How to Sculpt and Paint Hard Surface Characters

How to Sculpt and Paint Hard Surface Characters

Florian Potier shared some advice on how to sculpt and paint an amazing 3d character, based on a concept by Joao Fiuza.

Florian Potier shared some advice on how to sculpt and paint an amazing 3d character, based on a concept by Joao Fiuza.

Mecha Game Project by polyflow on Sketchfab


Hello, and thank you for the interview! My name is Florian Potier, I live in the North of France where I work as a 3D computer graphic designer at the studio Decod. My first professional experience was in 2013 at Butterfly Studio as Layout Artist on the series “What’s The Big Idea?“. Then I joined Decod, where I essentially work on interiors design, realistic furniture, and realtime architecture (Unreal Engine 4). One might as well say that we are far from the Mecha universe. Concerning my studies, I learned the basics of computer graphics at the school Pole3D. However, I soon became aware that 2 years of 3D initiation were not sufficient to acquire a good level so I taught myself thanks to some amazing tutorials i found on Gumroad and Cubebrush. That’s how I discovered Zbrush and Hard surface modeling. Since, I try to keep learning and improving with personal projects and tutorials. My favorites so far are “the ultimate cop” from Oscar Perez, the workshop of Furio Tedeschi and Tim Bergholz modeling tutorial.

Mech Sculpting

With the arrival of some incredible softwares like Substance Painter or Designer, I wanted to go further and also to learn realtime. It implies baking and retopology notions which are necessary to acquire. Some tools like Substance Painter, Topogun and UVLayout stood out. They are intuitive and quick to learn and above all are often used by professionals.

I also wanted to hone my hard surface modeling skills. I already had previous knowledge but I discovered the excellent tutorial of Oscar Perez “Ultimate Cop” and it helped me a lot with my project. To begin the project, I had to find a reference which was visually interesting but also not to complex technically to avoid the risk of giving up the work in progress.

It’s in the gallery of Joao Fiuza that I found the ideal reference.


I completely changed my Hard surface Sculpting workflow for this project.

I had for habit to stay in Zbrush for the most part. I was inspired by Oscar Perez, whom makes numerous round trips between Zbrush and 3Dsmax.

This workflow is largely facilitated by Zbrush’s GoZ tool, which allows to send mesh from Zbrush to 3DS with a single click.

I began with the most delicate stage, the blockout. A lot of observation, not so much technique. You should not be afraid of modifying, deleting, or starting again. Also, many beginners remain blocked by using only one subtool. You should not hesitate to use as much subtools as needed.

Here, for example, with the blockout I saw that the trunk hadn’t enough volume, and that the cheeks were too much hollow . It is really necessary to try to block harmonious forms as soon as possible.

Once the blockout was done, I needed a working base for 3DSmax. So I duplicated, decimated, and sent only the head in 3DS (Goz), to be able to create piece by piece the various parts of the mask .

Now the hard surface part really begins. The purpose is to use the Zbrush’s retopology tool only to retopologise the objects surface. We do not need the thickness/volume at this point.

Once the retopology is done, I generate the mesh ( iteration1) wich I send in 3ds.

In 3ds max, back to a more classical workflow: I detach the various parts, adjust them, clean the meshes and apply the modifier “shell” to give volume.

Then I use the “Chamfer” modifier on angle’s edges.

Do not hesitate to switch between softwares to model objects. For example, it is much easier to realize a cable with “Lines” in 3DSmax, or tubes in Zbrush with Zmodeler.

For the jacket, it’s a completely ordinary sculpt, nothing particular to note, except for the use of the excellent brush of Ryan Kingslien. This mech has been done with the same workflow.

Hard surface modeling

Concerning the materials, I wanted to revitalize colors, without losing sight of the reference. The first things that I noticed were the reflections, too much pronounced. IT did not work with the rendering I wished. This is why all materials, even chrome, aren’t very reflecting, and the specular is very blurry. I think that it improves the homogeneity of the rendering.

I also tried to keep my materials rather simples. Something complicated does not mean automatically that the rendering will be better.


This was the most frustrating part for me. As a ZBrush user, I am used to adding many details. It’s so easy and there’s so many brushes. With Substance Painter, there is an amazing feature which is to be able to paint details directly onto normal maps. It’s very flexible and allows to try things without limitation (other than imagination?).

So I did not add details in some areas of my zbrush sculpt because I knew I could add them later with Substance Painter. I used the excellent brushes’s pack of 3D ART RESOURCES.

The only thing left to do was to give my model some life, make it more believable with details and lights, like the emissive map which are very simple to do with Substance Painter. You just have to know when to stop and don’t do too much.

Mixing Photoshop with Substance Painter

I practically didn’t use Photoshop, only for some minor corrections. Almost all the texturing was done in Substance Painter.

Even if we can do the same with photoshop, with Substance Painter I find that the texturing is much simpler. Be able to adjust in real time onto the 3d model really changes the way of working.



The most difficult is to remain coherent with all the different materials/shaders. First I determined the general aspect of the robot. Was it a timeworn or a brand-new one?

It allowed me to define a guideline, to use coherent grunge and scratches maps. For consistency, I created a “base” material that I used as a reference point for the others. I just had to duplicate and adjust it.

Florian Potier, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Comments 5

  • Lockett Brian

    Shouldn't this article be categorized as "Tutorial" rather than "News"?


    Lockett Brian

    ·5 years ago·
  • Potier Florian

    @will > I don't know why, Joao deleted the artwork :s


    Potier Florian

    ·5 years ago·
  • Will

    Link to Joao Fiuza's gallery aint working



    ·5 years ago·
  • Kirill Tokarev

    you saved a life tonight. thx.


    Kirill Tokarev

    ·5 years ago·
  • John

    Typo in article title. "How do" instead of "How to".



    ·5 years ago·

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