Hi Sketchfab! My name is Marc Doucelin, I’m a 3D Artist from the Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada.
How I Got Started
I attended the Visual College of Art & Design in downtown Vancouver for a degree in Game Development & Design. During my time there, I fell in love with creating 3D assets primarily with a stylized look. After I graduated, I found work online as a freelancer where I eventually connected and joined up with the great team over at Tiny Talisman Games who helped me grow and refine my work even further. As of writing this article, I’m currently working at Hothead Games here in Vancouver.
Before starting my project I was eager to try something new that I hadn’t done before. I wanted to see if I could combine hand-painted textures with PBR materials in a cohesive way that benefited the end result without looking tacked on. I went looking for a piece of concept art that could do my idea justice and I found it in Ivan Kunakh’s beautiful Phonebook. Ivan’s Phonebook had everything I was looking for, it was striking and appealing and would let me explore stylized PBR.
I started by blocking out the shapes in Maya and not going into too much detail right off the bat. For this project, it was important to get the dimensions right or the end result would look off. I had to take into account the size and length of the prop, as well as the field of view on the camera that I would be taking renders from. It took a lot of tweaking, but I think I got pretty close! For the actual model, I did my best to keep it as low-poly as I could without sacrificing too much detail, focusing on getting the silhouette right.
Next, I took the model to ZBrush. I mainly used it to add some chips and dents to the metal that appeared in the concept and also to give the leather handle a light, wobbly “wrapped” look. I knew that the leather cover on the front of the phonebook would be flat on the low poly, so I raised it around the dial in the center in the high poly to give it more depth. I got the high poly information I needed and then moved on to the next part.
I like to keep everything tidy and aligned when I’m UVing—I find it goes a long way once you’re hand painting your prop. I also didn’t overlay any UV shells on top of each other for this project, as I wanted each piece of the prop to look unique.
For this project, I textured the entire prop in Substance Painter. I first used a smart material to bake light information onto the diffuse and used that as my base. The phonebook has a lot of little parts, so I separated them by what material they were made of and categorized them into folders (Orange Metal, Leather, etc.). I then blocked out the colors using the concept art as a guide. After that, I proceeded to paint in the rest of the lighting information, as well as the little details later on. I like to paint using fill layers and black masks as it allows me to go back and change a color or a tone I didn’t like without getting rid of the brushstroke. I’ll also make use of the blur filter occasionally if I find that a highlight or something else has too hard of an edge.
Through this whole process, I was constantly checking to see what the prop looked like both with lighting and with just the base color, as well as looking at the prop from a distance to see if the colors and shape were reading well. I made big use of color gradients as well, trying to give the top end of the prop a yellowish vibrancy and the bottom, darker parts a deep purple.
After I felt I was close to finishing the hand painting, I started to add roughness, metallic and light normal maps to each material type, making use of procedural grunge maps and blurring them slightly until I was happy with how light reflected off the model.
The roughness, metallic and normal maps I used previously came into play here. First I set up the camera, trying to replicate the look that the concept art had.
After that, I moved on to lighting. I started by using the environment light to illuminate the scene but left it a bit dim. I then added a spot light to the scene and angled it at the main focal point of the prop, the dial in the middle. I added a light directional light in the same direction and finished it off with a very bright and harsh directional aimed behind the prop to give it a rim light effect. I attached the rim light effect to the camera so that no matter where you move the camera, you still have the effect.
I then added a few post-processing filters. I added some light SSAO, and I used tone mapping and color balancing to give all the shadows in the scene a purple color, which helped the stylized look immensely. Finally, I gave it a sharpness filter around 0.48. The sharpness filter is a must if you want to show off any of your texture work.
Sketchfab helped a lot with this project. I used it frequently to check to see how my textures were looking. It’s a powerful tool and extremely easy to use, which is why it’s always been my go-to when I want to show off my models or take renders.