Li Jiulong has told us about the workflow behind the Stylized Mushroom House project, explaining how Unreal Engine 5, 3ds Max, ZBrush, Marmoset Toolbag, and Substance 3D Painter were used during modeling, texturing, and rendering in order to create the magic atmosphere.
Hello! My name is Li Jiulong and I'm a 3D Environment Artist from Sichuan, China. I've always been a loyal game player. When I was a child, I loved to see wonderful scenes in games and enjoyed the game creators' fantastic ideas. One year ago, I graduated, and my graduation project was made in a Chinese-style horror game.
Reference and Inspiration
The work I bring to you today is the restoration of the painting by 夏言JA. When I saw this 2D work for the first time, I felt that the scene moved me very much. The composition of the picture was very fascinating. Every element was carefully designed without clutter, and the color of the picture was very harmonious. I immediately decided to restore it by using 3D software.
I used several pieces of software here:
- 3dsMax was utilized for the low-poly modeling and modular grouping;
- Substance 3D Designer was utilized for the material programmatic generation;
- Marmoset Toolbag was utilized for baking various textures and painting textures in Substance 3D Painter;
- ZBrush was utilized for high-poly sculpting;
- Marvelous Designer was used for fabric solutions in the scene;
- Substance 3D Painter was used for the material performance of the model;
- Unreal Engine 5 was used for the final composition of the engine, lighting performance, and rendering.
This work is also my first attempt at stylization. Before selecting the reference painting, I often pay a lot of attention to the stylization works of artists from all over the world at ArtStation, and they create all kinds of amazing works. For me, as my first attempt at stylization, I spent a long time looking for reference drawings, no matter if it was a single building, trees, stones, or flowers. I tried to integrate these into my scene. Special thanks to Victoria Zavhorodnia for her tutorials, which inspired me a lot in making plants.
Blockout and Modeling
In the blockout stage, the perspective of the original painting was not particularly exaggerated, so I used PureRef to set it as translucent and then determined the approximate scale and perspective of part of the model in Unreal Engine 5. Later, I repeatedly compared the original painting with this one to make adjustments.
After locating the main building and other objects, I exported the BOX in Unreal Engine 5, refined the model in 3ds Max, and then imported the refined model into Unreal Engine 5 again for inspection. After there were no major problems, I started the modular production of the main building mid-poly, and other models were made to facilitate the later carving of high-poly in ZBrush.The method of making plants is based on the tutorial of Victoria Zavhorodnia.
In terms of model making, I found several iconic models from Kena: Bridge of Spirits on ArtStation, and I think these two sculptures were very interesting, just to practice the ZBrush carving ability. I will not show the modeling of the tree separately, because it was also the first time doing it, and the carving was not very good.
When working with Substance 3D Painter, it is important to prioritize achieving a level of detail that is visually appealing before focusing on realism or stylization. Additionally, it is crucial to develop a stylized sense that is coherent throughout the entire model. An essential aspect of the process is to actively seek references and study how other artists approach painting. By observing and learning from the work of others, we can gain valuable insights and further enhance our own painting techniques.
After the model is finished and imported into Unreal Engine 5, the style of the model has to be unified again so that the model does not become very abrupt in the scene. That's why I adjusted it in Substance 3D Painter, slightly changed the parameters of the map in Unreal Engine 5, and used RVT and other technologies to unify the overall style of the model.
In Unreal Engine 5, I tried several lighting systems and finally chose Lumen. Lumen lighting system greatly improved the scene, but it also caused many problems, such as the grass becoming very dark.
Finally, I found a good solution through my continuous attempts.
If you are encountering issues with Lumen when trying to stylize a scene, here are a few methods you can try. Please note that these solutions may not be suitable for realistic scenes.
The first is to improve Lumen lighting quality in post-processing. The second is to disable Lumen (Screen Space Directional Occlusion) in certain areas. The third is to enable Two-Sided Foliage in material settings. In addition to these suggestions, you may also find helpful solutions and discussions within the Unreal community.
Lighting and Atmosphere
I used the Lumen of Unreal Engine 5 to light up my scene. In fact, Lumen can't
completely make your picture reach a great height, you also need to fill the light yourself. So I also added a lot of light sources in the scene to make the picture more unified and harmonious.
To enhance distant routes and vistas, I adjusted the opacity of the fog to reduce blurring and make the distant content more clear and defined.
Additionally, I made an interesting discovery regarding the lake. By modifying the settings in the Directional Light, the lake's appearance significantly improved.
When it comes to creating dynamic fabric effects, I am currently studying the production methods used by other experts. Additionally, there is another technique known as vertex drawing that can be used for this purpose.
Regarding rendering, I utilized Unreal Engine 5's Movie Render Queue, which allowed me to achieve antialiasing, high-quality rendering, and other functionalities. However, one drawback was the extensive waiting time when rendering large scene content. During this time, I often browse through TikTok on my computer. Here are a few of my console parameters.
When it comes to experience, the best advice I can give you is that you must persevere in your learning to achieve success. All the artists on Artstation will be your teachers.
Thank you very much for your reading, and thank you again for your recognition of my work. I believe that I will often appear in your vision in the future, and bring you better, more challenging, and more creative works.