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Slavic Tavern: Modeling Props & Setting Up Lighting

Pavel Filimonov talked about his project Traktir and explained in detail how he worked on props and lighting in Blender and UE4.


Hi everyone, I’m Pavel Filimonov from Mönchengladbach, Germany. Currently, I work as a 3D Artist at LEDs Com GmbH where I’m responsible for product design and visualization as well as creating exteriors and interiors for product usage demos. At the moment, I’m planning to pivot my career towards game dev since I really enjoy creating game environments and I’m a passionate gamer myself. 


Slavic Tavern: The idea 

As someone who was born in Russia, I have a connection with Slavic culture, so I thought creating a pub/traktir was a good idea since it would include many traditional national attributes and items. 

Initially, I was just going to create the interior, but since I don’t have much experience working on outdoors I decided to create it as well – I love learning new stuff and improving my skills and this location was a perfect opportunity to do that.

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Refs & Blockout 

One of the most important things that I learned during my career as a 3D Artist is to spend a lot of time finding the right references. I used PureRef to store them. It is important to find a reference for every part of your work (materials, props, lighting, mood, etc.). I used Google, Pinterest, and Yandex to find references. 

Tip: Yandex.ru is a Russian search engine and their algorithms sometimes (especially for Slavic stuff) work better than Google’s. However, I suggest that you always use multiple search engines. My main keyword was “Ukraine hut”. 

I created the main blockout in Blender and modeled some objects in advance to get a better understanding of the dimensions. I also used the default Unreal mannequin to understand the scale and make sure the location has enough room for the player to move around freely. 

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Modeling & Texturing Props

I started the modeling and detailing phase with the oven. Since the object is very large and I tried to stay with texel 1k per meter, I had to mirror many parts and that resulted in the right and the left parts being exactly the same. However, since the oven’s side is always pointed towards the wall that wasn’t much of an issue. For corner sculpting, I used Flatten EdgeProtect Brush From ORB, Rock_Noise, and Rock_Detail for details. I used Blender to sculpt since it provides all the functionality I needed which provides an advantage of not needing to import/export the model and do all the stuff within a single program. For more complex stuff it is better to use ZBrush

This article by Joel Zakrisson describes very well how you can get the best texel from the props while keeping the texture map size as small as possible. 

Below, I described the approach I used for most assets:

First, we create a complete bowl, then we split it into four parts and remove mirrored parts. Unwrap that part (shown in blue) and mirror it to get a complete bowl again. Note that everything mirrored must be on a neighboring UV layout (in Blender, you can do it by selecting this UV islands and pressing G+X+256).

Then, we copy the model and make a high poly model out of it. Do some sculpting with symmetry activated to avoid junctures. In some cases, you might want to use Warp in ZBrush. 

Afterward, I exported the model and baked in Painter at 512x512 resolution translating to a texel of 1k per meter.

I used Clay Rough from Substance Source for basic material and added some damage, dirt, patterns, and additional roughness made of standard grunge since I didn’t like the default one. I also tend to apply some lightweight gradient to the base color in order to dilute it a bit and create some grounded feeling for objects. In addition, I usually always apply the Sharpen filter on the top to achieve more sharpness. Then, I export the textures in the TARGA format. 

Tip: when exporting textures it’s advisable to remove normal details in Clay Rough material since the tile one (Detail Normal map) will come on top later. If you do not remove it, the two maps will get mixed and the result will not be pretty. 

Now, we are going to create the Detail Normal map. Create a new file in SP using a basic plain and add any clay material to the plain. I used the same Clay Rough material and added some Grunge Wipe Brushed to the mix for a more interesting facture. 

Now, export this Detail normal map. Usually, I use a 512*512 map for Detail Normal. Then, use the 3D editor to create a second UV channel to layout the Detail Normal map. In Blender, you can do it inside the Object Data tab. 

In this channel, unwrap it in a way that produces the minimum number of junctures. 

Then, we import the bowl as well as the textures into Unreal Engine and create the material.

To mix the normal textures, I used the BlendAngleCorrectedNormal node, though you can also use DetailTexturing. 

I created most of the props this way. As for the food, I used the scans by tomasburancgi


For the lighting, I used cold and warm colors and tried to stay with around 70% cold and 30% warm light. My main reference for the lighting was "Relicts Hut - Kitchen" by Arkadiy Demchenko. Also, one of my references was the tavern “The White Orchard Inn” from Witcher 3. 

I started with primary light sources – windows, ovens, and candles. Afterward, I added some lighting spot-wise and tried to achieve nice light reflections. I mostly used spots since they are way more optimized than point lights. 

Amazing videos by 51Daedalus were of great help while creating the lighting. 

My settings for the final lighting bake: 


This project was a great experience for me and I learned a lot of new things while creating it. The hardest part for me was the lighting – I removed it completely and recreated it for about 5 times before achieving a satisfying result. 

Thanks for reading this article! I hope you've found something useful here.

Pavel Filimonov, 3D Artist 

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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