3D artist Mats Myrvold talked a bit about the way he crafts and paints his amazing stylized projects.
My Name is Mats Myrvold I`m 26. years old, I currently work as a freelance 3D prop artist creating hand-painted stylized assets for games, I was born an
raised in a small town in Norway. I have always been fascinated by art and have done art ever since I was able to hold a pencil.
In my “younger” days I was extremely passionate about creating, I would create anything and everything which lead me to my career as an artist early on, as an 18. year old I had already worked on a variety Norwegian films as well as the Norwegian Opera house creating physical effects and props. Creating physical effects was fun but getting jobs was hard, Norway has never
been the best place to pursue an art career. At the time, digital art had become much more popular and accessible than ever before so I decided to take my traditional drawing and creativity into the digital world. My first tablet was a 40$ tablet, I spent weeks on my first Digital drawing, which I sent to a digital art competition for a large game company, where I won 1.st place and got an Ipad which I sold and bought a new and better Wacom tablet, from where the ball just kept rolling but after a year I realized that just drawing wasn’t enough for me, I wanted my art to be alive, I wanted to be able to create something that I could interact with.
I have always been a huge fan of games so I thought, what if I could combine everything that I`m passionate about into this one thing, Animation, design, props, games, painting, and 3D interaction? So I started my education at Noroff school of technology and digital media where I learned everything about 3D, the school was a great place to start
since I was new to 3D. But it got boring after a while since I knew what I wanted to do and that was to create hand-painted 3D assets, which the school
wasn’t teaching or had any knowledge about.
So I started my own company where I have worked on a variety of Large and small game projects as well as other 3D projects over the last two years.
Game-Ready Asset Production
The style of the assets can vary a lot depending on what Art direction the project has, as a freelance artist it`s important to be flexible and master a lot of styles.
When it comes to my own style I take a lot of inspiration from large MMO`s and RTS games which have a very stylized hand-painted look. When I approach my personal props I always try to exaggerate reality like make the highlights bigger, brighter make small scratches larger make the colors more colorful. It’s a fine balance between reality and stylization, I always try to keep it serious but still have that fun, playful feel to it.
To be able to create these kinds of assets, all you need is a 3D program like 3D Studio Max, Maya, Blender any 3D program will do, as long as its capable of producing low poly models, the painting can be done in any digital paint software or even with scanned oil painting, the sky is the limit really.
When you see hand-painted textures the first thing we think is, what kind of magic is this? what is secret behind it? I have been there myself, trying to do high poly to low poly, experimenting with shaders etc. But its really simple, its just hand-painted, there is no easy way to achieve this look if you don’t know how to paint. All my props are created the same way starting with simple shapes, cutting, extruding polygons and welding until I have the shapes I want, there is no high poly or baking included in the progress, the model is created as a low-poly, UV mapped and the texture is painted in for example Photoshop or 3D-Coat. There might be times when I Create high poly sculpts as a guide if I’m making something with a lot of round and organic shapes.
It really depends on the game you are creating assets for, but a good rule to follow is to always optimize your mesh and texture sizes as much as possible but still keep the quality as high as possible, we always want our games to run smoothly and look as amazing as possible to create the best possible player experience we can.
When starting the texturing progress, I always start with a grey mesh and block in the flat colors I want to use, this step is followed by painting in my shadows and occlusion, after that, I establish my light source. I gradually start building up the contrast of the materials and always keep in mind where my light is coming from the whole progress is like a computer rendering process the only difference is that you as an artist is the rendering engine, hand-painted textures follows the same rules as any digital painting since its basically just painting on a 3D model.
I always approach my texture painting as a traditional oil painter would, it`s a really fun process of adding color, painting over and basically sculpting with the colors and values you have. Some simple rules I tend to use is to paint my light from the top down, In the majority of games the player’s camera is normally placed above the character and the player is looking down, so we want most of the details and attention to be on top of our 3D models, keeping your light coming from one angle is also great to create consistency since we only use a diffuse map the texture will not react to light as it would if we used shader and maps. Another rule I use when it comes to color is to keep my shadows cold and my highlights warm or vice versa.
Photoshop is just a personal preference since I do my concept art and sketches in the software as well. I have tried substance painter and its a great tool, but personally, I use 3D-Coat since it works the same way as Photoshop and the whole back and forth process between the software are much more efficient. I tend to import my models into 3D-coat and use this to do the rough
painting of the texture, it much easier to paint in 3D space when you are establishing light and shadows, but when I’m at the final stage of refining the texture I tend to go back an forth between photoshop and 3D-coat just to get the result I want.
Recommendations for Beginners
Learn how to paint! It`s as simple as that, I see a lot of people just starting out the wrong way by trying to paint stylized wood for example without really understanding how color or value work. Stylized art is all about pushing realism and exaggerate it to make it look more awesome then it would look in real life. Google and Youtube is your best friend when it comes to learning
these days, there absolutely no limits to what information you can find that will help you to become a great painter.
But start simple with shading a sphere, for example, if you understand how to shade a sphere you can shade everything maybe not after the first 10 spheres you created but maybe after 10000. spheres. There is so much to think about when it comes to painting and we might find it really intimidating when first starting out, we have all these expectations to yourself and we want to achieve the same results as industry professionals that have done these kinds of textures for many years working 10 hours a day, but we have all been there and I can tell you that you will never be pleased because as artists we always strive to do better than we did the last time.
Becoming a great painter takes a lifetime and you will always get better each time you paint something, allow yourself to fail and make mistakes and learn from them, it`s not a race to become the best artist ever it`s about you become the best artist you can be, people will always be better than you and that is something that is important to understand early on or you will end in a
Don’t be afraid of criticism! Art is a very personal thing some people might hate it, some might love it, someone wants to change it for the better or for the worst. The most healthy way to not getting discouraged is to develop a strong sense of self-criticisms and be open-minded enough to say to yourself ” Okay this might not have been the best decision, and I really suck at this, maybe there is something I could do to improve it?”.
Focus on that one thing that you are passionate and obsessed about. If making hand-painted characters gets you fired up in the morning and your fingers are itching to start something, then make characters and characters only! You are going to spend thousands of hours to become good character artist we are only human and we can only master one thing, it`s like a professional football player, I don’t think he spends 33% of his time playing baseball, 33% on playing golf and the 34% on football. No, he spends 100% of his time playing football and that is why he is so good at it. It`s all in the hours of work. You’re going to meet a lot of obstacles along the way, the only thing that will keep you going is your passion.