Well, I’m launching my new toy design site, taterbot.com.  So, in honor of that, here’s a hirkin’ taterbot step by step post!  So buckle up and read on.

Okay, the first step in the creation of the taterbot was to start with some sketches. Here are some of my initial drawings. This one was kind of cute, but too much bot, not enough tater. I hate when that happens.

Ah, this one is more tatery, but having his face so high draws you out of the logo/text.

This is looking better. And what a piercing gaze this fellow has!

Next I built the text. I started just modeling it in polygons.

But I wanted the logo to be a little more rounded and potatey. Again, it’s leaning too much towards the bot end of things right now. So I rounded it out just a titch.

Next I created UV maps for the text. I decided to split the UV along the back side, as you won’t see any seamage back there anyways.  Nobody likes seamage. Trust me. Here are the UV maps for one of the Ts and the E.

Okie Dokie, next up is modeling the head. Again, I draw simple, (simple drawings from a simple mind), so the Taterbot is a very simple model.  I started modeling him from a polygon cube.

Then I smoothed him out.

And added some teeth, eyes, and bolts. Potatoes always go better with teeth, eyes, and bolts.

Then I converted the head into polygons so I could create a decent UV map. Try using that sentence in casual conversation sometime.

Here’s the UV map. Why create a UV map like this, you might be asking?  Cuz this lets me place the potato texture right where I want it, silly.

Now it’ time to texture. I went to the grocery store in search of some good taters. The folks at the local grocery thought I was a little odd I think. I stood in front of the potato bin for about 20 minutes searching for the most potatoey potato. I finally narrowed it down to about 10 or 12 taters. Good thing they’re cheap.

I wanted the taterbot to have the top of his head peeled, so I peeled some potatoes and took them out into the noonday sun for some pictures. Since the sun was directly overhead, it reduced the shadows (I didn’t want any real shadowing, as I’d be doing the lighting in 3d.

I took the pictures into photoshop and made the texture maps.  Photoshop’s shadow/highlight adustments are awesome. They let me further reduce any of the lighting from the photo, helping make the texture map more flat.

How did I know where the top of the taterbot’s head would be, etc. That’s where the UV map comes in. I just put it on it’s own layer in photoshop, so I could see where everything would fall.

With the color map done, I then created a bump map. I wanted the skin to be higher than the peeled part of the potato, and I wanted there to be some exaggerated pits and bumps on the surface. The darker the color, the deeper into the surface it will go.

I also wanted the peeled part to have more specularity/shinyness, so I created a specular map too.

So, once I plugged all these maps into the shader for the tater, this is what it looked like. Tater Shader, Tater Shader, Tater Shader! Say that 3 times fast!  You’ll notice that I also added a displacement map, I’ll show you why in a sec!

So, here’s the head with none of the maps:

And here’s the head with the bump map. Lookin’ better. But I wanted a more striking sense of depth, and more exaggerated bumps.

So I used a displacement map too. It uses the same file as the bump map. But, while the bump map just fakes height and depth, the displacment map, at rendertime, actually “displaces” the geometry, really making it have true 3d depth.

Next comes the specular map. You can see how it makes the skin and skinned surfaces look like they’re made out of different materials.

And here’s the final render with all of the maps applied.

And here he is with the logo. I used the exact same process for all the potatoey letters. My good buddy Paul Conrad suggested making the “bot” letters out of a more metallic material, and I think that worked pretty good.

And here’s the whole thing in the mock newspaper movie ad. Clickit for some zoomage.

Blog Comments


“One of the most informative art blogs on the web…”
That is my review for your blog. Awesome look into the process.
For those of us not schooled in the ways of magical 3-D, it helps.
A lot of work, but it was all worth it me thinks.

Nice job.


Mmmm. Tatery.
This calls to mind you cleaning layers of Pizza off the scanner at Big Idea.
Love taterbot. I want to order Santa, Chicken Dude, DoggieBot, and Alien Blockhead. Do you offer overnight shipping?

Sweet! This is awesome and potatotastic. I also like the new site too. Very nice!

I did not recognize this as your work at all – I usually see it straight away. I actually like the colored version better than the BW, but this is really cool. 🙂 I loved the peeled top of his head. Tater is just such a fun word, haha. 😛

Oh boy! this step by step teaching stuff is haaaaard work… thanks for your (gigantic) patience Bryan! we really do appreciate it!!! 😉 b.

Jeremy, Hey! My first review! Awesome.

Brian, yes! Scanning layers of pizza. That and the food bombs were the highlight of my career at BI. And you were there to share them with me!

Thanks Sarah! Potatotastic. That totally needs to be on a t-shirt.

Muffin, ya, I like the colored version too. Especially after I put so much time into the texture maps for it. After my last “haircut incident” I felt a little like the top of my head got peeled.

Thanks Bruna. Yeah, sometimes the 3d stuff feels like more work than it’s worth. Thank God I’ve got my sharpies and post its.

DUDE!!!! This is great! Yeah, it definatly looks like a lot of work, but then again I`ve heard it said that if you do what you love to do then you never have to work again. 🙂 I`m going to check out the website right now…

Goodness…just checked out the site and my favorites would have to be: The chicken dude, the monster blockhead, and the pantalope. lol I really do wish these were real toys, I would so get them. 😉

Lordy, how you do all that is beyond me! I LOVE taterbot, he was my favorite drawergeeks this week! He could be friends with Gumpy, perhaps 🙂

Thanks Cristina, I hope they become real toys someday too. Who knows…..

Nikki, I think Gumpy and the Taterbots would make a great band.

Wow! Mister Potato Head goes to the future. I love it. The peeled scalp is priceless.

And so are you!

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