Voronoi pattern animated logo with Blender & Photoshop
Voronoi diagram or tesselation. It is named after the Imperial Russian mathematician of Ukranian descent Georgy Voronoy. In mathematics, this type of diagram is a method of dividing a plane into regions called cells based on the following specifications. As a plane is actually an infinite set of points forming a connected flat surface, a limited set of points called seeds is determined beforehand and those seeds will in turn determine their respective cell’s boundaries, as each region will consist of all the points closer to that seed than to any other seed. The result is a characteristic arrangement of individually coloured polygonal cells.
This type of diagram has vast applications in various domains, such as medical diagnosis, humanities, engineering, astrophysics but also baking and art! The Ukranian chef Dinara Kasko inspired herself from Voronoi tesselations to create bespoke moulds for her cakes. The Blender we’ll be talking about here is not a kitchen appliance, but this 3D graphic design and animation software can generate colourful Voronoi patterns thanks to its integrated material shader that comes per default.
Let’s get started! I assume that you already created and are happy with your 3D object. You can also start with the staple cube if you just want to experiment with the shader.
1. Apply the Voronoi pattern to your 3D object
First things first, you have to set up your rendering engine and the output properties before starting with shading. For most realistic results, opt for Cycles and choose GPU Compute to make use of your graphic card power to speed up the render time. If it is greyed out, you need to enable it under Edit > Preferences menu > System > Cycles Rendering Devices.
Under Sampling > Render, I left the default 128 samples. Increasing the value gives clearer results but requires longer rendering time. If you tick Denoise, you can keep a lower amount of samples and still get a good output.
For a transparent background, scroll down to the Film sub-menu and check the Transparent box. In the output properties menu, set up the resolution as desired, choose your output folder where the pictures will be saved and pick PNG format to preserve transparency.
We can now start shading our object!
In the Materials menu, click + to create a new material you can customise. Click on the yellow dot of the Base Color menu, it will open up a whole list of preset textures and shaders that are included in Blender per defaut. Click on Voronoi Texture.
There are several Voronoi patterns that yield different results — have fun experimenting with various parameters.
We will use the Scale parameter in the Materials menu to create the animation by playing with Scale values and assigning them to keyframes in the animation timeline. IMPORTANT: If you wish to combine various parameters (for example switch from Euclidean to Minkowski pattern in the middle of your animation and go back to Euclidean), remember to keyframe the beginning and the end of that change.
2. Set up your camera and lights in Layout mode
Switch to Layout mode and set up your camera and lights as this will determine how your output will look when you render it. If you didn’t keep the camera and the light that come by default when you start with a new Blender project, you can add them like any other primitive: shift+A > Camera and shift+A > Light.
💡Quick tip: If you don’t have time to play with different light types and their respective parameters or you are new to Blender, create a plane, give it a new basic material by clicking New in the Material menu, play with the Emission base colour and the Emission strength value to have it emit light, and position it above your object (In Object mode: select to Move, R to rotate, S to size).
3. Add keyframes to create the animation
- In Layout mode, expand the Timeline that is at the bottom of the screen and put the playhead on frame 0.
- In the Materials menu, put Scale to 0 and click on the dot on the right to keyframe it. It will create a little yellow diamond in your timeline.
- Go to the last keyframe of your animation (I opted for 100 keyframes, but it’s really up to you… the more keyframes, the longer the animation) and click to keyframe the scale set to 0 again. That will create a continuous loop. It is important to start at keyframe 0 and not keyframe 1 to have a smooth result. For now, you have an animation but with the same parameter. So when you play it, there is no change. You can now add other keyframes with varying parameters that will result in an animated surface.
- Add as many keyframes with different scale values between frame 0 and your last frame. Experiment with various scale values and keyframes to have the pattern evolve more quickly or more slowly. Once you are happy with the result, it’s time to export!
4. Export the animation in PNG format
As we already set up the desired export output and the destination folder, we can now simply click on the menu on top Render > Render animation. Blender will generate one PNG per frame. When the rendering is done, we can fire up Photoshop to group all PNGs and turn them into a GIF.
5. Compile the PNGs in a GIF in Photoshop
If you haven’t got Photoshop, there are several free online GIF generators you can use. However, the final output quality may suffer due to compression and also you may lose background transparency, which can be annoying depending where you intend to use it.
- Load the PNGs into Photoshop: File > Scripts > Load files into stack.
- In the pop-up window, click on “Browse”, select all the PNGs, and click OK. This action will load all the PNGs in separate layers, one per image.
- Once Photoshop has finished loading all the PNGs (it may take a while depending on your total number of frames: you can see the progression in the layers menu), go to the top menu Window > Timeline and make sure Timeline is checked.
- Your interface should look something like this now. Go ahead and select Create frame animation in the timeline. Make sure Loop Playback is ticked as well.
- Once you’ve clicked on Create frame animation, go back to the same little menu in the pic above, and select Make frames from layers.
All the frames are imported and you can preview the final result by pressing the space bar to play it. Ensure that “Forever” is selected in the bottom left corner and you’re good to export it!
6. Export in GIF format
- Go to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy)
In the export pop-up window, select GIF, 256 colours, tick the Transparent box and opt for Matte > None to keep background transparency. Change or leave the Image size parameters (they are based on your initial PNG files) and make sure the looping is set to Forever. Click Save and there you have it!
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and rest assured, it took longer to write it than to create a Voronoi GIF!
Many thanks for reading!
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