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Crossroads: Making a Stylized Scene in Maya, Substance 3D Painter & UE5

Zaldom talked about creating a new project Crossroads and delved into steps involved in setting up a stylized scene in Maya, Substance 3D, and Unreal Engine 5.


Hello everyone, I am Zaldom, a student, and my major is digital media art. Last year, I signed up for the Modeng Unreal Engine Stylized Scene Crearion Course and completed my work Crossroads, an Unreal Engine 5 stylized scene. I have mastered the whole process of stylized scene creation. I am grateful to the Modeng and teaching assistant team for their help, and I will continue to work hard on the next modeng courses before my graduation from college.

Before my studies in Modeng class, I tried to restore some models by hand, but the effect was not realistic enough. Then I came into contact with 3D in June last year. After the software, creating some scene art seems to be a breeze. Signing up for the Modeng course allowed me to learn and create the scenes of my dreams. I'm a big fan of stylized FPS games like Overwatch and Fortnite, and I've referenced how they were made in my productions. I've been amazed at the technology and design the developers put into their games, and felt compelled to learn from the astounding artwork I've seen.

Project Reference Art

At the beginning of the project, I got inspiration from Pixel Cat, Concept Artist. I really like the ideas and details he used, because I think creating a project from scratch is likely to be a huge challenge for me. So I decided to borrow one of his works Crossroads. It is a grand scene artwork, like the architectural style of Piltover in the Arcane. I really like the art style and setting of Arcane, which is really exciting.

I collected the reference pictures of Pixel Cat, and then collected some pictures from multiple angles from other buildings, because I needed to know what I was going to do. They gave me the motivation to finish this Unreal Engine scene. 

Project Production

The planning is important and will affect ‌the whole production. It is necessary to plan the position of each building and the overall perspective in advance. I spend a lot of time on this step. The perspective problem caused the proportions of the buildings in the distance to be different.

Afterwards, I used the UE4 terrain tool to make the terrain. I tried to use boxes to build floor tiles, buildings, and characters and compared them with the silhouettes of the original painting to build a more accurate planning model. I used UE4's terrain tools to stretch the terrain; I wanted to save space as much as possible. I used a diagonal placement structure and restored the original dimensions of the building, adding some simple modules so that I could better understand its correct proportions. I created a basic directional light and some fog effects.

The amount of models in this scene is relatively large. I used modular production as much as possible and deleted invisible faces to reduce engine pressure. I used modularity to build most of the models but also wanted to keep the near-ranged buildings’ uniqueness, so the near-building models used less modularity than the further away buildings.

I made the model in Maya, exported the planning model from UE4 to Maya, and made it according to the scale. I imported the models into the UE and combined them into different shapes of house models in the blueprint. For the walls of the building, I made 4*4 (meters), 2*4, 1*4 and other parts, and made different types of long models and some bricks. The more unique models needed to be made separately. Then I imported the models into the Unreal Engine and combined them into different shapes of house models in the blueprint.


I wanted to avoid creating unique textures as much as possible, and need to know the textures that the project needs to make full use of them. I made two kinds of textures, Tileable textures can be used in large areas, and Trim textures or trimsheets are more conducive to producing props, especially for strip-like staff. I was looking for suitable textures in Bridge and the textures I had made before for preliminary planning.

It is necessary to unfold the UV of the model and correspond to the planned texture. This is really boring work, but it is very important. Now I can see the size required for the Tileable texture and the Trim texture, and optimize the texture planning. 


I used a main directional light source and created many auxiliary lights to enrich the picture. Although they have many parameters, they may be confusing, but after trying, they will get interesting results. The previous work was done in UE4. After trying to use UE5, the most impressive thing is Lumen. It's a powerful lighting method, which allows me to have good results without doing too many settings or adjustments.

I learned and used Subtance 3D Designer to make tileable textures. Because I first came into contact with the concept of nodes based software, it was so difficult for me in the beginning. I followed Modeng class for the basics and found some references that were helpful to me. After getting familiar with it, it will become easy to use. 

It can easily create some special textures such as cracks, scratches, etc. Logical thinking is very important. You need to understand ‌each group of nodes’ roles and try to keep the nodes clean. This is very interesting when making it. My main idea was to make the basic shape first, mix the required elements together through high-level blending, and then enrich them by selecting different nodes. 

Making the Assets

Some unique small objects I used Maya for modeling, Substance 3D Painter for texture production. I made the basic shape in Maya, used ZBrush to sculpt, made textures in Painter, and finally rendered the high model in Unreal Engine. I found that the proportion of plants in this project was very small, so I only made one kind of leaves. It was my first time learning and making plants. This was an opportunity for me to understand the production process.

Because there are no humans in my scene, I needed some dynamic elements to enrich it. So I chose bird flocks. I achieved this through a skeletal mesh of the bird. I gave it a white self-illumination material effect. I needed to add some dynamism to the flock of birds, and I added a group of birds in the first shot, somewhere above the scene, leaning against the mountain slope. Overall, I wanted to be able to create some distance between them.

More Details

Fog is very important in this environment. You need to consider a lot of places, as fog is related to lighting. I tried to use EasyFog by William Faucher to create a large area of ​​fog to color the shadows, and to make the picture more uniform. I also used a small Fog that is one-sided in places that are too clear. I needed to expand the distance of the picture. I think it is very important to control the overall effect of the picture. When adjusting the lighting and materials, the sketch relationship between black, white, and gray cannot be ignored. It is also necessary to know where the visual center of the picture is.

I made the required decal material in Substance 3D Painter. I put some dirt on the corners of the building to make it look more realistic. I also used it on the ground to reduce the repetition of the floor tiles. 

This project helped me realize that you need to understand the work process, plan each stage in advance, and complete the tasks of each stage as much as possible, instead of rushing for success. Trust the process, follow Modeng’s workflow, proactively seek feedback, and iterate fast. In the near future, I plan to improve the production ability of the single model and gain some aesthetic awareness. I am very grateful to my teacher Modeng and the Modeng team members for their feedback and support, as well as the opportunity to share experiences of this project with everyone.

Zaldom, Digital Artist

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    Anonymous user

    ·11 months ago·

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