Tech Art Chronicles: Stained Glass

In the Technically Speaking Discord I had suggested a theme a while back for “Stained Glass” tech art challenge and it was quite a surprise when it won later in a bi-weekly voting for the theme. So then I had to make something for it since I did suggest it, the guilt. I wanted to go back to stained glass because while I had made glass previously in Unreal it wasn’t quite the visual I wanted.

The stained glass is inspired by the amazing work of Cut Glass Studio look at the inspiring glass there. There was more I wanted to try. I didn’t quite see my vision realized with this stained glass even though I think I got the welds of the lead and the lines visualized and that was interesting. I wanted something similar to a stylistic stained glass like Laure De Mey’s twitter here:

So now with this challenge I knew I had another chance (forced chance) to look at stained glass again and see if I can get something more similar to the stylistic version vs the Unreal version.


So now to making the stained glass... the annoying part was the stained glass shapes itself. So I was inspired by this studio Lawrence Ribbecke Studios
that made the actual stained glass version of the wave! Go take a look! But I started by just making the stained glass bits by tracing in illustrator each section and making up my own:

SO MANY VECTOR LINES... but it was done and then I could thicken the stroke to whatever I wanted so I had a thin version and later would use the thick stroke version for the lead lines. 

I took those lines and put them into photoshop then used the magic wand + some hand painting and colored the entire thing which also took up tons of time... DO NOT RECOMMEND unless you can put on some chill music or stream or a podcast or a show.

Great so this was my main texture I’d use for the colors then I knew I wanted to make one other texture that was RG/A (could have been blue but I thought I was going to use the blue channel but I infact didn’t use the blue channel so ah well) And this other texture would be my lead lines in Red and the Green would be an ID mask mapping for the glass that I wanted different normals on. If you notice stained glass is a bunch of glass being put together and so the glass normals and thickness and reflectiveness are not always the same from color to color and sections WITHIN the stained glass:

Again a page from Cut Glass Studio you can see on their instagram post here the detail of the stained glass some of the panels you can see through quite clearly and some other panels distort the reflection and refraction with these amazing textures. So applying the same normal map to the entire texture wasn’t what I wanted to do instead I wanted to create a way to mask out or allow for different sections of my texture to have different normal maps to indicate the glass was of a different KIND of glass in various section:

So my green mask I made has white 1 (green I guess if you’re looking at the photoshop texture) where I wanted to put a heavy normal map distortion and the less white is where it wouldn’t be as dimpled glass.

The final results end up looking like this where the brighter White (green in PS) areas on my ID mask get more bumpy normals to displace the surface with.

Then the Red channel -- the lead lines and I just had a thicker stroke and I put a little photoshop bevel on them to make it look a bit smoother when I used it for normals. Oh and I had an alpha which was just the colored version but white so I could define the glass parts from the lead parts easily... probably could have been in the blue or done different but that’s just what I made. 

NOW we’re ready to go into Unity with those two textures one is the colored glass and the other is the RG/A. 


So the first thing I wanted to do was get some reflection and refraction in the shader so I looked up some shader graph tutorials on reflection and refraction and basically using this youtube tutorial to get some kind of index of refraction working with a little bit of a reflection probe as well.


And adding in my texture and the reflection probe this is the setup I found I liked:

And with a runtime reflection probe + some scene and texture intensity blending with the refraction index you can get some interesting results

So now with the lit shader instead of taking in the normals of the world I’d map my normals to the texture ID mapping I made and I just used unity’s noise to generate normal maps and use that height to normal map node to do the conversion.

I use the red channel to make the lead lines a normal map, and a smooth step of 1.0 - 0.7 to mask out the white areas of the green channel for the strong noise and then the rest becomes the weak noise and you can see me playing around with the noise size and strengths of the normals:

The shader graph looks something like this so far:

Now it’s just playing a bit with the specular + emissive and polish alpha to get it all sparkly and nice and honestly I just messed around till I found something that worked for me. I ended up splitting the specular into glass and lead lines so I could control both separately. I also forgot why I initially did it... but I put the lead lines in the emissive so I just color them in the emissive channel... for some odd reason I was probably testing something and left it that way:

And in the end with some tweaking of values I got something peaceful like this:


Now the unlit shader isn’t THAT different but instead it obviously has its own lighting in it and so I used Cyan’s Git of custom HLSL lighting in Unity Shader Graph. It's amazing. I highly recommend using it. I wanted to use specular so I just picked some specular and started to abuse the specular.

This probably doesn’t need to look this complicated but I have every preview open to clearly confuse me and the readers of this article. So the top left part of the graph is pretty much the same with reflection probes and index of refraction and here I’m not changing the noise per each glass mask part:

And I do the same thing as I did in the Lit shader with the multiply color texture to an intensity param do a little subtract to dim some intensity of the texture and then add them together with the reflection and refraction. That should get me the color of the glass with reflection and refraction of the scene behind and infront of the glass.

The only special thing with this graph is the specular and taking the specular and splitting it into these banded lines which Cyan again has a fantastic tutorial on toon glass lines I used as inspiration. 

So this basically masks out my specular in the top-right part of my chaotic graph to these toon lines and then I do some other fancy stuff with it. But to show you what the specular mask is doing on its own it’s basically just masking the specular to some nice toon lines:

Where it gets more fun is when I put in a background thing for the glass to distort the specular also appears a little bit on that background distortion too:

And so I’m basically making a smooth step ramp to determine how much specular I want from the distorted background of the stained glass and the lines as well:

The graph gets a bit crazy but basically I take just one channel from the distortion we did with the scene texture and multiply it to our specular and then I ran that through the smooth step to determine how much/little I want and contrast.

THEN to keep with within the mask of the toon shaded lines i need to multiply that smooth step to the mask I made:

The rest gets a bit chaotic but I can control the lead lines how much specular they get with a simple multiply:

And I do lots of lerps and multiply by specular color in the end to get it all to blend ok. Which could probably be set up smarter but :D why not live a little?

So yeah with some fiddling about it looks a little like this:

Hope this was enlightening to the chaotic process I go about when I make shaders :)