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How to Model & Texture Antique Leather-Bound Book

Sergius Leichenko shared a brief breakdown of the Antique Book project, showing how to create a realistically weathered leather cover and add history to props.


Hi all. My name is Serhii. I recently remembered that exactly 20 years ago, my parents bought me my first computer. This leads me to the fact that I am 34 years old and more than a year ago I started doing 3D, so it's never too late.

I am from Ukraine but currently living in the United Kingdom. I am a technology engineer by profession, and the only thing that connected me to the world of 3D was my diploma work where I drew industrial objects with AutoCAD as well as work with SketchUp, which helped me create visualization of houses in 3D to order.

I always considered myself a creative person. I drew a little, sculpted from clay and plasticine, made all sorts of things from wood in my spare time, and played a lot of different computer games. At some point, the idea came to me that the profession of a 3D artist is perfect for me. For a year, from morning to night, I studied tools for mastering 3D.

For the first six months of studying 3D modeling, I took online courses, mastered the basic programs used by game developers, watched various training videos on creating 3D models, and repeated them. There were attempts to do personal work for the portfolio, but I did not reach the level I had imagined. I was ashamed to display someone else's props made following a tutorial. It's generally okay, but it doesn't look professional. And I found a way out of the situation. I saw an announcement of Yaroslav Lohvinov's mentorship. I have already implemented two projects with him: the Oil Lamp and the Antique Book.

If you think you can hire a mentor and they will solve all your problems, then I hasten to inform you: it is not so. Everything that was done was done by my hands. A mentor as your leader will help you choose a pipeline, tell you about some technical nuances, provide feedback, and demonstrate a tool you didn't know about. And now, after a hard day, you will be proud of your work, your girlfriend will kiss you, your mother will say that you are a brilliant artist, and the mentor will comment: not bad, but let's start from the beginning. And if after a month or two you don't break, you will get a good project in the portfolio.

This project was a challenge, the task was to turn such a simple and boring thing as a book into an object that people would like because it's just a cubic object, like a box.

The book was chosen for several reasons. First, this object contains many different materials (leather, metal, wood, paper, cloth), which gives a lot of practice in texturing. The second reason is that I love things from the past, where history lives. The third is such an object as a book is rarely chosen for personal works. There are few books made in good quality on ArtStation. Therefore, there was a chance to stand out among thousands of objects.

I spent a whole day looking for references. The main search sites were antique shops and museums. I always sort references into groups, it's more convenient to work that way.


I used Maya for modeling and ZBrush for sculpting. As I said, the book is just a box, so blocking took 20 minutes, but the main work was done in ZBrush. I started with a leather cover. The hardest part was making the torn leather look organic. An equally important task was the creation of pages because each page in the book is a separate object. I split them into 6 packs and pulled out some pages for realism. I made the fabric structure using the MicroPoly tool. I made some threads myself and moved them by hand and I found some procedural ones and bought them on ArtStation.

There are many objects in the project, so it was important to organize the work. I created structured folders in ZBrush, and it helped me a lot.

Of course, it was not without mistakes. For example, I redid the same pages several times. To be honest, the first version turned out to be the best and most realistic, but when I tried baking, I realized that artifacts appeared, and I had to make them a little simpler.

I will say right away that the idea of the project was to improve my sculpting and texturing skills and to make good renders for my portfolio. That's why I didn't optimize the low poly mesh and UV map to save time and I don't want to show it to the general public and make fun of perfectionists. The only thing I will say is that my high poly has very complex shapes and therefore I had two ways. The first is to do retopology and the second is to use ZRemesher in ZBrush, which is what I did.

I then split the book into two 4K UV maps, the leather texel was 60 pixels per centimeter, and the fine details and metal were a bit larger. For super quality, it was possible to divide the book into three UV maps, but I was afraid that the Substance 3D Painter would greatly overload my GPU and I would not be able to texture in 4K quality.

Other than the fact that I redid the pages, there were no problems with the bake, maybe I just had to make small changes to the leather's low poly. For the torn pages and threads in the fabric, I baked an alpha mask.


Detail sculpting made my texture work easier, I had nice AO maps and curvature that did half the work. Before baking in Maya, I assigned a different material to the pages, which enabled the ID card to be baked. Later, I was able to add color variations to the pages. To make realistic old leather, I had to make a lot of masks by hand, sometimes looking for alphas and adding them through the Stencil tool.

I divided the cracks into three groups: large, medium, and small, and worked on each separately. Also, to enhance realism, I added a lot of history, such as scratches, stains, dirt, and torn pieces of leather. I had no problem with metal texturing as I had some practice with my previous work. However, already at the end of the texturing process, I had to play with the colors a little so that different materials had different shades and thus looked more expressive.


I performed both rendering and baking in Marmoset Toolbag. The main light was from the HDRI studio map. Also, sometimes, if necessary, I added additional light to illuminate the shadow or add highlights. Thanks to the height map, displacement added volume to the ropes on the side of the book and the tree in the background.


When beginners see such works with threads and complex forms, they have many questions, which I have already been asked in the comments and personal messages. And the answer is there are no magic buttons that you or Google don't know about. A lot of work is done manually, lots of trial and error. Take screenshots of your work and you can see your progress. After working on textures for a week, you may think that you can't do better, but after receiving feedback from a mentor or just a friend and sweating for another week, you won't recognize your work – it will be at a higher level (although the opposite is possible). Sometimes you have completed the work and think that something is wrong, maybe the proportions, color, or shadows are wrong, or it is not beautiful or realistic enough. It is better not to rush to publish and rework. 

I do not know how much time you should spend on personal work, it is very individual. Some have little free time, some get distracted or even burn out.

How long did this project take? A very interesting question that everyone wants an answer to. Maybe I'm a turtle? Everyone asks themselves this question, comparing themselves with others. We are all human, with our strengths and weaknesses. I know people who completed their projects in 3 months, some, perhaps, in a whole year, and others did a great job in a week.

I spent a month on this project. I did not know how to start for two days, and then I did everything in a few hours. There were times when I had to sit for more than 12 hours but I saw the goal and I didn't see obstacles. My next goal is to find a job in game development. I plan to send my resume and portfolio to a company and start working on a new personal project at the same time. 

Thank you all for your attention. I wish you inspiration, there is no way without it, and of course to never stop at what you have achieved!

Sergius Leichenko, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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