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I am trying to recreate the following kind of static picture (particles positioned in a circle, with some kind of "motion trail" behind them to indicate a velocity) using Blender v2.79 and the Cycles render engine :

enter image description here

The easy part for me was to model the water molecule. To randomly position them, I created a circle and used the Particle System modifier. This is what i got so far:

enter image description here

The circle border is missing, but this is no problem, since I know how to add it.

Two questions remain:

1) How can I make the positions of the molecules more uniform, but still unordered (not regularily ordered at least)? E.g. I don't like that some molecules overlap.

2) How can I add the motion blur trail to the molecules? I've never done something like this, and "regular" motion blur, e.g. by decreasing the shutter speed, would also blur the particles themselves, which I want to avoid.

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In many cases, Blender artists use animations just so they can get a still frame that looks the way they want. So @Duarte Farrajota Ramos' suggestions would still be useful for you.

Another way to go that is static in nature, but maybe less flexible/realistic, would be to actually add the "tail" to the particle objects. For example I created some simple tails using volumetric shaders:

enter image description here

enter image description here

The material may be more complicated than you need, I tried to randomize the "streakiness" of the trails a bit.

So using a particle system:

enter image description here

One issue with this is that if you have only one particle, the "trails" are all at the same angle to the molecule body. Also none of them have "curves". A way to fix this is to create multiple versions of the particle with different tails (in fact the screenshot above uses three different versions of the particle).

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your nice answer. I will concider using an animation according to @Duarte Farrajota Ramos' links. Though your siggestion is also nice looking. :) $\endgroup$ – Pidrittel Aug 29 '18 at 7:35
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I took a look at the given answers, and here want to show you how I solved this question in the end.


@risingfall 's answer worked but has the downside that the trail only extent in certain directions relative to the particle object. Also, if I would like to change the molecule to another one later on, I would have to remodel the whole thing (yes, not too much work in this case, but nevertheless).

I tried to work with @Duarte Farrajota Ramos suggestion, but since my blender experience is not great I did not understand how to use the Btrace addon in my case. Anyways, the suggestion taught me that I can use an animated scene even if the desired result is static.


Here, I want to quickly show you how I ended up doing the scene so that it might help somebody else out:

  1. I created a particle system on a circle object as above.
  2. I chose "Grid" as the particle distribution method. With the according "random" slider you can add a random offset to the regular grid locations.
  3. Under the velocity dropdown, I set the Random-Value to 1. This gave the particles a random velocity (random in direction and absolute). To prevent some particles being larger than others because they moved towards the camera, I set my camera to orthographic, so that all position deviations in the direction of the camera got projected into a plane.
  4. I rendered the scene with a very slow shutter speed and a very awkward shutter curve (see image below), to get the desired effect of a motion trail fading out the further away from the molecule it gets.

Shutter curve

  1. To obtain the look of an unblurred particle with a blurred trail behind it, I re-rendered the last frame used in the motion blur, to get an unblurred version of the molecules "last" position, and overlayed them later in an image processing software.

The final result looks like this: enter image description here

What I like about this solution is that the trails have the same color as the objects and have different lengths depending on the component of the random velocity in the direction of the camera. I could also remodel the molecule and would not need to do anything else than rendering again. Furthermore, the particle positions are not too random. :)

What I dislike is that one can clearly see that the blurred and sharp version of the image are overlayed in post (the trail loses the impression that it originates from a 3D-Object), but I have not implemented a solution for this yet. One option would be to duplicate the objects at the last frame and setting the duplicates velocity to zero. This way, the particles that create the trail would generate the impression that the trails comes "out of the particles" and does not lay behind them. I don't know how I would do this though.

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