Art Spotlight: Mail Keeper

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About Me

Hi everyone! My name is Vlad! I am 3D environment and props artist from Russia. My specialization is stylized things. Mostly I am doing art for video games and realtime rendering. I like hand painted stuff and the cartoony look. I am a self taught artist and started this as a hobby but now I am working as a freelancer.

Start of “Mail Keeper”

The idea started when I saw this beautiful concept by Kim Goeun called “Owl Messenger. I have little experience in making creatures/characters but I said why not? It was hard to choose where to start but in I started with the mail box, then I did the owl and in the end added ground and tree.


I did the modeling in 3Ds Max, started from bottom to the top without symmetry or any other modifiers. My aim was to start from strong and interesting silhouette with the same proportions as on the concept and that’s what I got:

After that I added foliage and did a little composition. Then, I moved to owl modeling.

Owl modeling was a little tricky and hard for me. I started with simple sphere in Max trying to match silhouette with the concept, after some tweaks and searching for real life references I moved into zBrush trying to fix it by sculpting. This is owl sketch after tweaks in zBrush:

Haha, I know that this is not the most beautiful owl but that’s what I got on that step. I moved to TopoGun for retopology. After retopo process I did manual tweaks in 3DsMax and some final corrections before sculpting also added owl’s claws, here is result from Max:

I would say that this was a tough one for me!


From start I decided that I’ll do 2 unique UV maps: for owl and for mail box including foliage. I used simple gloss/spec setup: Diffuse, Gloss, Spec color (Full white), Normal, Emissive. On this step I added symmetry to parts where I thought it will be less visible to viewer, also this was done to save some space on UV map and improve overall texture quality. Both textures were done in 2048 resolution + 1024 tree and ground maps. Here are mail box and owl UV planes:


This was pretty straightforward process for me, nothing special here just stylized zBrush sculpting. I am using standard brushes + free Orb’s brushes (really recommend them). Also I made a little custom alpha for Standard (DragRect) brush to help me in making owl’s feathers. Model was exploded into parts just to guarantee independent and clean baking process:

And here are some final results with a bit of composition:


For baking I am using Substance Painter since it gives me the most clean results, this time I baked Normal map and Curvature map with default settings.


I did texturing in 3D-Coat based on curvature map baked from high poly model. This was somehow long process, I spent almost a week doing some small touches to the texture map. First of all I am removing clean black and clean white from curvature map by replacing colours function in Photoshop, also I am doing contrast reduction so in the end I got black and white values map. Here what I got after doing manual clean up with brush:

As for coloring I used a gradient map in Photoshop. The whole process looks like this: Values map (from Curvature) > Mask map (Masking different mats) > Gradient map in PS > Manual hand painting > Finishing touches.

Some videos of the Process:

In the end I added opacity and emissive map for leaves and flowers to separate them from everything and added a bit of magic to the scene.


At this point, after texturing, I thought that this scene deserved some more love and I added trees and ground to it. Those meshes was previously done by me for my personal project and was presented for the first time.

Render Setup

I love this part of work and Sketchfab making this so easy and interesting for me. My lighting setup consist of 2 directions light + hemi light. One top down light(orange), one bottom light(blue) and hemi with orange/blue colors. Also I used Post Processing filters: SSAO, Sharpness, Vignette and a bit of bloom. No color tweaking inside of Sketchfab like tone mapping or color balance.


This was pretty interesting project and a whole new experience for me, here you can see what I got in the end:


I want to thanks Sketchfab for this opportunity and you for reading!

Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you got and just to say hello  🙂

Contact Information  




About the author

Vlad Ost

3D Props/Environment Artist

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