Learn How to Make Realistic Props for Games
Aspiring to join the gaming industry, 3D Artist Kartikeya's focus has been to hone his existing skills and learn new ones, producing jaw-dropping models in between. This is a great article to read if you are wanting to learn how to make realistic game-ready props for your 3D Art portfolio.
Kartikeya Rawat is a 3D artist, hailing from Dehradun, India. Aspiring to join the gaming industry, Kartikeya's focus has been to hone his existing skills and learn new ones, producing jaw-dropping models in between.
This is a great article to read if you are wanting to learn how to make realistic game-ready props for your 3D Art portfolio.
I am pursuing 3D Art as a profound passion, however, I don't yet have an academic degree or background in design. Art in general has caught my fascination since as far back as I can remember. Even growing up, as a school-kid, one could find me making sketches or paintings every now and then. Halfway through my engineering bachelor, I discovered my passion for 3D art. The transition from 2D to 3D opened to me a world of new possibilities. I could now make whatever I wished to! It gave me a chance to further explore and manifest my imagination.
As an aspiring Game Artist, my current focus has been to hone my existing skills and learn new ones. I hope to make a tonne of new models as I go along. My favourite Game, of late, is Metro Exodus. The Metro Saga is a splendid piece of work that immerses the audience into a fictional and yet so real world.
Every insignificant bump on the road, every small detail, has a story to tell. I grew up a staunch Halo fan too. Who wouldn't love to be humanity’s last hope, right? Some of the other video games I hold dear include: Battlefield, God of War, Read Dead 2, and a couple of the older Ubisoft titles. I mention this, because I believe these games shaped my passion to some extent, & inspired the work I do.
As an artist, I doubt I’ll ever be sated with what I can make. The scope of what can inspire any artist is truly endless. And yet, one can never know it all.
Always the learner, never the master...In art, new lessons present themselves to a keen eye each day. And to work on them gradually, each step feels like a small victory.
The primary reason I took up this project was that I was looking to challenge myself. When I first came across a typewriter model online I was unsure if I could make it. My uncertainty stemmed from both: the hardware limitations and my lack of know-how when it came to texturing. I, however, was determined to make something antique. Which made the typewriter my go to, as I had always hoped to own one someday.
Moving on, I was lucky enough to stumble upon an in—depth tutorial (by Dylan Abernethy) for the same model. I followed it loosely. I say "loosely", as I was inclined to use it only when I felt stuck. This would help me with the confidence in my skills. I ended up adding a lot of parts to the model hoping I could bring it close to the real thing.
The basic workflow for making this game ready prop was as follows: References—Blockout—Highpoly—Lowpoly—UVing—Baking—Texturing—Rendering
Here comes one of, if not the most, essential part of designing a good model: Research. Or what many would like to call "homework". There are a host of websites one could forage, to find information that suits the model one has in mind. It really is just a click away. Personally, I hopped mostly around Pinterest, Google and Youtube for this purpose. I collected all relevant images of the model I could find. I even looked for videos of underwood typewriters being restored, to better understand the parts involved. Similar models available online assisted me in designing the hidden areas. This being not too obscure a model, I managed to find a manual with its inner components clearly sketched. Typewriter Maintenance Manuals, War Department Technical Manual, etc were some of the other documents I referred to, trying to be as detail—oriented as I could. All these played a role in making my model look the way it does.
I used PureRef to keep all my references. PureRef is a free software which I find quite useful when keeping my references handy and all in one place. These are just a few of several references that I used. I always try to go for as many as I can find.
The blockout phase is step one of our prop design when it comes to actually crafting something. Here, you start with making the basic shapes of the model. The blockout for this model was performed using Maya. The parts of this model being mostly mechanical, I managed to add a host of details in this phase itself.
One thing to keep in mind making the blockout version is the use of curves, cylinders, and spheres with a good number of divisions from the very beginning. This saves you the tedious chore of adjusting it all later.
We now move to highpoly, where you're meant to make a most detailed version of the model. The goal is to add as much detail as you can in this step. Much of the highpoly work for this model was performed using Maya.
I started with my blockout model to develop the highpoly, making sure all the curves came out smooth. As this model had a lot of screws, I decided to let them sit within the surface of the plane. For this purpose, I made use of small cylinders the size of the screws and using boolean, I managed to create cavities in the plane. These screws were then fit in these cavities, protruding just slightly from the surface. This saved me the work of creating lowpoly versions of the screws; their detail now being used as the Normal map on the flat plane itself.
I then exported my model to Zbrush where I added minor imperfections. One thing to note prior to importing a model into Zbrush is that the model must have proper geometry. It must be composed of only quads and triangles. Now, for the sake of smoothing I used the Polish feature in the Deformation menu of the Tool tab. I then used the Trim Dynamic brush to add imperfections along the edges.
Lowpoly & UV mapping
As I mentioned, with the design being mostly mechanical, I decided to work on the block out model itself as my low-poly. I trimmed extra vertices and polygons that weren't needed. This helped save a lot of time. Any cubes, cylinders or intersects with a flat plane or another cylinder were detached from the base plane. I filled the hole in the plane and let the parts be separate. This way I could maintain the shape with much less polygon count.
To get a better resolution, I divided my model into three texture sets. UVing is a phase where you need to be smart. It’s all about providing more space for parts within the same UV square. Things to keep in mind are texel density and UV stacking. Texel density will help you keep the resolution uniform. UV stacking will help you save space, while UV stacking means stacking similar UV shells where you think the same texture can be shared, on top of one another. This way you use less space.
In my project, the UVs of the key connections are stacked. This allows them to share the same texture, giving each a higher resolution. Then, I divided the shiny rims around the keys into 6 sets of stacked UVs as they are more visible. The grouping was performed randomly to make them look less repetitive. The base structure of the typewriter was also done in the same way. As it had a similar design on both the ends, I decided to split it in the middle and fold one side on top of the other. The feet, or any other part that was more than one in number also had its UVs stacked.
For baking I made use of Marmoset Toolbag. Each texture set was baked separately. The maps that I baked were AO, Normal, and Matid maps.
The parts being too close to one another, meant I needed to separate them all so I could squeeze in enough space between them. This holds strong for both lowpoly and highpoly. This practice helps in baking by reducing the artifacting. After baking is concluded, I bring them back to their original positions. As only the polygons are moved and not their UV shells, the UV map used in both cases remains the same.
Another important point to keep in mind is: to smooth all the desired edges before we start baking. Trying to keep it for later is unwise, as the smooth and the hard edges of lowpoly reflect on the Normal maps being baked. I ended up having to go back towards the end as I had made the same mistake. As all the other maps weren’t affected by this, I only baked the Normal maps for that particular instance.
The texturing of this model was done with the use of Substance Painter. For the viewport, I set the texture settings to 2K and exported them to 4K later. This helped in getting things done faster. I developed all the textures layer-wise. Smart materials were rarely used.
I used Matid map for differentiating various materials. As for the design to the front and the sides, I created black and white images in Photoshop, with the help of the UV layout. These images were then used as maps in Substance Painter. For the keys, I employed the images of actual typewriter keys, placing them in their respective circles. This also helped me reduce some time. The Underwood Logo was also finished the same way.
The rendering was done in the Marmoset Toolbag. Wishing the focus to be the model alone, I went with a plain background. I've often been advised by my fellow peers to always keep it simple. As for the lighting, I used an HDRI and some Omni lights to set up the scene. Having tried various colours, I settled with an orange hue, as it offered a nice contrast to the blue typewriter. Marmoset also offers various camera options that you can try to make your renders look more dynamic. These options include the depth of field, bloom, flare, etc. Below I've attached my final renders:
The one lesson that the project taught me was the value of patience. At times, one must take two steps forward and a step back to make the best of what one has.
I’m still a learner, and this was my experience working on this project. I really hope it was of some assistance to you, dear reader. After all the effort I put into this, I can confidently say that I'm satisfied with the outcome. I still see what mistakes I made, and they're a lesson learnt. Also if you ever feel stuck, feel free to reach out and ask someone for help. Thank you, for the time you took to read this through. Thanks too to the people at The Rookies for considering my work worth sharing. Hope you keep striving unto perfection!