Art Spotlight: Flaregun

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

My name is Tim Bergholz, I’m a Senior 3D Artist at Ubisoft Toronto and tutorial creator. I’m here to talk a bit about the creation process of one of my more recent uploads to Sketchfab, the flare gun! Just like any other gun on my portfolio the intended usage for it are first person shooters such as Far Cry or Call of Duty. All textures are PBR based to be ready for all the state of the art engines out there. I work exclusively with 3DS Max and Substance Painter.

How do I start?

Everything I model requires either reference images or a piece of concept art. With realistic guns in particular there is no shortage in that. Google images is my friend and I try to find as many reference images as possible before I start with the actual modeling process.

The most important reference image is the one that shows you a good side view of your object, which in case of the flare gun is pretty straightforward because both sides are symmetrical and you only need to find one of them. Most other weapons require me to find a left and right side picture of them. Once I have them all collected it’s time to prepare my scene in 3DS Max by placing those images on planes and start modeling.


  1. I always start the modeling with the lowpoly mesh. It takes careful studying of the reference images to make sure width and heights are as accurate as possible. Sometimes it also helps to read up those specs on the manufacturers page or on wikipedia if it’s available.
  2. Once the lowpoly mesh is done I duplicate it and make a high poly mesh out of it. I make some heavy use of smoothing groups in combination with the “chamfer modifier” and “turbosmooth” for that. This workflow enables me to have full control over my edge crease and also guarantees that later in the baking process everything is perfectly aligned since the highpoly is based on the lowpoly model. Part of the highpoly modeling process is adding some of the so called “floaters” such as highpoly text and some other elements. Those floaters can be placed right in front of the main mesh and will later give the illusion of actual depth through our normal map. This is a fast and efficient way to add a lot of detail to the overall look.
  3. After the highpoly modeling I start unwrapping the lowpoly. It doesn’t really matter to do it after the highpoly modeling, you might as well do it as soon as you got the lowpoly done, however sometimes during the highpoly modeling process I discover some small errors that require me to jump back to the lowpoly and fix them and that would break my unwrap and be an unnecessary extra effort to fix.
  4. Now that we have our low and high poly model fully modeled and textured I do a first test bake and see if the normal map comes out nice. I do all my baking in Substance Painter which comes with a powerful baking tool. After that initial test bake I export my normal map out and apply it in 3DS Max and check everything for errors.

Baking and Texturing in Substance Painter

  1. The texturing part has always been my favorite. After our initial normal map test bake and scanning for errors it’s now time to bake the rest of the maps out. Curvature, AO, Position maps and some others that I call “support” maps. Those maps enable us to do the best possible texturing job in Substance Painter.
  2. and 3. I always start by laying out my initial base materials. In case of the flare gun that is a fairly glossy red plastic followed by elements of metal and a darker plastic grip. The grip for the pistol has a bit of a bumped structure to it as well as more roughness meaning the overall reflection on it is less than on the main body. It is very important to get those roughness values right for an overall realistic appearance.

  1. With the base materials being all laid out it’s now time to add some passes of wear and tear. For this I use so called generators which look at our support maps and build up dirt around edges and the overall body. We have total control over those different generators which makes it incredibly fast to dirty up our texture. It can be tempting to go over the top with this but I consider it important to keep it within moderate levels. I usually finish the texturing by adding a few fingerprints to it. At the end it’s only a matter to export out the required textures to any target engine or render software. Those textures are usually the Base Color Map, Normal Map, Roughness Map and the Metalness Map.

Sketchfab and why I’m using it

I discovered sketchfab when I was reading up some documentation for putting my models up on the Unreal Marketplace. Epic lets you put a link to sketchfab models on their marketplace, enabling potential customers to check the quality of the work in a 3D space. Keep your eyes out on these markets if you’re in need for high quality first person weapons for your projects! I hope to have them up there shortly as well as on the Unity marketplace.

I am truly amazed by Sketchfab’s fantastic PBR realtime browser display. 2D Renders are still an important part of my portfolio but with sketchfab I now have the chance to display my work in 3D to everyone and easily embed it on different places. I really love the controls I have over my scene and the many different panoramas to choose from. It is also great that even once the scene is saved and submitted it’s always possible to make some subtle changes to it.

Tutorials and contact

If you go through my Sketchfab models you will see two of them with Tutorial in the title. One of them is the free grenade tutorial and if you are interested in hardsurface modeling and texturing I’d recommend you to go grab it! You’ll find all relevant information in the description for it.

The other tutorial takes it to the next level and shows you how to create an AKM assault rifle from start to finish. You can watch the trailer for it here. If you have questions or are interested in my latest work then I’d like to recommend you my Facebook page as well as my portfolio on ArtStation.

Thanks and happy modeling,

Tim !

About the author


Bart Veldhuizen

Head of Community at Sketchfab. 3D Scanning enthusiast and Blenderhead. Running BlenderNation in my spare time.

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