Intro / Goals
Hello! My name is Bryan Lozano and I am currently a freelance 3D artist.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Animation and 3D, and I currently work in the video game industry, with a focus on characters and environments.
After playing Genshin Impact, I wanted to create an environmental project with this artistic direction. At the beginning, I wanted to create an environment for a personal game project. Then, I finally decided to create a specific stage and render it for my portfolio.
The main objective of this project was to create an environment in Unreal, learn how to use blueprints, and include it in my portfolio.
Reference / Moodboard
As I said, I was inspired by Genshin Impact’s art style. I wanted to create a composition around 2 assets: A vending machine and a kiosk.
I collected pictures from a variety places : Pinterest, Artstation, in-game screenshots and photos in real life
For the vending machine, I was inspired by one of Nathalia Tsy’s works. Seeing her vending machine gave me an idea, merge a vending machine and a Candy Up. I also added a poster with a cat on it (because it’s cute). I took the design of an internet meme. I also used a reference of a vending machine in the movie “Your name” for the colors and the logo on the side.
For the kiosk, I took the design of a kiosk not far from my home, I found it nice. I reworked it a little bit and I added some foliage to make it better.
I started building my scene with an idea of the composition. I used the compositional rule of thirds to position my main assets. On one side, we have the vending machine in the foreground, on the other side, the kiosk in the background. I imagined a path from the vending machine to the kiosk tracing a diagonal from one bottom end of the picture.
This composition looked good to me and the feedback I got from it was pretty positive, so I kept this layout for the final composition.
Modeling / Sculpting
During this project, my workflow looked like this : 3DSMax for the base modeling, Zbrush for the Sculpt / High poly, Substance Painter for textures, Photoshop for alpha creation, and Unreal for level assembly, material creation and VFX.
In this project I didn’t sculpt many assets, including the rocks and woods. I prefer to use Zbrush for organic assets and 3DSMax for HardSurface assets.
To do that, I created volumes with Move and Claybuildup, and sometimes the DamStandard to make hollows. Edge damage is made with hpolish or TrimDynamic, depending on the situation. For stone and wood elements, I use Orb_Cracks and Orb_Slash01 to add cracks and crevices. I also use other brushes, but these are the main brushes I use when producing an asset on Zbrush. With the artistic direction, I didn’t need to make very complex assets.
After that, I did manual retopo on the different organic assets made in Zbrush before sending them back to 3DSMax for UV.
Texturing / Foliage
I created my textures in Substance Painter. I created a SmartBaseMaterial which I reused on several objects. I used the 3Dex smart material available on his store and improved it a bit in my own way to get the aspect I wanted.
For the foliage, I created alphas and masks in Photoshop.
I created masks on the flowers so that I can define the colors directly on UE4. This is much more convenient if you want to quickly change one of the colors.
Material / Blueprint
I also created a floor texture in Substance Designer. I combined the normal map of the ground texture with the landscape material on the brown parts of the ground, which allows me to have a little more relief on the path from the distributor to the kiosk.
For the grass material, I researched how to correctly use “blueprints” in order to have a render that I wanted. I wanted to have a degrade on the grass, but also the grass should take the color of the landscape. Somes tutorials on the internet allowed me to build the material I wanted.
For the rocks, I also wanted to have a degrade with the ground so that the rock is encrusted more naturally. I also use a “deter temporal aa ue4” node for blending rocks meshes with landscape.
The lighting of my scene is quite simple. It is composed of a SkyLight and 2 DirectionalLight. One of the DirectionalLights simulates sunlight. The others have a purple color and provide better shading. The second DirectionalLight has a much lower intensity than that which simulates sunlight and has an opposite direction to it to give a better color to the shading on the stage.
I also added an Atmospheric Fog and an ExponentialHeightFog to have a better feeling of the atmospheric pressure.
Challenges and Solutions
I had two main challenges with this work. The first challenge was blueprints. Since I had never really used blueprints on UE4, I had to learn how to use it for the environment (foliage, rocks and other …). The second challenge concerned the normals of my mesh, and particularly for trees. The normals weren’t oriented correctly, resulting in different shadow renders than I wanted. But, as with blueprints, a little bit of internet documentation and tutorials helped me achieve my goals.
During this project, I showed my WIP to friends who work in video games or through Discord channels like Stylized Station. I received feedback concerning the composition of the picture (adding assets like bushes in certain places or a panel in the background) or even adding material in post-processing to have a more sharpened render.
Thanks to Stylized Station for inviting me to write this article covering my workflow and the challenges I overcame. You can consult my portfolio and other projects I have in my ArtStation.
If you have any questions about my work or anything else, don’t hesitate to ask me and I will do my best to answer you 🙂