The Idea

I found a website called Texture Haven. It’s awesome. Texture Haven has 8K PBR textures that are 100% free! There’s a slew of categories and the library is always growing. I thought I’d experiment with a nice looking dirt map I found. Just to see how much i could get out of it. Here’s my process.

First, I mapped the dirt textures to a plane. Texture Haven has a sister-site called HDRI Haven, which is where I got the environment map used in this image. I added spheres of different sizes and spread them around the dirt.


Next, I added some basic PBR materials to the spheres and changed the colors. I wanted to make sure the tones didn’t clash or become too obscure.

After I added the basic colors, I softened the image and livened-up the scene’s tone with subsurface-scattering. SSS gave me room to play with procedural dirt on the spheres. Depth of field makes it’s first appearance as well.

Procedural dirt only effects the color, so I added it’s output to the specularity and roughness maps. The small grass tufts break up the scene’s ‘dry dirt look’.

At this point I start to become dissatisfied with the spheres. The colors are too uniform, and theres not enough texture. I added some leaves because it still seemed like a ‘freshly worked construction site’. But all the dialing and changing of variables wasn’t giving me the look i wanted. Something more ‘foresty’.

Making it Real

After a little “ah-ha” moment, I realized the issue I was having was actually the environment map. Changing the environment texture to reflect the kind of scenery I wanted the objects to be in quickly altered the mood of the scene. Since i changed the environment I thought I’d change the dirt to look more like what was in the HDR. With some simple and creative color correction, masking, and few other node changes, I started getting way closer results to what I originally envisioned.

I also changed a few spheres to a metallic PBR texture and played with the anisotropy settings. I had some FBX soldiers in a folder somewhere from an old Maya project and thought they would be a nice touch. All the renders were in 4k so it was really nice seeing the broken reflection of the soldiers in the center sphere.

After finalizing the scene with a few marbles, procedural dirt to the soldiers, and bringing everything in a little closer from the frame, I feel I have something that may actually be Photo-Real.

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