Julius Harling is the creator of Blender addon Graswald, an addon packed with weeds, grass, and vegetation. It just hit 1,400 copies sold on Blender Market with a consistent 5-Star rating. “It’s possibly the best grass pack for Blender,” users have said and praised its “ridiculous amount of detail”.
Julius, are you a good gardener?
Haha, that is a good question! To be honest, I’ve always loved working in the garden, but sadly I don’t have the time for maintenance so I usually start a project in spring and during the summer it gets so neglected that you don't recognize much of the original anymore. Whereby the whole animal kingdom must love that…
On another note though: my room got much greener during the last few years, so my digital adventures probably have had an impact on my real life!
Graswald is "the best way to add vegetation in Blender"
How did you get started with Blender?
I was a huge fan of the 2004 zoo game ‘Zoo Tycoon 2’ and although it took me several years, I figured out that there was a big community of modders out there who designed new animals and objects for the game.
Some more advanced animal creators actually used Blender 2.49b to create new models and animations. I wanted to do that, too! So I started watching tutorials made by the Zoo Tycoon 2 community. Some of them are actually really cool, look how much Blender has evolved!
I even started my own tutorial series with the wonderful name ‘Making a Meerkat’, don’t google it! (Of course, we googled it and you can watch it here - editor's note.)
How do you juggle Blender and school?
Luckily, I graduated a few months ago, but I was still in school during the creation of Graswald. Having to do homework when what you really need to do is finish assets or work on presentation layouts is a huge bummer.
Well, I did it anyway and tried to flatter my teachers so that they would overlook my moderate amount of homework. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn't. But overall, being a student also has its advantages.
Besides school, you don't have many obligations, so I usually worked 2-3 hours a day in the (late) evening and tried to catch up on sleep the next day at school. Another great thing is the holidays: 2-6 weeks (in Germany) of absolute freedom, so if you're nuts, you can basically work all day, every day.
Besides Blender, I also love singing. Since I was six years old I've been singing in the Knabenchor Hannover, one of the best boys' choirs in Germany. That means 6 hours of rehearsal per week, but once you are part of the two-week concert tours (Poland, China, Switzerland, Russia, etc.), it's all worth it!
What made you decide to use Blender to make money? What sparked the idea of Graswald?
In 2016, I spent 6 months in Canada. The Canadian school system is much easier than the German one and it definitely has much cooler subjects. I attended a 'design' class and while most people were drawing, I was learning Blender. One day I was looking for ways to 'fancy up' my forest-themed font design, so I checked for YouTube tutorials on creating plants in Blender. I enjoyed creating plants so much that I wanted to do a whole pack, just for personal use.
Then, I discovered the amazing success of Blender Guru's Grass Essentials pack. So I said to myself: if you're already doing this, why not get some money for it?
That's basically how Graswald was born. Although, with the new plan of selling the assets, there were many changes I had to implement. For example, owning the rights of all the textures used or permanent quality control. But that's a different story.
Why did you choose to offer Graswald on Blender Market? How has its success here impacted your life?
Since I was relatively new to the Blender community, the Blender Market was my first choice. Not only did it give me access to a large audience, but it also helped me with all the important steps of selling Blender products through numerous articles and other creators' product pages. Basically, if you want to sell Blender products, the Blender Market is the way to go!
Of course, being successful is a huge motivation for future work. Seeing that people actually use my stuff and not only participate in the Graswald thread over at Blenderartists but also leave very positive ratings makes me truly happy.
It keeps me going and, of course, it gives me a certain financial freedom to improve what is already there or to develop new things. So a big THANK YOU to everyone who supported me either by buying Graswald or helping on Twitter and blenderartists.org!
You can choose from 79 different particle systems with up to 69 model variations
You promote Graswald really well. Do you have a marketing strategy?
Actually, promoting Graswald is one of the things I try very hard at, but feel not very successful at, so thanks for the compliment! Two main factors play an important role in marketing your products in my opinion: Design and Frequency.
Using an aesthetically pleasing and consistent design makes your product stand out. It should evoke a positive feeling and make the viewer feel comfortable. If you check Graswald's new Instagram page, you'll notice that I try to use the same design, font, and layout consistently. That way, people can identify not only with your product but also with the way you're presenting it, enabling a high memorability.
The other factor is frequency - and that's the tricky part. In times of Twitter & Co, where new information rises from every corner of the web all the time, your content may quickly get buried. Posting frequently is important to stay on the radar. That being said, if you don't have something to post, don't do it. Quality overrules quantity always.
It is also always a good idea to let the community participate. You won't find a better example than Blender itself. With its live streams and community events, everyone can contribute. Not only does that improve Blender overall, but it also makes it more popular and loveable, as people feel like they are part of the project.
If you were starting with a new asset, would you do anything differently? What mistakes do you see other Blender creators making?
When I started working on Graswald, I was 15 years old and had zero professional Blender experience. I also had no money, an iPhone SE and a really subpar Acer Laptop. Although I learned how to use these pretty average resources very well, they had their limitations.
I’m currently researching some more sophisticated ways of creating better PBR materials, building a fully automated PBR Scanner for better results. I’m also trying to find automated workflows for more efficient asset creation.
A good product, however, is only half the battle. A point that creators often miss is that the presentation of a product is as important as the product itself. If a product can solve all your problems but you either don’t know that it exists or that it can do all of these things, it’s of no use.
Showing what your stuff is capable of and also how to use it (a big issue at the moment with the new Graswald for 2.80 Beta) is a crucial step to becoming a successful creator.
Graswald materials use the Principled BSDF shader, allowing a flexible workflow with physically correct shading.
What are your favorite Blender addons at the moment?
To be honest, I barely have enough time to test new stuff so I can’t really answer that question. The two plugins I use the most and really like are the import images as planes and the node wrangler add-on. Both come with Blender and are awesome!
Where do you see Blender headed in the future?
I’m really looking forward to a Blender-rich future! Seeing huge members of the CG YouTube community like FlippedNormals starting Blender tutorial series is just one of the many signs that 2.80 has already brought in the industry. And with increasing support for the Blender Foundation, even better stuff will come.
Interesting times are definitely ahead.
Graswald is already 2.8 ready: what has changed for the asset pack?
With the 2.80 update, we redesigned the whole interface, making it easier to navigate and enabling the user to perform tasks faster. Of course, all materials have been adjusted to work seamlessly with the new EEVEE render engine - and I have to say, the results so far look incredible!
We have also added features to easily move different Graswald Systems between multiple .blend files and separated particle systems and settings. This allows for more flexibility and control when duplicating systems or working on different objects.
We also drastically improved the Graswald package creator and manager. This means that you now have a tool to easily add your own libraries into the Graswald system - with all the possibilities that come with it.
A lot of things also have been improved under the hood, making Graswald more robust than ever and allowing more features to be added easily in the future.
And before we end this commercial break, just one more thing: We are currently working on support for larger areas, probably the most anticipated feature by the community - and so far the results are very promising.
What are your future plans, any more Blender products in the works?
Besides working on improving Graswald, I’m trying to improve the general plant creation workflow, solving some major modeling problems and testing new technologies in order to create better models for VFX, archviz, and games.
I would like to open our "plant model service" to other software as well as improving possible ways of integrating assets faster to a 3D application of choice.