3D Tools for Concept Art Creation

3D Tools for Concept Art Creation

3d artist Lars Sowig talked about discovering and using new tools for his work.


My Name is Lars Sowig, I am 26 years old and I am working in the concept art team at Crytek, where I worked on “Warface”, the latest PSVR adventure “Robinson – The Journey” and currently on “HUNT – Showdown”. I am very open to learn all types of software and conduct myself with all types of studies that might positively influence my future development and bring me further. I also enjoy the technical sides of being an artist in the industry which is why I taught myself a variety of different software tools including game engines.

Game cover I did for Crytek’s VR Game “Robinson – The Journey”, using CryEngine and Photoshop

Concept Art

In a production environment you try to approach tasks effectively, using the tools you have at hand to get you where you want as quickly as possible, with the best possible result. My personal works I create during my spare time reflect that but the tools I use are different. I have to create all assets I need for my personal creations from scratch whereas at work I have a huge library of assets in my arsenal which I can use to develop new concepts. My own assets are usually created within ZBrush, textured and rendered with Keyshot and eventually overworked in Photoshop. I tend to enrich my ZBrush assets with the help of external tools such as Maya for custom 3d elements, Fusion 360 for more complex Boolean operations, Marvelous Designer for simulated 3d-fabrics and Photoshop for custom Alpha textures. From there on Keyshot is the tool of my choice for rendering.

 Artwork “The Sirens”, excerpt of a personal IP, rendered in Keyshot, post in Photoshop

Everyone who used Keyshot before might agree on how simple it is to texture high poly assets with it. The texture process becomes a very straight forward drag and drop procedure of texture teomplates onto meshes and with a bit of tweaking the results look amazing already. The Photoshop part in the end is where the real fun begins for me although I tend to not spend too much time in this phase. I always try to focus on having a very good input which can be time consuming at first but it remains time saving in the long run when it comes to re-using or repurposing an asset I created before. This is where the advantage of doing concepts in 3d prevails over a pure 2d workflow since I can render my characters for example in different setups and from various angles which can sell the idea better. 

Character Concept of a thug-like droid called “Disc”

Using Megascans

Talking about rendering and asset creation I took a closer look at the Megascans assets from Quixel a few months ago. I thought it might be a very good exercise to use them for render studies in CryEngine which I am often using at work for doing concept creation. The goal of this study was trying to achieve photorealistic imagery by following references from nature.

Megascan Study, Screenshot out of CryEngine 5

I really enjoyed working with the Megascans assets, especially in CryEngine V in this case. As I am not an environment artist I had to learn a lot in terms of asset preparation and how the different textures work in order to maximize the outcome. CryEngine is a very powerful tool that handles the heavy scenes at ease. In this engine you don’t need to bake the overall lighting and every change you do to the light happens right away in real time. For this study I used the high-poly version of each asset to achieve better results. The Environment editor gives the user quick access to complex light settings with a simulated time during a day. It makes it easy to achieve realistic physic based light situations that would come very close to what we have in the real world. Depending on the chosen camera angle, the sun can be just orbited around easily to find the right light setting that fits best for the shot.

Scene set of the Megascan Study with just 4-5 assets and basic lighting without anything fancy

A big part of this study became tweaking the textures of each asset to match each other better. I also learned a lot about vegetation and how it behaves which was a complete new field for me. CryEngine’s grass shader preset helped to give me control over translucency which I could match my references quite easily. I spent 1-2 days to prepare a little “asset zoo” with some Megascan assets I collected over the months and eventually I would be able to create an entire environment with it, that would look photo real.

 Excerpt of the sandstone asset zoo I created with assets from the Megascan library

In the end I also learned a lot of new things about PBR rendering and I could study the behavior of natural textures in certain light conditions very good. Such an asset zoo can also come in very handy to create realistic artworks with correct lighting.

Quick sandstone asset assembly without any blending

However, I have to say that relying too much on these realistic assets can be limiting to you as an artist as you can only create in photo realistic manner.

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Relying on Multiple Tools

I strongly believe in having multiple tools and use their advantages is key to become a more valuable artist in the industry. It can not only improve your speed and your workflow, it also can help your surrounding if your pipeline can link with others. If you concept in 3d for example, you could easily take the 3d models resulting from your concept and hand them over to a 3d artist that eventually will be able to develop your idea with more precision. I can only recommend trying this to any artist out there.

Lars Sowig, Concept Artist at Crytek

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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    3D Tools for Concept Art Creation