Ilya Dolgov shared the working process behind the Sony PlayStation 2 project and explained how the plastic was covered in dust and dirt to achieve further realism.
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Hi. I hope everyone who is reading this article right now and their families is doing well. My name is Ilya Dolgov, I am a freelance Hard Surface Artist. I started learning 3D modeling about 5-6 years ago. At first, I was dabbling in different directions, from studying game engines and making environments to creating materials, but in the end, I decided to focus on learning how to create hard surface props. As you can see, I enjoy working with electronics and vintage stuff.
I want to thank everyone who liked my work and who left feedback in the comments on ArtStation.
Today, I would like to share my experience creating PlayStation 2 art.
The Sony PlayStation 2 Project
I start by looking for references. Lots of references. In my case, everything is much simpler. PlayStation 2 is one of the most popular consoles and, of course, there should be no problems finding photos, sizes, and specifications. Many of you may have the same dusty console somewhere in the closet.
Also, at the stage of searching for references, I already begin to think over and take into account how I will model individual elements of the model and notice design features. Already during the search and study of references, I can begin to form an idea of how I will divide the model into UV sets, what elements I will add to the high poly model, what elements will be added at the texturing stage, and which elements should be applied to logical operations in future in ZBrush. I will write about this a little later in the article.
Next, we find all the references for all the necessary elements. Let's start looking for the dimensions of the console, it's not difficult. In my case, I found the exact dimensions of the console itself, gamepads, and other elements in inches and converted them into centimeters. The main thing is to know what dimensional standards you work with in your modeling program. In my case, I work in the metric system, 1 unit is equal to 1 centimeter.
In the form of simple rectangles, I create the dimensions of the main elements of the console with the desired dimensions (console, gamepad, disc box). As you already understood and as I wrote above, already at the stage of searching for references, I decided to divide the asset into three main UV sets: console, gamepad, and disc box. This is mainly due to the fact that I originally wanted to achieve increased texture detail and was not constrained by the limitations that accompany the artist when creating assets for games and their optimization. This is the privilege of making works for a portfolio, where you can show all your capabilities in detail.
The moment I decide and set all the necessary dimensions, I start modeling.
Modeling & Retopology
At this stage, I'm a bit puzzled as I don't know how to describe the modeling stage. Everything is standard here, I model the main shape using TurboSmooth without being distracted by the quality of the mesh topology of the model. I won't focus on that. My main task is to bring the smoothed model in 3ds Max to a manageable state in order to transfer it to ZBrush, where I can correct the shape using the program tools. I will show it on the gamepad
As you can see, I do not model individual elements of the gamepad (button recesses, L and R letters, screw holes, and marking elements). Naturally, you can model some of these elements in 3ds Max, but in my experience and in terms of quality and saving you time, it's better to use ZBrush tools to add these elements. Using simple shapes and masks created in Photoshop, you, with the help of tools and boolean operations, complete the task much faster. ZBrush is very good at this. I use this technique on the whole model.
Of course, with some elements, you can add lettering and other details during the texturing stage in Substance 3D Painter, but I prefer to add the maximum amount of large details to the high poly mesh at once so that in the end the curvature map and the ambient occlusion map include all the details. This will make it easier to texturize and adjust the material in Substance 3D Painter later.
In ZBrush, I also often use the Flatten tool. In certain places of the model (sharp corners and places where the object is prone to damage), the tool can be used. The main thing is not to go too far with the intensity and set it to a minimum, otherwise, the final model may look stylized.
I do retopology in 3ds Max. I import the entire model (decomposed into separate parts) from ZBrush into 3ds Max. Naturally, the imported high poly model weighs a lot, so I use Decimation Master in ZBrush to make the model lighter.
Well, after that – boring retopology. You can evaluate it in the final form. I give myself some freedom, and in the end, the final model, of course, weighs a little too much, but I didn’t have the task of hard optimization and I still performed many elements that could be baked in the form of geometry.
I do UV mapping in UVLayout, it's a very convenient program, it helps to quickly and efficiently mark the seams, and expand and straighten individual elements. In my case, I initially assumed that the model would consist of several UV sets, however, I performed UV unwrapping without separation (the entire low poly model with a gamepad and a disk box). After that, I calculated the average texel density and divided the model into three UV sets.
I bake textures in Marmoset Toolbag. Here, too, I have nothing new or special to add. I bake all the maps needed for texturing (normals, AO, curvature, normals object, position.)
Before texturing, it is important to prepare all the basic elements for your convenience. First, I prepare the mesh in several versions (the first is the main one – the one that will be used in the render, the second – in the expanded version, with details separated at a distance for ease of texturing, and the third – the mesh rotated in different directions) in order to have an idea how light will affect hard-to-reach surfaces.
After that, I proceed to set up the scene in Substance 3D Painter. As an environment map, I use a standard HDRI map – "Soft 2RingHighContrast". This map gives beautiful studio light with the contrast and color reproduction I need.
I set the Environment Exposure (EV) in the range from 0.6 to 0.8 (it allows you to compensate for the absence of additional light sources). Next, I activate the tone mapping option in the Post Effects tab, in the functions, I specify the Log item. Along the way, I activate the Anti-Aliasing option. As a color profile, I use "ACES_UE4_Log", this profile is very easy to find on the internet. I got the experience in setting up scenes from leads at my previous job. In addition to that, I gained experience from them in other aspects, from modeling to texturing, and I am very grateful to them.
After setting up the scene for texturing in Substance 3D Painter, I start making a mask map. It's better to take care of this now, before texturing, and make all the necessary masks rather than defer to creating individual masks during texturing.
Now we can start texturing. Here it is worth paying attention to the management of layers and folders in Substance 3D Painter. Different artists have different approaches. I'm used to sorting each individual material into a separate folder, excluding separate common layers, such as dust, dirt, or layers for adjusting contrast and sharpness. But in most cases, I used to create layers of dirt and grunge separately for each material.
During my work, I have accumulated a lot of smart materials, some I abandoned and do not use, and some I refine with each new asset. For the PlayStation, I used my old saved plastic material. I will focus on it and explain its structure in layers.
As a plastic surface, I use a noise texture that I found on the internet a long time ago. I create a fill layer with the parameters I need (I make the color and roughness a little darker from the main plastic, barely noticeable). Although the texture does not have a very high resolution, it is well-tiled and perfectly conveys the surface of the plastic.
Of course, the surface of the plastic is not uniform in different places, this can be seen by examining the references. Plastic with a lot of noise is noticeable only on the upper part of the console case, on all other sides it is weaker, and in some depressions, the plastic is completely smooth. Therefore, I use additional curvature and paint correction modifiers to reduce the effect of noise in some areas.
In the upper layers, I use various variations of the standard textures for Substance 3D Painter: "Grunge Fingerprints Smeared Wide" and "Grunge Pebbles Spots". Traces of old drops and dirt have already been drawn using standard alphas: "Grunge Stains Large Hollow" and "Grunge Stains Hollow".
I will now focus on the creation and distribution of dirt.
As you can see, I use the standard dirt modifier with normal settings but on top of the dirt modifier, I add a corrective light modifier directed in the direction from top to bottom by setting the blending settings to the multiple value. This approach allows for a more realistic position of the dirt. Naturally, this applies, in most cases, only to static old polluted objects. Putting the console upright doesn't make the dirt look any more realistic. This technique, using a corrective light modifier, is also well suited to dust distribution.
When texturing the rest of the elements (controllers, small parts, and the disc box), I used the same approach in creating the surface, applying dirt, grunge and dust as described above.
When creating cases for the discs, I used a slightly modified version of the plastic with more noise. The main mistake I made and noticed after reading the comments after posting is, of course, the use of blue plastic. The thing is, in the European region, mainly blue plastic was used for boxes, and in the American region, it was black. As you may have noticed, the console and covers are supposed to be in the American region.
I have already chosen the titles of games for the covers according to my own preferences, I have chosen my favorite games of the PlayStation 2 generation.
For rendering, I used a scene with some changes from my previous work called VHS Collection. I changed the floor material to another one, which I also took from the Quixel material library.
As an HDRI, I used "Soft 2RingHighContrast.exr" (the same environment that I used when texturing). As light sources, I used 4 directional lights with an increased diameter, which made it possible to achieve soft diffused shadows, and one spotlight source to illuminate the front of the console.
To create a spotlight effect on the floor, I used a transparency alpha texture around the edges of the floor with a black background.
The camera was used in perspective mode with a very small angle of view – 16 degrees. I used ACES as tone mapping. Below, you can see more detailed scene settings.
I already adjusted the depth of field in different ways, depending on the camera angle. I edited the resulting images in Photoshop using the Camera Raw filter – a very powerful image editing tool.
That, in fact, is all that I could tell and show. Sorry if this is not enough, or if I have described already known tricks. I am writing an article for the first time and I hope someone will find something for themselves in it and try to use the tips described.
3D modeling is about constant learning. By creating this art, I was able to improve some aspects, but at the same time, I made mistakes, which also helped me learn, and in my future works, I will try to avoid them.
Thank you to everyone who's read this article, I wish you success in your endeavors, have a nice day!
Ilya Dolgov, Hard Surface Artist
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