Tatiana Devos has shared the working process behind the Medieval House project, explained how modular pieces were created and textured, and discussed how she decorated the scene.
Hey! My name is Tatiana Devos, I’m a student at Digital Arts & Entertainment, Belgium. I’m currently in my last year and really passionate about creating 3D props and environments. I’m in the process of creating my portfolio and will talk a bit about my recent work! I created this project during my exchange at the University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.
The medieval house is a 3D translation of Jang Sumin’s hand-painted house. My main goals for this project were to practice my modular building skills and to become more comfortable with Unreal Engine.
When creating environments, I love to switch between realism and stylization, and when I saw Jang’s concept on ArtStation, it felt like the perfect moment to create another stylized project, making the whole workflow from scratch to improve my general skills. His concept perfectly aligned with my idea of making something modular, and when taking a closer look, I saw I could also dip my toes into new topics such as vertex painting.
The first thing I did was make a small breakdown of the concept, to prepare for all the individual tasks that needed to be done. During this moment, I also gathered helpful resources and references to help me along the way.
When I had a good overview of the different necessary elements, I started making a blockout of the building in 3ds Max. I preferred this over UE because of the extra layer of freedom I have on the shapes of the boxes.
Once I was satisfied with the overall blockout, I imported it into UE and created the first iteration of the landscape to give the whole project a starting shape. I also set up a camera with a FOV matching the original concept as closely as possible.
The next step was creating the modular pieces. I started off by making the pieces really simple and putting them in the right places. When I was satisfied, I added some more detail to them – for example, chamfering some edges. For the roofs, I started off by making one rooftop tile (and also unwrapped it beforehand to save myself time and frustration) and creating a grid pattern, making room for some extra variation by moving, scaling, and rotating some tiles.
Adding all the modular pieces onto the blockout in UE was by far the most time-consuming part of this project. I worked with a grid to align everything perfectly and added a second layer of variation by slightly rotating some wooden beams or making some parts stick out a little bit more off-grid.
Once I was finished with all the modular pieces, I started creating the unique pieces.
The next step was giving everything a texture. For the modular pieces, I created a trim sheet, consisting of the basic elements such as wood, stone, metal, and a part for the roof (tiles). I sculpted details on the trim sheet using ZBrush and added texture via Substance 3D Painter.
On top of that, I also created a mossier version of my original trim sheet, adding extra variation by lerping the two textures in my shader. For the walls, I decided to learn more about Substance 3D Designer. I created a plaster wall for the house, and a clay wall with bricks for the small hut, using a tutorial from 3dEx. I used the same technique to create the same moss/dirt variation, to avoid repetition in my walls.
I noticed that on the concepts some of the wooden beams had colorful lines and recreated this using decals. While I was doing that, I decided to add some crack decals as well using Bridge. I tweaked some parameters to make everything blend nicely.
Decorating the Scene
Satisfied with how the building looked, I decided to shape the surroundings. I re-used some vegetation and rocks that I created in an earlier project. For the foliage, I followed a tutorial from Stylized Station where Thomas Hooke gave an excellent breakdown of his environment. When I started working on the material for the landscape, I struggled quite a lot and reached out to various tutorials on YouTube. I’m still not 100% satisfied with how it turned out, but that’s okay; I just made sure that the other elements looked very good to balance it out.
I also created animated clouds using a blueprint that sets a rotating movement. I made sure the clouds don't move too quickly, but it added a nice layer of realism to the scene.
Lighting and Post-Processing
I kept the lighting of the scene very simple. I looked at how Jasmin Habezai-Fekri lit up her Bird House scene because I absolutely love how hers turned out! I used one main directional light with a warmer tone, and a second directional light with the "Cast Shadows" checker turned off, to create those beautiful blue-ish shadows. To light up some darker areas in the back, I used subtle spot lights.
Post-processing is what really made my project shine. I use this as a final step to further push the colors, light, and everything that comes with it. I usually just play around with all the settings until I’m satisfied with the result, so there are no set rules I follow. Here you can see the difference with and without post-processing:
With the post-processing finished, it was time to create my renders using UE’s level sequencer!
This project took me about a month to create, from start to finish, and I can safely say I learned a lot during this time! It can be really overwhelming to start working, but it's important to keep track of all the things you need to do. I personally write everything down so I always know at what stage I am. Asking for feedback is also extremely important and can help you grow exponentially!
I’m super thankful for getting this opportunity to write about my work, and I hope it was helpful!
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