Creating a Post-Apocalyptic Repulsion Axe

Gioele Minigher talked about creating an unusual post-apocalyptic axe, working in ZBrush, and the rendering process in Marmoset Toolbag 4.


My name is Gioele Minigher and I’m a 20-year-old 3D Artist, focused on Hard Surface Art and right now I’m especially involved in Game Art. I started my journey into 3D quite a few years ago, but only a couple of years ago did I start diving into real-time 3D art.

I began working last year during the pandemic as a freelancer, now I work full-time as a 3D artist at Artbully Productions while still doing freelance work on the side. During the Christmas holidays, I wanted to make a quick project and it turned out to be anything but quick.

The Repulsion Axe Project

So, when I stumbled upon this great concept from Kirill Barybin, I knew I had to make it in 3D. What I truly loved about this concept is that it wasn’t the classic extreme post-apocalyptic type of weapon, covered in barbed wire and full of blood, but it was a rather clean design with its own mood.

First thing was to start gathering some references, from axes heads to welds, duct tape and more.


After that, I jumped in 3ds Max and started blocking out my axe. 

The cables were all made using splines and a lot of patience, and for the ends that are flattened out, I just used a soft selection and scaling accordingly.

When I was happy with my blockout I started detailing it some more, adding all the details that I would know I would want to keep on my low poly too. From there I started making the highpoly. The highpoly creation was pretty straightforward, and was, for the most part, SubDiv, except for a few parts that I threw into ZBrush, DynaMeshed, and used the Polish tool.

A few tricky parts have been the duct tape, the rubber cloth, and the welds. For the fabric and the duct tape, I decided to go full SubDiv without any sculpting and added some minor details later in Substance Painter.

When making this type of stuff, make sure to keep in mind how the cables would flow and how the wrinkles might form, and based on that choose where you want to have all your details.

For the welds, I didn’t want to end up with the classic look of alpha sculpted welds. So as the first thing, I created the base shape that I wanted the weld to have.

After that, I Booleaned everything together and I brought it to ZBrush. There, I used the fantastic brushes from Andrey FeoktistovBut as I said, I wanted to have a more raw weld, so what I did was combine multiple alphas into my sculpt and not use just a single one. I also used the Move and Smooth brushes.

Here is the final result:

Another thing I had to figure out was what I wanted to have on the opposite side as I didn’t want to have the same stuff on both sides. So, I started putting down some ideas and experimenting around. What I ended up with is an Arduino board that controls everything, a 9V battery that powers it, and, of course, more cables.

To get the low poly, I took my previous detailed blockout and started from there. As for the UVs, nothing too fancy about them, split every hard edge, tried to hide the seams, and kept everything as straight as possible.

If this was supposed to be an asset for an actual project, I would’ve definitely put everything onto a single texture set, made sure to mirror everything I could, and tile the cables. But since it’s not, I probably went a bit too overboard and made a texture set for the wooden handle, one for the cables, and one for the rest. This is because I wanted to use this project to practice my texturing and didn't want to end up limited by the resolution, and this way, I ended up right with the resolution I wanted.

For baking this asset, I used Marmoset Toolbag 4, since it’s really fast and super easy to use. I used to bake my assets in Substance Painter, but when you switch to Toolbag you never want to go back.

And now finally into the texturing part!


The first thing I do when I start texturing my assets in Substance Painter is changing the camera focal length to 35mm and the environment to Tomoco, this way I’ll see things better. After that, I’ve started setting up my folders and masking them according to the materials. Once I have everything set up I can finally start building up my materials.

I usually start with a Fill layer as a base and get my values as close to what I want to get as possible. From that, I start building the bigger shapes that define that material and slowly start to go into finer details. 

Always remember to try to follow references when making your materials as it’s easy to continue just by memory and get an undesired result.

A cool piece of advice I would like to give is to break your parts’ colors, for example, if I kept the screws’ metal color the same as the part they’re attached to, they would look way flatter. To do this I usually put a fill layer with only the color channel above the base of my material, mask the screws, set the fill color blend mode to Overlay, and change the color value. This way we can make those screws pop and give the asset a more contrasting and interesting look.

For the burnt part I put to good use the anchor points, as once I created my whole hierarchy, I could change where the burns were in no time even though it was hand-painted.

Here’s a quick example I recreated:

This way I can quickly reiterate without having to repaint each layer.

As you can see I have my base, which is a fill layer with some noise, while the mask is a paint layer adjusted with some blur with subtracted some grunges to make it more interesting and believable. Finally, I added my anchor point.

Then to create the halos around the main burn I created another fill layer, with the anchor point as a base of the mask, then I played around with blur and levels till I got the fade I wanted to. The same goes for all the halos layers I made.

Finally, I made a folder for some variations, which is masked with just the anchor point, so that these variations affect just the burn and not the metal underneath.

Lighting and Rendering

Finally, we can start lighting and rendering our asset, and really let it shine! I decided to render the axe in Marmoset Toolbag 4.

Most of the times I like to import the ‘Uffizi Gallery’ HDRI from Toolbag 3, as it’s not present in the latest version. I usually start with a 3 point light setup, and then start to add more to show more shapes of my asset. Just be careful when adding too many lights of not getting an undesired look and ugly shadows, that can easily look pretty bad.

As a final touch, I asked Oliviero to make a pose for the axe to really bring it to life! Which I think really helped it to stand out.


As for my last thoughts on this project, all I can say is that it’s been a long journey and that’s also been a big learning experience. 

Hope you enjoyed the article and thanks to 80 Level for letting me write this!

Gioele Minigher, 3D Hard Surface Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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