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Approaching Material Production

3d artist Gabriele Maiocco talked about the production of awesome materials, characters and great environments in 3d.

3d artist Gabriele Maiocco shared his thoughts on environment production, material creation and gave some hints about 3d production.



I’m a 3d modeler here in Torino, Italy and I have been working with 3d for the past 8 years. I studied at the IED european institute of design, with a brief erasmus in Rochester Kent where my interest for 3d art grew.

I’m currently working at Wedoo, we’re specialized in automotive so we need to pay a lot of attention to details, we work a lot with Alfa Romeo, Jeep and Fiat.


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The important thing is to have a good reference, so I start looking for pictures of the things I want to include into a scene or materials for a character, once I have everything or most of the things I’m looking for I start modeling.

When working on a scene or character I start sketching some ideas of the character, proportions, volumes, keeping in mind the feeling or the idea I’m trying to convey. Some modelers just don’t give enough credit to the character shape and silhouette, I try my best and I’m always looking for improvement, because a character can be incredibly detailed, or can be as simple as the early Mickey Mouse, but every shape in your character is important, and every artist should remember that.


Anyway without getting too off track, as I said before reference is the key, so once I have all the references for the elements I need for the character I have in mind: clothing, hair, accessories, etc. I take my basic anathomical models I created for this purpose (male, female, and child) and in Zbrush I start moving things around trying to get the basic shape of the character, big, slim, muscular or monster.

After that I create the clothing in Marvelous Designer and the accessories in Maya, only to bring them later into Zbrush for further detailing and into Maya again to be retopologized, textured and rigged.

Building the Assets

When I’m working on the assets usually I look for some basic models online I can retopo or build from scratch but not being too precise at this stage, just trying to see what works not worrying about polycount. Once I’m happy with this first step I create a scene only to move the assets around building the scene and looking for some basic lighting and camera position. Then I go more into detail back to the original scene creating the uv maps laying them out and basically getting everything ready to texturing and shading.


Creating the Textures


When I have all the uv layed out for my project, I bring them into Quixel Suite and play around with the presets first, just to see what works and what doesn’t. Once I’m happy with the basic materials, one by one I can work on adding small details on the normals, color and specular, slowly getting to what I’m looking for. I can honestly say that Quixel Suite made this work a lot easier, with all those amazing presets and materials available in the software. It’s incredible how quick it is to have some believable materials just with a couple of mouse clicks.



When creating the skin or the hair of a character I go straight to photoshop and paint or project textures, with the assets on the other hand, I jump to Quixel since it has an amazing library of almost any kind of material you can think of.

As I said before Quixel is of great help in terms of rapidity, you can quickly switch between different materials to see what works best in an heartbeat, and moving from ddo to ndo, without closing Photohop I can work with color and normal easily, without going back to Zbrush.


Hard Surface Materials


Always have some good reference no matter if it’s steel, rust, aluminum or painted metal.

When I’m building armor or robotics I usually prefer to sculpt the details in Zbrush, so I have more control over them and I can quickly go back few subdivision and add or delete any effect without worrying too much.

Quixel suite has a lot to offer for that too. And it’s really easy to tweak all the effects to get what you need, with some good photosohp brushes is easy to create some believable rust effects or scratched paint on metal.

Creating Nathan


It all started as an excercise actually. I saw some amazing models of clothing online done with Marvelous Designer and Zbrush, and I wanted to challenge myself to do that too, so I started with the pants, shirt and vest of Nathan.

Then I remembered famous Italian comic book character called Nathan Never, and I thought about creating a detective as the character in question, with a “vintage” feel but set in the future, with robotic libs and implants.

Once the idea was finalized I got carried away with building an entire office. Spending a lot of my time off work for a couple of months building the character and scene.

Textile Materials

I usually work on a monitor and on the second one I always have the reference for the model I’m working on, and when I’m at the texturing and shading stage I keep going back and forth from model to reference and back, trying to achieve the same lighting as in the picture I’m looking at as reference and creating the same textile effect. Also it’s always good to ask for a second opinion or a critique when you’re stuck. But anyway in the end it is just a matter of not settling for less than great when you’re building textures.



Again to the artists I say “don’t settle for anything less than great”, it’s easy to get carried away thinking your project is “good enough” but if you settle for good you won’t reach greatness, and the best artists in the industry are the ones who go the extra mile with their projects, always.

Gabriele Maiocco, 3d artist





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