How To Make a Planet shader in Blender – Part 2!

Well, you know, when you want a job done right, you had better make a bit more effort.

If you followed the first Planet shader Tutorial, [Link here] then this is a must see as it adds all the things that the planet shader was really missing. Yep, clouds, atmosphere and city lights on the dark side.

In it we use multiple voronois to create a random-ish city block lighting system as well as a method for the clouds that is very similar to the landscape fractals. And then we add that atmosphere!

Please watch the video, leave a comment, and if you can think of something you wanted to know how to do in Blender drop me a line and I’ll make a tutorial for it if I can!

You can get the final scene here too.

You don’t have to give me any money, just set it to £0 and you’ll get it too, but if you liked this, please subscribe, follow me in Instagram at @gen_vfx and keep coming back here for more tutorial goodness.

Take care and stay safe.

Are there any Procedural Texture Tricks in Blender?

You know, I’m glad you asked that!

There are a few things that you can do with some of the procedural texture that people don’t necessarily know about. They are there, but without wiggling stuff about, you’d never see them. So here is just one of the thing you can do with Noise, whiteNoise, Musgrave and Voronoi textures that people don’t often let you know about.

You can get the final scene here too.

You don’t have to give me any money, just set it to £0 and you’ll get it too, but if you liked this, please subscribe, follow me in Instagram at @gen_vfx and keep coming back here for more tutorial goodness.

Take care and stay safe.

How do I make a planet Shader in Blender?

You know, I’m glad you asked that!

And Here you can find out exactly how to do that. The tutorial went live on Friday the 27th of November 2020 and from this point on there will be tutorials dropping every Friday for as long as I am able to do them. I’ve already started working on an update to this tutorial, but if you want to know the principles behind the Principle BSDF Planet Shader, then look no further.

Making a Planet Shader in Blender

You can get the final scene here too. Buy my product

You don’t have to give me any money, just set it to £0 and you’ll get it too, but if you liked this, please subscribe, follow me in Instagram at @gen_vfx and keep coming back here for more tutorial goodness.

Take care and stay safe.


So, a while ago I added a post that I was going to put up a planet shader tutorial on the internet.

And it’s going live on Friday!

A while ago a comment came in about to the Planet Shader tutorial I did years ago in Maya, asking for a video tutorial as they found them easier to follow. Well, I “ummed” and “aahhed” about it, considered if I had enough time to do it again in Maya and then thought, you know, why not?

But I decided I was not going to do it in Maya. I decided I was going to do it, in Blender.

I go on about how good this software is all the time. I use it more and more for modelling, making provisional designs in, and then passing them up to Maya for finishing. So I thought, “I need to make more use of this and this is a great excuse.”

After doing my first pass of the video, I decided I could do a better job, so I did, then I tried again and the third time I went “Yes!”

So on this Friday at 12.00pm GMT the first of my Blender Tutorials is going live in my youTube channel “GEN VFX”

Here’s the splash screen for the video:

planet shader tutorial on GENVFX

And you’ll be able to find the tutorial by following this link:

And just to let you know, I’ll be posting a new tutorial each Friday from that point on until I run out of ideas so that should keep me going for about a hundred years.

Take care and speak to you soon.


Wortsea cc4.1

Sitting at the South eastern tip of it’s continent,  Wortsea is a major city with a bustling market,  thriving religious community along with a military academy close to the port.  The affluent North West of the city has a regional palace as well as government buildings, whilst the poorest part in the South East near the docks often supplies young men and women for the military.  Its large Market near Westgate and the multicultural east corner creates a wonderfully diverse and vibrant community.


Work: Stockholm by Milltown Brothers Album cover

As of the 13th of June 2020, Miltown Brothers, have released their 5th Studio Album, “Stockholm.”

Milltown Brothers are an Indie band that rose swiftly to fame in the 1990’s with hits such as “Which Way Should I jump” and “Apple Green” they split up but after a long hiatus decided to get back together and release a new album very five years.

I’ve known the lead vocalist and the drummer for about 10 years now, having met them through work, and towards the end of last year, Matt – the vocalist – asked me if I would like to do the cover of the album for them.

I said yes before he finished the sentence.

It was never going to be a job, this one, it was always going to be a favour. Little did I know what the brief was going to be.

So Matt sat me down and said, “You know that we have a L.S. Lowry-style character that we’ve used on a bunch of our ‘merch’ for ages? Well, we were wondering if you could do us, you know, a picture of this square in Stockholm but make it look like L.S. Lowry had done it. Because that’s what the first single is going to be. Sound all right?”

“Right,” I said, thinking at about a hundred miles an hour how I was going to do a painting of a Square I had never been to, looking as if it was by a dead artist that had a truly distinctive style without making a pig’s ear of it.

Well, after quite a bit of thought, a couple of tech tests with software and a hell of a lot of time sitting on my arse in a chair in front of a computer, I did it.

This is the first version I sent to Matt and the guys.

Stockholm Album Cover 1
Stockholm painted as if by L.S. Lowry (it’s signed by S. W. Rolly – a bit of a rubbish anagram but it feels right having it on there.)

Not a single drop of real paint touched a canvas in the making of this image. In fact, not a penny was spent on the software either. Yes, I love open source software, did I mention that?

Every pixel here was created using Krita for the painting and finishing and Blender for the modelling, lighting and rendering. I have been wanting to put some of my on and off time using open source to better use. I have been using Krita for quite a few years now for drawing storyboards, creating illustrative assets for motion graphics and just drawing. Mostly this is line work, but Krita has amazing paint brushes as well as a very sturdy brush making pipeline. With this in mind I created several brushes that when combed with a custom built smear brush gave a pretty credible oil paint effect.

Using these brushes I create a colour test then I adapted it to become a bump pass. Bringing these into Blender, I used Eevee to quickly put the test onto a tile, flipped it in the ‘y’ axis and put in a couple of lights. This was the result with the two images used:

test painting lookdev

Knowing that it might just work, I began the process of finding the right info for the job. In other words, I began to trawl the internet for all the Lowry ref I could.

I managed to uncover a high resolution image of a painting that Matt had indicated was a good idea for the look and feel of the painting. With that, I then went through a combination of google images, google maps and every image bank on the internet to source reference images of Stortoget Square in the old town of Stockholm. If you’ve not heard of it, t’s this one:

One of the many images that I used as reference for the

The next step was to do a line drawing of the square but as close a match to the line style of Lowry as possible. This took a while (phew, did it ever) and then I began the slow task of painting in the lines, adding the hue shifting fills, adding dirt, then adding strokes by smearing with with a custom bristle smear I made. But the time I had drawn in all the people added a shadow layer and finessed the colour with more dirt, adjustment layers and so on, I had around 20 layers. I then made a duplicate of the image, took all the saturation out and levelled everything to a black and white map, I had a bump map as well.

Making a very quick frame in Blender, I created a simple frame – based on one I saw online that had been around a Lowry during an exhibition several years ago – I made the shader almost exactly as I had before, added lights and rendered out the image at the top, minus the overlays.

Blender scene of Stockholm album cover

I did a second version with a darker background, some light passes in Krita and a little noise and made this version:

Stockholm Album Cover 2
Personally, this is my favourite version, I love the colour of the background.

After a bit of too and fro with Matt and the band, the final version, the one on the Album right now in Spotify is this one:

Stockholm Album Cover 3

It turned out that everyone liked the image so much, they wanted it full screen. And in this image it is far easier to see, particularly in the sky, where the colour and the bump work well together.

And there you have it. All being well, I will have a tutorial properly up before long.

Oh and listen to the album if you get a chance. It’s good.

Stockholm on Spotify

Customer Support


photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

I do not enjoy cold calls.

Well, that’s not quite true. When I worked almost exclusively from home, spending hours in a house alone, I would relish the call from a total stranger as a way of alleviating the isolation.

“No I don’t want new windows, but, hey, whilst you’re on the line, how’s your day going..?”

I think I must have been a salesperson’s nightmare. But now I work for a company and – apart from right now – go into an office and share a kettle – okay, not any more – I want as little extra disturbance.

When I do get a call, I remind myself that this is a person, not a computer – unless it is obviously a computer, which seem increasingly to be happening – and I am sympathetic and tolerant when explaining that I am not interested, but thank you very much for your call. It’s common decency. And afterwards I feel better.

To avoid feeling grumpy you must first stop being grumpy.

Do unto others, etc. etc.

I, therefore, expect, as one would hope, that one is treated in the same way when you call up, say, Customer Support for something that you are paying a proportion of your monthly money too. Yes? Well, for the first time ever, today someone decided that it was going to be a “No.”

As a way of explanation, just before the lockdown our family grew by one. We picked up our 6 week old Labrador from a breeder in Dumfries and Galloway, brought her home and proceeded to spray the house with anti-chew stuff. Despite this, her tiny teeth managed to sever the extension lead from our Openreach box ( UK company who puts in all the phone lines in houses) and subsequently separate the room we call our office from the internet.

Not a complete nightmare, as almost all the machines in the house are wireless, I did not immediately look into rewiring the extension, especially as it was a wire legacy from the the original owners of the house when the office had been the garage and had passed through walls now boxed and plastered. It was going to be a nightmare.

It was in March that I needed to really do something about it as the aforementioned office was about to become a cloud, our machines integral parts of the cloud, and we would all be working from home. It is a feat of technological know-how by our Company IT guy who is also one of the Company Directors. It’s a small company. We all multi-task a lot. The only downside of this was I needed to have the computer connected to the router directly, not wirelessly, as we all needed to open ports on the machines (basically, a private doorway) so everything would work.



After a fashion, we moved the router to another extension, the main box being at exactly the wrong height for a chewing machine. With cables draped around door frames and looking like grey washing lines around the house, we managed to set up the computer in another room other than the proper office. It’s a bit inconvenient, and the internet is a bit dodgy due to the extension the router is plugged into, but it’s a temporary fix.

On the 23rd of March I contacted my ISP and asked when if it would be possible to organize an engineer to come round and move the box to a new location. That’s right, the office – dog free zone 101. The outside cable comes in through that wall, so it would be a matter of minutes to disconnect it, drill a new hole and mount a new box. Then we could cut out the old box entirely as we do not really need the other sockets for phone lines at all. I paid a charge – not a small one – for the service and thought I’d soon be back in the office rather than perched in a cable nest in the hottest room in the house.

Then, on the day of the arrival of the engineer, the country went into lockdown. I had not expected the engineer to come. I was not disappointed.

What was disappointing, though, was that I did not receive any sms, email, call or contact of any kind from the ISP saying “Sorry, but, you know, it’s a lockdown, and we have to think of safety. We’ll let you know if we hear when it’ll happen. Bye!” I expected they were going through phone hell and thought I’d wait. I’ll hear something soon enough.

So it has been almost 60 days since the day I was to be back in my office ‘pootling’ away for the company. Today, I rang the ISP Customer Service line. I was my normal happy self. I explained I had not had an engineer and was wondering why no had had contacted me about it not happening.

“Because of the Coronavirus.” he expressed, as if he was saying the word, “Duh!”

“Yes,” I said, “I understand that, but I was wondering why no one had contacted me to let me know that the engineer wouldn’t be coming round. You now, as a courtesy call or something. It’s been 60 days now”

“Because of the Coronavirus.”

“Yes, I know that’s why he or she couldn’t come, but why did no one contact me to let me know, like, in a text or something?”

“Because of the Coronavirus.”

Literally all I wanted was this disgruntled sounding person to say, “I’m sorry about that, let me check your records and we can sort out how we move forwards.”

I tried again. I just wanted to know whether there was something else he could say. It turned out that after saying literally just the word “coronavirus” at me I decided he was not going to help. This person sitting at a helpdesk who’s only job is actually to be helpful.

I am not an angry person – not really – but this guy was being so blunt and abrupt I was getting frustrated. I did what any other person would do.

“Look, I’m not trying to be a pain or anything. Is there someone else I could talk to? Could I talk to your supervisor?”

His response flabbergasted me. I can honestly use that word. Flabbergasted. My gasts where utterly flabbered. Perhaps my flabbers where completely gasted? Whichever. One of those two.

He said, “What difference would that make?”

“What?” That’s me, flabbergasted.

“You’ll only get the same answer.” This response was delivered in the same way someone would say, “Just shut up and live with it.”

“I want to speak to someone else, please.”

“Then hang up and ring in again.”

I paused and then said, “Thank you.” and hung up.

My wife heard my side of the conversation from the other end of the kitchen. She said, “You sounded grumpy.”

I recounted the whole conversation. She blinked and said, “Well ring back. You might get the same guy.” That put me off the idea of ringing again. But I did ring back and after the rigmarole of the getting into a queue and the like, I was put onto a very charming man who, despite English not being his first language, seemed concerned, searched out my account, checked for the purchase order for the moving of the box, found it, put notes in my account, changed my password, organised for a refund if I wanted it and was apologetic, but explained that everything was up in that air because of the coronavirus. He was perfect. He helped.

I cannot remember either of the support staff names. Which is a shame. I would like to share the name of the second one so that he could get the recognition he deserves. For being someone who understands that everyone on the phone is a real person and requires help. The sort of staff member a company can be proud of. A real helper. I would like to send the name of the other one to the ISP – Sky – along with a description of the call, so they could find it, talk to this member of staff, and hopefully explain to him how to talk on the phone to people.

I am a 50 year old man with a solid grasp on technology and all my faculties. Imagine if someone older, or frailer, or with emotional support issues had called in asking about a missed appointment and had ended up listening to the first so called Customer Support Staff member?

Attitude is everything on a phone call. I can’t see your face, I can’t see your eyes, I can just hear your voice. I would be horrified if this man had spoken to my mother like he spoke to me. How that could have traumatized her.

Actually, my mother is 74, buys some of her shopping online, adores her iPad and would have told that first guy where to shove it, so that’s not a good reference, but you get the idea.

There is a small moral here, after my long winded entry. Be nice to people. It’s simple. Be nice, don’t be cruel, or grumpy, or angry, or pithy, or anything other than kind. It is the only way that people will thrive and not withdraw and internalize and worry about everything.

As to Sky, they need to do better with their Customer Support otherwise it won’t just be more checking out their competition.

Terms to use, terms to avoid.

As I was taking to my Counselor last week, every time I went to say the words, “Mental Health” I found myself pausing for a moment before saying it. Thinking about it as I was still in our session, I realised I was trying to find a word or phrase to go in it’s place. I could think of nothing.

And then I began to think, why should there be an alternative phrase? Why did I want one?

Every time I thought of the word, “Mental” my mind ran through so many distant connotations of the word from my youth. I am 50 years of age, and in the 80’s, when I was a teenager, if someone was “Mental” it meant all sorts of things, from anger to lunacy.

In the 80’s there were too many meanings to the word “Mental.”

Today talking about one’s mental health is a positive thing. I think the problem is – or was, depending on your age – that no one really addressed Mental Health in the 1980’s in the same way as they do today. At least, I don’t think my Dad, who was in his late 30s and 40’s during the 1980’s would ever have thought it necessary to go to talk to someone about his mental health. I can hear him now saying something along the lines of, “Are you saying I’m Mental? There’s nothing wrong with me!” and so on.

My parents are on my mind a lot at the present time, as they self-isolate an hour away from me in another county. I’m not worried about them, but I miss seeing them, despite not seeing much of them when we are not locked down.

But back in his mid 20’s, my father went through a trauma that not many people go through. He lost an eye. He had been at a barbecue at a friend’s house and someone had set off a firework on it’s side. It flew horizontally like a proverbial rocket across the area where everyone was and hit him full in the left hand side of his face. The force blew the eye right out of its socket and cut his face quite badly. As a result, he lost more than just his eye. He has recently gained his pilot’s license and was considering making flying, his dream job, into a full career. After leaving the hospital weeks after the accident, his license was revoked. In the 1960’s you were not allowed to fly with one eye, your depth perception being an important requirement.

Today there would be counselling post the trauma of such an event. Weeks of talking to about your feelings. My dad was back at his family’s farm and wondering what he would do. He had lost everything and had no way of getting it back. You can’t grow back an eye. How does someone get over that kind of thing without counselling?

He did, though. He had family who helped him, people whom he could talk to, share his pain and frustration and they helped him back on his feet. A cousin who was also on of his best friends took him under his wing and brought him into his business as a market trader. My father worked with him for a while, then moved away and started his own stall, moved on to other markets and thrived. And he stayed strong. He kept going.

He’s still with us, 84 and going strong. My Mum’s with him too. They are still as in love as they were 52 years ago when they were married. Two stronger people, I have never met. Each is the rock of the other. They are amazing.

I still cannot imagine my father ever talking to anyone about his mental health, not that I think he needs to.

Anyway, towards the end of my session, I still was trying to find another term for my, you know, mental health. I ended up voicing my thoughts about the words to my Counselor. I think I was quite loquacious about the use of the words “Mental” in my teens. I stopped talking and after a moment or two of silence, my Counselor said this.

“…if it helps, try to see this as Emotional Health or Emotional Support.”

I paused, taking this in. “Emotional Support” is a far nicer term. It might not have the ring of “Mental Health” but the connotation of “Emotional Support” is very singular and has no negative connections from my teens.

I was thinking about my father this morning. I was also playing the conversation with my counselor through my mind and as thoughts swam together I realised that my father did get the counselling he needed back then, thanks to emotional support from his family, his friends. People close to him who were there for him, to guide him, hold him up when he needed it. It may not have come from a trained professional, but it was there. Emotional Support. Improving his mental health in small amounts every day, whether he realised it or not.

Times are hard right now. If you know someone who is struggling with the solitude and has anxiety issues, someone who has no one whom they can talk to with them, please reach out to them. Let them know that you are there. That you can provide a little emotional support. Even just a little helps.

Remember each call, each chat, each message, each drop of help amounts to a lake of support in the long run.

Stay Safe and smile a little every day.

Kinder Choirs – ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ (from lockdown!)

This is the choir that one of my children was involved with until they recently decided education needed to take precedence.

She was in the choir for almost 6 years, travelling around the locale as well as performing for war veterans in Normandy. Kinder Choir has been active for a long time and has a thriving alumni.

However, as for all group activities, Covid-19 has all but closed it down. Or so I thought.

A while before these circumstances, a new tutor was brought on-board to help out the fabulous matriarch who runs the choir. A youthful, happy, forward thinking man whom all the children in the choir respect and love. And he is not the sort of person who lets a silly virus get in the way of singing, no sir.

So he contacted and then sent each chorister the lyrics and music for the above song, then each recorded their own voices and this amalgum is the result.

I love this choir. As an active parent involved in a lot of the back stage jobs and the ferrying around of my child, as well as others on occasion, it has always been a pleasure to be involved. Listening to this is a testament to the hard work and joy that the people involved put into everything they do.

I hope it touches your heart as much as it touches mine.

Lockdown Moments

During the almost two months of safety isolation I have changed daily, and sometimes hourly, from mild complacency right through the trough of emotions all the way up to near fatal panic.

I think we’ve all done this. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you’ve not been a little bit worried, then you should be. Wash your hands! Sneeze away from me! Away from everybody!


The one thing I have sought out during my moments of concern is ways to surpress the urge to stop doing anything and curl into a foetal ball.

I already meditate, but when isolating with your family in one place finding a bit of time to do that can be difficult. I tend to do breathing exercises until my wife notices and asks me if I’m all right. Nope. Not all right, hence the breathing.

I needed something that would take me somewhere special. Find me a moment of euphoria in the midst of this madness.

And I found one.

I was playing a silly game on my phone to wile away a moment or two, when at the bottom of the screen an ad came up for, no surprises, another app. Normally I only glance at them for a second, but this one caught my attention as I recognised something about the app’s logo. It looked a little like the letter “M” if each leg was made up of two or more lines. It rested against black and I thought, “Why do I recognise that?” Then I suddenly had it. It was the International Space Station.

Before I knew what I was doing, I clicked on the link. Clickbait central, here I come.

Within 5 seconds I was redirected to Google’s App store and downloaded what was probably a scam to my phone, but the app had said the word “live feed” somewhere in the text so I thought, what could I lose?

The real truth was what I would gain.

The app is called “ISS Live Now” It has a few videos made by the crew of the station, including a tour, some other NASA information and, lo and behold, a real love feed from a camera pointed along its orbit. A camera that showed a live view of the surface. Of our planet.

I pressed the tiny button at the bottom of the screen and the small view went full screen on my phone, filling the 5inch by 2.75 inch screen with cloud, land and sea as the ISS flew at 27500 or so kilometres an hour around or planet. A 720p live feed of the surface of our homeworld. A slice of the blue marble travelling below the ISS, rotating towards the bottom of my phone.

As I watched, distant weather systems over the Pacific gave way to the coast of South America, a range of mountains spanning the screen from top to bottom drifting in real time.

I was transfixed. The whole world was there. Beneath my gaze as if I was flying high above it. It was, it still is, breathtaking.

So now, when I feel low, I open my phone and float up above it all to look down on the planet with the app. To see continents and clouds and sunsets and sunrises and sea and I breath in and out. And it is, for me, euphoric. And exactly what I needed.

It works for me and perhaps it might help you to.

The Google App store link to this app.