My name is Ed Fedorei, and I’m a freelance concept designer living in Odessa, Ukraine. I’m going to breakdown my recent artwork DJC Weapon Concept Design. I’ll explain my workflow, thinking process and how I used Fusion 360 and Octane Render for production.
It’s essential to know everything about the subject you are working with. Let’s say you want to create the best possible weapon design, – you just have to be genuinely interested in weapons. It’s that simple. Do a lot of weapon sketches, learn weapon mechanics, watch reviews and disassembly videos on Youtube, play shooter games, explore World of Guns: Gun Disassembly or even go all-in and visit your local firing range. It’s a simple concept that can be applied to anything you want to learn.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to know design theory before making anything design-related. Read “Architecture: Form, Space, & Order” by Francis D. K. Ching and if you know Russian I would recommend checking out “Композиция в технике” by Somov Y. S. These are great books that helped me a lot to get into design.
Every artist needs some kind of a visual library to learn why real-life objects are designed in a certain way. The human brain will eventually absorb shape language, manufacturing processes, use of materials, etc. I find Pinterest the best tool for collecting everything you’re passionate about.
PureRef is a good tool to have this kind of resources right in front of you while you work on a project. Use anything that directly supports you with knowledge and builds your taste.
Project starts with a general idea of what I want to create. Is there a specific reason or problem-solving behind a new project? What features do I want to implement? How does it work? Is it science fiction or real-life design? I’m a huge fan of both, and these two types have their own limitations and unique room for exploration. For this project, I wanted to create an energy weapon that can fry air using interference of waves, featuring a battery in the back, metal frame, polymer lower receiver, partially exposed working elements and laser rangefinder.
First of all, I’ll do a simple blockout of the idea and I’ll consider all of the functional and aesthetic goals I have set for the project. For modeling, I use Fusion 360 in its awesome direct modeling mode. You can find it in the settings. Once I have some volume and key weapon functional elements I’ll do a simple render to see what lighting opportunities there are and to check if all components work together.
I do overpaints to fix some weak areas of the current design, checking for a few solutions without doing any heavy 3D adjustments.
While refining the design I’ll look at the silhouette, edge flow, tensions in shapes and contrast in details and adjust everything accordingly, making exceptions for traditional design rules for the sake of function.
Using the material editor I can plan colors and materials of the final design just like product designers would do. Exporting as an FBX file keeps all material groups from Fusion 360.
Octane is super easy to use, one of the best options on the market for rendering concept art in my opinion. I enjoy the node-based workflow because I can create all render scenes within one Octane node graph.
It can be quite difficult to navigate through all the nodes during the final stages of the project, but it’s not as hard as it looks. Controlling this chaos is something you get used to after some time. This is how DJC file got in the end:
My favorite feature is the batch render node that comes really handy for client work. If I need to change something I simply update the geometry of the model and hit that magic batch render button and all my renders are done in 2-10 minutes with the proper naming convention and the correct file organization.
Here is an example of how I would approach making a metal material for a weapon. I start with a Low contrast gray noise texture on specular as this helps set the scale of the object. The smudge roughness texture allows light to create soft light spots with surface imperfections.
Then I add a diffuse texture with subtle color spots with barely noticeable color variation. This will have a huge impact on the renders later on. Why? Any real photo with increased saturation is going to help you notice how all those subtle colors add up and forms the final picture.
I try to do as much of my texturing work in 3D as possible to have more freedom in the number of renders I want to do. I can play with the different color schemes, patterns, materials, camera angles, mood renders and not worry about extra work in Photoshop spending all my time adding textures or placing every decal or label.
Some graphic elements on the surface created in the material using a texture as a mask mapped by a quick UV.
Stickers, for the most part, are just a very thin piece of geometry. It’s like a second artwork inside another artwork. For every project I do a unique set of graphic design, two weapons existing in one universe can have common elements.
It’s all situational most of the time. I do have cases when the majority of all texturing is done in Photoshop. My G3 Grenade Concept is the best example of using Photoshop to finish the final look of the design.
Design shots are usually executed with a standard light setup – key, back, and rim light. These renders below show the design with standard lighting setup. Combining a few HDRIs maps also works pretty well.
Sometimes I use geometry with an emissive material as my light source to get more accurate control over my lighting. Every weapon requires its own lighting to show forms in the best way possible, depending on your preferences.
Mood shots are rendered with a more cinematic look at the design. Mood shots won’t show a big picture like Design ones do, but can help show design in an environment with dramatic lighting setup.
Once all renders are done everything that is left is minor adjustments in Photoshop and small signature in the corner.
Remember that weapons are all about delivering a “message”. It’s a deadly, powerful tool that has made it through the ages. Sticks and stones evolved into the nuclear bomb and lasers.
Most of the video games and movies have a story based on a conflict of interest. If not weapons, what else can show the scale of its problems and technological level of the world while being a huge part of storytelling and gameplay mechanics?
From the execution point of view idea, design, composition, lighting, mood, quality of materials and geometry are all equally important if you want to create a truly great concept. One poorly executed element can ruin the whole concept. Learn from your mistakes and do your best!
Ed Fedorei, Concept Designer
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev