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Art Spotlight: Air Express

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Hi! My name is Oleaf, I’m a 3D Artist based in Ukraine, Odessa, where I have lived my whole life. Four years ago I got involved in 3D. I got my first PC in 2010 and started to play games on it. In spite of this, I had never thought about how games were made, and that all the graphics are, actually, made by someone.

My husband, who worked as a programmer in a company that was making social media for 3D modelers, introduced me to 3D.

I started to learn 3ds Max and, later, Substance Painter. The first model that I made and published on Sketchfab was called “Lowpoly Burger”. I had no idea what I was doing, and it was kind of hard to understand all those 3D things.

A year later, I got my first job and began to learn a lot about modeling.

My main specialization is hand-painted low-poly models, props and environments, mostly for mobile games. I really like to try new styles and techniques to speed up my workflow, as I don’t like to spend too much time on projects.

Today I’m going to share with you a little breakdown of my recent artwork, Air Express.

For this piece I used Maya, Substance Painter, 3D-Coat, Photoshop and, of course, Sketchfab renderer.


At first, this was 2 separate projects: a character and a vehicle. But, as they really fit well with each other, I decided to combine these two models into one scene, adding a few similar details to each to better combine them.

For the vehicle, I used a concept from Pene Art School. It was kind of realistic and I changed it a little to look more stylized.

And for the character, I made a rough sculpt with overpaint.

air express character

Modeling and UV’s

The character was pretty easy; I started with a blockout in ZBrush, retopologized it, and made a few modeling tweaks. Result – 6900 tris, 1 UV set.

air express character UVs

The airship had three UV sets because of its size and the amount of details.

air express airship UVs

The balloon, as a big part of the model, with ropes, parts and details, and the main ‘body’ of the airship itself all came out to 13000 tris.


After modeling, I moved into Substance Painter and made some texture bakes from low-poly.

My typical hand-painted workflow is explained in video for Stylized Station and the process is always the same: Base Color in Substance Painter and then further overpaint with 3D-Coat.

I also made a little breakdown with a speedpaint of one of my first 3D-Coat experiences.

So here is how model looked after Substance Painter:

air express texture paint

There is a basic 3D Linear Gradient, and I used Light and Bevel generators. I like them a lot, because they help you to solve the light-shadow puzzle way faster.

After this, I moved to 3D-Coat.

When I’m painting a model in 3D-Coat, I’m mostly using a few layers, as all lights and gradients have already been figured out, and the main point is to detail existing shapes and forms, not destroy them.

Sketchfab setup

When it comes to presentation, I really like to view my models unlit, so for diffuse-only models, Shadeless is a great option to not have to mess with lights a lot.

I checked all of my materials, maybe adding a little bit of detail, opacity, particles, etc. (I made the stone flooring at the last moment) and then uploaded it to Sketchfab.

A little post-processing magic and here it is. 🙂

air express render

To capture screenshots, I used a Sketchfab Lab quick solution with transparent background support.

A few words about organizing files

Let’s be honest…we all like file names such as Untitled_111212121 and workstuff_final_final, and it’s okay. Of course, it is good until you can’t recognize what is where.

The main thing is to name the parts of your model properly—at least so that you can understand your namings.

I’m working in 3D-Coat a lot and like to hide some of the meshes, but always have a hard time with it if there are a LOT of different meshes.

3d art file naming

Try to name your stuff a little better and you will save a lot of time and anxiety. 🙂

Thanks for your time here, artist. I hope this was useful in some way.

You can follow me on Artstation, Twitch, and Instagram for stream announcements.

Have a nice day and may the powerful PC be with you!

About the author

Oleaf Kovtun

3D artist specializing in hand-painted low-poly models, props, and environments

1 Comment

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