Creating a Complex Robot with Simple Techniques

Creating a Complex Robot with Simple Techniques

Vasiliy Poryagin discussed the production details of his hard-surface project Robot: concepting, sculpting and detailing in ZBrush, UVs in Blender, and texturing in Substance Painter.


Hi! My name is Vasiliy Poryagin, and I am a 3D artist. It's a great pleasure to share with you my workflow used for the Robot project. This artwork was made in such great software solutions as ZBrush, Blender, and Substance Painter. I hope this article will be useful for novice artists and anyone who wants to create a quick small concept for a game or a movie.

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Robot: References and Inspiration

One day, I was browsing Pinterest and studying the art of such remarkable artists as Hiroya Oku, Kentaro Miura, Makoto Yukimura, Stanisław Szukalski, Ashley Wood, and Jan Buragay – and in a fit of inspiration, I came up with an idea to create a robot in a certain style, like techno punk or even techno modern. I could have probably opted for industrial, but unfortunately, this idea didn’t come to me at the right time.

Besides the artworks, I drew my inspiration from music – Lorn, AIRMANN, Perhopes and their amazing album Tremens. I couldn't have done it without them!
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One more source to mention is I-O, a marvelous book by Simon Logan. It's hard to find something as atmospheric as this novel, and it's a must if you want to get more skilled in the techno fetish culture. It will inspire you.


I began by drawing a few quick sketches on my tablet to get a sense of the future artwork. I believe that the concepts shouldn't necessarily be very detailed at this stage, the most important things are the idea and the overall shape. Keep the details in mind, you’ll have a chance to put them into action a bit later. It's also preferable to draw very quickly, trying not to think about each idea for too long. When I feel that I have caught the flow, I get down to sculpting.


I started working with simple forms because they are easy to control and used only Move, ClayTubes, and TrimAdaptive brushes and primitives. My aim was to create a base or a skeleton, to which I'd later attach the wires. BadKing really helped me in this process – this is a place where you can find a lot of cool and free kitbash models and custom brushes (and support them with a donation if you'd like). Huge thanks to them, the job they’ve done is terrific!

So, what I did was to download a few wire brushes and add wires to the base using curves – and voila, half of the job is done! However, it is important to keep balance and not to overload the model with extra details, otherwise, your model might turn into a ball of yarn. The process of adding wires took just a few minutes and was fun and sometimes quite unpredictable.  

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When the sculpting was finished, I used the Polypaint From Polygroups function to prepare the base for the ID maps.

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Low Poly

When the high poly was ready, I started working on the low poly. Since this model wasn’t made for animation, I simply used Decimation Master, a very powerful tool that helped me reduce almost 90 000 000 polygons to 600 000.

But don't forget to adjust the model, it's very important. During the next stages, a bad mesh can cause a lot of troubles, so don’t neglect this step.
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The UV Master in ZBrush is quite good but we will do the unwrapping in Blender, setting the Angle Limit parameter to 89.

Don’t forget that after using Decimation Master our mesh is far from perfect. To clean it up, I used Blender's Select Non-Manifold tool and simply deleted all unnecessary polygons. Then, I merged some vertices that were very close to each other with Merge by Distance and turned off Auto Smooth; standard Smooth will be just fine for our purpose.

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I took my low poly to Substance Painter and baked all the necessary maps at 4k. Then, before texturing, I picked the color palette – this is one of the easiest and fun parts for me.

Having chosen my key colors, I added chipped edges and rust using special generators. Here is a cool tutorial from the Substance team on how to do it: 

Then, I added a few prints using alphas and simple projection. The print on the chevrons is the flag of Switzerland – it's quite possible that the robot might serve this country. Remember that the alphas should be placed under the rust, while leaks and chipped edges can be created with Eraser.


The final render was quite simple. I used Iray Render with standard settings and only made the picture a bit brighter.


Thanks for taking the time to read the article! I hope you've found my experience useful and will be able to push this knowledge even further. Good luck with your future projects!

Vasiliy Poryagin, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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