Making a Stylized Japanese Storefront Diorama

Making a Stylized Japanese Storefront Diorama

Marc Puente shared the production details of his stylized project Japan House Storefront: modeling, vegetation, texturing, and scene setup in Marmoset Toolbag.

Introduction

Hi! My name is Marc Puente, I am 22 years old. I am currently finishing my Bachelor's Degree in Barcelona and, also, I am collaborating with the company Digital Legends. 

I have always had a passion for video games and a close relationship with art but I realized that I could actually work creating games I have played only when YouTube started to become a popular platform. In my teenage years, I consumed YouTube daily and that is when I started to edit and create my own videos. And since that exact moment, I knew that I wanted to pursue my career as a 3D modeler.

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Japan House Storefront: Concept

This project was meant to be for academic activity. My ideas were very clear, I knew that this was an excellent opportunity to improve my composition and to create a pleasant scene. It has been a while since I have wanted to make a diorama and this, as I said earlier, was a good opportunity. I have seen plenty of them on Artstation and, especially, I found myself very motivated by “Stylised Ramen Shopfront Diorama” by Toby Hunt – in fact, some details of my diorama were inspired by it.

The concept is by Mateusz Urbanowicz, an incredible artist. I wanted my work to be as close as possible to the concept but I also wanted to add some ideas that I had in mind.

I think that the final result comes from mixing my modeling style with having extremely good references. The concept is amazing and I looked for plenty of references related to houses, shops, or streets that could help me generate a small piece and make it come to life.
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Workflow

Everything was modeled in 3ds Max and then moved to ZBrush to smooth the edges and add details. Then the texturing was in Substance Painter and the final touches in Photoshop.

Modeling

First of all, I made a blocking and then, step by step, I slowly started to add more details to the scene. I primarily focus on the bigger and most visible things before I start with the little things such as details. In this case, I started with the walls and the roof and the last were the smaller pieces like, for example, the objects at the house’s front door.

One of the most complex parts of the modeling was to make the roof. Since my main idea was to use Marmoset Viewer, I modeled the roof with 3ds Max and added the details separately from the tiles. I wanted it to be as detailed as possible and using the least geometry as possible.

Vegetation

One of the most fun things to make was the vegetation on the side of the house. One of the best references I had was a breakdown by Jasmin Habezai-Fekri, where she teaches, step by step, how to make the vegetation.

The workflow that I used to make the vegetation is quite simple. I started modeling the plants, then took them to Maya because I felt way more comfortable there. To texturize, I created a simple material and took the Alpha out to eliminate the leftovers – that way, it is not visible inside the scene.

What is crucial to have in mind is that, with good base modeling, the final result will be way better.

UVs

This project has several pieces so I had to think about how to group them together in order to optimize the UVs to the maximum. All the UVs were made in 3ds Max and I separated them by sizes:

  • floor
  • roof
  • vegetation
  • pipes and exterior pieces of the house
  • medium props
  • small props

Texturing

The texturing is one of the most complex things from my perspective. Creating a texture that goes along with the rest of the pieces is something quite hard. What I did was that, in my spare time, I made several tests of materials with simple props to see how they looked together. Finally, I created 2 materials: one for the metallic pieces and the other for the less shiny areas.

Once I had the materials ready, I modified them according to the piece’s texture. Apart from the materials, I used emissives because I love them – I find that they bring every project to life. The key is to adjust the Glow illumination and to have a clear and clean Alpha.

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Lighting

I chose Marmoset for this project. I am not very used to this program because I do not use it that often but with tutorials from other artists and slow exploration of each tool, I am sure you can obtain exceptional results.

First of all, I placed every piece and made a day scene since it is the easiest scenario because of the light. I adjusted the Sky to make a sunset or a typical summer day.
In the night composition, you can see several lights.

As I do not have the inside of the house modeled, I figured to illuminate every entry out so it appears to be inhabited.

I have classified the lights by utility:

  • general lights
  • lights that illuminate something specific
  • mood lights to adjust

Finally, I adjusted the Render Settings and chose the best quality settings possible so that, if in the future something about the size had to be adjusted, it did not lose quality.

Challenges

I don’t think the project itself was hard, the majority of things are based on practice and learning step by step the tricks that go hand in hand with your idea. It is true that sometimes you get frustrated with the most simple things. The key, or what works for me, is to leave that aside for a while and focus on some other thing.

Since it was a project for school, my time was limited. I certainly don’t know how much time I have spent on it, but I think that we can narrow it down to 3 hours daily for a month. Without any doubt, if you care about the project, you won’t mind spending endless hours working on it.

Marc Puente, Environment Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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