Art Spotlight: Nadtsu Tiny Floating Island

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About Me

Hi everyone! My name is Caroline, I’m from Québec, Canada, and I am finishing my last semester at university in video games conception. I started to do 3D modeling two and a half years ago, when I moved to Montreal to study. I have played video games from a very young age and I always had a passion for art.

Since I started university, I have made a lot of progress in 3D, but I still have much to learn. That is why I try to explore different techniques every time I create a model.


Because my main goal is to practice my 3D skills , I really enjoy taking other artist’s artwork and doing my best to make my 3D look as similar as possible. In this case, I chose Nadja Clauberg’s (nadtsu) adorable concept about a tiny floating island. I really love animals and plants; this is why this concept caught my attention.

Modeling Process

The first step was to put the concept on a plane in 3ds Max, so this way it’s easier to match the model with the illustration. In the front view, I started to create the simplest forms (island, trunk, apples, animals) and I made a blocking of the more complex shapes (clouds, tree’s foliage) with scaled spheres. During this step, it’s important to turn around the model regularly to be sure that it’s looking good from every angle.

Then, I went into ZBrush and used dynamesh to merge the blocking spheres. I sculpted some details and added a quick polypaint to have a better idea of where I was going.

At first, I wanted to do the plants and grasses with planes. But after they had been placed in the scene, I realized that I was losing the thickness that I wanted to carry over from the concept art. Then, I decided to make them in 3D. I modeled the plants in ZBrush and I used a free brush from Volatile Vertex to create the grasses.

UV Process

Usually, I use 3ds Max to make my UVs. However, this time, I chose to work with ZBrush because I find it better to unwrap complex shapes with smaller seams. In these images, you can see an example with the tree’s foliage:

I started by creating a cleaner topology with ZRemesher for each subtool. I could have done a retopology instead, it would allow the model to have fewer polygons, but it was not important for this project and it would have taken longer. Subsequently, I used Transpose Master in the ZPlugin tools in order to have only one UV map. I did the unwrap with the UV Master Plugin and I went back into 3ds Max to place everything on the map.

I discovered later that it was possible to make the seams in another 3D software and then unwrap in ZBrush! This is definitely what I will do next time, because sometimes it’s hard to have the control on the seams in ZBrush.


For this project, I wanted to work with Substance Painter, but I did not know where to start. I went on YouTube to look at some tutorials and I found two that were really useful. The first one helped me to bake correctly the high poly sculpt onto the low poly mesh.

Basically, it explains how to properly separate each element so as not to have the projection of one object on another.

After, I saw this one about how to create a stylized material:

It was exactly what I was looking for. It was not free but not expensive either. It helped me a lot to understand the basic settings of Substance Painter and it’s mostly because of it that I could create my own textures!

In short, it shows how to use masks, generators, filters, etc., to obtain nice edges, cavities, color variations, ambient occlusion, and more. It was much simpler than I would have thought! So I applied this technique for each object with some variations in the settings. I added some little painting details and there it is, it was almost done!


I don’t really like to do rendering and I find it more interesting to give others the opportunity to look at my models from every angle, as they wish. This is why I really enjoy using Sketchfab. In addition, the multiple options that we have access to allow us to present our models in many diverse ways.

A setting that I really like to play with is the field of view in the camera settings, which changes the kind of perspective. By default, it’s set to 45º, but with my background, it was looking better around 22º. If we set it to 1º, we get an orthographic view. As for the lighting, I did not try to do anything special. I simply placed the three directional lights in a way to have a minimum of shadows. For the post processing, I went with SSAO; it gives a little more volume, and sharpness, which helps to see the details more clearly.

I hope this will be helpful and I would like to thank Sketchfab for the Art Spotlight! Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Here is my ArtStation.


About the author

Caroline Marinier

3D Artist

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