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Look How You Can Create a Photoreal Korean Street Using Blender

Gaurav has told us more about the Korean Street project and detailed how Blender was used to create a photorealistic Korean environment, detailing the planning, modeling, texturing, and rendering stages.

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Hello! My name is Gaurav. I am a passionate Concept Artist from India. I like creating environments and also like to play football during my free time. I haven't worked at a professional level yet, but my dream is to work in South Korea as a Concept Artist. Now, let's talk about how I got into 3D art. So, back when I was in school, I used to watch movies and play a lot of games, just like many kids. Mainly, I used to watch Hollywood movies, and they gave me a lot of inspiration.

After completing school in 2012, I joined an art academy where I learned about mainly the basics of Photoshop, 3ds Max, After Effects, and a bunch of other software. Even though I learned a few software, I liked working in Photoshop and was afraid of using 3D. But I used to get amazed by large-scale 3D environments. So, I decided that I wouldn't limit myself by using only Photoshop and 2D concept art using only photos.

I got skills by watching a lot of tutorials and practicing. I used to study artworks by famous artists like Dylan Cole, Francisco Corvino, Chris Stoski, and others. I still watch a lot of tutorials and study artworks.

Until now, I haven't contributed to any projects honestly. I have been working on my own projects to hone my skills and improve so that I can land my dream job.

The Korean Street Project

Since I love Korea, I had the idea of creating a Korean street scene that needed to look photorealistic. I had no idea how to achieve it, but I wanted to. Then, I came across Steffen Hampel's Photorealistic Japanese Alleyway and decided that I needed to achieve this level of realism in my Korean scene because I have a lot of respect for Korea.


Basically, I used a simple concept. I searched for some references online and decided to go with 2 pics as my ideas for buildings. One picture was a Korean street, and another was a Japanese street (I would like to thank those photographers who took these awesome pictures). I mixed both of them in Photoshop roughly and started making the simple blockouts according to the picture in Blender.

Planning the Composition

I imported the reference photo as "image as planes" in Blender, which I made in Photoshop. Then, I set up the camera according to the image reference. From there, I just arranged basic primitives based on the buildings in the reference. It was simple.


My modeling workflow is usually pretty simple. Mostly I do my modeling in Blender and try to keep the meshes towards low poly territory.

I used techniques like extrusion, inset, booleans, and a variety of modifiers such as mirror and array to model almost all the assets, both big and small. Essentially, my goal was to keep the models low poly, as mentioned before. To save time, I used modifiers, duplicates, and instances. Additionally, for small details like the electric meter, ACs, vehicles, people, trees, plants, and other props, I downloaded models from Sketchfab and Megascans. I also used add-ons like botaniq.

Approaching the Final Scene & Composition

I just stuck to my reference, which I made in Photoshop. The layout of the buildings was the same as the reference image, only some of the designs of the buildings were changed. Just the design, that's all.

I looked at different pictures of streets, houses, and buildings and noticed details like cables, wires, and pipes, as well as some thrown stuff here and there. So, I made cables, a lot of them, using Blender's built-in addon and placed them manually throughout the scene. For pipes, I used cylinders, as they were easy to work with, and I placed them manually as well. As for thrown stuff around the street, Korean and Japanese streets are very clean, so I kept them pretty clean. I didn't use any scattering techniques or add-ons to scatter things around. I placed everything manually accordingly.

In terms of the overall design, there wasn't much to deal with because I mainly stuck to the main reference. That's all.


Firstly thing first, I will tell you that textures and lighting play the most important role in bringing photorealism to any scene, I think. We can get away with modeling, but texturing and lighting need to be done very well. Now, let's talk about texturing!

I always try not to apply just a single texture to my assets. I try to mix two or three materials to get variations. When it comes to setting up materials for the scene, I used a combination of PBR textures and image textures which I got from Textures.com and the Megascans library.

For the smaller assets, I applied specific textures based on their materials. For example, wood and aluminum textures for windows and doors, concrete textures and decals like dirt and leaks for buildings, plastic for boxes and bins, and so on. The curbs, sidewalks, and drainage covers were Megascans' assets. I used many street props from Megascans as well. I also used UV unwrapping to accurately map the textures onto the models and even used Triplanar projection, also known as box mapping, in Blender.

As for street signs, I created them by combining image textures from Textures.com. For some, I used Photoshop's text tool to add specific texts and then applied appropriate materials and textures onto a plane in Blender to achieve the desired look.

In Blender, I utilized various tools to handle texturing, such as the UV Editor for precise mapping and the Node Editor for creating material setups. It wasn't anything complicated because I am still learning.

To save time, I leveraged Blender's material nodes to create reusable material setups, allowing me to efficiently apply them to multiple objects.

Lighting & Rendering

For the main lighting, I went with an HDRI setup. Initially, I wanted to achieve a sunset kind of look, which was looking good. However, I changed it to more of an overcast lighting because personally, I felt that the sunset was resembling more of an anime scene. So, I desaturated the colors in the main HDRI setup using the Hue/Saturation value node to get a realistic look. Also, I set up the HDRI in such a way, using the mapping node in the world settings, that the road details would be visible to the camera.

For rendering, I used Cycles with 512 samples, a noise threshold of 0.05, and OpenImageDenoise. I also used a tiling size of 256, and the Light Path settings were kept at default.

In terms of post-production, I used Photoshop to add the sky and color-correct it according to the render. I made some minor tweaks such as adding small cracks to the edges of the building walls. I utilized the CameraRaw filter to add some grain, as well as a touch of chromatic aberration and vignetting. And that's all.


The main challenge was my laptop! My GPU ran out of VRAM even after optimizing the scene. I could have used some card geometries in the background, but I decided not to. I used the CPU to render out the scene.

Between my first project and this latest one, I have learned many things, mainly how to use decals to add details, how to mix different textures, and how to optimize the scene while tweaking render settings to my advantage. I am not a pro yet, and I still have a lot to learn. Currently, I am watching Piotr Krynski's course. I really like his work and I want to create scenes like his.

For advice to my fellow artists, I would say that even though the scenes look complicated, most of the time they are not. Through this one year of using Blender, I have learned that if you break down complex-looking assets, it will become very easy for you. For example, when creating a building, I break it down into simple shapes and pieces. It starts with a cube, then involves simple extrusions, and finally incorporates additional details using cubes or cylinders. In this way, complex assets are actually just a combination of primitives forming a complex structure. While my scene may seem complicated, believe me, it becomes simpler when you break it down into simple pieces.

Just take one step at a time and build your scene gradually. Focus on one area of the scene, complete it, and then move on to another area, and don't rush. Also, observe your surroundings when you go out. You can learn a lot by studying how things look in real life.

That's all the advice I can give. Thank you!

Gaurav, Concept Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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