Ivan Popov explains how he designed his 3D version of the military radio receiver and reveals his secrets behind prop texturing.
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My name is Ivan, I am a 3D Artist from Moscow, the capital of Russia, with over 5 years of experience. Despite such an impressive time frame, I have never worked in the video game industry. However, I have worked on several games, for example, Ray of Hope. Now I am engaged in the creation of game models of weapons and ammunition there.
Ever since childhood, I could go through various games for hours. Once I realized that I wanted not only to consume but also to create something of my own, I began to try working in various areas of creating computer games and settled on 3D modeling. Subsequently, my hobby grew into something more. I could practice for hours creating 3D content, working out mistakes, and discussing the issues I faced on forums or directly with industry professionals.
Then I became interested in training young specialists, under my leadership many people have achieved success, some of them are now working in the production of computer games. I did it, of course, for free.
Now I am creating a portfolio to show my skills, as I believe that I am ready to start working full-time. Today I am going to walk you through the process of creating a portfolio project.
Going Into a Project
I have created a small list of rules for myself that make it easier to understand whether a project is worth starting or it is better to abandon it. Here it is:
An idealess project, which is no different from many others you have already done before, is less likely to interest the viewer. If we are talking about 3D modeling, it is better to choose something that no one has done before, or you are sure that you can do it better than everyone else. You may not do the best project overall, but your model will at least be unusual and memorable. That is why I chose the R-323 radio station because I did not find any works similar to what I created. Thus, I removed myself from the competition with anyone else.
2. Availability of quality references
Perhaps every 3D artist knows how difficult it is to work with low-resolution references, or with an extremely limited number of references. That is why, before you start a project, the availability of high-quality materials that you can work with is worth considering.
A huge number of references for this radio station were shared with me by my good friend Alexander Ostrovsky.
As you can see, I approached the selection of references very seriously, eliminating even the smallest inaccuracies that could arise during the work.
3. Visual content
Complex projects always look much better. That is why they are worth choosing, as opposed to simple projects that can be done in a couple of days. Almost any kind of military equipment is a good choice for a portfolio project, especially if it is worn out. Complex geometry will show your ability to create 3D models, and old and worn-out materials will prove your texturing skills.
Creating a 3D Model
To create a 3D model, I used 3ds Max and ZBrush. This is a very good combination of two programs that allows you to work on hard-surface models quickly. This workflow allows you to combine traditional modeling techniques, but also adds something similar to the modeling techniques used in CAD software. Using the Boolean, I created all the necessary cutouts and also added the shapes that I needed.
Then, from my blank, I created a full-fledged high-poly model using ZBrush as well.
After that, I replaced the high-poly null objects with mid-poly in my workpiece and got a mid-poly object. However, his wireframe is completely unsuitable for further work. To fix this, I used the Optimize Modifier in 3ds Max and then manually corrected whatever the modifier could not fix automatically. This must be done to all the elements of the model one by one.
Then you need to triangulate the model, and the mid-poly object is ready!
Unwrapping the Model
Model unwrapping is no different from a regular workflow. I used 3ds Max to create UVW shells and then packed everything in RIZOMUV.
There are a few rules to keep in mind when unwrapping:
- Alignment of the shells along the axes. This helps to pack the UV more tightly, as well as avoid artifacts when baking.
- You must unfold cylinders into straight pieces.
- For optimization, the repeating elements can be positioned on the same UV coordinates, and you can also use symmetry on them.
This is just a small list of the most important rules. I advise you to take a look at the UVs made by professionals, analyze them, and then apply all the tricks to your own work.
Texturing is a very important part of the creation process when it comes to 3D modeling. Often, even a model that is very simple in geometry can be improved with textures. And even a perfect model can turn into garbage because of poor texturing.
In my opinion, the main texturing mistake made by many artists is insufficient detail in the Albedo/Diffuse Map. This part is crucial and it requires your full attention.
Of course, when texturing, you need to constantly check the references and try to repeat what you see.
Of course, you can make various edits at your discretion, if they do not go against the logic of the overall project. Do not rely too much on procedural generation. Try to use custom masks and hand painting more often when needed.
For example, I created several masks in order to correctly depict the damage to the body of the radio station.
To create the renders, I used Marmoset Toolbag 4, this is a very good and understandable software for rendering.
First of all, you need to find a suitable HDRI map that will correctly illuminate the model and emphasize all the necessary details. I recommend using this free HDRI site. You also need to set up the camera and choose the angle you like. And then add light sources to further emphasize the necessary areas, for example:
Next, you need to configure the camera. Add a small chromatic aberration effect, focus, grain, vignette, adjust the curves and add sharpness.
And finally, we do the final render. Do not forget to decrease the Denoise Strength to zero value. The settings should never be too much for your system to handle, so keep that in mind. For example:
The most important thing about creating beautiful props is not a gorgeous render, not a beautiful picture on your ArtStation. Your model should look beautiful on its own, without any magic tricks. The render should be simple, showing your hard work, and not trying to hide any flaws.
In conclusion, I would like to say that at first the result will not please you and this is fine. Try different workflows, spend more time practicing and then practice again. Always try to do better than ever before. Try to improve your skills every day, only then you will see great results. Good luck!