In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
Hi, I’m Sophie Houlden. I’m an independent game developer (obligatory plug, plz buy my games etc <3). Last November I was struggling with a slump in my own work when I saw Farah Khalaf post an interesting challenge on twitter:
Making a new model every day for 30 days seemed like a cool challenge, I figured I’d probably not make it all the way to the end but I wanted to give it a try anyway and see what happened.
The tl;dr here is: YAY I DID IT! WOOO!
The slightly longer tl;dr is: I DID IT!? HOW ON EARTH DID I MANAGE THAT WITHOUT TEARING OUT ALL MY HAIR!?
The answer might be useful so if you wanna know then read on!
I knew at the start I wanted my stuff to look decent (or at least, decent enough I’d not be ashamed to put them near my better work). So I picked tools that let me work quickly and still produce good results. Specifically I’m talking Blender (with Hard Ops and associated add-ons) and Substance Painter. Some days I used Clip Studio Paint to make my mask textures, and occasionally I made use of Marvelous Designer. As a developer making games & all the art assets for them on my own – I recommend all these tools. As someone with little time/patience to spare, I appreciate that when working with these tools by the time I can’t be bothered doing any more work for the day – I usually have something that looks more than good enough.
To go through my process, it generally starts in Blender where I’ll make a high-detail version of a model (though not too high. Fine detail is much easier & faster to add later on in substance painter). I make use of Hard Ops whenever I want nicer edges or boolean operations without taking up a ton of my time.
Unwrapping is usually just marking some seams and sticking with whatever Blender’s auto-unwrap does with them – sometimes I’ll tweak things myself to correct errors, focus pixel detail in specific areas, or just to get a better fit. Though I’m careful not to get carried away in this stage – far too easy to spend hours optimising UV space just to gain a couple of extra pixels that nobody would ever appreciate.
I’ll do all my baking in substance painter (because it makes it SO easy), then I’ll go layer by layer adding materials to the model. Usually I’ll start with an existing smart material to double-check I’ve not made any errors with my UVs – and about 50% of the time I’ll stick with the smart material, otherwise I’ll make my own using various textures, generators or just painting it myself.
After that I’ll either upload the model & textures to Sketchfab right from within substance painter (an AWESOME feature), or if the model needs some arranging first (for models where the best mesh layout for apply materials isn’t how I want to present it) I’ll export the textures to my computer and upload them to Sketchfab in a browser.
So with that process, deliberately planned to save me as much time as possible and still produce decent-ish results… I’d have maybe managed a week before giving up. Partly because each model was still taking up a lot of time each day, and it turns out “making a model in a day” and “making a model EVERY day” are very different things – I’m more of a sprinter than a marathon runner when it comes to work, so finding the energy to make a model every day proved to be a big challenge for me!
But, I did make it through all 30 days! And how I managed it was through several factors, the first is whenever possible; CHEAT AND/OR BE LAZY!
When the model was supposed to be “transport” my mind was racing with cool spaceship designs or mad-max style dune buggies, but I had NO ENERGY to make any of that. So I made a simple toy car model, threw on some pre-made smart materials and was DONE. Not fancy, but when it’s a choice between having something or missing a day losing your momentum – make something!
As another example, when the “hand” day came up and I absolutely didn’t want to spend all day modeling a hand (I’d spent a week doing hand-modeling a couple of months earlier and was still tired of hands. Hands are the worst!) I went a different route and modeled “a hand… in marriage”. The point of challenges like this is to push yourself, but you gotta know if you’re about to push yourself too far and avoid that.
And thanks to how quick & easy it is to use substance painter, even most of my “cop-out” days are still something I can show without being ashamed:
Like I said before you gotta challenge yourself but know when you’re pushing yourself too hard. There were models I found pushed me too far to the point of wanting to quit after spending most of the day on them. Despite being happy with how they turned out, they were really frustrating to work on. So when I discover certain kinds of shapes or details that take too much time to model in detail (or re-model in low poly), or things that are likely to take up time when trying to unwrap or get a bake I am comfortable with – I skip them in future. In hindsight, I can see that these frustrating days where I was most likely to quit, are the days that taught me best techniques to work faster and make my load easier to carry on other days. If I’d quit after one of these models, I’d have missed out on a lot and not learned nearly as much over the 30 days.
The thing that helped most when I was at the end of my tether and about to call it quits was support from people I shared the models with. If I uploaded some pics and a Sketchfab link on twitter and someone had something encouraging to say, I’d think “well, maybe I can at least do ~one~ more. Even if it’s a simple one…” and with that I’d be able to keep going until I found the energy to push myself harder some other day.
The handy thing is after a while, if you can at least do something every day (even if it’s simple/small/trash), it eventually becomes a habit. So when you’re not super psyched you’ll still do something and even if it’s not great you’ll maintain momentum and not drop out. Which is important because eventually you WILL make another model you’re proud of that teaches you a lot, whereas if you quit then when is the next time you’re going to make another cool model? Maybe you’ll make one or two a month? That’s cool but I took the #30days3D challenge and made more models I’m proud of in that time than I had done the entire year leading up to it.
I totally recommend the #30days3D challenge, make some models, upload them to Sketchfab, share them with folks, and learn a bunch!
If you’d like to see all my #30days3D models in detail, check them out here:
or in a twitter moment!