Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas to you and all your loved ones! May Santa bring you everything you ever wished for and may 2012 be an awesome year for Everybody!


Waiting for Santa concept was actually done last Christmas and I didn’t have time to 3d model it, texture and lighting before Christmas and in a way I’m glad I didn’t cause this year I have learned so much and my modeling and lighting techniques have become so much better!


christmas scene illustration


This piece started from an old memory, one of the most beautiful moments about Christmas when I was a kid and the one that kept popping into my head was the time I used to hide under the blanket so I could trick Santa that I’m asleep and I could get the chance to see him when he puts the gifts under the tree. But, as always, I would fall asleep and wake up with the presents under the tree and I would comfort myself saying: ”Well, at least I’ve got my presents; maybe next time I’ll catch him…”


classic christmas scenes


After I finished the initial 2D concept drawing, I scanned it and started coloring it in Photoshop. I started with volume first figuring out light and shadow areas, then I started adding some colors. I didn’t spent that much time on it, I just wanted to block in the main elements and the entire mood of the scene.


Once I finished the drawing, I showed it to a couple of friends and I got some great feedback but the most important one I got was from Pascal Campion which is one of my Art Heroes. I love his work so much, his style and colors and the simplicity of his scenes yet have so rich feelings, emotions and stories.


I could stare at a piece of Pascal Campion’s for hours and with each piece I see in his amazing gallery I learn something new; the most important lesson that I have learned from Pascal Campion’s work is always try to tell a story with your piece it doesn’t matter if it’s 2d or 3d and it doesn’t have to be hyper realistic or super high detailed piece, it should have soul it, should tell you a beautiful story or at least spark a beautiful memory or maybe even inspire you! Now back to the feedback I got from Pascal Campion, he told me that the tree was too close to the bed and I should try to add some more space and let the room breath a little cause it felt over crowded, although this is how I saw the piece in my head, cause my room was crowded and the tree was so close to the bed if the tree was wide the branches would hit the bed. But the most important thing here was to tell the story – it doesn’t matter how close the tree is to the bed, sometimes you have to make some changes to make your 2d or 3d illustrations work better.


christmas scene kids


So, before I started modeling I did the changes to the old 2d concept and I wanted to see how this will look with tree farther away from the bed and it was an easy cut and paste the tree on a new layer, make the canvas bigger and just move the tree more to the right and then just paint in some details to see how it looks. Next, I opened Maya 2011 and I selected the persp camera and created an Image Plane in Maya, it’s very easy to setup and it so helpful, it doesn’t mean that you have to perfectly align your 3d work with the one point perspective or 2 point perspective or just a flat drawing that you do on paper. I used 1 point perspective to create the 2d drawing. I never can align my drawing perfectly with the 3d blocking elements, my 2d drawing wasn’t perfect so whatever 3d Software will give you will be far much accurate, so just try to align it so you can figure out what goes where. I usually block stuff using Polygon and Nurbs primitives in maya just so I can figure what goes where.


planning 3d scene


Once I have the initial blocks in place and i’m happy with the perspective and the camera angle and the Camera focal length, I started lighting the scene. Yes I light the scene before modeling or adding any more details, for me this way works better for me cause I can visualize how the piece will come out in the end, and I know how much detail I need to add to each elements and see if light hitting that edge looks the way I want it to look.

Once I have my main skylight and moonlight – I know the light from outside is strong, you have to keep in mind that outside is all cover in white so that snow is acting like a big bounce card and a big bounce light making everything look so bright and lovely.


For the moon light I used a VRayLightSphere, make sure when you are using Sphere lights such as sun light or moon light to check the No Decay check box under options, you can check out the light settings that used for the VRayLightSphere in Vray for Maya.


vray moonlight night setup


For the skylight I used the VRayLightDome I linked a 2D Ramp texture into the VRayLightDome in the Dome Tex.

VRay for Maya Pixelophy Tip: Make sure to check Use Dome Tex whenever you link a texture or an HDRI to your dome, cause if you don’t the light will still work but it won’t use the texture you linked into the VRayLightDome.

Check out the settings for the VRayLightDome in Vray for Maya.


lighting setup night sky


For the 3d Christmas tree lights I used a bunch of VRayLightSpheres in Maya here and there, if you notice when you have Christmas lights in a room, those lights are everywhere in the room so I added a couple of VRayLightSpheres above the shelf to have some nice lights on the wall and a couple near the window and also on the kid under the blanket just to get some color there as-well.

Below you can see one of the 3d Christmas tree lights settings. Most of them have the same settings.


3d tree christmas lighting vray


All of the small 3D Christmas light bulbs… (whenever I type the word light bulb I can’t help myself thinking of Gru from Despicable me, I love the way he says: “ LIGHT BUUUULB”) If you haven’t seen that movie you gotta drop everything you are doing and go watch it, trust me!

Now back to the Christmas light bulbs each one has a VRayLightMtl assigned to it with different colors and intensity, below you can check out the setting for one of the VRayLightMtl in Vray for Maya


vray christmas tree lighting setup


Once I have all the lights setup I start modeling all the elements in the room, I started modeling the Christmas tree, that was the most important element in the scene. I wanted to keep the tree pretty simple and clean; this is a cartoony scene after all. All the elements in the scene were modeled in Maya 2011 using Polygon and Nurbs modeling. Once I finished modeling all big elements I started modeling the 3d robots and the 3d wooden train, because of the first robot toy the one on the top shelf I had the idea to make the kid be a fan of Retro style robot toys. I modeled another robot based on the first 3d retro robot that I modeled, the third robot was actually based on a robot that you can see on the wall wallpaper – I just loved how that one looked.


3d robot toy50s style 3d robotsretro 3d toy robot maya


By the way, the pattern that I used for the wall can be found at Colourlovers (as always, colourlovers) I love that site, as you can see I altered the pattern quite a bit cause that one was too busy and I didn’t want the walls to be cluttered.


Xmas pattern


I had to model some classic toys like the Wooden Rocking Horse and the Wooden Christmas train, this is just a tribute for all those amazing classic toys that became icons for the Holidays. I actually own a small wooden train and this was based on that one, but I think the 3d one came out even more awesome!


classic wooden christmas toys, 3d wooden train


The cookies plate and the glass of milk was something I created and added while working on the christmas scene. It might be a cliche, but it’s a great cliche to use cause it shows love and care in its simplest form.


milk and cookies for santa


The material on the glass is a VRayMaterial with some nice Refraction and some reflections and an index of refraction of 1.5 and for the milk I used VRayFastSSS2 which gives superb results for skin or candles, thick liquids and so on, for the milk I actually used the VRayFastSSS2 milk preset found in the shader.


For the snow flakes I didn’t want to make simple shapes or spheres so I decided to make huge snow flake stars, I think they came out pretty sweet.


I wanted the room to be tidy and clean cause after all he is a good boy who cleaned up his room cause Santa is coming tonight with lots of presents.


here is the Final 3d scene, I really hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed working on it!


3d christmas scene maya and lighting in vray


By the way, while working on this piece the only music playing in the background was Michael Buble’s Christmas album which is just amazing!


I Wish you all a Merry Christmas, and I hope you all been good for goodness sake.


The scene was entirely Modeled, Textured, lighting in Maya 2011 and rendered using Vray for Maya


© 2011 Oasim Karmieh

About Oasim Karmieh

My name is Oasim Karmieh and for the last 12 years I have been working as a freelancer,I have had the pleasure to work with clients all over the world. I have worked on some amazing projects from Animated films, animated short films, commercials and interactive iPad books. I’m what you call a Jack of all trades, but my true love and passion is teaching I always enjoyed sharing my knowledge and technique with all my friends, This is why I started Pixelophy.com, cause I really believe in sharing knowledge and experience, the only way we can grow as artists is to help other artists grow with us.


  • Amalia says:

    Your website is amazing! I love it. Thanks for the great material. I’m going to go read your other posts now. :)

    • oasim says:

      Thank you so much really appreciate it! So glad you enjoy it, I hope its helpful and inspiring. I checked your blog and it’s really interesting.

  • Edward says:

    This is amazing!
    may i ask, how was the rug created?

    • oasim says:

      Hey Eduardo
      The rug is a simple cylinder with a smooth modifier to it, I UV mapped the cylinder while in low poly and once I added the smooth modifier to it, it gave me that nice crease in the texture. The shader is a simple 2D Ramp with a cloth texture for bump map.

      • Edward says:

        That is a very smart approach. I just starte learning Maya and I always try to follow youre style for my work because every detail of your work is so awesome!

        By the way, were do yo get all your different textures?

        • oasim says:

          Hey Edward, Well best of luck with Maya you will love it, it’s a great piece of software. I really hope you find my tutorials helpful. Well I get my textures from different places, I’m planning to do a post about where I get my resources, I do use lots of procedural texturing cause you have so much control on your textures and you would be surprised what amazing textures you can come up with. You can check out http://www.cgtextures.com/ It;s a great website to get amazing textures.
          Best of luck

          • Andy says:

            Was the rug and blanket textures procedurals or actual textures??

          • oasim says:

            Hey andy, The blanket is a texture done in photoshop, and the rug is a procedural texture, I’ll try to write a tutorial on how to texture a rug hopefully I can have done this weekend.

          • Andy says:

            Hey i love all the texturing you did too. Would you mind sharing where you got or how you made the rug texture:)
            Thank you so much!

          • Edward says:

            Andy and I are roomates and classmates. We talked to some other classmates and none of us could understand how it was possible to create the little button-like bumps on a carpet only using the Maya 2D cloth node. So this upcoking tutorial is going to help out alot of people.
            Thanks again!

          • oasim says:

            Hey Edward, Here is the tutorial on how to Create a Rug/Carpet texture using procedural texturing in maya. I really hope you find it helpful.


          • Edward says:

            Hey the tutorial is great! I’m sure many people will enjoy it. I like how you made 3 new designs aside from the original:) but i think the original is still the best! keep up the good work!

          • oasim says:

            Glad you like it. Yeah I agree the original once works great for this scene, I just wanted to show that you can achieve really different looks with just using procedural texturing.

          • Edward says:

            Hopefully i can get my website running so i can share some of my work. Keep up the awesomeness!

  • Edward says:

    I look forward to that post because I really find your work very helpful. Right now im making a teddy bear sitting on a carpet and i reaaally liked your carpet but i couldnt find a texture that i could use as a bump for it (to make the little bumps) and i looked like everywhere.
    Thank you so much

  • Edward says:

    I definately will! Me and Andy here are big fans! You also convinced me to switch to VRay, once i save up because im a college student andi do this as a hobby so my budget isnt very big haha
    Best of luck!

  • Edward says:

    By the way, when you say cloth texture, are you refering to the Maya 2D cloth node, or a cloth texture you got online?

    • oasim says:

      Hey Edward, well you can try both see which one works better. For my rug I used the Maya 2d Cloth I’ll try to post a short tutorial on how to texture a rug.

      • Edward says:

        Hey, that would be awesome. I know your wood texture tutorial helped many people out. I think this one will be even more useful! Thanks for being awesome!

  • Ashley says:

    Great work!
    just out of curiosity, what settings did you use for the ramp that you attached to the skylight lightdome?

  • sublevel4 says:

    Glad to know i am not the only one who finds myself saying “light Buuulb” in the voice of Gru. Nice tut!

  • lovemusic85 says:

    Hello, really liking the scene here and the lighting and just wanted to ask what method you use to texture the wood in the scene was it a procedural texture or was it uv mapped in to photoshop?

    Really like your other works, everything looks amazing just to point that out! :)

    • oasim says:

      Hey there, thank you so much! I’m so glad that you like the lighting. Well for this I used wood textures so all objects where UVMapped and textures were mostly created in photoshop because procedural wood texture doesn’t work in V-Ray as good as it does with Mental Ray.

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, I’m so happy that you like my works, really puts a huge smile on my face!

  • lovemusic85 says:

    Hiya, Thank you for the quick response and the textures are looking really realistic. I think I will give it a go and try it out for myself. Also I wanted to ask one more question did you use any bump maps on any of the objects in the scene?

  • Tanmay says:

    Hello Oasim,

    Firstly, I must say that I’ve become a huge fan of your work and have really learnt a lot of tricks from the projects that you’ve featured here.
    I would really appreciate if you can add some Maya mental ray lighting tutorials with light setups, esp. on how to use Volume lights or point lights.
    I am a Modeler and have started to experiment with lighting lately :)

    • oasim says:

      Hey TANMAY,
      Thank you so much, really means a lot that you like my work, and especially that my website and tutorials helped you out, I will try to create more Mental Ray tutorials, in the past couple of years my main rendered has been V-Ray but I do still work on Mental Ray on projects that require so. I checked out your website and you have some really awesome portfolio pieces, I especially enjoyed the Bat Mobile – Tumbler, really nice works, keep it and up!

  • […] So, you will be able to download a 3d model of a 3d wooden Christmas train that I built for the Waiting for Santa scene. You can get the 3d model for free just by going to my Gumroad page […]

  • Gabriel says:

    Hello oaslm.
    I just have a question about shadow. I am making warm lighting and there are about 10 or 15 light in the scene.
    But when I made some bounce lights sun light, do I turn on every shadow in bounce lights? or depend on shadow direction ?
    I briefly explain what I am making is interior. and the sun light will be through the window to left side.

    • oasim says:

      Hey Gabriel,
      Well with V-ray you rearly need bounce lights, I mean you might need to add a couple jsut in case light is not strong enough to bounce on your character’s face, the best way to think about this, is if you look at photographers that shoot outside on a sunny day, even with a strong sun, you still see them use bounce cards to bounce the light on the areas that are under lit, or maybe even sometime they will use extra lights.

  • rachid says:

    Hello oaslm.
    Please I am new in Vray but I need help how to make movie animation rendering in VRAY for Maya

    Thank you very much

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ― Phil Collins

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