Sergey Kolesnik talked about his approach to creating print-ready replicas from the Star Wars universe and 3D weapons in general, the advantages of CAD modeling, presentation, and more.
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My name is Sergey Kolesnik, I'm 41 years old and I'm a lawyer by education specializing in criminal law.
I got into the 3D world when I was studying at the university, starting with 3D Studio DOS. Like most guys in those years, I studied it on PC at work. From early 2001 to 2007, I was doing TV design. After that, thanks to the Internet, I started freelancing and developing new skills while working on various projects, mainly browser games and a number of casual projects. I did modeling, texturing, and rendering, created backgrounds and objects. Later, I started making 3D models for commercial TV advertising. Until 2015, I worked exclusively in 3ds Max. At that time, I also started working on projects for 3D printing.
In 2016, I got invited by Plarium to work on the Terminator project for mobile. There, I exclusively did hard-surface modeling for robots and machines in the game. Then, I joined the excellent Panzerdog team to work on the Tacticool project. For health reasons, I left the gaming industry and now I am doing freelance and 3D printing.
Creating Weapons for the Star Wars Fans
I can't say that I began to work with weapons immediately. At first, I mainly worked on robots and mechas for a number of board games or similar things. Subsequently, a number of people started asking me to help make replicas and props from the Star Wars universe. I wanted to help because, at that time (2015), there were no good 3D models on the market for 3D printing. My son was born the same year, and I decided that I would start gathering a collection of good quality content from the Star Wars universe. My son grew up and so did my collection of works and projects. Many of the blasters were commissioned or created at the request of fans or workshops. Then some of them were made for the fan films in the Star Wars universe. A few models were created as exclusives for a number of clients.
I get inspiration from a few artists, especially Matthew Savage – we even connected on Instagram and I have an art book with his autograph and autographs of other artists who made concepts for Star Wars.
Whenever possible, I try to create my own remakes and concepts in the universe.
Modeling in Fusion 360
Since 2016, I've made the decision to give up poly and subdiv modeling in favor of CAD modeling due to a couple of important reasons: speed of work and no topology tracking when modeling. These two things made my work more comfortable, and the ease of editing mistakes appealed to me as well since half of my work involved prototyping for production and 3D printing.
I started practicing Autodesk Fusion 360 almost every day. There weren't many educational materials for it at that time, and Kirill Chepizhko helped me a lot during that period. He – literally like Master Yoda – gave some great advice that began changing my way of thinking and approach to work. Most of all, I liked that Fusion 360 had a clear interface, simple and convenient. Plus, I immediately started using the 3D manipulator that proved to be extremely useful and effective from the start. Over the years, the interface of Fusion 360 has changed a couple of times, but not very drastically, and it still remains very intuitive. I also tried to use MoI3D but it didn't work out.
At first, I tried to work with normal objects from real-life copying them and thinking about how to model them. When I mastered a few 3D modeling techniques, I made my first complex concept:
I still remember how delighted I was after creating a complex work in a few hours, especially remembering how much time a similar work would take with classical subdiv modeling. Later, I printed it:
For example, I spent almost two and a half weeks on this work using the classic method in 3ds Max, plus a week to prepare it for 3D printing:
My workflow is mixed, I use everything from editing solids with the tools like Cut to modifying surfaces with Edit Face as well as utilizing Loft, Patch, and sometimes Spline functions. I work without saving history, this speeds up the process and doesn't affect the performance.
Combinations of different approaches and techniques in 3D modeling give quick results and I really like that they all go together very well. With a lot of practice, content production becomes a real pleasure.
Modeling for Production
Initially, I create either a collage or a sketch in frontal projection. Then, I recreate the cylindrical shapes first using Sketch and Revolve. The barrel of the blaster becomes a reference point, helping to find the overall "thickness" of the model. Then I create a rough outline through sketches.
After that, I always turn to the gun handle. In life, the average thickness of the handle is 35-40 mm maximum. This also becomes a guideline for volume. At the same time, with a sketch, I create the profile view of the gun and edit it through Edit Face, then add Fillets often using variable radius for interesting forms.
Then follows the usual process of cutting-editing simple forms and combining them. The only thing I try to do is to pay attention to the bevels since they add realism. All real-life objects have them, they create reflections and make the objects feel complete.
In addition to that, I have to think about the grooves and gaps for master models that will be used for 3D printing. At the moment, I have my personal 3D printing setup, so I rely on my own production. On average, I make gaps 60-120 microns, depending on the element of the model and its depth as well as what parts will be joined together. Plus, I keep in mind the distortions that can be caused by the plastic and polymers shrinkage and some inaccuracies in plastic 3D printing.
I do not really deal with retopology since I always work with high-polys. But for me, Fusion 360 is a great tool for this task. However, you can perfectly combine Fusion 360 and 3ds Max to retoplogize the model, just export it in .igs/.iges, imported the project into 3ds Max and do the retopology there. In my opinion, Fusion 360 is a complete package for creating prototypes and master models for 3D printing.
I do work with textures, everything you can see in my portfolio has material presets adjusted in Fusion 360. I try to use the package to its full potential for demonstrating the models and work only with its materials. This is quite enough for my tasks and even for concepts.
I often use the Brass-old matte material with the color changed. It makes the surface look older and non-uniform. When playing with metal materials, I rely on my intuition and choose the ones I like. The library has some good materials like plastic, glass, emissives – you just need to study and configure them a little bit.
Decals are added pretty easily in Fusion 360: I use the PNG format, upload the images, then simply drag and drop them where needed and scale. The decals can be also used with alphas to add noise and scratches to the model.
For rendering, I use the native engine in Fusion 360 since it is cloud-based. When setting up renders, I work fast and probably even impulsively as it is especially important for me to save time and show the result to the client as quickly as possible. And cloud rendering really shines in this kind of situation – it does not load the system and you can easily continue modeling during it.
Lighting is mostly about setting up my favorite HDRI maps. I try them out, change orientation, rotate, and check the preview, trying to achieve the illusion of complex lighting.
For presentation, I use a maximum of three layers: background, a layer with the model, and a duplicate layer with an overexposed outline. Sometimes I partially mix them in the Add mode. For the layer with the model, I set sharpness to around 40% in Photoshop, then quickly adjust the contrast, something for the background (like sparks, smoke, etc.), combine the layers, and do a bit of blending in the R channel. I might also add blur to some areas, then – noise to the whole image, and sometimes auto color correction.
Then, I do the same for a couple more angles. For me, this method is fast and effective.
A Look at Futuristic Weapon Art
I cannot say that I am an expert in the field of futuristic weapons. But I am constantly learning and developing myself in this area. I mostly have classic models, or ones with a mixed style, since 3D replicas and props require more realistic, easily recognizable parts. Many weapons from the Star Wars universe are built on the basis of real classic guns. Perhaps in the future, I will have more opportunities to make concepts for futuristic weapons and recreate them in 3D. In such works, functionality and readability come first, the general perception of the model depends on them. It's optimal to study the structure of different weapons and similar things when possible, try to understand them.
The courses from the artist Danil Solovev helped me along the way (editor's note: available mostly in Russian), they helped me learn more about realism, constructivism, functionality and gave me a solid foundation for growth and self-reflection. Danil is an amazing artist with a deep knowledge of the subject.
As for the rest – like everyone else, I try to get inspired by the works of other artists.