Modeling and Texturing a Sci-Fi Ramen Shop

Modeling and Texturing a Sci-Fi Ramen Shop

Ahmet Bluhm talked about the production of his Ramen Shop project modeled in Maya and textured in Substance Painter.

Introduction

Hello, my name is Ahmet Bluhm, I'm a Junior Prop/Environment Artist who worked at elite3d in the past. Right now, I'm a freelancer and open to other opportunities.

Currently, I am working on my next environment which is going to be set in South America. This project will be bigger than the rest of my works and it's a challenging one. I don't want to tell you too much about it, but I will release some progress shots on my blog soon.

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Ramen Shop: References

I wanted to create something sci-fi that would be similar to Cyberpunk and Star Citizen. Eventually, I found an awesome concept from pangp (check out his works!).

I liked this concept because it was unique, but I was still not fully satisfied because I wanted it to be more sci-fi. Then, I had an idea to remove the top sign and replace it with a neon sign. Here are more references I gathered in PureRef:

I gathered some references for the trailer as well as for the sign. I wanted to make the kitchen look dirty so I searched for industrial kitchens; they also match the metal parts of the trailer. Some food like sausage, ramen, and the sauce were picked for more variation.

Modeling Stage

I started the blockout in Maya to get the right scale. I always start with big meshes and then work on the small ones. If the scaling and the proportion feel right, I then work on the high poly. The meshes are really simple and have nothing special, that's why I was able to model everything in Maya and didn't need to switch to ZBrush to add more detail. Of course, I could've done that, but it wasn't really necessary.

The high poly meshes were modeled with the sub-d workflow, a basic modeling approach. I used support loops and crease in Maya to get the right high poly and floaters for the vents. Floaters are great for getting more detail in the high poly. Here is a progress gif:

I used a lot of meshes cut in half because of the symmetry; later on, it allowed me to save a lot of UV space to get the right texel density. Everything should have the same texel that's why I need to think beforehand which meshes should have symmetry.

As I mentioned earlier, I always prefer to work from big to small. The last objects I worked on were small pieces like mustard, ketchup, tray. Because the meshes were pretty simple, it was really easy to make them. Here, I used the same workflow as for the rest of the models.

Then, I created low polys and UVs. For the simple meshes, it was quite easy to create the low polys - I just duplicated the high poly with deleted loops and optimized the mesh. The small props have their own UV, the same goes for the main prop. The neon lights didn't need a UV because they only needed an emissive on them and I decided to save some UV space again.

Texturing

I worked in Substance Painter. First, I created some fill layers to get a sense of the colors. When they felt right, I started using generators for the dirt, scratches, and some color variation. I prefer to use generators because they are non-destructive; if you did something wrong, you can easily go back.

I always try to get the dark spots right and then the highlights. The curvature map helps a lot with the highlights that's why it's important to have a good curvature and AO. If you are baking in Marmoset or Substance, just make sure these maps are good enough. I sometimes had a problem with the curvature and needed to fix it by baking it again with the right values.

Here is an example of how I textured the sides of the trailer:

First, I created the base color. Then, I looked at some references to understand where the dirty spots are gathering (the sides always get the dirt). I used a smart mask from Substance Painter, - they work really good, - and then another fill layer subtracted with a grunge texture to have variation. After that, I added some dots with a height layer to get some information. Then, I added rust spots and worn off paint that revealed metal. Finally, I added some roughness variation.

I used almost the same workflow for other elements. The metal parts were kind of hard because I needed to get the right roughness to make them look different from other metal pieces.

I am always trying to do something new to learn more and sometimes, I add some specific details with a paint filter such as the rust that "leaks out" from the handle.

For the iron grill, I used the very same workflow. I looked at some references with dirt and grease. I wanted the iron grill to be very greasy so I created a height layer for the grease first and then added more grease with color variation. At the end of the process, I added an emissive for the heat to make it more unique.

It's really important to have a good roughness because it adds a lot of interest to the textures. That's why I always save the roughness for last to get a good balance and make it look as realistic as possible. If everything looks good I export the texture in 4k and import it into Marmoset.

Presentation

To get the lighting right, I read some blogs about three-point lighting setups. Also, thanks to my colleagues from elite3d who helped me with it as well.

I created a key light, a fill light, and a back light and adjusted them. The rest of the lights are omni that were used to get lighten some areas and make them more interesting in the shots. The brightness for the HDRI sky is really low. I also added a fog but opacity is really low. It helped with the neon lights though. The tone mapping was set to Heji to get more of a filmic vibe. The field of view is set to 20.

Thanks to the global illumination the final result looked really nice with the neon lights. Below are the settings I used in Marmoset:

At the end of this stage, I took a few screenshots, opened them in Photoshop, and adjusted them with a color lookup and levels.

Afterword

I am happy with my final result. I worked on it for one week in total, however, I often took pauses and continued to work on my environment, so this project was frequently postponed. Next time, I'll better plan what I'm going to do next and what I'm focusing on. Thanks to all the people who gave me feedback - it helped a lot.

To see more WIPs or future projects, you can check out my Artstation.

Thanks for reading!

Ahmet Bluhm, Environment Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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    Modeling and Texturing a Sci-Fi Ramen Shop