2021 in a Nutshell

2021 was a big year for us here at Poly Haven.

Well, before 2021 there was no Poly Haven so in order to solve that we made plenty of changes, took on new challenges, explored a whole lot more and learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Three became one

The idea started wanting to take the three existing Haven sites HDRI Haven, Texture Haven, Model Haven and merge them to form one platform.

This provided an opportunity to make some changes too.

No matter what we did we didn’t want to go against what we stood for before, and so this new platform had to be one where people from all over the world wouldn’t have to worry about any rules or restrictions with the resources we provide.

Not only did we want to bring together the Haven sites, we wanted to make a platform that could scale well and be flexible enough to adapt to new additions and standards.

Most importantly, it should still:

  • Be free
  • Be high quality
  • Be CC0

So we got a little fatter

Not entirely literally but we did make two new hires with Rico and James coming on board to help achieve what we wanted Poly Haven to become.

This was the first time Poly Haven had permanent staff and figuring out what that meant would be our first lesson.

Poly Haven isn’t a “normal” company and so we had to ask if it needed a “normal” work life.

The answer is complicated, and something that is still being figured out.

We’re a small team, so we have to learn to play to each others strengths and to share our responsibilities accordingly. Everyone has a fair amount of autonomy but we make sure that we share our knowledge amongst each other because at the end of the day this is a collaborative effort.

Poly Haven wasn’t going to make itself

Greg had hoped that we would receive a response on our application for an Epic MegaGrant before the start of 2021. This grant would allow him to hire additional help with creating the website, but time was running out…

When the grant response didn’t arrive on time (but it did in fact arrive later!), Greg figured that he had his work cut out for him, and so started sculpting what would eventually become PolyHaven.com alone.

Building a new site from scratch was an opportunity for new foundations on the back end, you can read more on how we did some of this is Greg’s article: How we handle 80TB and 5M page views a month for under $400.

With the plan set out, we got to work

We had the HDRIs, We had the Textures but we needed more Models and so this was James and Rico’s first task.

The goal was to start the creation of our first themed environment and it was decided that a pawn shop would provide a fantastic variety of props that would let us build a diverse library of models for the platform.
PawnShop Render

Trusting the process

At this point we were knee deep on this journey and the name of the game was to Adapt, Improvise and overcome…

But we couldn’t keep things to ourselves.

As we worked through our tasks, we felt that It would be cool to share what we were doing with those who were interested. And so, the Dev Log was born and Log #00 was posted.

This gave us a voice, or at least a place to shout at the void and document our thoughts. These blogs are a great place to see what was on our minds at the time while the website was coming together.

We’re going to need some more fire power

And as we all know, with great power comes great textures…

We started having discussions about what we could to to get better results for our textures and take them to new heights.

We started exploring new software and realized we needed to upgrade our workflows, which meant we needed new hardware.


We used some time to explore the some new Software and Tools and held discussions with each other about the pros, cons and potential bottlenecks these would have within certain workflows.

We have started documenting our workflows internally and have thought about sharing these with everyone. If this is something you want, Let us know!

We looked at plenty of software and tools, some notable ones being:

  • Gigapixel AI
  • ArtEngine
  • Substance Designer
  • Xnormal
  • Marmoset
  • Reality Capture

Call in the cavalry

We realized pretty soon that in order to uphold the high standards that we had set out, we would need to be meticulous at each step of the workflow.

James and Rico’s work could be aided in two specific key areas: Graphic designs for the models, and skilled photography for the texture scans.

And so we enlisted the help of Jurita for designs and Dimitrios for doing shoots of surface to be turned into textures.
With this dream team assembled we got to work!

No more income from AdSense

And then this happened
AdSense Graph Down Trend
Google had seemed to think that we were no longer eligible to run their adverts on our site.

A third of our total income was suddenly gone. Without warning and more worryingly, without anyway of knowing why. (We still have no idea to this day)

Though this was a tough pill to swallow, this was one of the larger lessons we learned.

We learned what can go wrong and how quickly things can change.

That being said, we tried some alternatives and brainstormed some ideas.

A lot of careful thought was done since we did not want to do anything that would jeopardize the philosophy we had made.

Eventually AdSense would return once we had launched the finished Poly Haven website, but I recommend reading more in our Dev Log #05 which tells the story in more detail.

Learning how to teach

Though our YouTube channel is in its infancy, It’s something we would like to add to more often.

Throughout the year this was a topic we returned to many times with the whole Team showing interest in sharing more of what we do and how we do it.

We are still learning about what we would like to do with it but those discussions are frequent. We have many ideas but would greatly benefit from hearing yours over on our discord channel.

Poly Haven launched

Finally. We had done it!

Poly Haven was live and open to the internet.

This was a precious moment and also somewhat scary. We opened the floodgates and hoped we would float.

And we did!

Sure there were some holes to patch but we have been hard at work expanding the platform by introducing quality of life changes and feedback as well as expanding our support for a range of software with diverse workflows and implementing new features like…

  • GlTF, Blend, EXR, HDR, and Custom ZIP download options.
  • Interactive 3D views for both Models and HDRIs.
  • A tileable image viewer for the textures page.
  • Provided Early Access to patrons directly on the site for upcoming assets.


What now?

We are just getting started!

2021 was about building the foundations and we are very proud of what we have achieved so far.

We are in a constant state of exploring new ideas and possibilities and I doubt that will ever stop.

As for what’s coming next?

We are still hard at work to deliver The Smugglers Cove – our first real test at leaning into the world of themed collections.

Thank you

Overall and with some help from the community we made 182 new assets, learned a lot of new things and loved every second of it.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us through our Patreon, our Indiegogo campaign, presence on our Discord community, or messages of support.

You made this all possible.

The Poly Haven teams wishes you all the best for 2022.

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