In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
Hello, my name is Francis Jones and I am the lead artist and developer for Promethean Studio 1. I have been working as a freelance artist for about 3 years now and have a little over 10 years experience as a digital artist.
I would like to thank Sketchfab for the invitation to share this with you. I hope you enjoy it and if you have any questions you can post them here or get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My inspiration as an artist comes from my long love of medieval lore and culture. My fascination with computers and Fantasy or SyFi games and film. I have studied other artist and their techniques like George Maestri, Chris Maraffi, Ryan Kittleson and Adam Crespi, just to name a few. The actual list goes on and on.
My inspiration for my Fantasy Cuirass and Pauldron comes from games like ESO and films like Spartacus and Underworld Evolution. My goal is to achieve what I think is a stylized yet realistic style of fantasy art.
Here is my pipeline.
Step ONE: The story/background: how the prop, environment or character fits into the big picture
I like to read the script if there is one , or review any and all documentation that is include when I accept a job/project. I tell my clients up front , for give the onslaught of questions that will probably precede the beginning of the project.
For me this step in the creation pipeline is very important.
I personally have to feel where the asset fits into the big picture. When I create something I strive to produce a piece of art that has its own personality, this is a little easier to do with organic characters but I also try to achieve this with hard surface inanimate objects as well.
Let me give you an example: perhaps a missing stud , or a broken chain link, breaking the symmetry of the asset, something to make it stand out. Imperfection if you will as a means to add realism.
For my Fantasy Cuirass and Pauldron I wanted a realistic style and look but yet the freedom that fantasy can present.
A friend of mine a fellow artist introduced me to Substance Painter Chuck Wilson, as I normally use more classic tools. It actually took him a bit to get me to jump ship and try this new software.
This started out as just some concept work for my game I have been working on for a couple of years now. I have been wanting to make the switch to PBR. So this was really my first experience working with Substance Painter and PBR texturing. I have to say it has proven to be a great tool and now permanent addition to my toolbox.
Step two/one: The Search: reference images and examples to inspire
Sometimes when creating an asset for someone else that person or company will provide the artist with Drawings , if you’re lucky they will include orthographic drawings.
But most of the time, least as a freelancer I have to do my own reference work , and usually it is as simple as opening Google or your search engine of choice and typing in a few words.
Below are some examples of the search for Fantasy Armor and Roman Armor
I must have downloaded a couple of dozen different examples until I found the look I was wanting. In the end it became the mix of 3 different images / assets that I liked.
After finding / deciding what I wish to go with then comes the time for some concept sketch’s / drawings or even creating / using a silhouette can be very useful. Which is what I did for this project. Here are two of about a dozen I created and used.
This is a very important stage of planning, and when I am creating for others I always include this stage.
The next step for me is modeling.
It’s nice to have reference images to load into Maya, ( my personal choice of software). to use as a guide for scale etc. But sometimes I will just have the images displayed on one of my other monitors while I create on my main monitor. But either way rather it is imported into my 3d application or displayed on a side monitor I always use reference images. I for one am simply not blessed with a photographic memory.
Now I have to confess I am old school and most often start off with primitives and or box modeling techniques. My way definitely is not the fastest pipeline, but it is what I am comfortable with and what works best for me.. Here is an example of creating the Leaf’s from a box primitive in Maya. Simply adding edge loops and then shaping the box to conform to the needed shape.
This allows me to proceed at my own pace giving my hands if you will the time to keep up with what I see in my mind’s eye. I often make several changes to the initial design before I am happy with the asset.
Now for the Fantasy Cuirass I used a base character that I had already created I selected the faces of the upper body (Chest and Back), duplicated the faces and exported as its own object. I am sorry I do not have images of this process as I did not know Sketchfab was going to give me this opportunity. After duplicating the faces I have to tweak and clean up the asset and then export to ZBrush.
Once I am satisfied with the model, it’s time for sculpting.
Sculpting: ZBrush 4R7
Here I am free to concentrate on my asset , and not worry so much about poly count and other issues. For the most part this is where I sculpt in the detail for my creation and start the painting and texturing phase of my asset, be that for classic texturing or PBR.
I then used alpha maps to create the detail I desire on the model. The lion’s head, the complete lion, the thorn branch and the Laurel wreath associated with Roman culture.
I created the alpha maps in Photoshop.
From ZBrush I export the high poly model along with the low poly model.
I then import the high and low assets into Substance Designer 5, were I created the Material maps to be used in Substance painter.
Designer baked out the following maps:
Ambient_occulusion – a method to approximate how bright light should be shining on any specific part of a surface, based on the light and its environment. This is used to add realism
Curvature map – a texture that stores the convexity/concavity of the mesh. Curvature maps can be used for any sort of wear and tear, edge highlights, chipped paint, etc etc…
Normal map form mesh – this creates a normal map from a high definition mesh. Normal mapping is used to re-detail simplified meshes. In 3d computer graphics, normal mapping, or DOT3 bump mapping, is a technique used for faking the lighting of bumps and dents. It is used to add detail without using more polygons.
Position map – this gives each texture pixel coordinates in world space of the mesh point it is mapped to. It is used in shaders for effects where actual position of pixel is useful. Example: to ensure water drips go down, or mud accumulates more near the bottom of objects etc.
Thickness map from mesh – very similar to the ambient occlusion baker, but it casts the rays in the opposite direction of the surface normal. It can be used in a Sub Surface Scattering (SSS) shader or directly in the diffuse/albedo to fake a SSS effect.
World space normals – contains normal’s coordinates relative to a fixed frame in the object space, as opposed to tangent space normal’s which are relative to per-pixel-varying frames.
As an example, a blue pixel corresponds to a (0,0,1) normal. In a world space map, this would indicate the up direction. In a tangent space map, this would indicate the direction orthogonal to the surface the texture is applied on.
World space tangents are sometimes used in shaders because they may be slightly less expensive to use (shaders using them do not have to compute the per-pixel conversion from tangent space to world space). Most of the time though, they are not because they can only be used on fixed, rigid objects.
They are also used in production pipelines when exporting objects from one software to another as there are different ways of computing tangent frames and almost every software uses its own, which means using in one software tangent space normal maps baked in another software may cause visible distortions and seams.
I then import my low poly mesh along with all the above maps into Substance Painter. A tool that is quickly taking a front seat in my toolbox when it comes to painting textures. Assign the maps and begin having fun. Substance Painter does all kinds of fun stuff and can save you hours if not days when it comes to painting and texturing an asset. And though I am still learning and getting use to it myself I have to say I believe I am getting some fantastic results from it in a fraction of the time it would take using photo shop and more classic methods of creating texture maps..
After painting / applying the materials In Substance , you can then bake out the needed maps for PBR.
Base color map
After the asset is painted and the maps baked out , they are then ready to be imported into a game engine and or an application like Sketchfab for viewing and use with the completed asset.
My fantasy Cuirass and Pauldron are just a couple of pieces of a complete set of fantasy armor I am creating for one of my fantasy characters. Here’s a quick screen capture of the continued creation of my fantasy armor:
I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. If enough of you are interested perhaps I will create a tutorial outlining the process start to finish, to help someone else create their Fantasy Armor.
Lead Artist PS1