Hey there! My name is Katja Weimer and I’m a 3D game artist based in Germany. I recently graduated in Virtual Design and am now working on my portfolio. Since I started playing the old Spyro-games in my childhood, I’ve had a huge passion for stylized games, which might be one of the reasons why I now focus on creating stylized and mostly hand-painted game-ready assets and also characters. I felt that a relatively small but challenging project like ‘Herbalist’s Table’ could really help me explore my skill set further and also internalize and speed up my workflow for the industry.
Inspiration and Concept Art
I always keep my eyes open for outstanding and beautiful concept art that can be turned into 3D art and maybe even be animated. While browsing through ArtStation, I found the Art of Elena Gnacinski and I fell in love with the way she illustrated shapes and colors. ‘Herbalist’s Table’ caught my attention not only because of the warm and cozy atmosphere it creates, but also because of the challenge of painting different materials such as glass, stone, wood, fluid, metal, cloth and plants.
My 3D software of choice is and has always been Blender. For anyone who isn’t familiar with it: it’s a powerful and free software that provides many features such as modeling, unwrapping, texturing and animation, but also VFX, simulation, video editing, scripting, and even sculpting!
I start my projects by blocking them out in Blender to roughly figure out the placement and sizing of the objects. For that purpose I either use the concept art as a background image inside Blender, or I use PureRef with transparency and place it over my own scene. PureRef is a great tool to place, cut and organize reference images the way you want and a MUST for 3D artists if you ask me. 😉
During this step, it’s important to turn the model frequently to be sure that it’s looking right from every angle. With that technique I constantly model and compare the object to the concept art and make sure that my work gets really close to the original.
Once I am happy with the blockout of ‘Herbalist’s Table’, I finally start to care about the topology and created the lowpoly version of my model. In this step of my work, I decide to use two texture maps and therefore separate the different objects (as shown in the gif with the colors orange and blue). For the UV unwrapping I use the ‘Texture Atlas,’ an add-on for Blender which can easily be activated in the preferences-tab. It temporarily merges all objects together for the unwrapping process and separates them again afterwards.
The finished version of my lowpoly object has 3,155k verts and 5.2k tris.
The next step is the creation of the highpoly. Therefore I prepare the model in Blender by using a combination of subdivision surface-modifiers with different settings.
In ZBrush I use a variety of brushes to achieve the stylized look that I want. Here you can see some of the more important ones and where I used them. (Btw, Michael Vicentes’ ORB Brush Pack is a must!)
For the texturing process I use Substance Painter. Before I even start hand-painting, I bake a normal and a curvature map and use the curvature functions in the generator ‘Mask Editor’ to generate a hand-painted style based on my highpoly information. This technique saves a lot of work! Afterwards I hand-paint the details and try to stay as close to the original concept as possible.
Presentation and Sketchfab
For rendering I use Marmoset Toolbag. It’s a powerful and easy program that is perfect for me because the rendering part is the one I enjoy least. One good reason to use Sketchfab! Instead of creating a whole lot of Marmoset renderings from all angles of the model, I simply make one single rendering that fits the view of the concept art and presents the finished 3D model in Sketchfab. This gives the viewer the opportunity to freely look at the model from every desired angle! I use a three point lighting system, which in this case makes it possible to achieve the same light setup as in the concept art.
I hope this little breakdown and insight into my working process of the ‘Herbalist’s Table’ was helpful for you; considering other people’s workflows has also had a huge impact on my own. Feel free to reach out to me if you have further questions, I’m always happy to share any knowledge.
Thanks to Sketchfab for the opportunity to share my process!