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Create a glowing neon sign

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Perfect for advertisements, logos and animations! This tutorial teaches you useful techniques such as modeling with curves, creating a glow effect and making a curve emit light.

Today we’re going to learn how to create this cool neon sign:

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The tutorial will take approximately 30 minutes to complete, and you will learn the following:

  • Modelling with curves
  • Make a curve emit light
  • Isolate a render layer
  • Using glow and glare effects

Ready? Let’s begin…

Creating the Neon Tube

Add a Bezier Circle and move it to last layer. This will be the radius of our tube.

1-creating-circle

Add a Bezier Curve to the first layer, and make the Bev Object “Curve Circle”

2-bev-object

fat-curve

As you can see the result is circle is far too big for our curve, so enter the edit mode and press Alt+S to scale it down to a more realistic size.

thin-curve

Forming the letters

This step is by far the most time consuming task. Using your path forming skills, form the shape by adding and arranging handles to suit.

3-make-shape

If you are new to curves, you might like to check out the BlenderWiki curve guide.

But if you want to wing it, these are the important keys to remember:

Ctrl+Click – Add handle

R – Rotate handle

G – Move handle

Ctrl (whilst rotating) – Rotate in increments of 5 degrees.

Repeat this for the rest of the letters. To save time, try duplicating the first letter and moving the handles around as needed.

4-completed-shape

Half an hour later…

Adding the neon material

Select your first letter and add a new material as follows:

5-material

Rather than selecting each letter one by one and applying the material we are going to use the ‘Make Links’ function to save time. Hold down Shift and select the rest of the word, making sure you select the first letter last. Then hit Ctrl+L and click Materials from the popup menu.

6-make-links

Because the word ‘guru’ in our sign is a different color, we are going to be assigning a different material to the blue one. Select the first letter and add the blue neon material we just created. Click the number next to the material name to make it a single user and rename it to PinkNeon. Then change the color as follows:

6-pink-neon

Just like we did above, hold down shift and select the rest of the letters in ‘guru’ and press Ctrl+L and select Materials. Each letter should now have a material and be looking something like this:

7-shape-and-materials

Creating the highlights

To give the neon tube a more three dimensional appearance, add two spotlights and position one above the words and one below the words as follows:

7-spotlights1

Set the energy for the top spotlight to 0.9 and 0.4 for the bottom spotlight and select ‘Layer’ for both. This will make the spotlights only affect the neons, instead of the entire scene.

Making the Neons emit light

Add a lamp and parent it to the first letter by first selecting the lamp then the letter and hitting Ctrl+P. Select the letter and go to the Editing Panel (F9) and select ‘CurvePath

9-follow-curve-pathClear the origin of the lamp by pressing Alt+O. The lamp should have snapped into place at the start of the curve.

10b-lamp-snap

With the lamp still selected go to the Object Panel (F7) and select DupliFrames and set DupOff to 1

10-dupliframes

This will create duplicates of the lamp along the curve. The DupOff value decreases the number of those duplicates by half so there aren’t so many.

Go to the Shader settings (F5) and change the color and energy settings as follows:

8-lamp-material

Make sure you click ‘Layer’

Now if we render the neon against a plane we should see a faint glow.

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Perfect!

Repeat this step for all other letters. Then select all the lamps you just created (making sure the lamp you created first, is selected last) hit Ctrl+L and select ‘Lamp Data‘. That will make every lamp have the same data, so if we want to change the lamp settings in the future it is a lot easier.

Finally move all the spherical lamps to the second layer. The first layer should only contain the words and the spotlights we created earlier.

Your scene should now look like this:

11-with-lamps

Creating the scene

The scene you want to create is entirely up to you, but mine was essentially two planes, one for the floor and one the wall. For added realism, I also made a metal frame and added some cables as well as black neon backing tubes, but this is optional. Once you have your scene setup the way you want, move everything to the second layer so that the first layer only contains the neons and highlighting lamps.

14b-scene-setup2

If you want the exact textures I used for the wall and floor you can download them here: Floor textureWall texture

Your scene should now look like this:

14c-layer1

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Creating the final composition

Click the Render Layers tab in the Scene Panel (F10) and change the name of the scene to ‘Neon’.

12-render-layerAdd a new scene by selecting ‘ADD NEW’ from the drop down menu. Change the name of this layer to ‘Scene’. In the second row of layer boxes, deselect the first layer and select the second layer instead.

14-render-layer2We are now going to switch over to the node compositor, so change the 3d view to the ‘Node Editor‘.

15-node-editor

Click the button with a picture of a face on it. This will switch from Material Nodes to Composite Nodes

16-composite-nodes2

Delete the connection between the layer and composition by dragging your mouse over the connection. Then add two blur nodes (Add>Filter>Blur) with the following settings:

16-blur

Merge the two blur node effects by connecting them to an AlphaOver node (Add>Color>AlphaOver) and set the Fac value to 0.60

17-alphaover

Add a Glare node (Add>Filter>Glare) and connect it to the renderlayer with the following settings:

18-glare1

Now we are going to connect the Glare node with the output from the two blur nodes, so add another AlphaOver node and set the Fac value to 0.50. This will make the blur glow effect not as strong:

19-glare-and-blur1

Now add a Mix node (Add>Color>Mix) and from the drop down menu select Screen. Then connec it with the output from the AlphaOver node, and the output from the render layer.

20-screen-node

Now add an RGB curve (Add>Color>RGB Curves) and create a slight ‘S’ shape with the curve. This will increase both the brightness and contrast, giving it a more vivid glow.

21-rgb-curve2

We are now going to adding the render layer which contains the Wall and Floor. So go to Add>Input>Render Layers, and change the active layer to scene.

22-change-to-scene

Now add an RGB curve (Add>Color>RGB Curves) after this layer and bend the curve down slightly in the middle which will make the scene slightly darker.

23-scene-rgb-curve

We are now going to connect the two scenes together, so add another Mix node (Add>Color>Mix) and again, change it to Screen from the drop down menu. Connect the output from the two RGB curves like so:

23-two-rgb-connect1

For an added touch of step we are going to add a lens distortion node (Add>Distort>Lens Distortion). This will mimic a reversed fisheye lens and add some slight chromatic abbreation. Connect the output from the last AlphaOver node to the lens distortion node and apply these settings:

24-lens-distortion2

Connect the output from the Lens Distortion to the Composite node and your composite is complete!

25-complete-node-setup2

The finished setup (click for big)

Now go to the Scene panel (F10) and hit ‘Do Composite’ then render! If you can see a blue background at all, then you will need to change that to black in the World settings panel (F5).

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If you enjoyed this tutorial, please leave me a comment. If you got stuck at any steps along the way let me know and I’ll be happy to help.

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