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Treating UE4 Scene Like a Painting

3D artist Jared Lewin discussed the production of his most recent project.

Jared Lewin, who is currently mastering envrionment art at university, gave a talk on his most recent project. The artist tried using different types of lighting to make the scene look like a painting. Let’s take a look at the results. 


My name is Jared Lewin and I am a third year university student studying environment art. As of now I have not contributed to any industry games or worked for any game companies. My time is mostly spent trying to better my understanding of environment creation.


The main idea of this project was to quickly sell a space that could be used for some sort of work. In the case of this space staffs will be assembled. Mostly I wanted to test some different lighting styles I had not utilized in my work before. I wanted to really try to make the space have more of an impact similar to a painting. This was a new challenge to me overall but the versatility of UE4 and Substance really leant themselves well to solving it.

Production started after I made a few simple meshes for fun. The mesh that really gave me the idea for the space was a staff I made from an unrelated project though. I wondered where it might be made and so I decided to base the space around that. I used these first meshes I created to create block outs in Maya for paint overs where I tried to really solidify the look of the space. Once I had a good idea of what I was trying to create I went forward with an in-engine block out of the space. The whole scene runs in UE4.

I started most models in Maya then brought them through ZBrush for detail passes. Some models that were mostly organic were started straight in ZBrush. A lot of the challenge came from the time I had to create the piece. Time in university can be tight so the project had to move extremely fast. This meant that I really had to streamline the process of modeling and get meshes in as fast as possible. Planning was what really allowed this process to happen with little issue. Even with as much planning as I had though, I hit some issues as I added in meshes I had not originally planned for and the space slowly evolved. In these cases being able to adapt fast and keep on working was key.


The materials in the scene were created with modularity and time in mind. For example all of the wood is instanced off of one parent material that has parameters for baked normal maps as well as all color information, and any sort of alpha masking I might need. The intensity for all of these different parts is controlled by exposed variables that are easily tweaked. I think the most important part about making these materials feel the way they do is the secondary color information. All of the materials have direct color compliments injected back into the albedo maps. What this means is simply adding back on colors that would form due to the nature of light and how the environment acts on these materials over time. Woods develop a whole range of colors as it ages and wears, not to mention how much color exists in their natural color ranges as it is. In my environment I exaggerated these slightly for a preferred effect. These colors are parameterized in my materials so they can be changed on the go across the scene. As far as textures go I started most of them in Substance Designer.


All shots of the scene are taken in engine in real time. The most important thing about the lighting in this scene was created a pleasing transition from the warmth of the window to the warmth of the back. The interesting part is that the light sources are to extremely different types of warmth and the lighting had to reflect that. At the same time even though my desired effect is not quite realism it is important not to lose a sense of believability. That doesn’t mean that this space has to exist in our world per say but it does have to seem cohesive in the world that it does take place in. This space still has to have a concrete existane and any lighting that seems off balance will ruin that illusion.


Honestly the atmosphere is just a culmination of all of the efforts put into a scene. I treat it like a painting. An environment is made up of elements being layered on top of each other sort of like brush strokes so you have to keep in mind how each of these actions or elements affects the whole product. If these elements complement each other than an atmosphere will begin to develop naturally. This doesn’t mean ignore the individuality of any given asset or the smaller compositions that exist in the environment it just means be mindful of how they affect each other and work based off of that.

Jared Lewin, 3D artist

Interview conducted by Artyom Sergeev

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