The War Rig: Making a Vehicle from Mad Max in Maya & Substance Painter

Yurii Mikh walked us through the process of creating The War Rig from Mad Max: Fury Road and thoroughly explained the process of modeling and texturing a vehicle.


Hello! My name is Yurii Mikh, 27, I am from Kiev, Ukraine. Graduated from the Kiev Polytechnic Institute with a degree as a Mining Engineer. I am a beginner in 3D and have no CG experience yet. Accordingly, I have not yet had the opportunity to participate in real projects.

I started studying 3D graphics a year ago. When scrolling through the Instagram feed, I came across a cool composition and saw the names of various programs in hashtags. Began to Google and ended up on a series of small tutorials for beginners in Cinema 4D. I was fascinated by it and it will probably sound trite, but when you create various stuff on a computer with your own hands, it is exciting! From that moment on, my "second life" began – the search for various lessons, tutorials, and practice. And with each such lesson, I realized how vast the 3D graphics are and how much more I still have to study to know what is what in it.

To be honest, I was a little confused at this moment. And I realized that without good education it would be very difficult to master it on my own. So the choice fell on the Kiev Academy of Computer Graphics ARTCLUB. I took three courses there in various directions. "Standard'' is a basic introduction to CG and a complete model creation pipeline. Then, almost immediately after finishing the first course, I switched to the second one – "Modeling of Vehicles", where I actually started working on my project "War Rig". And I finished it at the same time as the third course in texturing.

The War Rig Project

Before starting the "Modeling of Vehicles" course, the students were asked to select the model they would like to make throughout the course. My choice fell on Mad Max, as I like its setting and environment. I immediately imagined how cool it is to "texture" a model from the post-apocalyptic world, using various metals, dirt, and rust. And out of all their variety of vehicles from the movie, I chose War Rig since I liked it the most.

Accordingly, my goal was to test the acquired knowledge and learn new things by making this model. As a reference, I took a lot of screenshots from the movie and also used those photos that I could find on the net.


Initially, I did not plan to model the cistern and started working exclusively on the truck. I worked on the “from the largest to the smallest” principle. That is, at first it was the cab and the back of the truck. After that wheels and axles, bucket. Then there were pipes and other smaller parts.

After I finished with the basic model of the truck, I once again watched the movie, and I realized that the cistern is definitely needed here for the integrity of the image. The addition of the cistern also partially relieved me of the need to model various fine details, since with such a large volume of the model, the viewer's attention is slightly scattered and it is possible to resolve the issue with details when baking. The entire model was created exclusively in Maya. Before proceeding to the unwrapping, the model was optimized, unnecessary polygons and loops were removed.

Retopology and Unwrapping

I did not use retopology, since firstly I did the low poly and after that the high poly model. I unwrapped my model to five 4k texture maps and one 1k texture map (glass on the truck windows). The main texel is 5 px/cm. In some places that are inaccessible to the viewer or that do not require a lot of detail, I reduced it by 2 times. These are the bottom of the truck and the part under the hood. For the unwrapping, I used the Maya tools.

Also in Maya, I baked the Normal Map. All other auxiliary Maps for texturing were baked in Substance Painter.


Before texturing the model, I worked on the structure of textures. Here I needed to add bruises and various damages to the model, which I did not make on the high poly. This has already been done directly in Substance Painter. This is how the details of crumpled metal, traces of sawed-off parts, or scratches on the bucket appeared.

Then there was the basic set-up of metals and non-metals. It was done in the Metal Roughness shader, so when setting up metal and non-metal objects, the rule was that for non-metals the Metallic value was 0.04, and for metals – 0.9-1. Then I worked directly with these materials, where I also added details at the Roughness and Base color levels. So, for example, worn parts appeared on the bucket where it contacted obstacles. To make this, I found excavators with worn buckets around the city and carefully took photos of them.

In general, I tried to diversify and mix up almost every detail, adding metal abrasions, traces or drips of paint, etc. Further work was with rust and faded from time metal. And at the end, I added dirt and dust. The dirt, especially in hard-to-reach places, was quite dark in color, while dust or dirt stains were lighter. Using the Anchor Points in Substance, I quickly adjusted the rust and dirt, and then, using generators and masks in different variations added to parts of the model.

In my opinion, the organic result is achieved by adding various details to the model that help understand its history. That is, what kind of object it is, how it got there, how it is used, and what can happen to it over time. So in some places, welding marks have been added. Or there are dirty footprints on the battle platforms of the cistern, although they are absolutely not visible on the main renders.

Traces of oil on the fuel tanks, lettering, cracked tires, or the rainbow color of the metal on the ends of the exhaust pipes, from which the fire burst, added a story to the project and looked quite organic.

Final Steps

For rendering, I used Marmoset Toolbag. I did not use any special lighting settings, I tried to use the principles of setting the light when photographing. This is when you put the main and fill points of lighting, as well as the backlight, which illuminates your model a little from the back. Finally, I tweaked the renders a bit in Photoshop where I added some brightness and contrast.

In conclusion, I would like to say that it was a long process, during which many mistakes and their corrections were made. But I liked it, I received a lot of knowledge, which will apply further, since now I am starting to work on the next model from Mad Max.

Yurii Mikh, Junior 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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