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Tamara Sapronetskaya tells us how to make a beautiful realistic fish for your game.
Hello! My name is Tamara Sapronetskaya. I am a freelance 3D Artist. I have a law degree, but in my soul I am an artist. My husband introduced me to 3D modeling. I got interested in the process and decided to give it a try. I’ve been doing it for 3 years, worked on the creation of several game projects not yet released. Now I create characters and learn animation. My dream is to work on cartoons.
I had to create photorealistic game asset. Like in most game projects, I had to achieve the best result, reducing the polygon count. No specific constraints, but I guess every 3D artist, who’s creating low poly model should think about every edge and polygon. Number of triangles – 2771.
I needed to create a specific fish – bleak (bleak, lat. – alburnus alburnus). Despite a huge number of pictures of the fish on the internet, finding a high-quality image was difficult: the fish was either lying on its side, making it impossible to study scales, suffered from reflections with photos taken by fishermen showing ‘glued’ fins or was in the hands of fishermen making the half of it not visible. And here I’d like to thank fishermen — fans with own blogs, who provided me with references for my bleak! For the final texture of the fish I used a combination of just 3 high-quality references. Collecting the info allowed me to start the production.
I had to go through several steps here. I created the original block in Maya, because it was easy to track proportions of the fish there. Knowing about the plans on animating the model, I straightened fins. Then I opened the model in Zbrush, turned it into Dynamesh and sculpted all the details of the head and the body, no scales this time. When high poly model was ready, I repotologized it to a low poly one and worked on UV mapping. Projected colormap with scales onto low poly model and then created Displacement map in Photoshop using the same colormap. Then opened low poly model in Zbrush to project sculpted details from high poly model.
Applied the Displacement map to get the fish scales that matched the Diffuse map perfectly.
You can achieve realism with high-resolution references, no glare, reflections, proper high poly modeling with a focus on small details. I used Photoshop and Substance Painter for its textures. These solutions are always parallel when I’m creating something. Substance Painter helps create and piece together the final maps while Photoshop was needed throughout the production: from editing photos – for references, to editing Normal map, AO and other maps. Often, when an object is already opened in Toolbag, the final changes with the maps are done in Photoshop.
I think many 3D professionals will agree that Marmoset Toolbag is irreplaceable. It has also you need for preview and presentation. You can get the render so fast!
Of course, this fish can be upgraded with Substance Painter — its color, the shape of the fins with a different Alpha map. But for a fundamental transformation you need a different pipeline – for example, don’t create the body and its fins as a single object to combine and replace something later.