Chocofur interview with Sebastian Zapata

Sebastian Zapata

Sebastian Zapata

Country: Colombia
Experience: 6 years
Profession: CG Artist and Friendly Shade Founder
Website: Friendly Shade
Editor: Reynante Martinez

Sebastian is the founder of Friendly Shade>, professional musician, composer, and CG artist who has stood out for years in the product and architecture visualization fields with a huge background on texturing, animation, and video production. Full-time Blender lover and lens addict.

Armed with high-tech equipment and a relentless passion for pursuing the highest quality CGI, Sebastian has dedicated the last 3 years of his life towards improving his capturing techniques.

How did you get started with Blender?

I've always been really passionate about 3D since I'm very young. My father has been a huge inspiration for me because I see him creating graphic content for as long as I remember! And 7 years ago I found an animation made with Blender on YouTube and I fell in love with it. I started watching tutorials on YouTube and it’s been my main 3D tool since then.

What is the main source of your inspiration?

Real world! I can't walk on the streets without observing everything. It's something I naturally do. I'm always thinking on how to replicate things in CGI. And that's one of the reasons I became a photographer.

But of course there are still inspirational artworks! I really like to constantly look for inspiration on Artstation or similar sites. They show me a new perspective, people's perspective of things!

Your strongest and weakest points as a 3D artist?

I think my strongest points to date are texturing and modeling. More texturing than modeling because of my current job. And I'm really bad at character animation! I love it but I've not spent enough time to include it in my skill set yet. And nature, I was not that good at foliage for a while, though I've been practicing it a lot recently.

Through the Woods
It was a pretty big challenge for me due the foliage thing but, it was a lot of fun and I learned lots of new things! It also served as an experiment project to try my scanned road textures. Roughly 3 hours of render from what I recall.

I can't walk on the streets without observing everything.

The most challenging project you ever did in Blender?

It's “Through the Woods.” Nature is one of my biggest weak points as a 3D artist and I wanted to challenge myself on creating a project where I used a lot of foliage, not only because I was not so good at it but it's been also one of my favorite kind of environments. The road was another big challenge and one of things I most spent time on, it was huge! And the view didn't help me hide any spot that it was being repeated so I had to work with my scans as a base and then adding more variations. The the real challenge was to make it look natural and unique along the whole path.

As a 3D artist, what was your biggest success?

Friendly Shade Textures! Being able to run my own business and contributing to the CGI community with scanned textures is not only one of my biggest passions but the biggest success I consider I've had.

What is your dream project to work on?

I've always dreamed on working for a videogame company or even create my own! One other dream is being a pro at VFX and working at a VFX company! :D

World Machine Study
Two goals: I wanted to do something new by studying new tools and create a fully procedural ocean shader in Blender! So I went with this. Roughly 1-2 hours of render I think.

Your most-loved passion aside from 3D Graphics?

Music. I can't live without sparing 5-12 hours in a week for music, it relaxes me and makes me feel like new whenever I want to go to the computer again.

What is your favorite aspect and feature of Blender?

The GUI is one of my favorite things and one of the things I really appreciate in Blender. Having the flexibility of customizing every part of the software makes you feel comfortable.

One other thing I really like about Blender is the ease of using shortcuts. Which to me speeds up the workflow a lot!

And one last but not least is the frequency Blender Foundation releases updates and new features. Blender is evolving really fast and it's already very powerful but dang! I'm more and more amazed every time they release a new version!

If you had the chance, what would you change in Blender to make it better?

Personally, I've always dreamed about having the ability to create muscle system simulations with Blender as easy as with Maya or other softwares and plugins. But I have faith this will come to Blender one day.

Don't be a afraid of changes. One of my biggest obstacles has been the fear to make something new.
Friendly Shade Leather 01 Preview
Friendly Shade Leather 01 was one of the first experiments with the new PBR scanner we built for fabric and small pattern surfaces, aimed to separate the albedo from the specular layer as much as possible to have a more pure color map and retaining much more detail in the geometry at the same time. It also helped to reach higher resolution maps which are usually hard to find in leather textures and at the same time we could capture bigger areas like this complete back side of a jacket. The material was very simple, just the usual dielectric setup with albedo/color, gloss plugged into roughness or reflection gloss and finally a displacement map for the geometry heights.

If there's one thing you would teach your younger self, what would it be and why?

Don't be a afraid of changes. One of my biggest obstacles has been the fear to make something new. I'd tell my younger self just DO IT! :)

What is your workflow when creating 3D artworks?

1. Usually the first thing I do is finding a lot of reference by gathering images.
2. I start working or finding all the textures I need to make sure I'll have the resources from the very beginning.
3. Then I model everything in basic shapes or blocks until I got the rough look and camera placing.
4. Modeling everything in high including sculpting.
5. Lighting.
6. Texturing and shading.
7. Rendering and my favorite part: Post-processing.

It might sound weird but sometimes the first thing I do is making textures and materials, it motivates me a lot if I know I have all the necessary textures to work with and they look great :)

What is your hardware and software setup?

I used to have one quad GPU machine but with all the processing power I've needed to make my textures I've raised the number of machines to 4 but they all tend to be:

  • i9-7980XE or Core i7-6950X

  • 128GB of RAM

  • x4 Titan Xp or x2 1080ti + x2 Titan Xp in the old ones

  • Corsair AX1500i (1500W) or EVGA SuperNOVA 1600W

I think going with more than 4 GPUs for a single machine is not practical.


  • Blender and Cycles as my main rendering tools (although I've been making experiments lately with my textures in Corona, FStorm, Octane and Unreal Engine)

  • World Machine for environment terrains like mountains

  • Photoshop for texturing and post-production

  • Camera RAW and After Effects for post

bonus question

Could you tell us more about Friendly Shade and how it came about?

Friendly Shade is been one of my biggest dreams since I started at 3D. I've always had the dream of making more textures than the ones I was able to find at that moment and expand all the options available. Not having the textures you need for a project is really discouraging so I not only wanted to provide scanned textures to people but also to have my own library!

At that moment scans were not as popular as nowadays and I wanted to create something special, so that's why I added the scan feature. I've also working on better quality products by increasing the pixel per meter density, expanding the scanned areas and increasing all the options so artists feel freer and the library is future proof.