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Learn more about hard-surface art
As a teenager, I was already doing some 3D art with 3ds Max for fun and I knew that I wanted to work in the 3D field. But at the time, schools in France were private and too expensive so I decided to study programming at a public university and keep learning 3D in my free time. At the end of my studies, I was lucky enough to find an internship in a video game company called Eden Games as a 3D Vehicle Artist on Test Drive Unlimited 2. That's how my journey in the industry began. After shipping the game mentioned above, I continued working as a Vehicle Artist at Gameloft (Asphalt games) and Ubisoft Montréal (Far Cry 5). After 7 years of doing vehicles, I had a great opportunity to switch to a 3D Level Artist and work on the unique project Star Citizen which was a great experience.
Mech Redemption: Idea & Goals
Modo has been my main 3D software at work and for personal projects for almost 12 years. Additionally, I decided to give a try to Blender 2.8 because their recent release looked very interesting. I am still happy to do my stuff in Modo but I am also always interested and open to trying other software to see if I can improve my workflow and skills. Also, Blender has very cool plugins for hard-surface modeling which is what I do the most. That was another reason for me to try Blender.
As a result, I started looking for a hard-surface model to create and learn Blender during the process. I decided to choose a great mech concept created by Robbie Trevino for the company TeccoToys. I've been following TeccoToys since the beginning and I love the collectibles they are doing. Can't wait to buy one!
Here is their model and Robbie Trevino's concept:
While I started modeling the mech, my co-worker told me that he bought a resin 3D printer and he would be happy to use my model to try it out. Of course, I agreed! I got overall super motivated but I also started thinking of something more interesting than just a mech model. Eventually, I got an idea to make a pen holder for my Wacom stylus out of it. The pose was inspired by a picture from Titanfall 2:
The rock serves as a platform for the stylus while the fingers hold its upper part:
Here are some printing test results:
When I finished the first version of the model, I decided to go further and use it for more practice with Octane Render, especially for texturing/materials. I switched the stylus with a sword and started working on the renders.
As I mentioned before I wanted to try Blender for its hard-surface plugins, and I was not that interested in Blender's base modeling tools. That's why I created my base mesh in Modo - I really enjoy modeling with it as well as work quickly. I didn't do any surface subdivision, my mesh was pretty low at that point. When the model was done I exported it to Blender and started adding mechanicals details (holes, screws, etc.) with the plugin Meshmachine. In Modo, I usually do that step by hand, doing booleans and more, which takes time. Meshmachine increased my speed here, it's a great tool!
In Meshmachine, I mainly used the feature “Plug” to insert the details into my model. I had to do some cleaning by hand, but most of the time it works very well. The result really depends on the surface/geometry on which you are using this feature:
As for the rest, the rock is from Megascans, the cloth is made in Modo using the physics/dynamics tool. I also used some cables from my other projects to kitbash them on my mech and added details at the joints.
I didn't want to lose time doing UVs by hand - instead, I was going to do that in Octane Render with automatic projections. The blade of the sword was an exception as I textured it in Substance Painter for the glowing part. Otherwise, I only used generic/tileable textures.
Below is an example of the black painted metal material in Octane. I used the material type Glossy, black color for the diffuse, nd white specular. I only used a texture for the roughness and the normal with UV box projection:
I also used mix materials to add different types of damages. My only issue working with automatic UVs and tileable textures was that I wanted to have accurate/realistic edge wear on my model but unfortunately, for now, there is no curvature in Octane to do so. So I decided to go back to Modo for some UVs. Once again, I didn't want to lose too much time on that, so I used the Atlas mode projection to get automatic UVs. The result was good enough to make a mask map:
Then I sent my mesh to Substance Painter to apply a smart mask on (Edge Damages) and get the edge wear. I exported the mask to use it in Octane as a blending texture for my mix materials:
Now my model was ready for texturing. Back in Octane, I used the mix materials in the following way:
First, I mixed my black painted metal with a steel metal material using the mask texture from Painter.
This material is then mixed with a scratch/dented metal material to have some big scratches on my mech using a generic tillable mask texture for blending.
One last time, I mixed this material with a dirt material using a procedural dirt texture from Octane for blending.
At last, I got the following hierarchy:
It allowed me to have full control over damage on my model:
For the blade of the sword, the process was a little bit different. I prepared clean UVs and worked on the texture in Substance Painter:
In Octane, I used this texture as emissive, blending it with the steel metal used for the rest of the blade. The flames from the blade were added in Photoshop using a picture.
Lighting & Post-Process
First, I added an HDR to set up the global lighting of the scene. I didn't want it to be too strong:
Next, I used a 3-point lighting setup (key light, fill light, and backlight) plus a light on the top:
To highlight some details/edges of the mech, I added another light with enabled Surface Brightness:
You can grab my lighting setup in Octane Render for free here. It's basic, but it works well if you want to present your model. Feel free to improve it in any way.
As for post-processing, I only added some bloom and glare in Octane:
The renders were pretty good out of Octane. In Photoshop, I used the Camera Raw Filter feature for tweaking the exposure, contrast, sharpness, etc. to get the final result:
I really liked using Blender and I'll keep learning it even if Modo stays my favorite and main software. The most challenging part of this project was to follow certain rules when modeling as I had to keep in mind that the model was going to be 3D printed.
If I were to give some tips, I'd say keep trying. I started a lot of projects before I was finally able to finish one. I was either stuck, couldn't reach the goals I'd set or didn't have any more motivation to continue. Yet, I don't consider those tries as failures. Each project, finished or not, allows you to practice, learn something new and gain experience which will be useful for in the future. Don't hesitate to ask for feedback or help on the internet or at work. There are great communities for each software. And if you can't afford formal education in 3D, nowadays it's not a problem. There are so many free or inexpensive resources on the internet to learn from, that you can get as good as someone who actually attends an expensive school!