Creating Fantasy Weapons in 3DS Max

Creating Fantasy Weapons in 3DS Max

Jordan Spinks talked about his most recent project Fantasy Weapons created in 3ds Max and Substance Painter.

Jordan Spinks talked about his most recent project Fantasy Weapons created in 3ds Max and Substance Painter.


Hello, I’m Jordan Spinks, a 23-year-old 3D Artist currently living in Leeds, England. I’ve been working in 3D for just over a year after graduating from Leeds University, beginning as a Junior Digital Artist in July 2017 at Pikcells, then being promoted to a Digital Artist 3 months later. I work on photorealistic 3D visualizations, develop low poly assets for apps and create VR experiences. I’ve always been fascinated with everything 3D for as long as I can remember, starting with video games in my early childhood such as the n64 with games like, Ocarina of time, Goldeneye and Shadowman, to watching films in my teens with amazing VFX used such as Avatar, Tron Legacy and the Avengers movies; all of these influences led me towards the 3d Artist career path.

How the Project Started

I have a particularly strong interest for how assets, environments, and characters transition from amazing concept art images to a finished end product, learning the processes required, as well as seeing creative choices that alter the final outcome when turning ideas from sketches and paintings into fully fledged 3D assets.

I wanted to learn the development processes myself, therefore I’ve started my fantasy weapons series using some amazing concept art images found on the web for the first and second editions, before creating weapons based off my own concepts in the third.

Fantasy Weapons Workflow

Traditionally, the standard workflow for creating fantasy weapons in games is creating the high poly sculpt in programmes such as ZBrush, retopologizing the mesh either in ZBrush or an external programme like Topogun, baking the high poly details onto the low poly model before importing the optimised mesh into a texture suite such as Substance Painter or 3D Coat.

My own method differs slightly from this for one thing: all the modeling and retopologizing is done within 3ds Max. I start off creating the base model by capturing the shape and details seen from the concept, before refining the mesh and adding a turbosmooth to the model. This creates the smooth surfaces and sharp edges to create the high poly model. Due to 3ds Max’s powerful layering system, I am able to cycle through my modeling stack back down to the base model where I remove any polys or edge loops that won’t affect the model’s overall shape or cause problems during the baking process.

The stylised look the model achieves comes from not only the concepts that I used but also from the references that I gather during the creation process. The most notable being how the ‘World of Warcraft’ film adapts its look from the game.

Detailing the Model

When detailing the model in the texture phase, I plan out where I’m going to apply the base textures first by masking off sections of the model based on the different materials I plan to apply which also keeps the processed organized, my first stint using substance painter resulted in a labyrinth of unorganized texture layers. I then make the first pass at the model to try and get a feel for the models overall look, matching the model close to the concept at first and then deviating from the source material. I also take the current stage of the model to Facebook groups such as ‘Tenthousandhours’ to get feedback, as well as researching real-world weapons with different styles, finishes, and details. For instance, the idea for the banding and engraving that can be seen on the weapon came from looking at more ornate weapons.


When building up the finalised materials, I start off by applying grunge layers to the Metals, Wood, etc., in order to break up the materials which can be seen in the wood and cloth wraps. I add discolouration and edge damage to break up the colours, then a dirt pass followed by increasing the ao to darken the materials, giving a used look.

When it came to the engraving on the side of the hammer I used alpha maps to build up the height detail. The anchor points in Substance Painter were used in order to add depth to the engravings along with AO so that they sat better on the model.

Lastly, I carried out a damage pass on the model, adding extra wear and tear where needed before adding a sharpen filter to crunch the details which makes certain areas stand out a little more.

Advice for Learners

If I could give any recommendations to users starting out or looking to adapt their own work to a similar style and detail, the key is to start out small. Gather references and be patient, I always find that the more time I put into the smaller aspects of my pieces, the more it helps to bring the entire thing together. There is no need to full tilt from the get go, planning out and revising your work happens along the way. Additionally, there are some great tutorials from a bunch of awesome artists that can teach you the skills you need to start building pieces that will define you as an artist. Tutorials from Tim Bergholz (Weapon tutorials series) and Algorithmics own tutorials helped me to reach the level I’m currently at and are definitely worth viewing.

Jordan Spinks, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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