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Study more 3D weapons
Hi, my name is Ankur Kaul, I am from India. I have done my graduation in mechanical engineering and later did my post-graduation diploma in Game Design. I started working in a small gaming studio based in Chennai (India), then did some freelance work and also started working on building my portfolio. Later, I have applied to a reputed outsourcing Game Art studio in India and got selected there. Currently, I am working in an AAA studio as a Senior Game Artist in India. Until now, I have worked on 3 AAA titles. Sorry, no names, NDA.
Discovering Weapon Art
I was always fascinated by designs of weapons and I like working on hard-surface assets. Weapons fit great in that category, they have complexity and different mechanisms which is fun and challenging to think upon and design. For benchmark quality and texturing work, I always look up to Stefan Engdahl
When my friend first introduced me to Arstation, I started to discover some amazing artworks there and I always pushed myself to get that coveted spot on the trending section. I used to come across so many awesome weapons and always hoped to reach that stage and this factor always inspired me to do more and more with accuracy, patience, and quality. I always try to go more complex with each new work. Nowadays, I am totally into creating sci-fi weapons (before that, I was into making post-apocalyptic weapons, for example, Metro-like). I have been doing 3D guns for around 4 years now.
At the time of this project, I wanted to make a heavy rifle or an SMG-type sci-fi gun. I've always had a habit of adding interesting concepts to my weapon collection, so whenever I finish a project, I start going through that collection to find an idea for the next artwork. If I find what I am looking for I'll just go for it and start immediately. In this case, it was the concept by very talented Dipo Muh.
This concept had everything I was looking for - right color, sci-fi feel, and the heaviness. The concept was very well made and had all the required angles in the blueprint, which made my work easy.
I always start from a piece which can act as a guide or pivot for the whole construction. In this case, I started from the barrel and moved backward.
Once the low poly is complete I'll rename it all with _low suffix, duplicate the group and rename it with _high suffix. This helps to get a good bake in Substance Painter. For renaming, I use a Compact Renamer script which can be found here. It saves lots of time and can do all sorts of renaming tasks.
For high poly, I just normally do beveling and smoothing, smaller details are done in Substance Painter using alphas stamps. I use a script that simply selects all hard edges and then I apply bevel function to them and smooth the mesh. As this is a personal project I don't care much about optimization to save time.
Software-wise, Maya has always been my go-to tool to work with, it's fast and has easy access to all the shortcuts I need. In addition to that, Maya's Bonus Tools are very handy and have many good functions which I use very often.
Maya's UV Tool is very good, simple, and got all the necessary options one needs to do the job easily. I tend to stitch as much as I can even at sharp angles and smooth the stitched edges if they show some problem. Then, I'll cut the UV seam.
Like with many guns, there will be many mirrored and overlapped UVs to save space and get the desired texel density. In this case, I didn't do that because this saves time, but during a production overlapping and saving space is surely a must.
For this gun, I used one 4k texture map and 2k per meter texel density. If there's overlapping, it can be brought down to one 2k map or two 2k maps at max depending on what texel density is needed.
After UV unwrapping of all the pieces was done, the auto-layout tool helped me to fill up the 0-1 space. For smoothing groups, I use a script that selects all the edges according to UV seams and makes it hard/soft according to the UV cut and angle.
I usually extract smart materials from my previous projects. In this case, I used a material from this project. I try to divide the surfaces into different materials like rubber, plastic, painted metal, and bare metal to break up the overall look and get good variations. Even if it's not present in the concept I'll still try to experiment and get the best result.
I play a lot with generators and fill layers as masks to get a good surface roughness variation. It's really very important to get a good roughness variation because it will add lots of character to your model when kept under light and viewed at certain angles.
For the worn-out look and edge details, I use fill layers and use the edge damage generator mask to get chipped edges. I add another grunge fill layer on top of the mask and multiply with the edge generator, this will break the tilling and give good variation.
For normal details, I use to fill the layer with height enabled and use alphas in paint mask to stamp out the details. The same goes for subtle color variations, I use a grunge fill layer in mask and multiply or screen it according to my need.
Substance Painter's mask system is very powerful and non-destructive and makes work very fast while maintaining the quality. There are so many creative ways one can use these things to their advantage.
For lighting, I like to use neutral studio HDRI to get color-accurate results. It's always good to place lights in such a way that they will show the surface roughness variation - it will make the asset look good. Use a back spotlight to give a Rim effect, the remaining lighting can be got from skybox HDRI.