Blender Beginner for Beginner Tutorial: Amphora

16th August 2009 – Blender 2.47

Having read a few more chapters of my blender book, it is time to try another historical model (my first was a sculpture in Tozeur). Most Roman archaeological sites include a few amphora displayed behind glass. At Pompeii they just stack them up all over the place. This tutorial details the steps I used in modelling an amphora based on photos from Pompeii. Below is one of these photos next to the results of my modelling.

  1. Create a circle (SPACE key, choosing Add → Mesh → Circle) and set it in the Z/X plane (this will make later steps easier). The radius is unimportant, we just want the linked vertices. Edit the circle’s vertices (RMB on the circle to select it, then TAB), choose a single vertex (any vertex) and delete it.
  2. Grab (G) one end of the line and move it to the origin (I did this by selecting the point, hitting N and then editing the LocX, LocY, & LocZ values to 0). Select the other end point and put it 0.5 above the first (LocZ is 0.5).
  3. Next grab each point in between the endpoints and position them into the outline of an amphora. Imagine cutting an amphora in half and then in half again – try creating the outline you would see looking at a cross-section of the amphora. This can be quite time consuming to get right, so here is a blend of the outline shown below.
  4. Select all the vertices in the outline (keep pressing the A key until all vertices are yellow). Move the cursor to the origin with SHIFT-C. Shift to top view with NUMPAD7.
  5. Press the spin button on the Editing panel (F9) with the settings Degr 180, Steps 20, Turns 1. This will spin the outline 180 degrees around the Z axis based on the origin (the origin because that is where the cursor is located, and the Z axis because we are viewing the scene in top view where the Z axis is hidden). If there is a problem and Blender refuses to spin the outline, then try closing 3D views until there is just one – sometimes Blender has trouble determing in which view to perform the spin). The image below shows the spin settings on the left and the resultant spin on the right.
  6. Go out of edit mode (TAB) then add a mirror modifier on the Modifiers subpanel of the Editing panel (F9). To do this click the “Add Modifier” button and choose mirror. Make sure the mirror is only in the Z axis and turn on clipping by pressing the “Do Clipping” button. With this modifier we now have the complete body of the amphora, but any changes we make to one side will be mirrored on the other. Thus when we add a handle to one side it will automatically appear on the other – saving time!.
  7. Go to side view (NUMPAD3) and back into edit mode (TAB), so half of the view is editable and half is the mirror. Add a cylinder (SPACE key, choosing Add → Mesh → Cylinder) length 1.3, radius 0.07 with uncapped ends. Position the cylinder off to one side of the amphora (you may need to rotate it too). Go into edge select model with CTRL-TAB 3.
  8. Extend one end of the cylinder and curve it by extruding (E KEY) one end of the cylinder a little bit and then rotating it towards the amphora. It is easiest to select the end of the cylinder using edge loop select – RMB on one edge of the end while the ALT key is pressed and the whole circle of edges should be selected.
  9. Repeat the previous step until the end of the is perpendicular to the main body, do the same at the other end too.
  10. Select the lengthwise edge loop furthest from the body of the amphora. Deselect the top and bottom couple of edges from the loop. Turn on Connected Proportional Editing (ALT-O) and move the edge in the Y-axis (G then Y) towards the amphora. This should make a groove in the cylinder. If the groove is too big or the whole cyclinder moves, decrease the power of the Proportional Editing using the PAGEDOWN key. The power is displayed by the size of the circle around the selected edges, for me the power was correct when this circle’s diameter was slighter less than the diameter of the cylinder. Make sure the shifted edges to not cross the non shifted edges or the handles will look a little weird. When finished turn off Proportional Editing with the O KEY. The image on the left below is the cylinder with the edges selected, and the right image is the cylinder with the groove.
  11. At this point you may like to scale the cylinder to make a better looking handle. I scaled mine to make it wider and flatter (S then X keys). Move the cylinder/handle into the amphora until the bottom merges into the amphora at an appropriate point. Check that it meges in all directions. Select the top edge loop of the handle and extrude it until it too merges with the amphora.
  12. TAB out of edit mode and set the entire object smooth, go to the Editing panel (F9) and on the Mesh subpanel click the “Auto Smooth” button and set the Degr spinner to 60. This means that angles of less than 60 degrees will be smoothed, while the remainder stay sharp.
  13. Assign a new material to the whole amphora. On the “Link and Materials” subpanel of the Editing panel click the “New” material button.
  14. On the Material subpanel of the Editing panel set the base colour of the material to Red 0.8, Green 0.4, and Blue 0.2 – a terracotta colour. On the Shadow subpanel set the Spec value to 0. This is the specular reflection, the concentrated point of light reflected from a light source, terracotta doesn’t have this so it is turned off. Similarly, terracotta doesn’t reflect much light in general so set the Ref value to 0.55.
  15. On the Textures panel add 3 new textures: a Marble texture call Bands, this will be the feint colour bands in the amphora; a Clouds texture called Bumps, which will be the small grain of the material; and another Clouds texture also called Bumps which will be the slighly larger bumps in the material. Set up the textures as shown below (it is worth just playing with the parameters to see how they affect the material).
  16. On the Textures subpanel of Materials panel select the Bands texture. On the “Map Input” subpanel, this texture should repeat going up the amphora, so set the texture to wrap around it by pressing the Tube button and set the SizeX and SizeZ values to 0 and the sizeY value to 10. The Bands only affect the colouring, so on the “Map To” subpanel ensure on the Col button is pressed and set the colour to Red 0.66, Green, 0.334, Blue 0.183 – a slightly darker colour.
  17. For the small bumps on the “Map Input” subpanel set the Tube button, SizeX and SizeY to 5 with SizeZ set to 1. On the “Map To” subpanel set the texture to affect colour and normals (the Col and Nor buttons) set the colour to R=0.83, G=0.38 and B=0.18 and the Nor to 0.6.
  18. For the large bumps on the “Map Input” subpanel set the Tube button, SizeX, SizeY and SizeZ set to 5. On the “Map To” subpanel set the texture to affect just normals.

And it is complete! You can download my amphora blend file here.

Creative Commons License
Amphora Blender Model by Charles Cordingley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.