Hi, I’m Justine Ilao. I am a 3D artist who has recently graduated from my course of Digital Game Art & Design at Nanyang Polytechnic, Singapore, where I was studying how to create game ready assets. In the middle of my first year, we were introduced to creating 3D models and ever since then I’ve been practicing creating various environments and characters.
This model is actually the 2nd model of my final year project, which is to make various environments centered around my self-created story. The first model was my Stylized Crystal Ruins, which depicted a scene where a greedy king is vying for control of the powerful magical crystal. This current model of the bazaar depicts the beginnings of our protagonist, who is just a humble shopkeeper’s son.
The two models which are part of my final year project:
Inspiration and Art Style
I took inspiration mostly from games like League of Legends and Blizzard Entertainment’s catalogue of games, particularly World Of Warcraft and Overwatch. I really like the stylized hand-painted style as I feel that it gives a lot of character to their models, due to their wonderful shapes and colours.
- Autodesk Maya – For modelling and UV unwrapping
- ZBrush – For putting details on the models, sculpting
- Substance Painter – Texturing
Modelling and Unwrapping
I wanted to make a marketplace scene, so there I knew there would be a lot of objects lying about. To create the effect of a bunch of items being strewn about everywhere, I created various props that could be added to the scene. Here are all the props used in the scene placed separately. This is so that you can just click on them and duplicate them on the spot, placing them wherever you feel like there should be an extra prop, or if there is an empty space that should be filled in.
I created props here such as books with different cover textures and sizes, signs, boxes, vases, sacks and some bigger props like the bag and the chest. Unwrapping the UVs of all of them as I create.
The tent was made as its own object as I was still trying to experiment with its shapes and silhouette. I wanted to create a recognizable silhouette as it creates a good foundation for an environment. One variation that I came up with was this anchor-like shape that looked interesting to me. However, I felt that it kind of took over the whole scene as it overwhelms the smaller objects that I would be placing under the tent. So I opted for a horned look and added a sign at the front of the tent because it looked kind of empty there.
Now, I had to place all the objects together. As I did not do any concept art, I had to just place the objects in positions where it looked random yet natural. I also had to account for the various sides when looking at the scene and not just the front. There was a lot of copy pasting involved, rotating different objects as well as combining some such as the vases with apples inside them.
Sculpting in ZBrush
For sculpting, I only really used ZBrush for my chest that I was creating so that I could create crevices of wood and metal embellishments.
I mostly used a brush called Orb_Cracks to create all the various cracks that you can see here, and using Orb_Flatten to make sure that the edges look hard. The brush set was made by Michael Vincente and he has the set downloadable for free on his Gumroad website. What’s nice is that he has allowed it for commercial use too.
After completing the sculpt I would then bake it inside Substance Painter by using it as the high-poly mesh against the low-poly base model. I do this because I would be creating all my textures on Substance anyway and they generate pretty good normal and ambient occlusion maps through baking.
Texturing in Substance Painter
Usually, I start by baking the high poly meshes into the low poly meshes in Substance Painter. If I don’t have any high poly meshes, I just bake the low poly mesh to get the maps because I use a lot of settings that rely on those maps.
I use a lot of layers when texturing in Substance Painter, maybe even too many. However all the layers do something, for example, a painted-on ambient occlusion.
By using the baked maps in Substance, I am able to apply various effects that use maps, like the curvature map, to create edge highlights. Below you can see the kinds of layers I would create. I would start from the bottom, create a base colour that decides the object’s roughness and metallic maps, then add edge wear using masking layers that use the curvature map. Using those same principles I created more layers for cavity, baked lighting, and ambient occlusion.
Here is the chest that I sculpted, now with the textures on. You can see effects like the ambient occlusion pretty clearly with the purple tinted shadows noticeable in the crevices of the object.
For most of the props I would export them as a set if they use the same texture set. My workflow therefore consisted of painting the sets below at the same time.
I used different texture sets for multiple objects due to the fact that I wanted to be free to express details such as writing and numbers on certain objects like signs and books. If I had tried to cram everything inside fewer texture sets, the words would be pixelated. However, reducing the amount of texture sets you have is a good practice as it will allow your game to run faster as it loads the textures quicker.
I’ve only recently started uploading into Sketchfab, so I am still pretty new to using the different types of settings you fiddle around with. I found that the model came out pretty blurry when I exported it, so turning the sharpness setting on was very helpful to combat the blurriness. I also added some additional lighting along with the background lighting, I added one extra point light under the tent so that you can still see the objects under it without it being too dark. One last thing of note is that with tone mapping and colour balance, I was able to create a warmer tone to the ground edges and add more saturation to some of the washed-out colours.
On the left with tone mapping and colour balance, on the right without both. You can see that the edges are a warmer red tone on the left:
I am still very much learning better ways to do things with all the various software but I am pretty happy with how it turned out, as I was able to present this piece to my lecturers.
Thank you for reading this article and thank you to Abby and Sketchfab for reaching out to me to let me contribute to the blog posts. You can find more of my models here on Sketchfab, as well as my other portfolio pieces on ArtStation.
Check out the final model!