from small at the start to larger and more stretched out as it plays out its life. I can tell there is some panning motion in the material, but it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere; it feels like it’s moving in place, rather than away from the point of impact. I think that’s because the silhouette of the mesh shape never changes over the life of the effect, so I can see the edges and that’s what makes it feel like it’s locked in that position.

I think your colors are really good, but don’t be afraid to adjust them a bit over the life.
The gold has the same color and emissive intensity from start to finish. I think if you decreased the emissive intensity, or moved it a bit more to an orangey color, (or both) over the lifetime, that would sell the idea that the energy is dissipating better.


Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for all the amazing and detailed feedback! Both here and on the Discord.