Hero Prop Production Tips

Giovanni Loverso did a breakdown on his recent project, the Gramophone, that he worked on during the Game Artist Bootcamp at GAI and shared his texturing workflow.

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 Introduction and Career 

My name is Giovanni Loverso. I played video games for the majority of my life. Originally, I to go to school to study music, so I could create soundtracks for games, but it soon dawned on me that there were not so many games released each year, and that wouldn't be a very stable career. I lived near a full sail at the time, so I went to one of their open houses for new students. That also did not work, one of the advisors told me that I would need a ton of math to do art in games. That kinda chased me away (And it was not true!).

I enjoyed drawing growing up and the community college near me had a decent art program. So I figured: “hey, concept art could be a track for me.”  I went to school for Graphic Design. I ended up enjoying designing more than concept art, and over time it was no longer a thought in my mind. During my time in school, Zbrush kept coming up. One day, I decided to learn it. I really enjoyed it because it allowed me to tackle one of the greatest weaknesses that I always felt kept me from being more confident as a designer/artist. That of course was the Human Body. This leads me to Ryan Kinglien’s classes on the subject, and I became more and more interested in 3D. My goal was to bring that skillset into my design one day. With AR/VR coming up, I feel 3D is the art form of our time. A little long-winded but that’s pretty much it.

About the GAI Course

I then took the GAI  Game artist course because I needed a solid, focused approach on learning 3D for what I wanted to do. And it was making models for real-time. I’ve taken courses everywhere but what really got me tuned into the GAI stuff is that it gives you a clear path on what to do. No spending hours learning an Interface, all the features you won’t use. And there are no endless random videos like youtube to distract you. It’s a “learn this, make something with this and move forward with the goal of being as close to professional as you can.”

Gathering the Reference


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When it came to the prop of the Gramophone, I wanted to do something I hadn't done yet. A mix of curved and hard lines. I enjoy music (I have a decent video game vinyl collection). So I am a tad more familiar with what it takes to make them. When I model, I think of them in the parts they are made of. This might come from my Graphic Design side of my brain. (I sometimes make stuff for 3D printing/production in China for product designs ). Another big push for me was that I wanted a prop that was contrasting in Materials. Wood, metal, plastic that I could refer to the real world with. It was my first game-ready type prop, so to me, it was a learning experience.


Where to start...that’s always the hardest part. Sometimes, I tried with ZBrush and then redo it in 3DsMax. And sometimes, I start in Max and say “screw it” and jump to ZBrush. But for this prop, I was mainly following the Bootcamp at GAI and did 95% of it in 3DS Max. I tried to keep it as simple as possible and rely more on Substance Painter for any decor and tiny details. It was a real study in learning to trust the baking and texturing process rather than modeling every little detail in 3D. As for tips, this might jump into the other questions but learning how to make things in 2D and using them to stamp alphas saves a ton of time. (Plus makes useable assets for future projects! )

Working on the Design and Texture

The Pattern on the horn was one of the things I decided from the start not to model. There are many great alpha packs online. For this, I used the ones here.

A great tip I can offer here is to never use them “As is”. You can mix and match them up. Overlap them to create new forms. Heck, you can even open them up in photoshop. Study them and brush in new designs. To me, learning to reverse engineer brushes and alphas you buy goes a long way.

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When it comes to materials, it was a huge focus and struggle for me. Every material has a certain “shine” in it. You really have to learn what you plan to texture. Building the layers in Substance Painter to mimic how the object really is in real life. So if the object, say, is metal with a paint job and then a clear coat, your job will be to learn about each of those materials and layer them. Once that is out of the way, you have to consider the story of the prop. Is it used a ton? Was it left out in the sun and rain? Was it left in a corner of an old house to collect dust? How would its surface handle it in those environments?

For me, the goal was for Gramophone to give some age to it. Not be too abused with rust. But rather from time, maybe some sunlight and dust.

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I supplied the Marmoset files for the setup. I used a few lights here. I didn't have any real goals in mind. Every model is different win colors, shapes, and forms. I actually took a few classes on SKILLSHARE.com to grasp the idea of the real-world lighting setup. Then, I found some great refs online of the “mood” I wanted. In this stage, it’s all about tweaking and exploring options. Have a favorite movie scene? Try to study the lighting and apply it to your models!

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The Biggest Challenges

My biggest challenge here was 100% hands down the act of trusting the baking process and figuring out how far and how little I could push the low poly and high poly bake. This honestly was my 3rd real-time game prop. Before then, I was just using Zbrush and auto UVs. So this course really taught me to understand the entire process.

As for where I am heading to next? I'm still working on my Character. I never did hair, so it’s a struggle for me. But I am forging ahead, and maybe you guys will see another update when I finish that up!

Giovanni Loverso, Graphic Designer

Interview conducted by Ellie Harisova

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