Ancient Ruins in Unreal Engine 4
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Ancient Ruins in Unreal Engine 4
4 January, 2018
Environment Art
Environment Design

3d Artist Daniel Cangini discusses the way we’re working with the production of beautiful environments.

Ancient Ruins in UE4

Hello everyone! My name is Daniel Cangini and I am an environmental artist who currently works as a graphic designer in Rome, Italy.

In 2012, I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in the University of Rome “La Sapienza” in the Graphic and Multimedia Project focused on “3D Digital Art & Design”.

After graduating in 2012 I worked in Direct2Brain as Modeling Artist, it was an incredible experience where I met and worked with so many talented and dedicated artists.

During July 2012, I went to Montreal, where I attended a class of meetings on “3D environments and resources for video games” for the creation of gaming environments with UDK3.

Following my passion for building real-time environments for Games and pushing myself to pursue my career as an environmental artist, I decided to subscribe to Clinton Crumpler’s CGMA environment class, where he provided me with a solid program focused on the process to build an environment from start to finish.


My main goal was to learn the process of creating environments in Unreal.

I had established a quick Trello board to organize my thoughts and I began examining ruins images to understand how they were built and where I can break the modular repetition.

I started by gathering multiple references to have a solid compositional ideas, find things that make the location unique and how to breaking up the textures into main textures, secondary, and decals.

After analyze the Images collected, I started to work on a style guide. I focused on the main design, what assets would be built inspired on the Uncharted Temples environments.

Production Blockout

When I started the scene blockout, I concentrated on the proportions and scale of the asset, this was the best way to test the composition and scale of assets in 3D space and make quick changes before creating the final pieces.

Once I created the shapes for the modular pieces and large props  that I liked, I then continued to block  out the assets  on  details.

Then I exported each piece individually and assembled my meshes in UE4.

Assets and Materials

The Temple was a compositional element integration with strong emphasis placed on harmony between architecture and striking natural surroundings.

I kept the main meshes simple and flexible by using the modular modeling and tiling textures for re-usable assets.

I used painter and designer to develop my materials. With Substance Designer I began by creating the Height map.

My workflow for the texturing involved finding a lot of images and reference to work from, design the main shapes or patterns, develop the color variations.

Once I was satisfied with my base material I would move towards building the damage by adding secondary details before finishing the textures.

Adapting Textures to Games

A first challenge was to create the shader in Unreal. Because I wanted this material to be scalable and have the same texel density.

I began setting up a master material for props with appropriately shader system.

From a Master Material I create the Instances Material.

I like to use and play with The Material Instances because they are useful to make changes in real time.


Keeping in mind the amount of vegetation to be included, I started hand modeling with planes in 3ds max and positioning them until I had the main shapes desired.

For the texture process, I used CG Textures, and Substance B2M to get the Normal Roughness and A.O info from my Albedo textures.

Next, I exported the channel packing textures into Unreal. To simulate the subsurface scattering, I created a master foliage shader with two sided foliage. Then I implemented the (Subsurface amount parameter) and plugged it into my master material.

I used this same method for all of my plants, trees and canopies.

Vertex Painting

I started creating the terrain master material to use the vertex paint, modulate that blending and add features such as parallax and wetness.

With the use of the Vertex painting I decided areas where the mud, grass and leaves would appear or add and remove the puddles.

I used vertex paint in combination with additional mix maps and masks to add puddles.

Layer 1: Mud

Layer 2: Chips & Grass

Layer 3: Leaf        

Mask: Puddles


My scene is lit with one dominant directional light, a skylight to give a nice Green/Blue ambient light in contraposition of the temple warm light, plus an HDR map. One benefit of this is being flexible to constantly change the lighting angle and the time-of-day.

After I putted on the background the fog to emphasized the sense of depth.

Inside the Temple to achieve the mystical lighting I used the Yellow god rays Lighting, I started from a cone shaped modeled in Max and then I assigned the god ray-material into Unreal.


Regarding the particle systems, I found several interesting tutorials on the web where I understood the basics setting to create the different fire particle system for the candles and torches, in Unreal 4


Inside Unreal 4 Modular Environments course, I had the opportunity to realized a fully realized environment for my portfolio screenshots. I’d like to thank Clinton Crumpler for the help and his feedbacks.

In this last year I have also completed two other courses from CGMA, which are Intro to Environment Art with Andres Rodriguez and Texturing and Shading for Games with Kurt Kupser. From these courses I learned the foundation about the environment pipeline to create high quality assets, and how to create materials and textures for video games in Unreal Engine 4. Soon I will post the result of my work on my Artstation profile.

Daniel Cangini, Environment Artist.

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.


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AminNeoTestingUE4 Recent comment authors

Lovely article though half the images are cut out ! It makes it hard so follow from the “assets and materials” part… Otherwise, thank a lot!


Thank you for sharing, Daniel. Love the facts that the game industry is more open and sharing, because this can benefit everyone as a whole. Win win.


Daniel, please upload larger image of vertex painting as i really like to rebuild it. UE4_VertexPainting_Material.jpg