Learn How to Create Hungry 3D Mimic Chest

Alexandr Novitskiy shared a breakdown of the Mimic Chest project and its Dark Souls-inspired relative, explaining how he textured the expressive creature in Substance 3D Painter.

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Hi! My name is Alexandr Novitskiy and I’m a 3D artist from Ukraine. I started learning 3D in high school and have loved it all my life.

I worked on different games. Perhaps the most famous of them is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. But finally I decided to move more into 3D concept design and found dark fantasy style as my best.

Now I'm working at Eleventh Hour Games on Last Epoch. I do designs for many things here and get great pleasure from it. My skills are growing by leaps and bounds in this project, which makes me happy. I love our team (if you are reading this, guys, you’re amazing!)

I also started my online school where I share knowledge with people.

3D graphics have always been my hobby and my job. Someone once said that it’s hard to escape when your hobby is your job.

The Mimic Chest Project

The idea came to me while I was working on item designs for Last Epoch and playing Baldur’s Gate 3.
I worked on corrupted items with tentacles, slime, and wood. Then I found a very interesting way to create tentacles and membranes by placing a copy of the object under the original with sculpting on a clone. It gave me a good solution for further easy ID mask generation. After this, I thought it would be great to make a small weekend project for more practice to consolidate my knowledge. It took 4 weekends in the end.

As I said, it came from experimenting with approaches to sculpting. I made two mimics: a classic mimic chest and a Dark Souls variant with body and limbs. The first one was made using minimum references, it’s more my feeling of a classic mimic. The second one was a Dark Souls monster, it refers to the game and uses it as the main reference.

Then I created two different chest designs and decided to try to make wooden planks more impressive. I thought it would be nice to make these creatures different in mood including the sculpt, textures, and colors. Actually, this is how the second mimic became more depressive: mossy wooden planks and stones, pale skin on the creature, and a dark atmosphere. I love Dark Souls, so I made that forgotten mossy atmosphere using Megascans for the background trying to reach that feeling from the Undead Burg location.

Topology & Unwrapping

I have two approaches here. For the chest itself, I used Maya: I modeled the low poly first, then added some support edges with bevels and sent it to ZBrush. For the metal damage, I used the Trim Dynamic brush with the HPolish brush plus some custom brushes for diffuse scratching and surface damages. For the low poly, I used a model I created in Maya.

The mimic's body was made with just a sculpt and all retopology was made with DynaMesh → Maya Retopologize → Hand Fix.

Everything was easy with the UVs. I used RizomUV for easy unwrapping and layout. However, the final layout was made in Maya by hand. The texel is similar in both sets.

If the chest looks very game-ready, the mimic body is more high-res – I decided not to nerf it too much because I tried to make it quick.

I made the eyes on a separate UV and they were going with a sclera layer (a sphere with a glass material).


I made the wood material by myself, but I have tons of purchased materials that I watched and learned, so everything there was not my idea only. I just combined the best solutions and added several moments to make the feeling of the wood more old and abandoned.

For the second chest, I added a moss layer. It’s a photo texture with albedo and a dirt mask on it.

All magic is in the detail here: sculpting, texturing, and lightning. Everything is important. If any stage is done poorly, all the magic will be lost.

Some words about the pipeline: I work strongly with folders and specific names for each material and layer.

The main challenge was to create a very expressive creature that would evoke strong emotions. I tried to sculpt everything to achieve a realistic feeling of it because the mouth is the most important point of view here. The sculpting was made with different custom organic brushes, and saliva was sculpted as well.

I used one material with a different albedo tone for the tongue. All the magic is doing SSS here. Textures only enhance the effect.

Lighting & Rendering

The lighting here was complicated. I used a combination of point lights for the mood and HDRI as a fill light with additional glares. For all the angles (and the video) I used one lighting setup.

All the lights have different temperatures for a more interesting feeling.

In the post-production stage, I added some additional vignetting and reduced some background contrast using a rendered alpha mask pass. It works for both mimics.

I made a different lighting setup for them, but it was made once for all angles. I only spun HDRI for some angles to enhance glares and added them as an Add Blending option in Photoshop with increased contrast.


The challenge was to do everything quickly, without getting stuck at any stage, and to get maximum pleasure from the process. I did it in 4 days (for each mimic). Some moments that helped me speed it up: I made the second chest from the first one and partially reused the materials on the second model.

Here is my advice for beginners: I am sure that everyone should do what they love most. What you love is the key to your personal future, it is extremely important. There is a war going on outside my window right now, and as soon as I turn around I see that everything is extremely unstable and ready to blow up. But I know for sure that I am protected while I am doing what I love, growing, learning, and developing myself.

As Hidetaka Miyazaki said, "Don't give up. Obstacles can be overcome through strategy and learning."

Alexandr Novitskiy, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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