Guide: Game-Ready Props in ZBrush, Substance & Toolbag

Abderrezak Bouhedda did a detailed breakdown of his beautiful game-ready prop created for an ArtStation challenge. 

Abderrezak Bouhedda did a detailed breakdown of his beautiful game-ready prop created for an ArtStation challenge.

I’m Abderrezak Bouhedda from  Algeria. I’m 22 years old and I live in Setif currently. I started learning Computer Programming and Cyber Security in 2008 and I had a chance to dive into Digital Art World. I enjoyed it so much, so now I’m an Environment/Prop Artist, and I sell some of my art products and tutorials on Gumroad.

I participated in the Feudal Japan Challenge – Prop Art on Artstation in October 2018. I tried to improve my skills and challenge other artists, also to learn from them and to help them, share my skills with them. First, I created two Props:

  1. Hanging Lamp
  2. Stone Lantern

Those props were easy for me to create, so I made them in a few days.

I chose this concept designed by Andrea  Anselmi.

It’s an attractive concept, I liked it and I decided to turn it into a game-ready prop.

1 of 2


First of all, the blockout was done inside Maya using primitives (cubes, cylinders, tubes, spheres). The blockout is the main process which will make it easy for you.

Then I did the dragon’s main body shape using curves inside Cinema 4D. The Dragon’s body will be imported later in ZBrush for sculpting.

2.Sculpting the dragon

I started with a cube to create the main head shape. I used a lot of references from Google & Pinterest to get a nice look. I wanted the dragon’s head to be different compared to the concept.

I started sculpting the main shape of the head using clay buildup and standard brushes, for the horns I used the move brush, then I used dynamesh to keep the topology clean.

After that, I detailed the dragon’s head and its body a bit, I didn’t want to make a lot of details because it’s not a real dragon, it’s just a metal statue. It’s better to keep it clean.

Then I fixed the high poly mesh, here I left it like that without scales/skin pattern.


I used ZRemesher to retopologize the mesh and to reduce the polycount of course (Freeze Border Opt checked). Then I created the polygroups masking each group.

The UV Unwrapping was quick. I used UV Master plugin in Zbrush, all you have to do is to check Polygroups Option (which means each polygroup is a UV Shell or UV Island) then unwrap your UVs.

Here are the UVs. Now just export and bake.

Baking & Texturing

I imported the high poly and the low poly meshes in Marmoset Toolbag 3 to bake normal & AO maps. This was just a test because I wasn’t satisfied with the results, you know when you’re satisfied.

After that I had to create the scales/skin pattern on the dragon’s body, it felt like it needed more details.

I created a pattern in Substance Designer to use it in 3D-Coat as a depth map.

Then I applied this pattern to the dragon’s body inside 3D-Coat. This is the smart material that I created and applied to the mesh to get the result that I wanted.

This is how it looks in inside the renderer:

I used another way for the skin later. I used that skin pattern as an alpha inside Zbrush and I sculpted it on the high poly and I just re-baked the AO+Normal Maps after.

Small Dragons

After that, I started sculpting the two small dragons which hold the cannon in Zbrush. I did the blockout inside C4D using curves.

I exported it in Zbrush, then I dynameshed the blockout to sculpt without any issues (symmetry enabled).

I used the previous dragon’s head applying some changes, of course.

Detailing was easy because I used the skin pattern that I created before in Substance Designer to sculpt the scales. Then I broke them a bit with TrimSmoothBorder and TrimDynamic brushes.

I did the same process for the retopology and texturing, baking:


I did the UVs inside Maya using NSUV plugin which is a real time-saver.

I tried to achieve the best UV unwrap, perfect texel density and no distortion to avoid baking issues.

1st UV

2nd UV

UV Shells must be relaxed as much as possible to avoid distortion. For cylinders and similar shapes, UVs must be straight. Cut UVs where there are Hard Edges, which means there must be a Hard Edge in each UV Seam.

To select Hard Edges, enable edge mode:


Like this, you can all the Hard Edges in your mesh.

And this is the distortion, to display it just click Display-> Check Distortion.

Texel Density is very important, texel density is the texture resolution on a mesh.

Here we have a bad Texel Density. UV Shells don’t have the same scales as in the object mesh, plus the UVs are overlapped.

To fix this there’s a very useful tool in Maya called Layout

Click on that little square for more options and select all your UVs.

Check Unfold3D Mode, Pack Together (Non Overlapping) which prevents UV Shells from overlapping. For Shell Transform Settings, just check Translate Shells which will change the shells’ position. The Layout Settings include the texture map size and Padding Units (keep it Pixels), Shell Distribution (keep it in Distribute Mode). The last Scale Mode is the most important, keep it Uniform because Uniform Scale is a linear transformation that increases or shrinks UV Shells or objects by a scale factor that is the same in all directions.

After Applying the settings I had this:

Here’s the Texel Density:

High Poly Creation

After detailing the low poly models and fixing them a bit, I created the high poly models and I exported them to Zbrush, used Dynamesh to get a perfect retopology.

High poly  1

High poly 2


I baked the normal and AO maps inside Marmoset Toolbag 3, then I exported the baked maps to 3D-Coat for Texturing. I created The Curvature Maps inside Substance Designer from the Normal Maps using the Curvature-Sobel Node. Then I created some wood and metal, ash and dust Materials and applied them to layers.

I did the same thing for the other model (ornaments created later inside Adobe Illustrator).


Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading about my process and found something useful that you can use in your projects. I really enjoyed creating this project. If you have any questions, contact me anytime.

Abderrezak Bouhedda, 3D Artist

Join discussion

Comments 0

    You might also like

    We need your consent

    We use cookies on this website to make your browsing experience better. By using the site you agree to our use of cookies.Learn more