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I have a heart object:

heart

I want to add crystals growing out of it (see image below for example of what I want)

crystals growing

So far, I've been manually adding crystal objects one by one, but I want to also be able to create a "skin" of crystal crust on certain faces, so that I can easily cover swathes of the heart in a fine scattering of crystals.

Should I use a particle system? Is there some way I can "spraypaint" crystal dust (not just texture, but actual crystal geometry) onto the model?

The heart will be animated, if it matters.

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    $\begingroup$ Particles seem a reasonable way to proceed. Texture can drive particle size dynamically. Texture can drive density/location a single frame. You can resuse the crystals you already made if you put them in a group. $\endgroup$ – atomicbezierslinger Dec 31 '15 at 9:08
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You can use a Particle system.

  1. Model the crystals, i would recomend 5-6 different variations
  2. Make them a group/collection(2.8)
  3. Create a particle system.
  4. Change the Render from eg. Halo to "Collection"
  5. select your collection with the models
  6. add a VertexWeigth in the Vertex settings as ammount
  7. go to weigth paint and paint on where you need them to be.

You can also create a weigth paint for size to controll it

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