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Creating a Revolver in Blender, Marmoset & Substance Painter

ChamferZone's Tim Bergholz talked about his latest Revolver Tutorial project, focusing on the remesher workflow in Blender.


Hello everyone! Tim from ChamferZone here. In this article, I will let you know about the different chapters of the all-new Revolver Tutorial while highlighting one core element of it: the remesher workflow in Blender! I recommend watching the 2-minute long chapter overview first. Links to the marketplaces can be found in the description on YouTube. 

The Revolver Tutorial is an all-new state-of-the-art weapon tutorial featuring Blender as well as Marmoset Toolbag 4 and Substance Painter for baking, texturing, and portfolio-ready renders. Create a customizable revolver together with two mountable attachment pieces for it: a flashlight as well as reflex scope as you would find in almost any FPS video game these days. We built the revolver fully detachable: you can even take the rail off. 

Chapter 1 – Blender: Modeling, Unwrapping & Baking Preparation

As we work on our models we rely on proven modeling techniques, modifiers, free plugins as well as careful studying reference images to make sure we catch even the smallest details. 

Once we get to the high poly part we will make use of Blender's Remesher modifier which is an amazing way to create high poly models in a modifier-based and non-destructive environment and with excellent results.

This workflow is not necessarily new but so far a lot of people would make use of ZBrush to get this result through DynaMeshing the geometry there.

Thanks to the remesher modifier we can now do all of this in Blender with the exact same results based on direct comparisons. This saves precious time and keeps it all to one software without having to import/export back and forth.

Let's take a look at how it works and how it compares to the traditional sub-d modeling workflow.

...which by the way we can still make use of, of course. Just because we have Remesher doesn't mean we can't combine it but to be honest, after getting accustomed to Remesher there are not too many scenarios where I don't want to make use of it. 

Here we have a simple Sub-D comparison to Remesher while using the exact same topology without any extra support loops. If you are familiar with 3D modeling you probably know that cylindrical elements with extruded/intruded parts can be quite unforgiving when it comes to pinching:

As you can see remesher did a superb job around our corners.

Steps for the traditional SubDivision Workflow:

  • For the sub-D approach, the way we work is to define hard edge seams where we want to smooth our borders
  • Adding the bevel modifier to get support edges
  • Add a subdivision modifier (TurboSmooth) in order to make it a "high poly"

The disadvantage of Sub-D modeling is that we always have to be considerate about pinching, intersections, overlaps, etc.

With the Sub-D workflow, we spent a lot of time trying to eliminate these occurring issues which cost us precious time and effort. Of course, there are a lot of cases where we can still apply it but for more complicated hard surface geometry it can quickly become a lot of work.

The steps to apply Remesher to our models are as follows:

  • Adding crease to our edges so that we can tesselate it further with our SubDivision modifier and that's also the main difference to consider for this workflow. Remesher does not subdivide the mesh in the traditional sense. If you add remesher to a 12-sided cylinder it will only remesh the individual edges it finds which is why we need to crease and SubDivide.
  • Once we have this in place we can then add the Remesher modifier. Remesher looks at whatever is being offered to it and creates a "voxel" based version out of it.
  • The last step is to add the Corrective Smooth modifier on top which then results in our high poly model. This guarantees an equal and smooth transition throughout the entire object. We can control the hardness around the edges through the Corrective Smooth modifier amount.

Let's also talk about the disadvantages of the remesher method and how to deal with them. 

1. Using the Remesher workflow results in long loading times as it "voxelizes" our meshes and currently the way it behaves in Blender is that if you save a scene where you have the remesher stack "active" it will go through the entire loading process again if you reload that scene. That can stack up if you have a lot of pieces and take a few minutes depending on your machine.

Fortunately, the solution is simple: all we have to do is toggle the modifiers OFF on our high poly elements after we applied them. Let's say we have 20 parts on our gun. We go through them one by one, making sure it looks great with the Remesher aka. the high poly model and then we toggle it off as we work on the next one. That way we have the same performance as if we didn't have the modifiers added and we will only reactivate them later once we get to the export part. That solves the performance issue entirely.

2. The second disadvantage is that we quickly can get millions of polygons per object (especially on more complicated/bigger pieces.)

In order to still be able to handle so many polygons, we can make use of the Decimate modifier. It does an excellent job in most cases even if you put it to 90% polygon decimation. There might be a few tiny spots where you will see fragmenting so what I do is just adding it to all my objects and later at the end when I export I toggle on/off individual parts to see if I can still export/bake without any problems.

On the revolver, I left it on for quite a few pieces and it does not show on the Normal Map and even if it does upon zooming in close, I noticed it can look like tiny imperfections which blend nicely with the actual texture.

Personally, I am going to make use of this workflow for most of my future work now and I am excited to show you how to best use it as we create the revolver, flashlight as well as reflex scope. The only part where I didn't apply the Remesher was the revolver grip (and some small floating details) due to its organic nature, where simply applying SubDivision already gives the right result without having much need to remesh. 

Chapter 2 – Blender: Unwrapping & Baking Preparation

Blender's unwrapping tools get mixed reviews and I can understand why as someone who comes from 3ds Max but as always we can navigate around these issues as we wait for future tools being added to Blender. One of the main complaints that I have is that there is no one-button solution to straighten out "stripes" from a cylinder. So far this only seems to work with one click if the cylinder doesn't have any different size for the top or bottom cap. However, there are ways of doing this mainly by following these steps:

For the most efficient UV packing, we make use of the UV Packer plugin which is free for both 3ds Max and Blender and currently does a superb job as you can see here. Consider it a must-have plugin for Blender. Here you can see it in action once we are done with the unwrapping in the Revolver Tutorial:

After we are done unwrapping our models we will make sure to properly attach, name as well as pivot all our elements to have versions ready for potential in-game usages or renders as well as a version that is accustomed for baking and texturing.

Chapter 3 – Baking in Marmoset and Texturing in Substance Painter

After the modeling part, we export our high and low poly models over to Marmoset Toolbag 4 which has the best baking tools available. Here we will bake our base maps such as Normal, Object Space Normal, Curvature, AO, Position as well as the Thickness Map.

As we do that we will conveniently paint out any skewing that we have on some of the parts of the texture.

After that, we will import our Maps over to Substance Painter where we will create two different texture versions for the revolver: a chrome version as well as a metallic paint coated one. Learn how to create alpha textures, making use of various materials, smart materials, and how to use procedural masks and generators to form up the wear and tear resulting in a photo-realistic appearance. 

Chapter 4 – Portfolio-Ready Renders in Marmoset Toolbag 4

As a finishing touch, we will make a short visit to Marmoset Toolbag 4 where we create portfolio-ready renders, a turntable animation as well as having a quick look at how to arrange a scene in Blender and bringing it back to Marmoset for scene composition renders. This episode will be free to watch on the ChamferZone YouTube page


I am excited to share this tutorial with you, I had a lot of fun working on it and I hope you're also going to enjoy it. Also, if you ever need help: come join us at the ChamferZone Discord where industry professionals come together with beginners and we all learn and talk 3D (or share memes) together.

Happy modeling, see you in the tutorial, and cheers! 

Tim Bergholz, Senior 3D Artist and Tutorial Maker

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