Hi Sketchfab! I’m Agathe Préfontaine and I am a junior 3D artist working at Trebuchet, an indie studio specialized in VR games at the Indie Asylum shared studio workspace located in Montreal, Canada. Prior to Trebuchet, I went to college and earned a bachelor’s degree in Video Game Creation (art concentration) at l’UQAT.
Montreal got hit by the pandemic so I’ve been working from home and isolated for two months now. To spend my time, I decided to improve my drawing skills. I realized that I could recreate them in 3D, which was really fun for me to do! It made me want to create more 3D scenes on Sketchfab.
I only drew these 2 drawings and thought about what I could do next, looking up a lot of concepts on the internet, wondering what would be original and fun.
Then I remembered; a year ago, I went to a tattoo artist convention where I got a really nice tattoo of an umbrella with a cloud, rain and lightning; when I saw the illustration for the first time, I loved it! I wondered what the concept would look like in 3D. I contacted the tattoo artist, asked him if he was okay with it and he said that I should do it!
My Process for 3D Modeling
Before jumping into 3ds Max, I like to see how others have done this kind of project. I searched on Sketchfab and ArtStation with keywords and analyzed with the model inspector how the other artists made their projects. Then, from what I have seen, I would adapt and use the tricks I’ve learned by looking closely at how these artists achieved similar results. Even if it’s a simple model, looking at how others did it can help for future projects, or when you are blocked.
After I’d done my research, I chose a color palette. I started with something really classic.
I did a first quick modeling pass in 3ds Max and applied the colors on the assets. My goal for texturing was to keep it really simple with soft gradients and an outline that would make the shapes pop out in a shadeless environment. The cloud is really simple, it’s only a big pile of spheres.
When the first pass was done, I wanted to upload it to Sketchfab and play with the post-process settings, turn around it, change the color background, etc.
Since I wasn’t satisfied with the colors, I changed them up and went for something more joyful, happy, and cute.
The change of color made the project more interesting but not enough for it to be in 3D. It did not make me want to spin around it. Late at night, I had the idea to add something at the bottom. Since the action is more vertical, I figured it should have something horizontal so I added the puddles. Then I thought it would be really funny to add animals, like a frog, or a snail. In the end, the rubber ducks stuck with me. Having a thunderstorm under an umbrella is something unexpected, but what about a rubber duck family just passing through the puddles? It added depth to the small universe the concept already had by itself.
At this point I had only used 3ds Max to model the umbrella, cloud, droplets and lightning. For the rubber ducks, I created the main shapes, the head, the beak, the body, and the tail separately in 3ds Max. I imported the shapes into ZBrush, did a dynamesh so that I would only have one mesh that I could adjust and then I added the wings detail. I decided to add the eyes in the texture.
The sculpt is very important because I can use the baked textures for my diffuse later in Substance Painter. It adds details smoothly and quickly. I used 3D-Coat to retopologize the duck since I’m familiar with the program and it’s so efficient.The last step before texturing: I unwrapped everything in 3ds Max.
I used Marmoset Toolbag for the baking. I like the maps it creates, plus there are a few settings that you can adjust for each one of the maps. I baked the ambient occlusion for the duck and the convexity map, just in case. I textured the umbrella and the cloud, only to figure out that I didn’t like the cloud at all.
It didn’t have the fun spirals that the concept had. I went back to step one, which was searching out how others have done it. I stumbled upon this model and really liked how the artist achieved the spirals look. I imported my cloud that I already had in ZBrush, added the spirals and then did a dynamesh. I used a ZRemesher to bring down the resolution and it was good enough for me! Done! It didn’t take long to correct it.
I baked the cloud in Marmoset to have the ambient occlusion. Once I had all the important maps that I needed, I imported the mesh and baked maps into Substance Painter. I baked the position and world position maps so that I could use Substance’s 3D linear gradient generator.
The previously baked Ambient Occlusion was used in a black mask on a fill layer, so I could give a color to it. I did the same thing but instead of putting the AO into a black mask, I used the 3D linear gradient to add more subtle colors. I exported only the base color of each asset and then it was done!
I had used Sketchfab since the first modeling pass—it helped me choose the color for the background and play with the post-processing. I tried to play around with the translucency for the water but it didn’t turn out to my liking. The white outline helped it pop from the background so I kept it!
My scene is in shadeless mode for the shading, I added an emission map for the lightning, and boosted the contrast, the bloom and the sharpness.
That’s pretty much it!
I almost gave up on this project because I thought it wasn’t interesting enough; I did a little back and forth and I asked my friends’ opinions a lot! I adapted the concept to a 3D medium, even if it meant adding pastel colors and rubber ducks. I put a part of myself into it. It turned out to be my first Staff Picked project on the platform! I’m really grateful for it—it makes me want to create and share my work even more on Sketchfab!
I don’t know how I would share my 3D projects if it wasn’t for Sketchfab. I’ve been on it for a while now and it amazes me how much you can see about a model. From the wireframe to the 2D textures and all the effects you can add, it’s just perfect for 3D artists!
Don’t give up on projects—change what you don’t like, ask others what they think of it, look at other similar work or models and try to understand how they were made. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll end up improving your 3D skills.