Lang Ma has shared with us the artist's first experience making stylized plants and walked us through the stages of creating the stylized island in Unreal Engine.
Introduction and Career
My name is Lang Ma, and I am from China. I'm an Environmental Art Designer. I'm currently in the process of changing my career. My last jobs were as a Landscape Designer and Architectural Designer.
I studied environmental art design at the university. After graduating and working in landscape design for two years, I realized that real-world design couldn't satisfy my desire to create immersive scenes. The limitations of the physical world prevented me from fully expressing my creativity. This led me to explore virtual three-dimensional creation software like Unreal Engine, 3ds Max, and ZBrush.
I discovered the beauty of the 3D world and the limitless possibilities it offered for free play and creation. Inspired by this, I made the decision to follow my passion and embark on my 3D art journey!
About the Project
The project started out as a way to practice light and shadow rendering of stylized scenes, lawns, trees, and vegetation in Unreal Engine. The time given to the project was 2 to 3 weeks, so in the other directions of the scene, I sought assets for the models and quickly found them and integrated them.
The project was initially inspired by a piece of environmental concept art created by Cycle Circle. I aimed to bring that concept to life using the Unreal Engine.
When I saw this concept art, it made me incredibly yearn for the world in it. Taking inspiration from this original artwork, I began designing a scene. To capture the desired tonal atmosphere, I drew references from Studio Ghibli's movie Porco Rosso. The aim was to create a cute and spirited island inhabited by pirates and various characters.
First, I will introduce the assets made by me: grass, shrubs, trees, clouds, and ground.
In the production of grass, first of all, grass and tree blade modeling is relatively simple and is interspersed by several low-side model combinations, as long as the effect is not wearing gangs on the line.
The general principles of material creation for leaves are color, gradients, wind movement, switching between flowers and grass, and virtual textures.
In the base color, I used noise and world coordinate color mixing to create a gradient. This allowed me to control the color of the highlights and the noise area separately. I then incorporated a wind effect and a wheat wave effect. For the wheat wave effect, I used the noise mixing effect. I found a picture with a bar pattern and applied it to the highlights of the Color Map to create a flowing highlight effect.
To achieve the wind effect, I primarily used SimpleGrassWind nodes. I connected the corresponding nodes and finally outputted them to the Global Position Offset.
Finally, let's talk about the virtual texture of the grass. The virtual texture of the grass material will follow the color of the ground for gradient processing, so that the color change of the grass also affects the grass, the picture looks more rich and vivid.
You just need to add the Runtime Virtual Texture Sample node to the grass material, add the Runtime Virtual Texture output node to the terrain material, and output the ground color to the grass material.
The rest of the building stones are collected assets in the design, or based on the original drawings of the conceptualization of the hair. The main assets used were [Stylized Village Fatpack], [Stylized Fantasy Provencal (Stylized, Fantasy, Provencal)], [Stylized Pirate Port City (Modular)], and [Stylized Medieval Village].
Composition and Rendering
Then, there was the process of deciding how to refine the building, the main function of the building, the silhouette of the exterior, the overall volume of the building, and what the flow of people would look like. Mostly I defined it as a pirate tavern, a resting place for NPCs, and a character resting spot.
There are also small checkpoints and weapon stores that provide punctuation throughout the route without making the player feel bored and out of place.
I didn't make many adjustments in the light rendering because it's a stylized rendering. I turned off Lumen to achieve thicker shadows, but this also made the lighting more challenging. I needed to carefully position the lights from various angles to add fill light and achieve the desired effect. Finally, I added some post-processing effects such as Bloom and Chromatic Aberration. And that's pretty much it.
Of course, this is my workflow and it's mostly for practicing stylized plants, so it may be different from the standard production process. I also don't start composing and thinking about the plausibility of the story until after the plants are where I want them to be.
Lastly, I would like to thank 80 Level for giving me this opportunity to publish my work, so that you can get to know me and my work better, and I hope that my work can inspire and help you. If anything is unclear, please feel free to contact me if you think I can help you!
Lang Ma, 3D Environmental Artist
Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie
You may find this article interesting
You may find these articles interesting