Yaroslav Novichonok shared the workflow behind the Star Wars Blaster project, showed the subdivision and texturing process, and explained how the post-production was done.
Hello everyone! My name is Yaroslav Novichonok. I'm from Mogilev, Belarus. I started to be interested in graphics more than 5 years ago. Before I became a 3D Artist, I received a management degree and then worked as an Economist and Sociologist.
Lately, I've been working as a Freelance 3D Artist, but I decided to improve my portfolio and get a job in a game studio. Unfortunately, there are very few such studios in my country. In this article, I described how I was creating my new model.
I thought I didn't have any weapon models in my portfolio. It took me a long time to decide which weapon model to make. After I had reviewed many models on the site, I remembered the movie Star Wars. I recalled the fragment where Greedo Scoop threatened Han Solo. I checked that there are a few models of this pistol on the site and decided that I would create it. So, my goal was to create the DT-12 heavy-blaster pistol from Star Wars. I have set myself these technical requirements:
- Polycount—5K triangles.
- Texture size—4K.
- Specular and glossiness pipeline.
I rarely spare my time to collect references. At first, I try to find blueprints or something similar, then pictures with minimal perspective distortions. After that, I usually look for high-resolution photos to see fine details. For the next step of references for textures, I pay special attention to worn-out models: you can find unusual scratches, dirt on them. I try not to take references on ArtStation and other sites with 3D models so as not to copy other people's work and their mistakes. I also like to search for photos on auction sites. I use PureRef for this stage.
Creating a model starts with blocking. First, I try to find the exact dimensions of the object. I make a bounding box with these dimensions and try to match the object to these dimensions. After the basic shapes, I work on the details. All artists have a mess in the scene at this stage.
I do not pay attention to the topology and the number of polygons at the blocking stage. The main goal is to make the correct proportions and shapes. I use Maya for this stage.
High and Low Poly
When the blocking is over, the high-poly modeling begins. This time I decided to make a model for subdivision. This is longer than with the help of boolean in ZBrush or in a CAD programs, but I like to have full control over the topology and bevels. The main goal of high-poly modeling is perfect shading. Many beginners forget about it, but you can use Floaters to save time.
My main rule for the model is maximum expressiveness and minimum polygons. Since I had made the subdivision model, I had no problems with the low-poly modeling. I just removed the bevels, invisible parts of the geometry and optimized the geometry in some places.
At this stage, for the correct placement of elements, you need to understand in advance what textures will be there. To save space, it is necessary to straighten as many shells as possible and make overlaps, but in no case allow "butterflies". You also need to make a minimum of hard edges because they heavily load the engine and create many cuts on the UVs.
Don't forget to reduce the Texel Density of the details that the player will not see well. It is very important to fill as much space as possible with UVs. I try to have more than 80%, but you also need to be wise and not spend several hours for the sake of saving 1-2% of space. I use Maya for cutting and straightening, and I use RizomUV for layout.
This stage is the most difficult for many beginners, so I'll tell you a bit more about it. Before baking, I advise you to check the model with Cleanup.
It is also necessary that the sizes of high-poly and low-poly models match as best as possible. To do this, you need to apply different colors. You need to move the overlaps by one so that there are no bugs.
I always bake in Marmoset Toolbag. At first, I do it with the use of Smooth Cage and Paint Skew. Then I make a copy without Smooth Cage. Next, I mix them into one file in Photoshop using masks.
I spent a lot of time texturing this model. If you want great textures, you need a high-power computer. I try to texture everything in 4K to pay attention to all the little things and details. I have a GTX 1660 video card and 16 GB of RAM, but this is not enough for me to work comfortably in 4K. So I made different types of metal and wood materials in separate projects, and then combined them together in one project before exporting to Marmoset Toolbag.
This time i chose specular, gloss pipeline. Its main difference is that the specular pipeline has a colored metal channel. Since I wanted to pay special attention to the metal, I chose it. I tried to show as many color variations in metal as possible for its beauty and realism.
Usually, when texturing in Substance 3D Painter, I use Tomoco. It has a neutral light, which helps not to falsify the colors of the materials. For convenience when texturing, I arrange the models as follows:
In fact, there are no tricks and life hacks for beautiful textures. All that is needed is a lot of practice, experience and a lot of effort to improve your result.
Rendering and Post-Production
For game models, it is best to use Marmoset Toolbag. It shows how a model can look in the engine better than other programs. If you want the result in Marmoset Toolbag to be the most similar to that in the Substance 3D Painter, then use the same environment map when rendering.
I usually render with Shadow Catcher and Transparency. When rendering weapons, I use a field of view of 15-25, since this is the closest to the human eye.
I often create a background in Photoshop. This time I just googled "4K carpet texture" and used it as a backround.
On the other two renderers, I used the hands that I took in tutorial from Evgeny Petrov. I found a background for them by googling "stock backgrounds free". If you set up the materials well in the Substance 3D Painter, then you will have to do very little color correction in Photoshop.
Before you publish the model, or even better before beginning each stage, take a break until the morning so that the next day you can take a fresh look at the model and see the mistakes that you did not notice yesterday. Also, try to find more experienced people who can give you feedback on your work.
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found useful information here. I express my great gratitude to the team of 80 Level for the opportunity to share my experience of creating a model.
Yaroslav Novichonok, 3D Artist
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