A castle straight out of a fantasy story



Updated: January 12, 2011; April 30, 2011


Please check the awesome Kerkythea images sub-section at the bottom of this gallery
for realistic rendering using physically accurate materials and lighting. Bloody amazing.

My latest model is a fantasy-style medieval castle, with all the pomp and glory of limitless architecture. Unlike my previous castle models, save the formidable Ice fortress, were modeled after would-be historical designs. While not exactly true to their legacy, they did look like something you might find on Earth in 14th century: thick walls, perimeter towers, a courtyard, a keep, a few more inter-connecting buildings. Still, they were all fairly reasonable in size and might actually survive if built. Today's model steps away from the flat design; it's a massive redoubt, spiked with towers.

We will begin with a pseudo-realistic rendering of the castle against real-life scenery. Trying to GIMP my models into somewhat realistic creation has become a habit by now. Still, it can be better. Very soon, you shall be enjoying truly realistic rendering with Kerkythea, I just need some time to tame the program.

Special

Now, let's go through the model gallery and see what kind of wild ideas struck my mind when designing this thing. I must admit it has been a real pleasure, and I paid a lot of attention to details, trying to stay true to the known technological concepts of the era without being boring. So you get the basic elements, like the drawbridge, towers, murderholes, and walkways, only taken to a whole new level of artistic freedom. In fact, something like this might actually work, if ever made. Medieval engineers would probably need proper concrete to manage the design, but we're not here to debate history, we're here to enjoy 3D art. I called this model a Super Castle, because it dwarfs all other models, in size, complexity and cunning.

Gallery

Swoop in, bird's view style over the castle.

Iso view

The castle is a massive monolith, with a wide, asymmetric base, tapering toward the central keep super structure, which supposedly houses the honorable king or the dreaded overload or something along those lines. The defining characteristic of the castle is a series of squat, robust, six-sided towers, covering all sectors.

Left

Right

Front

Rear

Looks a little Disney like, I have to admit, only way cooler and far more military in spirit, with rough stone texture, tiny arrow-slits for windows and elevated platforms for artillery.

Cool view, up close

The gatehouse

Let's begin the tour from the drawbridge and walk our way into the castle. The model sits on a little island of grass, with supposedly a large body of water encircling it. The drawbridge should lower onto the far bank or an extension section of the bridge.

Gate

Gate another view

Drawbridge

The approach is covered by two massive side turrets, with large firing platforms. The barrel-vaulted gate features a massive portcullis. Above the gate is a small tower from which the soldiers can operate both the grate and the bridge. 

Gatehouse top

Gate top

Past the gate, the cobbled path takes up and around the castle, overlooked by more towers and murder holes. The climb makes any assault harder, plus the road bends twice before it reaches yet another gate into the main hall of the castle. The road is narrow, presenting a chokepoint, while defending troops can easily attack it from all sides.

Gate climb

Road climb

The second bend reveals yet more platforms and towers, overlooked by a battery of catapults.

Second bend

The main entrance is another long corridor, covered by archer positions on all sides. There's also a small stables yard near the main gate, where defenders can easily rally or wait for the assaulting force.

Main entrance

Zoomed

Once you get to the upper levels of the castle, there's still more maze-like passageways with more sharp bends designed to break attacks and slow down the enemy, leading up toward the main keep. But we'll soon get there.

Away from the main gate, there are several more levels of masonry, which look out over the nearby land, with extended platforms and parked catapults. You get wide passageways, which allow the machinery to be moved about, as well as connecting roads, leading between different sections of the castle, crowned with yet more towers and murder holes.

Second level

Far side

Third level, some more ramps and passage ways, snaking underneath a dramatic bridge connecting the main bulk with one of the lookout towers, retracing in almost a full circle, and then, the keep, with locked away maidens and charismatic tyrants plotting the end of the world. Something like that. Sort of.

Third level

Bridge

Main tower

End result, you get a very dramatic piece of architecture, a monumental statement of power and dominance. Would work well in any contemporary fantasy book, where castles look like a piece of mountain chiseled into stark beauty. Using forgotten magic lore, of course, by a semi-alien race that does not exist anymore. Kind of a vague tribute to Romans, considering how backward the dark ages were for a thousand years afterwards.

Flank 1

Flank 2

Looking from above, it's a long drop.

Top view 1

Top view 2

Catapults

To make the castle livelier, I spiced it up with catapults, which I tried to fashion somewhat like the typical medieval siege onager, rendered in a bright brown color to break the monotony of the simple gray stone texture. The catapults do look and feel imposing and make the castle more menacing.

Catapults 1

Catapults 2

Catapults 3

Close by look

Zoomed

Towers

The hexagon-shaped towers are the defining piece of the overall architecture. Squat, robust and deadly, with bits of dark granite that add proverbial spice. Mind, the narrow windows only cover the front sector, however the way they are arranged, they offer no dead angle where enemy could sneak through.

Towers 1

Towers 2

Towers 3

Throw in a few winding passageways, twisting beneath thousands of tons of chiseled rock, and you get Drama 101 ready for the camera. You can actually imagine the brave knights of Gondor running around, waiting for the Orcish hordes to storm the walls.

Walkways

A few more shots:

Cool view 2

Cool view 3

Cool view 4

Cool view 5

Technology and software aside, you can't argue the simple fact I can draw. One more dramatic finale screenshot, just count those towers. And that's all. Almost. Hihihihi.

Final

Realistic rendering, kind of

Not exactly Avatar, but you will manage. Done using all kinds of lighting effects, filtering and layering. Not exactly as realistic as I hoped for, but still quite reasonable. The Flying Carrier and the Tank models looked better, but they were easier to manage, with fewer details and a simpler texture.

Special 5

This is definitely more cartoon like:

Special 8

Special 9

And that would be all. Really. Almost. We still have Kerkythea stuff that will put my GIMP pimping to shame. Anyhow, I guess that was fairly long. I just burned away 1% of your bandwidth or so. But I like this castle design quite a lot. It wasn't easy to conceive and draw, but I managed well. The blend of element is just right. The model has the decent width to height ratio, looking imposing without being too bulky or too tall. Lots of towers and catapults all over the place. You might actually believe they serve a genuine purpose. The fact it is not symmetric adds to intended realism.

This fantasy castle is one of my better models. It just feels right. I could imagine it polluting a video game somewhere, with a sinister, onomatopoeic name that leaves no doubt to its deadly nature. I guess it's a 10/10 for me, but you be the judge of that. Now, as long, long promised, Kerkythea.

Kerkythea images

Here's the same model, only re-created using Kerkythea, after exporting the model using SketchUp Importer for Google SketchUp and rendered with photons and ray tracing and magic and whatnot. You will like this. My dream of making near-realistic models is coming true, finally. Nirvana. Spledidski.

OK, so here's the castle, bathed in early morning light, wrapped in a misty lake, sort of. Looks lovely. Pay attention to the shadows and moss-grown walkways. You might almost see this thing in a fantasy book, all mighty and high and built by an ancient race. And yes, this definitely looks much, much better than any of my GIMP effects.

Sunrise 1

Close up

A few dramatic catapult images:

Catapults 1

Catapults 2

Another interesting angle:

Side view 3

Side view 4

A dramatic shot of the king's banner suspended from the main keep's approach bridge:

Flag

Some grass and the water bank; I used a special texture for the grass.

Grass

Here's the gate, zoomed in.

Gate

Gate, zoomed

Finally, a stormy night shot, with lightning flickering in the cloud bank. Impressive, eh?

Thunderstorm

Have fun!

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