Creating a Knife Prop in 3ds Max, Substance 3D & Marmoset Toolbag

CG Generalist Hakob Patrikyan has told us about the Knife Concept project, spoke about the modeling, texturing, and rendering workflows, and shared some tips on creating appealing props.


Hey there. My name is Hakob Patrikyan, and I am a CG Generalist based in Yerevan, Armenia. When I was younger, I used to play a lot of games. I was always wondering how the characters were made, and one day, I decided to look it up. Thus, I began sculpting with Mudbox. It was 13 years ago.

From that moment, it was my main hobby, and some years later, it became my main job. I have worked in local studios on a lot of unknown game projects as a Prop Artist and Character Artist, and that's where I gained a lot of relevant skills. But five years ago, I changed my approach to my jobs.

I decided to start working as a freelancer and left local studios. At that moment, I was creating a lot of stuff for my portfolio, and that's why it wasn't a problem for me to get deeper into this industry. Now I am working with several outsourcing studios on amazing game projects, commercials, and TV series with amazing artists, thanks to whom I can learn new skills every day.

The Knife Concept

I have seen a lot of cool stuff in the ArtStation and decided to make my own. The challenge for me was to create something realistic-looking in a few days without any concepts or references. I know it sounds strange, but this was a challenge for me. The only thing I got for references were some real-life photos of knives for the texturing stage.

This concept was born at the blockout stage. In the beginning, I wanted to make something that would look like an army knife, but after creating the blade, its shape changed my mind, and I added a wooden handle and something like a fang.


For modeling, I used 3ds Max. At the blockout stage, I usually work fast without any accuracy. And after that, at the low poly stage, I start making the topology more accurate. Mostly, my low poly models are the same blockout with a few changes in topology.

For this project, I used 3ds Max's Boolean and new Retopology tools. I am always using modifiers on top of each other without collapsing. This way, I can change almost everything that I want at every stage very fast.

For blockout, I just added primitive shapes to see the proportions. After finding the right ones, I started to add more details with a ProBoolean modifier. 

After finishing the blockout, I started to add more modifiers to make the shapes look cleaner and more accurate. Because of the bad topology after the Booleans, I added a mesh cleaner modifier that cleans mesh with separate vertices. After I added SubDivide modifier with Adaptive mode and after that, the main modifier was the Retopology modifier with Reform mode.

It gave me the mesh with a normal topology on what I could add to the last TurboSmooth modifier.
I used this workflow for almost every part to get the high poly clean model. I also added simple metal welds with lines and noise and added insulating tape in the same way without noise. The last stage for high poly was to add some damage to the parts, that's why I exported it to Mudbox and added blade and wood damages.

Retopology and Unwrapping

I created the low poly in 3ds Max. For the low poly, I used the same meshes with modifiers turned off. And after some tweaks and changes on topology, I got the final low poly. The main difference between blockout is that all the parts on the lowpoly model are collapsed together.

The unwrapping was done in 3ds Max, but the packing itself was done in RizomUV. If you ask me, it got the best packing options. And after that, I baked the Normal Map, AO, and ObjectID, getting ready for the most important part – texturing.


For me, the main challenge was the texturing stage because the most difficult thing is to make a realistic look for simple-shaped objects. And my knife was something like that.

In the beginning, I decided to make one metallic and one wooden smart materials, but after adding them to the model, I changed my mind. I also added another bronze material to break the simple look of the union of the handle and the blade.

Rendering and Lighting

I did the rendering in Marmoset Toolbag and the post-processing in Photoshop. I have used Marmoset's Alley Construction Residential Sky, chose the right angles for cameras I like, and added four separate white spotlights to make the scene more dramatic.

In Photoshop, I just tweaked a little bit of black-white contrasts and after added a little noise and vignette to add a more cinematic feel.


I had started with creating characters, but soon after, I got into modeling cars, weapons, and other props because it was interesting to me. Now I'm learning CAD modeling to make my hard-surface modeling faster and more accurate. I really recommend CAD modeling for every Hard-Surface Artist.

To get into this amazing industry or even be on top of it, you need to practice every day and learn new things every day because there is a ton of tools that will make your projects more beautiful and your workflow faster. And if you love what you are doing, then it's yours, don't be afraid of challenges, they will make you the artist you want to become!

Hakob Patrikyan, CG Generalist and Freelancer

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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