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80 Level Digest: Best 3D Environments of 2023

Join us as we celebrate the passing year and revisit some of our favorite 3D environments of 2023.

Hello everyone! As December has firmly established its presence, it means that it is time for us to celebrate the passing year and pay tribute to the incredible 3D Artists whose works have been our main source of inspiration throughout these 12 months by revisiting some of the best projects we covered here on 80 Level.

Today, join us in celebrating the New Year season as we look back at ten of the best environment art breakdowns shared by our readers in 2023. Whether you're a 3D Environment Artist yourself, seeking help with a specific challenge, or a 3D art connoisseur, we believe everyone will find something valuable in this week's 80 Level Digest – be it a piece of advice or a fantastic new wallpaper.

Our list begins with Enrico Labarile's all-encompassing breakdown of The Tower, a stunning 3D scene inspired by the picturesque landscapes of the Mediterranean Basin, shared back in January of this year. In the interview, Labarile described each production stage in great detail, explaining how the initial blockout was set up, how the assets were made, and how the desired atmosphere and lighting were achieved in Unreal Engine. Additionally, the creator spoke about creating materials for the tower using Substance 3D tools, sharing some tips and tricks on texturing in the process.

Next up, we've got a great writeup from 3D Artist Yan Ru, who joined 80 Level to tell us more about the Majestic Ballroom, a breathtaking 3D scene inspired by the Palace of Versailles and the Paris Opera. If you are only getting started with Unreal Engine 5, this particular breakdown is a must-read, as Yan thoroughly explains how UE5's Nanite and Lumen tools were used during production. On top of that, the artist shared accompanied his comments with lots of screenshots, making the guide easy to understand even for complete beginners.

The next entry of our holiday-themed list rightfully goes to Maarten Nauta and his fantastic breakdown of the God's Valley project. In the interview, the artist spoke at length about the scene's composition and the asset creation process, explained how the mountains were made using Gaea, and discussed the lighting and rendering pipeline behind the environment. If you're working on an artwork inspired by the Alps, this article is a valuable source of inspiration to explore.

As many of you are aware, we have a deep appreciation for the creations of Hayao Miyazaki here on 80 Level, and therefore, the next entry, inspired by Studio Ghibli, should come as no surprise. Back in Summer, Lara D'Adda walked us through the workflow behind the Stylized Mountain Village project, thoroughly explaining how the NPR buildings were modeled and textured, showing how the tiling materials and trim sheets were made, and discussing the landscape creation process. Moreover, the creator shared a behind-the-scenes look at the rendering pipeline, explaining how Unreal Engine was used to set up two distinct lighting scenarios.

The next breakdown we'd like to highlight was shared with us by Level Artist Tim Burroughs back in July. In his interview, the artist dissected the unique-looking Laundromat project created for the ArtStation Medieval Back & Forth challenge, explaining some time-saving modeling techniques and demonstrating the lighting and rendering stages. Additionally, the creator shared some fantastic tutorials that would be ideal for aspiring 3D Environment Artists.

Halfway through our list, we've got an incredible 3D environment that fans of Quentin Tarantino will recognize at first glance. In this article, Sohyun Yang detailed the production pipeline behind the Minnie's Haberdashery project, explaining how the iconic location from Tarantino's The Hateful Eight was made using ZBrush, 3ds Max, Marvelous Designer, Substance 3D Painter/Designer, and Unreal Engine 5. From this overview, you'll learn how to create modular assets, how to set up vintage-looking textures, and how the cold atmosphere of the original movie was recreated in 3D.

Next up, we've got a great breakdown for those interested in delving deeper into the art of populating 3D environments with captivating details. In his interview, Lead Environment Artist Martin Teichmann shared an enormous overview of the Antique Shop environment, explaining how its myriads of assets were made using Maya, Substance 3D, and RealityCapture and painstakingly scattered through the scene. On top of that, the artist also shared valuable insights into utilizing photogrammetry for environment art and demonstrated how the scene was rendered and lit in Unreal Engine 5.

When you think about SideFX's procedural 3D software Houdini, it's highly unlikely that environment art is the first thing that pops out in your mind. Nevertheless, CG Generalist Julien Rollin has proven that the application is well-suited for this task. In his interview, he showcased this by sharing a breakdown of the Afternoon Fishing project, explaining how vegetation was scattered, detailing the rendering process in Arnold, and highlighting the intricacies of environment art in Houdini. A perfect read if you know a thing or two about Houdini and would like to learn how to leverage the program to set up delightful 3D scenes.

One more breakdown we'd love to highlight was shared with us by Annie Xiao, who guided us through the creation of the stylized Magic Potion Brewing House project. In the write-up, Annie spoke about art direction, discussed the texturing pipeline and how to create a tileable texture set in Substance 3D Designer, and explained how to render stylized scenes in Unreal Engine. Besides that, the creator talked about setting up NPR clouds and vegetation and shared some advice for aspiring creators.

Lastly, we have a comprehensive breakdown shared with us recently by CG Supervisor Ian Smith. In this breakdown, he discussed his path to becoming a Digital Artist, explained his learning process with Houdini, and provided extensive insights into SideFX's new procedural UE5-powered tech demo, Project Pegasus, discussing the initial conception of the scene, sharing production process details, and explaining the creation of procedural cliffs.

These are our picks for the best 3D environment this year. Did anything catch your attention? What are your favorite scenes of 2023? 

Share your ideas in the comments and don't forget to join our 80 Level Talent platform and our Telegram channel, follow us on InstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn, where we share breakdowns, the latest news, awesome artworks, and more.

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Comments 2

  • Anonymous user

    Nice environments but they all look very similar. It needs more variety like sci fi,cyberpunk environments and city scapes.


    Anonymous user

    ·5 months ago·
  • Abdreshov Nurlan



    Abdreshov Nurlan

    ·4 months ago·

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