Hey guys! I’m Anthea van Leeuwen, and I currently work full-time as a 3D environment artist at Playtonic Games. I’ve had a huge passion for stylized games ever since I picked up my first Nintendo games, especially those of the GameCube era. My university years taught me a lot about 3D modeling and really helped me put my passion into actual art.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve spent some time developing and finding my own style, and I got a huge ache to put more of myself into my work. I felt that a relatively small project like Daylight Savings could really help me explore further!
Since I’ve got my hands full with a full-time job every day, I wanted to create something big enough to try out some new techniques, but not too big for it to stress me out. Most of my friends on Twitter are very big on hand-painted textures, so I wanted to experiment with mixing it into my own style!
When I saw one of Shannon’s illustrations, I thought it would be a great opportunity to give it a try. I love the way she illustrated the shapes and colors, but I really wanted to see if I could make it more ‘my own’ by mixing it into PBR, as well as adding some of my own elements such as foliage and moss.
Workflow and Tools
I learnt how to 3D model using Maya, and since I use it at work as well, it’s basically my bread and butter. Starting out with a few quick blockouts, I quickly get my general shapes down. I really enjoy chunky, clear shapes, and it gives me more of an opportunity to add cute little details later on during the sculpting phase.
After duplicating the meshes (keeping the first one as a base for my low-poly), I convert these to subdivided meshes. That way, I can import them into ZBrush as high-res meshes which then make it much easier for me to sculpt from.
In ZBrush, I divide these meshes an extra few times to get those details looking extra crisp, and then get to work. My main set of tools that I absolutely love are Orb’s Brushes, which are completely free for anyone to download.
Like I mentioned before, big shapes are my way to go, and I want to convey the details through texture and normal maps. In this process, I want to keep the big surfaces nice and readable.
Wear and tear are made using the Hard edges brush, which I then clean up using the Dynamic trim brush. Other details like bumps are made with the Hammered texture brush and the Crack brushes. Although these brushes are great, it’s very important to keep in mind that it’s not the brushes that do the art for you, but to practice and find which ones work best for you.
Once I’m happy with the sculpt, I move on to the low poly and the textures. Since I mainly keep the shapes the same, I only have to do small edits to my (earlier made) meshes. By now, I know how I’m going to divide up my texture sets, and arrange the UVs accordingly.
Texturing is usually where I spend most of my time, considering it’s one of my favorite stages of modeling (along with sculpting)! Substance Painter lets me easily bake out all of my meshes with their built-in baker, so it’s really easy for me to then go ahead and jump right in.
Like with modeling, I start my texturing by laying out where I want my colors to be. Since most of this was already decided through the concept, I didn’t spend that much time here.
To make my texturing process easier, I made my own stylized master material, which is just a Smart Material I made in Substance Painter. This takes information from all my earlier baked maps, and applies those into generators that create crisp edges, color variation, subtle AO differences and so on. These give me the main idea of where I want to go, but I always hand-edit them to fit the model better.
I keep switching between Substance and Maya at this point, because Maya has the entire scene with all the assets in it together and laid out as I want them to be. I also decided to add in some foliage that I had made from a separate personal project rather than create some new ones from scratch, which worked fine since they have the same chunky style!
Although the vending machine itself is a great piece, I wanted it to feel a bit more special, which is why I decided to add a galaxy inside of it. Blue would be a perfect color to stand out against the red and green colors that are already there! I also wanted to give life to the piece in its entirety, so I decided to animate the plants and the galaxy to make it a nice whole.
Animation definitely isn’t my forte, and actually caused a whole lot of frustration during the exporting process. That, and considering the fact that I haven’t really done a lot of VFX (or been able to make complex shader setups in Sketchfab) made this more of a challenge than I was hoping for. In the end, some easy translations and rotations did the job just fine!
I really wanted to convey the nice color scheme of this piece, but I also wanted to go with an interesting lighting setup that could give the entirety a more unique ambiance. The metals should pop and catch your attention, so I started off with an HDRI. From that, I messed around with a 3-light setup. I loved the idea of a sunset, so I started off with the harsh, low yellow rim light. With that, I added another directional light that served as some fake bounce light, and used my last light as a point light emanating from the galaxy.
The final fun little tinkering I like to do is messing with the post processing. Although I don’t want to make any big changes, sometimes the little things can add a lot to a scene. The settings that had the most impact were probably the SSAO (to add more volume) and the Tone Mapping (to make sure the brightest colors weren’t pure white, and the darkest colors weren’t pure black).
…And that’s pretty much it!
Hopefully this little article was useful to some of you, considering other people’s workflows have also had their impact on my own. This should cover most of my steps, but don’t be afraid to reach out with any other questions you might have to my Twitter!
I’d like to thank Sketchfab and Abby for the opportunity, and my fellow art lovelies for the inspiration and motivation to keep doing what I love doing. You rock!!