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Creating a Realistic Punching Bag in ZBrush, Maya & Substance 3D Painter

Muhammad Abduhalilov has shared a detailed breakdown of his new project and explained the steps in modeling and texturing processes which helped him to create a realistic prop. 


Hey! My name is Abduhalilov Muhammad. I am 20 years old and I live in Uzbekistan. I’ve been learning 3D for 3 years and working for more than a year. At the moment, I'm working as a Junior Prop Artist at Valko Games and had the opportunity to participate in the Labyrinthine project. Working with talented people helped me to improve my artistic and technical skills. It also gave me the opportunity to understand the real game pipeline more deeply. 

My first steps in 3D art began after I graduated from school. During the lockdown, I decided to learn to code, but after a while, I realized that this was not my cup of tea. I started searching for other areas related to art since I was fond of creating art at school. I found a few CG directions on the Internet which I wanted to try. They were animation, FX, and a few more. Eventually, I found out that modeling was the best one for me because, using very simple shapes, you can create anything you want. I liked this idea and started creating things in 3D by watching tutorials. After a while, I decided to learn 3D deeper so that I could get a job and create hyperrealistic models for video games.


While searching for references on Pinterest, I found a really good-looking punching bag and decided to recreate it, adding extra details. My main goal was to improve my texturing skills and push them to the next level. At first, I wanted to use Marvelous Designer for this project, but then I chose ZBrush as I had enough tools and knowledge to achieve this result using ZBrush. 

As I said before, I had a specific reference that I used for all parts of my project. Of course, for texturing we need more references, that's why I started searching for more photos. I found a good photo of leather that I used for texturing as a stencil. I added all the references and proceeded with the next step.


First, I created a very simple shape from a cylinder in Maya and exported it to ZBrush. I applied subdivision and started to experiment with shapes by using move and standard brushes. After I was satisfied with the main shape, I started to add Fabric Alphas and seams. As for the chains, they were very easy to make. I did four main chains and then duplicated them.

I usually use Maya for Retopology. I always try to utilize Auto Retopology tools, and scripts but they don't give me a decent result, and then I have to do it myself. Since this was my personal project, I didn't need a perfectly optimized topology. I didn't want to do modeling low poly since I had to save the main silhouette of the model. In the end, it consisted of 14.864 tris including the chains. 

UV and Baking

Next, we had to UV unwrap our model. For this project, I made one 4K UV set. Before starting the UV, I have to mention a few necessary things that I always pay attention to. You need to make a minimum amount of seams and edit texel for those meshes which are not visible. Then you need to do symmetry for repeating elements. Next, I packed all my UVs in RizomUV, because it has the best UV pack tool.

For the baking process, I used Marmoset Toolbag. I baked all the maps, except position and thickness as I baked them in Substance 3D Painter, where the generators and masks will work correctly. Also, sometimes I use Photoshop to fix some problems, for example, not fully baked holes. Here are my settings:


Finally, we got to the texturing stage. This is the most interesting and my favorite part. So, before going to Substance 3D Painter, I prepared my stencils in Photoshop. I turned images that I showed before into alphas. Some of them had lower quality, that's why I upscaled them on AI Image Upscaler websites, which were very useful.

I started with base color, then added color variations, cracks, and AO by using masks, generators, and fill layers. After my base leather material was ready, I added torn effects by using stencils that I made in Photoshop. In my every project, I try to find textures from real life and use them as a stencil. It helps your texture to look more realistic and also helps you to improve your texturing skills, which is very cool.

Adding a tape was not actually in my plans. I came up with this idea while texturing; I was not satisfied with just a torn effect. That's why I decided to add something more interesting that could tell a story about this punching bag. For tape, I found a really good smart material on ArtStation, called Duct Tape made by Maciej Kuliński. I created seven tape layers and added AO along the edges by anchor points. I also added extra height details. 

Metal was very easy to do. I created a base metal material, then added color variation, scratches, and roughness. I didn't want this metal to look too rusty or very old. A simple, clear metal material with some details was enough. In the end, don't forget to add dirt and dust, but don't overdo it. Try to keep a balance between roughness. The last thing was to add sharpness. 

Rendering and a Final Result 

Rendering is also one of the important stages. It's a unique skill that takes a lot of time to learn. I usually use Marmoset Toolbag 4 for rendering because it has Ray Tracing. When it comes to rendering, I love to test different HDRI. This time I chose Lowa Sunset HDRI, which was not too bright and looked more realistic.

In this project, I used three spotlights. They were enough to get the result that I wanted. I don't really like to add too many lights, because it breaks the rule of realism that's why I always try to keep my scenes as simple as possible. 

I used Photoshop for compositing. This is not too important, but I always compose my renders because you can easily change brightness, add levels, play with contrast, and add some filters which will help your renders to look better. I usually start by adding a simple color background, then I duplicate my main layer. After that, I apply high pass which is a very powerful filter. It gives a sharp effect which I adore the most. I learned this technique from François Larrieu. I added some contrast. You also can add levels, curves, but do not overdo it with filters. 

As a Junior Prop Artist, I can say the main key to creating fascinating game props is just do not stop practicing, learning, and working on yourself. All skills that we want to get will come with time. Thanks to the 80 Level team for giving me this great opportunity to tell you about the making of this punching bag. 

Muhammad Abduhalilov, Prop Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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Comments 1

  • Alvand Mohamamd

    Great work.
    I'm actually jealous of you because you're doing this at such a young age.
    I wish you the best.


    Alvand Mohamamd

    ·a year ago·

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