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How to Create a Detailed 3D Gaming Tabletop Scene with Vivid Elements

Nikita Uvarov tells us about the process behind creating his recently-showcased 3D scene filled with numerous game-ready props, sharing some useful techniques he used to achieve such a high level of realism.

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About Me

Hi! My name is Nikita Uvarov and I am a Prop and Environment Artist. I started my journey by getting an art education. It was at my university that I started studying 3D. That's when I got interested in my profession. Over the past few years, I have managed to work in a variety of studios, doing completely different, but interesting work!

Now I am a freelance 3D Artist and mentor/teacher. And I really like it! In the near future, I would like to find a really interesting project to work there again full-time.

I had a lot of interesting tasks in my practice and they were from different directions. But still, my favorite direction is hero props. Working on them is really interesting and fascinating. After all, for some AAA hero projects, props are made for the cinematics pipeline. It does not necessarily make them too low polygonal, but you can show the smoothness and elegance of the shape so that they are pleasant to look at closeups.

About the Steam Deck Scene Project

Now, let's talk about the project itself. I originally wanted to create a complex scene to show an atmosphere of my most pleasant memories. Software used in the project includes ZBrush, Blender, Substance 3D Painter, Marvelous Designer, 3ds Max, RizomUV, Marmoset Toolbag, and Photoshop.
Before starting, I would like to give a citation from a wonderful game, to color the work atmosphere with this mood:

“We have witnessed - and, in fact, on several occasions incited - many great and weighty events. After all toil, I believe we deserve a bit of a rest.”
©️ Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy (The Witcher 3. Blood and Wine)

The work was created according to the cinematics pipeline. Hero props in the scene can also be used in a first-person game. The grid and shading are made for these conditions.

The story of the work is simple. My friends and I played Baldur's Gate 3 and discovered the amazing world of D&D. That was the spark that ignited the flame to do something like that. The game's world was so fascinating that we played for 2 weeks with a break only for sleep. Fortunately, it was August and we were on vacation. 

It was from that wonderful time that the creation of this work began. I spent most of the time working on the presentation. I had to pull myself up and study the tools to achieve the desired level of realism. I admit that the project has become personal for me. While I was doing this job, I lost friends. It was with them that I discovered this magical BG3 game and we had the best time together. But let's not talk about sad things. Let's move on to our pipeline. I will tell you about all this in more detail!


The first task was to understand and determine exactly what I wanted to do. I was inspired by the game, but, how exactly I can convey this atmosphere has become a challenge for me. I was playing on a PC platform, but putting several computers and monitors in the scene was not a very good solution.

That's why I decided to make a Steam Deck and a Dual Shock 4, to create an artistic solution. In my opinion, they are the most artistic, and with them, it was possible to create several artistic plans and separate story scenes. I tried to look for references to objects and ideas of the scene, picked up several options, and started working. I chose quite well-known models, so, it was not difficult to find all the necessary angles and exact dimensions to reproduce it.

Blocking and High Poly

For me, these two stages have become one. High poly was created in a Blender for creases, and then polished in ZBrush. In my vision, finding the form is the most important part of the job. After all, if you make a mistake at the beginning, everything you do next will be in vain.

Creating interesting hard surface shapes has been my job for a long time. So, the pipeline was familiar and pleasant for me.

Low Poly

I use this pipeline to create a low-poly model because it gives a visually pleasant topology of the model. When using this pipeline, I get an interesting smooth result at the low-poly stage, even without a bake. I did a lot of low-level tasks for ordinary props and environments, as well as for Nanite in UE5. These are good pipelines for their tasks, but I wanted to show exactly the aesthetics of the Steam Deck and the Dual Shock 4 joystick designs.


At this stage, my task was to achieve the same textiles for two objects of different sizes. And for the presentation in a portfolio for 4K textures, my texel density was 60 px/m.

The UV of the Steam Deck does not look filled, for the reason that the largest island sets the size of the texel density. Cutting the Steam Deck in these places was the optimal idea, so, I did it. The main task was to make it beautiful so that the seams on the UV did not complicate our lives further in our work. As for the joystick, I made a rectangular sweep to get into the same texel density as with the Steam Deck. I was doing this task on one of the projects I was working on. So I thought, why not?
For many years now, when working on UV, I have been using a bunch of Blender and RizomUV programs. Using them together, I can achieve excellent results in the shortest possible time! And the functionality there is quite simple.


The next stage is baking. This is the simplest stage, about which there is not much to say. The main thing is to perform low poly and high poly correctly and there will be no problems!

I used the Marmoset Toolbag with baking groups. The model was baked successfully and no additional edits were needed in Photoshop or something similar.


Even before the texturing phase, it is important not to forget that we want to make a large multi-dimensional scene. Therefore, even now, without materials, we need to think about secondary issues.

I did the scene layout and texturing at the same time. I was going through several options for building a scene and had to spend a lot of time creating an atmosphere.

It was necessary to make a lot of minor passes on the same pipeline because I wanted to make the scene richer and more interesting. My task was to create a multi-level composition so that it could be divided into several small scenes and considered separately. I wanted to give the viewer the opportunity to look at the work for a long time and find something new every time.

There was a problem that needed to be solved — there is not one main object in our scene, instead, there are several of them. Therefore, it is only possible to create several plot compositions within the same scene. And then, do permutations of props in the scene for different renderers. Some will say that this is chaos and there is no center of composition here, which I disagree. Each frame is exposed individually and uses its own artistic techniques for a beautiful frame. If we talk about the whole composition, then maybe my love for the works of Hieronymus Bosch played a role here. (Joke)

For the stage, I wanted a Steam Deck set because of the similar name to the Steam Deck. My old friends often confuse them. So, I thought it was an interesting idea, moreover, on Steam Deck. I showed my favorite games and programs in the project I worked on.
Naturally, the main question was where to put all this. I needed a table badly. Therefore, I had to do it. By combining generators, photo screens, smart mats, and hand painting, I managed to achieve an acceptable result. Small shapes appeared in the scene. Now it would be nice to create a more massive background. Speakers, BG3 artbook, lamp and more.

Regarding the speakers, I really liked their appearance. And it became a pleasant and addictive activity for me to create an interesting wood material for them.

As a bonus, I decided to add more food. Isn't it nice to eat delicious food while playing a good game? Snickers, honey, and burgers were added to the work. Snickers and burgers are made according to the full pipeline, while I only did blocking for the honey and created textures procedurally during rendering.

We add all sorts of little things like the D20 Cube for D&D from the collector's edition of BG3. An artbook has already been taken from there. Have you already realized that I'm a D&D fan?

For beauty, it was not enough to add fabric and a figurine of a favorite character from an old cartoon. I made the fabric at Marvelous Designer since Blender does it terribly, and I wanted to get realistic folds. We arrange everything in the frame and make a compositional triangle for the overall scene.

To add to the chaos, I decided to scatter the UNO cards. After that, we get an eye-pleasing mess at the composition stage.


In my opinion, this is the most difficult but interesting stage of the work. Sometimes the simplest geometry can become incredible after texturing.

To create realistic PBR textures, you need to give your best. It is necessary to create a multi-level complex material. You often do this manually. Even if you have smart materials, you will not be able to use them for the entire model. You'll have to work hard to achieve something complex. An important task, when working with textures, is not to make generator textures. In my opinion, it's important to use some grunge to add interesting roughness and don't rely on just one. This doesn't happen in real life.

First of all, I created a database for our future pros. It is important that the viewer understands what is going on in the scene and what kind of material is in front of his eyes.

The next step is to add stickers. I'll tell you a secret — literally, everyone loves them. I like all the works with stickers. This is the secret of success!

After that, we can already add realistic traces of use from real life. This step should be performed as accurately as possible. For artistic presentation, roughness should be clearly visible. But at the same time, you do not need to hurt your eyes. Neat combinations of different grunge masks, saturation levels, and blending modes can give you a good result. And, of course, do not forget about color variation. Without it, you will not be able to achieve at least some realistic moments. Texturing is a trial-and-error stage where you try a lot of options and leave out what you find most interesting.


We are making the final composition. I put together the entire finished scene in Blender, which is familiar to me, so that I can figure out where I'm going to export it for a good render.

And now we have a stage ready. I'll tell you what to do next — to look for a more suitable rendering engine in which we can make a beautiful picture. The choice was between Cycles and Corona Renderer — two different renderers, two different programs. 

I'll tell you a secret — I set up the scene in both renderings. Therefore, what is in front of you is a combination of my efforts. Unfortunately, the file in Corona Render no longer runs, so, I'll show you an example from Blender.

Creating lighting was the most difficult thing. But I made beautiful shadows, atmosphere, and acoustics and pressed the render button. You can see the result now in front of your eyes.

I have rendered several frames in Marmoset. I told you I tried a lot of renderers and chose the best shots, didn't I? 

First test render


The job was difficult. I want to say that no matter what happens, you must not give up. Go to your goal and you will succeed! Thank you very much for your attention! I hope to see you again!

Here is the Steam Deck 360° — 3D Model video:

Nikita Uvarov, Prop & Environment 3D Artist

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