The Ice – Capturing The Elusive Feeling


Can you imagine it? Chilling air makes your nose tingle; shades of cool mix with shades of warm, seen in refraction. And you hurry to make a photo, only to discover later on that it (oh, dear) didn’t capture subtle color nuances of the ice.

Click to read the tutorial: How to create realistic ice and seriously awesome refraction



Apparently, what happened is that the digital camera clamped the highs and destroyed the lows of the color range. It’s not a secret that the eye is acting differently from the camera. It sees the slightest difference in hue, and adapts very well to high dynamic range.

But how can we capture this freaking piece of ice, if camera just doesn’t always help?

Paint it. Or if you can’t – simulate it in 3d, just like I did with that attic (I don’t have one nearby). Build the world around, breathe the life into it and capture its beauty in refraction. Or in shadow play. Use whatever works.

Chances are, you won’t stay true to nature and will pour too much of your vision into this frozen thing.

In the end, I don’t care whether it is physically correct, I want it to be aesthetically correct.

Or as Pixar formulated, physically plausible.


Some lighting scenarios are more difficult than the others. I bet you have set up three point lighting at least a couple times, to make some model appear appealing and Hollywood-like.

But what about object, that defies the form principle and bends the light in a weird fashion?

The lots of interesting stuff happens insight of that piece of ice. The part of the rays get refracted, the other part is reflected (based on Fresnel reflectance value). And – oh dear – some parts are even dispersed in the frozen depths.

ice render blender

Apparently, the world is not made of plaster.

Luckily, today we have the ability to throw thousands of rays in Blender (I obviously mean Cycles render engine) and get as much light bounces inside the object, as our computer can handle.

Tutorial is on its way, so stay tuned.


Share this post, so others can feel tingling too.


  1. Mason Menzies

    wait, is this a render? holy crap! it is! XD this is amazing!

  2. Matt Beker

    this reminds me of the cg style from the hobbit, love the render!

  3. Ryan Sweeney

    My mind is blown at the awesomeness.

  4. Spencer Magnusson

    What the…? I’m with Mason on this one. This is awesome! Looking forward to seeing the tutorial!

    • Putting the finishing touch on it. So expect it to come pretty soon.

  5. j z

    great results, genius! Can’t wait to see how it’s done

  6. Jeffrey Wilson

    Can not wait to see the break down, I am hopping you share your PS work as well as the stuff in blender. If I can fake half as much as you do by the end of the year ill call ti a win! great work man!

  7. bdiscus

    Amazing as usual Gleb, but can you tell me about the ground? Is that Blender too?

  8. john

    Awesome work. For me it’s not important what is CG and what is photo. Your work makes me happy and that’s the point. Thanks a lot. Take care of yourself to allow us get more awesomeness from you 🙂

    • Yeah, today the world is a pretty dangerous place 🙂

  9. Nathan Timothy Anderson

    It looks so great! How did you do the snow on the ground and on top of the ice?

  10. Sandra D

    very nice. I really like the little twig coming out of the side. Reminds me of a tiny snowman.

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