Mystery Shack - Stylized 3D Diorama - Tutorial

Ian Worrel
7 ratings

Learn how I made this!

This is an 8 part video series demonstrating the creation of this 3D diorama from scratch. This was originally fan art made for the 10 year anniversary of the series, Gravity Falls. After many requests about how this was created, I decided to make a tutorial covering the step by step process. Here's the original post: Mystery Shack Diorama

This tutorial series primarily demonstrates the process of hand-painting textures in Photoshop that are then applied to 3D mesh using the projection mapping technique in Blender. I have been a professional 2D artist for most of my career and my 3D skills are enthusiast level at best. As a 2D artist I primarily know how to evaluate the success and failure of my work as a flat image in a frame. While this diorama is 3D, it mostly operates as a 2D image with limited camera motion. I like projection painting because I can lean on my 2D skillset with a little 3D dimensionality for added effect - I suppose one definition of 2.5D.

DISCLAIMER: this is not an exhaustive ‘how to use this program’ type tutorial. I don’t cover which button to push, point to every menu to find the tool, define all the terms, etc. At times it will be step by step process demo and in other moments it will be narration over time-lapse screen recording. This is a fast demonstration that is densely packed with material, I prefer tutorials that get straight to the point.

This diorama was created using several tools including:


Gravity Sketch

Substance Painter


After Effects

Technically, using all of these programs is NOT required to create this. As I explain in the video, the other reason I made this was to stress-test several new techniques and workflows, so I tried a bunch of different tools. Staying in blender and skipping some of these programs is entirely possible for this technique.

For intermediate users of these programs it should be easy enough to follow along. For beginners, there is plenty to glean from these videos but it may be overwhelming and possibly frustrating if you’re trying to copy each step. For those users, additional tutorials will likely be required to fully understand what I’m covering but this series will give a very thorough overview of all that is involved.

Here are the chapters:

1_Design and Blockout (3:52): Rough composition sketching and thoughts about the creative goals. Preliminary model and camera blockout in Blender.

2_Modeling (10:35): Model detailing in VR using Gravity Sketch

3_Layout and Animation (06:45): Continued model refinement in Blender and mesh texture prep. Locking the camera animation and placement of all the pieces in the scene. Animation of all dynamic objects.

4_Texturing and Lighting (10:34): Texturing in Substance Painter and preliminary lighting in Blender.

5_Rendering for Paint-Over (5:11): Rendering in Blender for the projection painting technique.

6_Painting and Projection Texturing (16:06): Using renders to make paint-overs in Photoshop and then re-projecting the illustration back onto the mesh in Blender.

7_Scattering Cards and EFX (05:40): Detailing the diorama by scattering instances of illustrated 2D elements and effects animation.

8_Compositing (15:15): Rendering full sequence passes in Blender. Assembling and adding live action footage in After Effects.

Any recent versions of these applications can be used. Also, I use a custom script for Blender if you're wondering why my UI looks different. Script by Vaughan Ling:


I want this!

8 tutorial videos totaling 75 minutes and a copy of the final full resolution video of this diorama (minus the music).


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Mystery Shack - Stylized 3D Diorama - Tutorial

7 ratings
I want this!