Art Spotlight: Adventure Bicyclist

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Hey what’s up! My name is Juuso Mattila, and I’m a game artist hanging out in Helsinki, Finland! I got my start in games as a programmer some 7 years ago, but quickly realized that coding all day everyday required too much mental fortitude for me so I went for art instead.

I’m currently working as the Art Lead over at Wargaming Helsinki, working with a cool team of experts making some cutting-edge mobile graphics. While at my day job I mostly tend to do tasks falling under the “technical artist” category—pipeline development, shader business, optimizing things—on my off time I like to focus on “actual” 3D art to try to keep my skills at least somewhat relevant in the fast-evolving 3D art world. I picked this project to get better at making game-ready character models, as well as model something I’m very enthusiastic about – bicycles!

Inspiration

My free time projects are usually very poorly planned and this one was no exception. For starters I just pretty much started modeling a human of some sort in Blender and waited to see where I ended up. It started going in a hipstery, somewhat androgynous woman sort of direction so I rolled with that and came up with some other stuff to go with it: the clothes, hairstyle, and an appropriate bike all try to follow some kind of semi-sporty retro 90’s aesthetic that I really like.

Character

For the character I started out by spending a lot of time trying to get the head right. Below are some pretty grim-looking intermediate steps before I arrived at the final design. You can see the character getting more and more annoyed at all the iterations towards the end.

At this point I was still thinking I would do the whole PBR-bake-everything-thing so I spent a lot of time on the high poly version. I then decided to go for a more hand-painted unlit style, so a lot of this high poly tweaking around was really unnecessary in hind-sight, but good practice anyway!

For clothing, I originally had this huge Michelin man-esque coat but decided to cut it because 1. it wouldn’t work with a bicycle and 2. it made the overall silhouette really boring. I’m not super into 3D sculpting so I do all the details as good old-fashioned poly modeling and smoothing, for better or worse. For stylized shapes it’s easier for me to wrap my head around just poly modeling, but for stuff like making the little folds to clothing, doing it without sculpting is just hard and stupid! Below is the final high poly design before retopo & texturing.

For texturing, I wanted to try something I’ve seen some other artists get great results with: I made a super basic base texture in Substance Painter just to get general lighting, base colors, and AO right, and then I brought it over to 3D-Coat and hand-painted on top of the base texture to get the final result.

This was my first time messing around with 3D-Coat and I was pretty happy with it! Especially how seamless it is to go back and forth to Photoshop and paint on top of the projected mesh. The standard painting tools in 3D-Coat have a nice touch to them but there are always times when you need the full Photoshop toolkit, so it’s nice to have it available at a press of a button.

Bicycle

I’m somewhat of a bicycle enthusiast so I had a lot of fun making this bike! I went for a crazy 90’s track bike (hence the odd frame shape and outrageous color scheme) turned into an “adventure bike” with some camping gear and other accessories. The texture is all made in Substance Painter without any hand painting, just generators and bakes. I tried to do a bunch of tricks to make it appear like it had some hand-painting to make it match with the character better, like using some grunge patterns and highlighting that look a bit like they’re sketched in with a brush.

Rigging, Animation and Sketchfab Setup

I kept the rig really simple because I didn’t have any advanced animation needs, just wanted a nice simple rig for posing and Sketchfab!

I really like building small dioramas in 3D and Sketchfab is a pretty great medium to share stuff like that! For this project I modeled a small surrounding piece of environment to bring in some mood and context.

The environment bits I made in pretty much the same way as the character: simple bake and then lots of hand-painting on top to make it nice. I also made a quick skybox to help sell the overall color scheme. Both textures fade out so they blend nicely into the Sketchfab background color.

As the model was made to work with no lighting at all, the Sketchfab setup is just unlit flat textures really! The only little trick I did was I baked a simple directional light to the character and bicycle to tie the model to the environment better, and I then set that baked texture as the “Emission” channel to layer it on top.

I also added a little post-processing: a subtle Screen Space Ambient Occlusion and Sharpening filter made the whole thing look a bit more solid!

And that’s pretty much it! Here’s the final product, thanks for your time!

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About the author

Juuso Mattila

3D Artist, year-round biker


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