Miniature Modeling and Texture Painting Techniques

Miniature Modeling and Texture Painting Techniques

3d artist Rafael Chies discussed the production of some of his beautiful little scene, inspired by Tom & Jerry and Rescue Rangers.

3d artist Rafael Chies discussed the production of some of his beautiful little scene, inspired by Tom & Jerry and Rescue Rangers.



My name is Rafael Zandomeneghi Chies, I’m from Brazil but currently living in Italy. I started working in 2005 as motion graphics designer and animator but found that 3D was my real love and started working as 3D artist in 2010. I currently work as 3D generalist freelancer, more focused on environment/asset modeling and look development.
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Rodent’s Car

I’m a very nostalgic guy, some great memories of my childhood come often to my mind and I always want to transmit these feelings to a paper or a digital artwork. In this project I was inspired by some old cartoons like Tom&Jerry and Rescue Rangers, where  small animals reuse some elements made by humans to create their miniature world. 


Actually that was one of the projects that come quickly and very clear on my mind. I started directly in Maya, I’ve used Zbrush only to sculpt the cobblestones and some parts of the environment. I did some rough and really simple blocking then went to Photoshop to paint over some insights to help me think about the elements that could be used to make a scrap car. Also this blocking helped me to plan the overall composition of the scene. After this step I went back to Maya and started to detail everything.

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Substance Painter is making a revolution inside the industry, it is really powerful, quite straightforward and I simply love it but the quality of materials and details is much more related to the capacity of observing the real world rather than the technical capacity of the software. I always start researching. In this case I researched for items like sardine cans, collections of matchboxes, bottle caps, and so on.. It’s an awesome part of the project because this is very interesting, each item tells its own story through lots of minimal details and this is what we have to transmit to our scene. 

Now, it’s time to talk a little bit about the Substance Painter. The material presets and smart materials that come with Painter 2 are incredible powerful! I usually start with one of them and mix together with some custom materials and other presets, the smart masks are awesome for blending and don’t be afraid of creating tons of layers of materials and masks, also remember to use the paint and levels combined with them. There are no secrets here, just use your capacity to observe the real world and translate it to the 3D.

I used the PBR MetalRough preset to export the textures and plugged them in various RedshiftMaterial inside Maya. Keep in mind to set the colorspace of the Roughness and Metallic map to RAW. Also change the fresnel type of the material to metalness.


The light is always a challenge,  you could destroy all your previous work of modeling, texturing and shading. There’s always a voice inside our head saying that the light is not showing all the micro details of the textures and modeling, telling us to put lights everywhere so everything could pop out. Please, don’t listen to this voice! It will ruin your entire piece, turning everything into a bright flat boring thing. There’s no way to show everything you made when you are doing a single still image. Keep focused to express what you really want in the scene, valorizing the silhouettes, shapes, and  don’t lose the volumes! 
I’ve put some letters on this image to talk about some lights in particular:

A) Main light:  high-intensity cold light. Emits volume.

B) Dome light: medium-intensity warm custom HDRi, works as rim light and also helps to give more realism to the reflections and GI. Doesn’t emit volume.

C) Headlights: object light made from the christmas lamps interior, combined with two sphere lights to emit volume.

D) Two low-intensity warm lights to help the rim light.

E) Incandescence material from the vending machine.

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Working with Redshift is like a dream come true, it’s SO fast, you act almost like a photographer. You can get your work to a whole new level because you don’t waste time waiting for never-ending renders, you can try lots of setups, compositions, and shader tweaks in real time.  It also helped me when I was planning the scene, as I didn’t had a concept, I was planning the light and mood while blocking the modeling. As it is this quick you can make thinks like DOF, chromatic aberration, fur and volume fog directly into the raw render, this way you don’t have too many work at the composition step. The renderer is really stable and works in a quite similar way to Vray, so it’s really friendly to new users.

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Rafael Chies, 3D Generalist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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