About the Artist:
Hello my name is Jan Appold.
I am a self-taught 3D-Artist from Hamburg Germany. Back in January 2018 I started learning 3D, with the goal of producing Game ready assets. Since then I am constantly learning new stuff, and always trying to improve. I am no concept artist or a great drawer, so I always search for nice concepts and redo them in 3D.
Today I want to show you how to create a stylized asset for beginners.
All the work you see is done in 3D-Coat, Cinema 4D and Marmoset Toolbag 3
If you want to check out more of my work take a look at my instagram: @j.appold
or Artstation https://www.artstation.com/janappold
The first thing after you found your desired concept, is always the rough blockout of the base model. Try to keep as many pieces separated as possible, this will make your life much easier later on when you want to adjust proportions. And also it will help you for the baking process later. Also try to work as symmetrical as possible, this will also help you a lot later.
One thing to always keep in mind is: take the easiest way you can think of.
A good example of this is the rope that goes around the Hammer.
First I was thinking about complicated sculpting techniques that would have taken hours. Then I remembered a pretty neat function in Cinema 4D to create ropes. I quickly looked it up on youtube and found an even better plugin for c4d that does everything in one single click. https://www.codeworkers.de/garage-plugins-reeperx.html
Simply import this into your High poly scene and move it with your move tool till it fits in the right spot. Copy it and there you go, ropes also done.
Go on like that and you should have something like this:
After your blockout is finished you can start with your first details.
As you may have noticed the handle doesn’t look right.
So I redid it.
To achieve this I once again blocked out a cylinder with a slight bend in the middle, then I used the carve tool with a curvature brush tool.
After I was happy with the result, I started on the little fur end of the handle. Mostly I used the move tool, pulled out some furry ends and refined them a bit with the standard brush in extrude mode.
As this was done, I took a look at the proportions again. One thing that is always important when doing stylized assets is that everything is pretty bulky and fat. That gives the asset a cozy and cute feeling.
After that slight adjustment I started giving the wood some texture. For this just use a pointed brush alpha and the curvature brush tool.
Add some more cracks and dents to it. Always take a look at the concept if you are not sure where to place them or how they should look. The wood planks that go across won’t have much of a difference in thickness or depth, because if you think about how wood is cut you will notice that planks usually are not cut crooked.
For the cracks and dents, this is not the case, so give them some different depth and thickness.
(The pieces we kept seperate are coming in handy here. Because you can simply ghost or hide the parts that you wont need, so you don’t have to work around them.)
This is also slightly overdone for a stylized piece to once again achieve this bulky look. So don’t go too much into detail and don’t start making a perfect wood grain. Stylized assets are always just a less detailed version of a real life object.
As the wood was finished, I added some cracks and dents to the metal to give it a worn down look. All this was done with the standard circular brush alpha and cut out tool. Because most of the textured brush alphas are going too much into detail and won’t give you that cute look.
When this is finished and you are happy with your results, we can go on to the most important part to make this asset Game ready.
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This is the step where you break down this ( in my case 5 million) polygons to the lowest amount possible without destroying the look or a too sharp edge. (This totally depends on the game you will use it in. E.g. a game from the bird perspective won’t need such a complex model or if so it would be very low poly, since you won’t be able to see it from up close.)
Soon after I started doing the Retopo I noticed that I made a mistake which will cost me wayyy more time. I didn’t work symmetrical, at least not symmetrical enough. So the polygons that looked fine on one side where sticking into the model on the other side. So I had to everything twice. Which is time consuming and should be avoided by any means.
But back to the topic.
The important thing while doing the retopo is the balance between a low poly count and a high enough polycount to avoid the sharp edgy look. This is something that only will get better by testing and experience. There is no rule of thumb like a circle always needs x polys to look good. ( At least I don’t know of any ) Also always try to avoid triangles if possible, and go for squares as much as possible. This will not only give you a smoother mesh but also it will help you with your baking process.
To avoid nasty and very complicated structures like in the following picture
Go and separate the pieces from each other. So you don’t have to fight with that. And in the end it will save you a good amount of polygons. One thing I could have done better here was the faucet. I should have separated it as well. That would have saved me some polygons.
With all that sorted you can start creating polys like a mad man. In some cases some autopology tools in your 3D program can come in very handy here. But since this is a new Portfolio piece for me, I always do this by hand to get the best result possible. Also try to get rid of all polygons that you won’t be able to see after you assembled your model back together. ( you will see this in a later pic, I did delete all the polygons of the rope that are facing towards the barrel.)
I won’t go too much into detail here. There are many tutorials on youtube that will explain it way better than I can.
But in short, UV unwrapping is the art of getting a 3D model onto a 2D plane to draw the texture on. And yes I say art because this can be very difficult on complex models. And some people are just crazy good at it.
The most important rule is: less cuts are always better.
Because in some cases you will see the cuts afterwards if you have too many.
So always try to hide them as well as possible.
The cuts are seen in green here. It’s a bit hard to see but every portion that is colored differently has a cut around it.
And this is what I looks like on the 2D UV space
Baking is the part where you generate your normal map to get that High poly look onto your Low poly mesh. The most important thing here is your “Baking cache”. Which determines the distance the program uses to scan for any details. Most important rule here is to get this cage as close to the mesh as possible, without something sticking out of it.
After that choose your texture resolution and hit bake. When that’s done look around your freshly baked mesh and search for any baking mistakes that are obvious and easy to spot. They will look similar to this.
Fix your Baking cage accordingly and bake again till you are happy with the result. This result does not have to be perfect. But if there are mistakes, make sure there are only visible from angles the user won’t ever see.
Now the mesh is ready to be painted. For this I always keep it as close to the concept as possible. But since I am no colour expert this will sometimes vary a bit for me.
Basically I start with a flat colour on every piece.
After that I start detailing. Edges are often highlighted with a brighter colour to once again achieve this cute look. And also make the pieces pop a bit more. Contrast is the magic word here. Always mix light colours with dark colours.
Highlight edges and cracks to make them stand out a bit more.
Generate an ambient occlusion map and start adding some more occlusion by hand. Also add some fake lightning with a big brush and the layer in overlay mode. This will make the asset pop even more and gives the asset some more colour variation. Which generates more interesting spots for the eyes.
That’s it for this tutorial. This was the first one I have done. I hope you find it helpful.
If you have any questions you can always send me a message on instagram.
Thank you for reading!