Fereshte (Ferre) Poorkazem takes us through the steps of how they created this beautiful stylized floating house using Blender and Substance Painter.
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About the Artist:
My name is Fereshte (Ferre) Poorkazem. I’m a game artist and freelancer from Iran.
I started my career as a 2D artist in indie game companies in my country about 5 years ago. It’s been less than a year that I have started to learn 3D modeling.
I chose Blender because it’s free and there are lots of beneficial add-ons available to help you speed up your workflow.
I do enjoy creating colorful and stylized art assets and I have tons of ideas to create different scenes if only I could have all the time in the world!
One day I was browsing on Twitter that I saw this series of artwork created by Sylvain Sarrailh which were three different concepts of magical and floating houses.
The moment I saw them, I fell in love with the design, especially the bright colors and I was sure that I’d recreate the scene in 3D because there was so much to learn for me.
Modeling the Base Mesh
I started the modeling by creating very simple objects with cubes or spheres in Blender 2.8 to get to the right proportion first. Then I separated the scene into two parts: the top which consists of geometrical and angular shapes, and the bottom which is the curvy rocks and the tree trunks that needed to be sculpted.
I used the first concept as the main reference for my scene and the other two as a reference for the back parts of the house and I tried to combine the parts all together.
After I made sure about the proportions I started to add the details to the top part containing the windows, gems, the palm tree, and other decorations.
Now it’s sculpting time! I did the all the sculpting part in Blender too. Again, I used all three concepts to form the back parts of the rocks. When I made sure where the holes where I created the tree trunks using Bezier Curves which later I converted them to mesh.
The bottom part is a high poly mesh now and needs to be optimized. I create polygons on top of my high polys using shrinkwrap modifier in order to retopologized it to make it ready to get unwrapped.
For unwrapping and creating the UVs I use Unfold 3D. It really speeds up the unwrapping process and you can create optimized and clean UVs with it. It’s so easy and fast to align or parallelize the edges, pack the islands, and etc. I imported an OBJ format of my scene into Unfold 3D and did the rest of the unwrapping. Unfold saves the UVs on the same OBJ file so you can import it back to Blender easily.
I use Substance Painter to bake normal maps, ambient occlusion map, and other material textures. I just exported FBX files from the high poly and the low poly meshes and name them exactly the same but using “_low” and “_high” for each one at the end. This way, we can import the high poly version in Substance Painter to bake the normals and that’s so fast and easy!
I also used Substance Painter to create some noisy textures for the rocks and gable roof which is covered with grass and to add some roughness/metalness to the windows and the gems. I didn’t use any color in Substance Painter because I wanted to hand-paint the textures later in Photoshop.
In Blender, I created some materials for different parts of the mesh and added the normal, ambient occlusion and other textures to them using node editor.
I created a 2k sized texture for the base color, I wanted it to be large enough that I could paint the smallest details on it without being pixelated. I start the texture painting in Blender after everything gets its own overall color I take the texture to Photoshop and started to add details and gradients using different brushes. I tried my best to pick the colors so close to the reference and the final result resembles the main concept.
I created a transparent material for the parts which had alpha. I created a few small planes for the grass, flowers, feathers and the palm tree leaves. After painting them I distributed them in the scene. I used Blender’s particle system for the grassy areas.
Lighting and Background
And our floating house is ready! It just needs some lighting and a background.
For lighting the scene I use a light gray for the skybox color and put an area lamp in order to create the shadows similar to the concept.
For the background, I created a curvy cylinder and painted the clouds on it and gave it an emission material because it should not cast any shadows. I chose this round background because I wanted to put the scene in Sketchfab, so when people rotate the house the clouds would always be behind it.
That’s it! Here’s the final result: