Crafting a Stylized Diorama with Maya & 3D Coat
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Crafting a Stylized Diorama with Maya & 3D Coat
8 July, 2019
Environment Art
Interview

Lucile Thyrard shared the process of making a stylized diorama inspired by World of Warcraft: modeling in Maya, hand-painted texturing with 3D Coat & Photoshop, and presentation in Marmoset Toolbag.

Introduction

Hi, all! My name is Lucile Thyrard. I studied at Isart Digital in Paris in 2014 and then moved to Montreal. I have always been passionate about video games and mostly World of Warcraft. At first, I was drawing for fun and wondered if I might one day create an environment as rich as in my favorite games. After my graduation at the age of 18, I was more and more into drawing and started looking for schools that specialized in creating video games. That’s how I found I found Isart Digital.

As time passed I really wondered in what area I wanted to specialize and started to work on props and environment  Very soon, I realized that my favorite category is stylized art mainly because  I really enjoy recreating different stylized materials. They are all unique and have their own characteristic.

School is not everything, free time invested in your personal work is what makes you progress. I am practicing those skills while creating tileable textures, props or dioramas – one of them is presented in this article.

Kul Tiran Thieves

Concept & Moodboard

My main inspirations for the scene came from the atmosphere in Boralus (a city in World Of Warcraft). I wanted to make a small table with a plan of attack of a small secret guild the Black Murlocs.

In general, I start with some concept and a moodboard with all the elements that can inspire me. This step can be either very long with a lot of research or very short when I have a very precise idea of the result I want to achieve.

After a little walk in Boralus in WoW and some research online I had enough references to create a huge moodboard and start the modeling part.

Modeling

I use Maya for modeling.

For me, the key elements in this scene are the map and the daggers. I start with a blockout made with primitives meshes (cube, sphere, etc.), mostly to have a good idea of the scale and the composition. Then, when I am satisfied, I make the definitive meshes. To break the form, I like to start simple and add an edge in the middle of my mesh that I scale towards the inside to create a slight curve.

I have analyzed how modeling is made in World of Warcraft and tried to work in the same way. Stacking the UVs is an important part (not for all the elements, however, because the lights are not going to affect them the same way). It saves a lot of space on the UV map and a lot of time – there’s no need to paint the same thing twice.
I use the planar UV as much as can as it makes it really easy to paint on a good UV unwrapped.

Let’s take the green part as an example: when you use the planar on the face here, it will look like number 1. You have to move the vertex to be able to see the yellow part of the  blade on the UVs.

For the maximum optimization, the symmetry is really important. It depends on the texture you are going to work on, of course, but for a lot of objects in my scene, I only made one part, unwrapped the UVs and generated a symmetrical half of it.

For shapes like the blade, I like to use Create Polygon tool which helps me get a curvy shape faster without tweaking the primitive (Shift + RMB in Maya).

  1. I design the shape of the blade I want with the Create Poygon tool.
  2. I make an extrude of it.
  3. I create an edge with the Multicut tool in the middle of my shape.
  4. As you can see when I extruded my mesh, there is no edge crossing my face on top. With the Multicut toolm I made a quick retopology, unwrapped the UVs and utilized symmetry.
  5. I reshape the mesh moving the edge in the middle to make the sharp part of the blade.

Textures

For the textures, I use 3D Coat and Photoshop.

My goal was to practice hand-painted textures, one of the biggest challenges of which it is to make a scene where all the textures go well together. But with my references, I had very good examples of what I could do.

I find that the management of light on volumes not easy to master, that’s why having a lot of references is indispensable. For example, even if we see wood every day we can understand a material only by observing
the characteristics of the wood closely and trying to reproduce them.

I use some hard brushes for my painting to avoid too soft shapes. Let me use this box to quickly demonstrate me workflow.

  1. Mesh is imported in 3D Coat (file>import>Model for Per pixel painting).
  2. Calculating  the occlusion of the mesh (texture > calculate occlusion).
  3. Setting overall flat color.
  4. Setting the blockout color to design the object and first light source.
  5. Adding the first details.
  6. Adding shades and contrast, refining the shape.
  7. Accentuating the light and shadows.
  8. Adding some color variant. In this case, it was a desaturate green/blue spot and more shade on the material.

Light

I set my scene in Marmoset Toolbag because I really love that it allows touching the focal, saturation, exposure of the light and other small characteristics. To me, it also makes it easy to create a render that will provide the viewer with a close view of your textures.

For the setup, I started by importing my scene and created all my materials with the exported textures. I tested lighting a LOT: played with spot and point lights, the distance, the shadows offset, the curve attenuation, etc. Toolbag is a big tool where you can change everything and play with different settings. I wanted to create an interesting atmosphere of a dark room with a discreetly prepared plan of battle but the whole scene had to be visible as well.

For the candle bloom, I used a plane with a gradient made in Photoshop.

In the scene, I used the Warm/Cold light principle. My scene is mostly warm because of the candlelight, so, to make a contrast, I added a Cold light on the ground.

As you see, in the final scene, I added a stone pedestal and a carpet different from the one I had in my early blockout. Remember that it’s always ok to add elements or change them even if you have started texturing or lighting!

Lucile Thyrard, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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