Art Spotlight: Sea Horse

Back to overview


Hello, my name is Igor Puškarić, I come from Slavonski Brod, Croatia. I often believe to be a people person.

By official education I am an Electronics technician and a CNC programmer, but these fields do not interest me in any other way but philosophically…

I wasn’t always working in the art creative field, but was never quite happy otherwise, so I always had strong desires to go there in any way, shape or form.

That resulted in me becoming a 2D/3D generalist, meaning 3D artist, concept artist, painter, illustrator, rigger and an animator.

Over 7 years of professional work, aside from indie video game projects, I worked with comic books, tabletop games,3D printing, storyboarding, video editing, t-shirt design, 3D model/asset sales and everything in between.

I also participated in several years long indie game projects but unfortunately so far, none of them got finished. Most known would be Novus Aeterno by Telltale Studios.

They played a huge role in my professional becoming so I am epically grateful there…

Currently I am an artist lead on a sci-fi project Fleets of heroes, being developed by Inner Hero LLC , and a steampunk fantasy strategy card game called Battlespace.

I also work on a sci-fi top-down shooter called Astra.

And I work as a lead concept artist/generalist on Skyfleet,a new dieselpunk war game in the making..


The origin of the SeaHorse has a beginning in Sketchfab phenomenal Sea Creatures Sculpting challenge. I loved it the second I saw it.

The beauty of this challenge is that only sculpt was needed and there was no extra hassle with retopology ,UVs,Rigging or Texturing.

PLUS the awards were 3 months Pro Account and a 3D printed winning model. And I always wanted to have my models 3Dprinted but I can’t really afford to do this too often. So with the Pro account, I was hyped!

For me at that time, that was a creative boost where I could just create without limitations and have something I like, done quickly

So I created Sea Deer ZBrush sculpt.

I was amazed and positively overwhelmed when it had won the contest!

Soon I had it 3D printed by Shapeways and it turned out beautiful! 

Also, dark-minaz made a textured version of it. I thought that was very cool! 

I just loved all that jazz that had been happening around this thing and I wanted to disclose and realise all the other unused potential I saw in it.

Working freelance, I had very little time so I needed to wait for this window of opportunity to start developing what I wanted.

Since I had the design and I knew it worked, I was joyful to begin with the retopology. Picturing it finished and swimming in my mind.


I prepared the ZBrush Sculpt by deleting one side of it, since I wanted to be using symmetry to save time. Exported all those HD models and made the decimated version to import those into a 3D max scene, so I can begin with the retopology.

Retopology with optimisation in mind on organic surfaces can be really tedious, especially when done with UV setup, rigging and future texturing in perspective. I planned out every cut and heavily optimised the model accordingly… I only modeled and UV’d the top of the wings and later copied, inverted normals and welded their edges, so I have a thick wing model but also double sided while only having to texture it once. With all curves and time saving ,all this took several days with all the nooks and crannies of the model, but it was worth it.


I used xNormal to burn AO, Normal and Cavity maps from the high poly to my new low poly, fixed some minor burn errors and prepared the photoshop file for texturing over this base…

I textured it like I would paint a painting, so it had the human touch while avoiding anything too generic. The thing is that I do my concepting as I go, in all steps of the model, so I tested and tried out color, light, specular and detail variety ideas here and there, and what worked for me stayed on it while I discarded and/or adapted the parts that didn’t work so well.

Then I made a special preparation map for the second Normals Pass for the details that I made by hand painting and ran that map through NDO. Later I unified the original and the new one…

When all was good in 3Ds max, I took it over into Marmoset for Specular/roughness refinements and fixing eventual model irregularities.


This is where I wanted more but had to optimise. I want this thing to be useable on both low end and high end hardware and I heard recently that some platforms are limited to 40 bones so I reduced my intended number significantly without too much further research.

Now on budget, I displaced them where I wanted the motion to shine the most and that would be the “wings” and tail. I really wanted to nail that “Water Goldfish” feeling in their movement, almost weightless, for the idle animation so it is sensual and slow but also rich and dynamic.

I did the rigging in Max, used basic skin envelopes and per-vertex weights. And now finally, it was ready for anything!


First and most desired was the idle, underwater hovering animation. I used 3Ds Max’s simple keyframe animation for this entire process. Mechanically, I animated main wings first so I better delegate body’s hover depending on the wings propulsion and inertia. Now I had the cause/effect base I needed for everything else. Again, didn’t want to be generic here, so I added the head to show some deliberate interest in the environment and make the creature feel more alive.

The tail process was same like for the wings, animated the core bone first and then the next bone one by one, to seem as they are influenced by the force and momentum of their parent bone.

For other animations I used the same logic in general, but added more intention so now some shield bones have their own muscle twitching regardless of the parent bone, like the tail and wing twitch on the “death” animation.

I used different logic depending on the desired effect.

The small extra flare are the little curious fish I made just for this scene. I modelled one, placed its UVs on the SeaHorses material, to a texture place most “fishy” and I animated one. When I was somewhat happy, I cloned and displaced the cloned fish. I then displaced cloned fishes animation keys to get the randomly feeling without animating everything again or adding extra keys. Did that a few more times ,created my own HDRi environment and voila… 🙂


Now this is something very new and very cool on Sketchfab! I was lucky enough to beta test this so I had practise… I wanted the water feeling and the sound I worked on for my Biomechanical Whale model proved perfect!

I used over 11 different raw water sounds, splashes, ambients and effects to make this one audio sample and adjust it to be just right. I found them all over the place. Strictly aiming for copyright free stuff, I was cutting youtube clips, downloading sample bases from several sound effects dedicated sites online and I recorded one with my phone. So with that bucket of sounds, it was just ugly noise. So I packed all that mess into a new Camtasia project and I carefully edited this loop, adding desired sample portions, displacement, loudness and falloff degrees where I felt they would sound cool.


The whole thing took over a week for all the tiny stages…. If I had the time I believe I would make the whole living, alien coral reef! 😀 For a 3D artist, Sketchfab is like an extra pair of wings and more! For all the creative potential it holds, and if you use it to the best of your abilities ,it is virtually irreplaceable.

Nowhere else can I publicly integrate and share my 3D/animation/sound supported ideas, all in one scene, like I can do here. Even aside from technical aspects, the public reach and engagement is amazing. There is always something going on, and it is pretty mind blowing to watch and even better to participate. It is both a platform and a tool, both standalone and as an add on to other sites. I love it. 🙂

Thank you very much for this opportunity, quite honored to be here!



Unity Asset Store









About the author

Seori Sachs

Community Person!

No Comments

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    Related articles