Finding Nice Lighting for Architecture in Games

Finding Nice Lighting for Architecture in Games

3d artist Peter Gubin discussed his approach to the creation of the amazing luxurious 3d space ‘Sanctuary’, which features some amazing lighting.

3d artist Peter Gubin discussed his approach to the creation of the amazing luxurious 3d space ‘Sanctuary’, which features some amazing lighting.


Hi, my name is Peter Gubin. I’m an environment artist from Novosibirsk, Russia. I started as self taught artist few years ago, before that I worked as a programmer. I worked on my game and back then I almost finished all coding and I needed an artist for the project. After trying to find an artist I decided to try to make art myself. It didn’t seemed too hard. So I started watching tutorials and doing practice. I never finished that project unfortunately, but it opened something for me.

I really liked making environments and after careful thought I decided to become an environment artist. My plan was simple: make real time scenes as a practice.

Recently I landed my first in-house environment artist job at People Can Fly.

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Sanctuary is a really ambitious project I wanted to make in order to put all skills and techniques I learned recently in good use. I made it in 5 months in spare time while working as outsource environment artist for a few indie projects.

This environment was inspired by God Of War series. I gathered a pretty big amount of references of both greek or Rome real architecture and fantasy interpretations of them. I read articles on architecture about architectural elements and orders.

My advice to artist is always save things you like. Sometimes I use pinterest but usually, I prefer to save the actual pic in my references folder. You can save even things that don’t relate directly to 3d art. If the pic put you in some mood, save it in order to easily put yourself in that mood when you need to.

At first, I wanted to make realistic greek temple, but then I decided that it would be more fun for me and a lot more interesting to viewers if I go more fantasy way, like GOW did. This could allow me to use more interesting materials and texture variations like stone and metal as well as renaissance styles, such as baroque for columns which you don’t find in real greek temples.

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Production starts as usual for me – with the blockout made in Modo.

Blockout works very well, but in future I want to incorporate overpaints in order to plan environment better.

In blockout I want to establish form, architectural rhythm and decide what modular pieces might look like.

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Blockout starts with just Planes and very rough geometry. At this point I want to get overall proportions and look of the scene I want. I place human scale reference objects all over the place.

When I’m happy with overall look, proportions and rhythm I begin to break up interior into separate pieces. All structure elements like walls or ceiling tiles lie on grid with no exceptions. Stuff like columns respect the grid only on vertical axis. You want to use grid as much as you can for big shapes – it will save you a lot of time later. Stick to large grid numbers both in editor and in 3d package.

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After I assembled the scene with blockout rough shapes (usually big rectangles or cylinders) I begin to defining them one by one. I put each modular piece in separate scene file and begin highpoly modeling. I can do standard subd modeling or can throw rough shape in 3d-Coat and make cool stuff with voxel modeling.

Then I bring high poly mesh in ZBrush and do damage like cracks, edge wearing and so on.

I do low poly either from sub-d surface by deleting edge loops or by retopologizing highpoly mesh in Modo.

Usually you need to do several bakes in order to get rid from bake artifacts. My bake maps are usually Normal, AO, Curvature, Cavity and additional maps if necessary. I use most of those maps as masks in Photoshop later.

I try to make highpoly as clean as possible – when I just started to make 3d I usually did very noisy meshes with inconsistent amount of detail. I also don’t make surface details because I will do them in texturing phase.

If you interested in other highpoly I make you can visit this page. 


Most of the assets I used are modular. Hero pieces are portal and circle monument. I ended up using some assets in non desired way (I tend to do that in most of my scenes) – rotating or mirroring an asset can sometimes introduce new ways of using it. For example, I used rectangular column as a wall piece a few times.

Background was made as one mesh using only albedo texture atlas of architecture elements from It doesn’t need normal map or any other maps because it will be too far away. My method is simple – I put architecture element in the atlas, map it on a plane, then use knife and extrude remaining mesh.

I used one handy functionality of Unreal Engine 4 here – I exported part of the scene as fbx – this gave me quick reference of the scene in 3d package.

The result with lighting and post processing

As you can see result is quite good. You can go as detailed as you want for background – depending on the size and distance to the background.


When lighting up a scene I tend to do as much variation as I can.

For realistic scenes like Sanctuary though, I usually use basic warm/cold lighting setup.

Sanctuary scene use dynamic lighting only. I used different lighting setups for background and foreground using lighting layers. This way I can control background and foreground and tweak them without affecting each other.

My main lighting source for this scene is directional light – the sun. I also use many small light sources here and there to give some accent to the scene. And obviously all actual light sources like torches use one or more point lights. You can light up the sky with fog sheets and regular fog.

Post-processing has really big impact on the final look of the scene. I made dozens of iterations before scene started to look right.

Here’s one trick I used for fake bounce lighting. I placed green point lights into the ivy.

I use a lot of point lights and reflection spheres because of big amount of reflective surfaces like metal.


I used one uber material for almost every asset in this scene. Every asset uses it’s own material instance with custom parameters or even set of material instances for one asset (dark, bright version for example). This master material features vertex coloring for dirt and moss as well as a whole bunch of settings controlling Albedo, Roughness and even Normal inputs.

My main tools for texturing were Photoshop for all uniquily unwrapped models and Substance Designer for tiles.

Texturing in Photoshop is pretty straightforward. I just use various maps I baked as masks and try to bring material separation and color variation in the texture. For this project I based my textures on real life references but push it further to make them more interesting.

I used a plugin for photoshop called Expresso: it updates and packs folders in different channels and outputs them in desired location in one click.

All tilling textures for floors was made in Substance Designer. I used Parallax Occlusion Mapping with height information brought from Substance Designer to achive depth in texture. I configured Substance Designer in similar way as Photooshop to be able to do one click re-export of the maps. So iteration was pretty quick.

Another handy thing was to use of Marmoset Toolbag for texture realtime preview. Working with Toolbag is much faster than with Unreal and reimport times are much shorter and when working in texturing application and Toolbag you don’t need to run Unreal Engine at the same time.


This part changed quite a lot from the blockout.

I did radial floor by unwrapping radial strips to the tilesheet I had horizontally. Then I placed some dirt decals and pebbles. I also used vertex colors to bring some moss on top the stairs and floor. I struggled with portal itself because it looked to much as just a mirror, hope it don’t look like that now.

For statues I used 3d scanned statues, made retopo and bake.

Screenshot from Blender:

I hope you enjoyed this scene as much as I do. Feel free to leave a comment and follow me on twitter and artstation.

Peter Gubin, Environment Artist at People Can Fly

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Comments 4

  • Peter Gubin

    @Denis Eliseev: Yeah sorry, my portfolio website is temporary unavailable. You can check my Artstation though, there you can find the same highpolys.
    @Matthias Ahlswede: There's nothing fancy really. Just regular vertex painting and some material output tweaks. What exactly you want to know?


    Peter Gubin

    ·2 years ago·
  • Kirill Tokarev

    we'll try to get a working link or info.


    Kirill Tokarev

    ·2 years ago·
  • Denis Eliseev

    "If you interested in other highpoly I make you can visit this page. "

    Website Expired
    This account has expired. If you are the site owner, click below to login.


    Denis Eliseev

    ·2 years ago·
  • Matthias Ahlswede

    I would love to get a closer look at the material. It looks like you are doing some crazy stuff and i really would love to know what.


    Matthias Ahlswede

    ·2 years ago·

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