Art Spotlight: Arcane Wand and Tome

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In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.

Hi there, my name is Tim Coddens, 22 years old and currently a student at Howest, Digital Arts and Entertainment where I study Game Graphics. I also have a bachelor degree in Audio/Video production and motion graphics. I never really considered myself becoming an artist. I always loved movies and games, but thought of them as leisure, until I realised that maybe I could be the one making them instead of the one watching/playing them!

This was a challenging piece for me, as I never did any handpainted 3D work before, I mostly did realistic work up until now. That being said, here’s the process of this piece.

Just as the majority of art projects, this one started out with the concepts and designs. So the first step was coming up with an idea of what kind of weapon I wanted to make. In the end my vote went to the wand, but I felt like there was something missing that could bring the wand to a more finished piece, that’s how the tome came into play. Then I started designing and making some concepts. I’m not a genius at drawing, but I kept in mind that these are just sketches and concepts, so I didn’t bother that much with turning these into masterpieces. If you are, just like me not a pro at drawing, here’s a golden tip: Use reference! Actually this tip is always valuable.

As you might have noticed, this art was partially inspired on the art of World Of Warcraft. So I used reference from there, but also from entirely different sources. The more reference, the more ideas! 

Some of my references

Now came the time to start modeling, with my concept my by side I was ready to turn this into a 3D piece. I had to keep in mind that this was going to be a low poly model, so I constantly asked myself the question: “Can I paint this detail, or should I Model it?”. The key during this phase was making an interesting silhouette, the rest was just again, using reference and my previous experiences. (I used 3DS MAX, but any 3D software can do the job of course, an artist shouldn’t blame his tools.)

Flat colour + wireframe inside of 3dsMax

Next up was texturing, starting with a colour block out of the wand. I used my final concept design to pick the colours from first, but I quickly noticed that adjustments were needed. My colours didn’t add up to a nice complete piece yet. Then I added some gradients on the different planes of the model, this was done to distinguish the shapes better. It also helps bringing the right parts out. These gradients were based on where the light is coming from, so of course I had to decide where the main light source would be.

After adding the first pass of details I adjusted the colours some more. This process was repeated over and over again until I was happy with the result. For the tome I just reused the basic colours from the wand, because now I know that they work together. And I just repeat the same steps as I did with the wand.

Final textures

The question I probably had the most was: “How did you do the particles?”. Well I had to do some research on this, I didn’t feel like animating each single particle separately. So I came up with the following. I started with making a PFlow particle system inside of max, tweak all the settings until I was satisfied with it. And then I used a plug-in I found, named Pflow Baker. This allowed me to bake the particles system into meshes with a keyframed animation.

The final step was presenting it, making sure all the hard work is shown in the best possible way! A lot of ‘beginners’ forget this part, but it’s one of the most important steps. It’s what people see, it’s how you display your artwork. Sketchfab played a pretty big part in making this piece ‘pop’! Without the lighting and post processing effects in sketchfab, this piece loses a lot of it’s value. I mainly used the bloom and sharpness effect, but the new AO feature helped out a lot too. In the end I put the crystals in a different texture file and used this in the emission slot, that in combination with the bloom made it look like it was actually emitting light. And last but not least, adding a nice light setup and a custom background, everything was set and ready for some nice renders!

Before and after post processing effects

Thank you for taking the time to read this Art Spotlight, it was my pleasure writing this and I hope this inspired some of you! I just started my journey in this world of 3D art, but I’m really excited to see what the future brings! If you’d like to see more of my work, you can follow me here on Sketchfab or on Artstation.

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Seori Sachs

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