Mysterious Ruins in Unreal Engine 4

Mysterious Ruins in Unreal Engine 4

3d artist Carylitz Tamez describes her latest work, talking about inspiration, composition, meshes, materials and Unreal Engine 4.

Carylitz Tamez creates moody atmospheric scenes with very simple assets. In this post she describes her latest work, talking about inspiration, composition, meshes, materials and Unreal Engine 4.



My name is Carylitz Tamez, I’m 24 years old. I’m from Mexico, but I’m currently living in Vancouver BC, Canada. I’ve always had a strong interest in digital art. Growing up I liked to use digital manipulation programs like Photoshop, and later on I started to take interest in 3D programs such as 3ds Max and Maya.




I did a degree in Mexico while working as a freelancer, making motion graphics and 3D projects. With the idea of expanding my skills and wanting to follow my dreams, I joined the Video Game Art and Design program at VanArts to pursue a place as an artist in the video game industry.

Graduation Project

I’m making a 3D environment/prop reel which will have three different projects showing different skills. In this piece I wanted to show some texturing, sculpting, and composition work. I was looking for a combination of organic and inorganic elements, to have variety in shapes and materials. The main challenge for me in this piece was to create realistic trees and foliage in an open environment, since I have never done this before.

The First Step

The first step was trying to figure out the story, what kind of forest, which type of architectural structures and sculptures I was going to use to make a good composition and create an interesting scene. For the architecture I started looking for inspiration in a place called “The Pools” in Xilitla, Mexico.


For the human and animal sculptures I was looking for some really specific poses, so I searched for images of statues that fit my requirements.



For the trees I used some real life references from the parks near the school and looked for many other references on internet. The foliage and fungus wasn’t really complicated to create, but the materials were a bit challenging.


Scene Elements

I started making a top view map of the place to figure out the arrangement of the sculptures and trees. I made a small storyboard to know how many cameras I was going to use and get some details of the shots. After that I modeled basic shapes of the sculptures and terrain in Maya. I started placing everything around, but it was too complicated to change the terrain, so I decided to build everything in Unreal.



I made a list with all the variations of trees, foliage, rocks and all the small assets in the environment to see how many of them I would need.






I used different programs to get the textures of the assets in the scene. For the sculptures I used Zbrush for the sculpt and to get the normal maps for the sculptures.



Then I used Quixel to get the base of the bronze material, which I then brought into 3D coat to get some details from the sculpture to the texture.


For the pine trees and Oak I used Mari to texture them using the projection of some bark textures.


The challenge in creating the foliage was to build a good material in Unreal so I could get a realistic look on the leaves, and make the light pass through them correctly.


I started the rock sculpts in Zbrush and then made the textures in Quixel and added moss on top with the material editor from Unreal, by blending my base texture with the moss texture based on the object position, so I could have some moss on top of the rocks. This gave me some control over how much moss the objects were going to have. I used this technique for the logs and the big structures.


For the terrain I used the landscape tool from Unreal. This tool gave me the freedom to make changes quickly on my composition while arranging the position for the sculptures. When it came to placing the foliage at first I used the foliage tool from unreal to get a general idea on where to place everything and for the final composition I decided to place everything by hand.


I started by making a moodboard where I established the warmer colors at the beginning of the video, transitioning into a slightly cooler palette by the end of the video.


Then added a fog particle system to the scene to create a feeling of depth and atmosphere in the environment.

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I went for a day scene because I didn’t want to lose the details of all the elements in the scene. I used a Directional Light and Skylight to create the illumination in the scene.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot through this project, in terms of techniques as well as artistic decision-making. It was definitely a challenge but was an enjoyable experience overall.

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