Creative Careers: From Traditional Architecture to 3D Art
After a career in architecture and graphic design, Mangal Preetham made a career switch to pursue his passion for video games. This article details his journey from a novice 3D artist to becoming a finalist in the 2023 Rookie Awards, featuring insights into one of his favourite portfolio pieces.
After a long Career as an Architect and Graphic Designer, 3dsense Media School, Mangal Preetham, decided to switch careers following his long time passion for working in video games. In this article he shares his journey from starting at square one as a 3D Artist, to becoming a finalist in the Rookie Awards 2023, whilst also sharing details of one of his favourite portfolio pieces.
Having been introduced to pop culture and games since I was 3, I've always been fascinated with comic books and video games, which ultimately led me to pick up art and illustration. My long-time passion for art and design guided me towards pursuing a career in Architecture in India. After completing my studies, I worked as an Architect and Graphic Designer in the Middle East for nearly a decade, where I honed my design sensibilities and 3D modeling skills.
During this period, I decided to leverage the knowledge I had acquired and took a leap of faith by returning to school to study Game Art in Singapore, with the goal of switching careers. Today, I find myself working as a 3D Modeler at Lemonsky Studios in Malaysia. In this article, I will share my journey of passion and discuss one of the pieces that played a pivotal role in securing my position in the games industry right after graduating.
My love for video games has been a constant throughout my life, and it fueled my interest in character design. This passion led me to create my own interpretations of popular game characters, a pursuit I continued throughout my time in Architecture school. Following graduation, my career demanded that I become a well-rounded designer, enabling me to delve into graphic design, produce 3D visualizations for commercial spaces, and continue illustrating.
However, after several years in that field, I realised that my true passion lay in creating 3D art for video games. This realisation prompted me to make a pivotal decision—to enroll in the 3Dsense Media School in Singapore for a year of intensive learning about 3D game art. Graduating at the top of my class, I took my first steps into the games industry, fulfilling a long-held dream.
Wrath Of Indira
This is a project based on the concept of Gao Xu. I have always wanted to model a gun and I had the pleasure of turning an existing 2D concept into a game ready model. The original concept only had the front 3/4 view so I took the liberty of designing the visor and back of the weapon with design choices that would work with the existing artwork, and put my personal spin on it.
As with all my projects, I take the time to block out all the large, medium, and small shapes I can identify in the concept.
This ensures that I don't miss out on minor details while I'm modeling, and I gather as many references as possible. This includes references for:
Similar forms and shapes of the gun (necessary for building the back and sights).
Potential materials for each part of the gun, such as the body, handle, barrel, etc.
Weathering details, including grunge, grime, dust, or scratches. Color scheme and potential decal ideas for the gun's visor.
The overall vibe I want to showcase, including lighting, presentation style, and any additional props if needed.
A story I want to tell (not always necessary, but it can help generate new ideas).
I began by blocking out the larger forms in Maya, ensuring that I got the silhouette right. Then, I gradually added the medium and small details. Since I wanted to convey the story of where the gun might be used, I designed and animated special ammo and a custom sight that was aesthetically consistent with the rest of the model.
After I was done modeling the gun and ammo in Maya I took the file to ZBrush to add some surface definition and create some wear on the body . In addition to this I also animated the ammo before optimising the mesh and UVs and finally baked all the mesh maps in Substance 3D Painter.
Texturing is my favourite part of any modeling project I undertake, so I always gather the inspiration I need. I made sure to match the exact colors used by the artist in the original concept and began by assigning specific types of materials to each colour.
Brushed aluminum for the barrel.
Painted titanium for the body, featuring paint chipping, scratches, and visible dirt in crevices.
A corrugated rubber/plastic grip for the handle.
Plastic wires with a minor emission effect.
The butt of the gun is made of rough industrial rubber with a grip texture.
The ammo consists of a brass head with a carbon fiber casing and plastic propellers, featuring subtle scratches indicating their rotation direction.
These are some of the materials I've used to texture the model. However, I ensure that every part of the gun exhibits surface definition present in the normal map, which is reflected onto the base colour, metal, and roughness maps. For instance, if the top casing has dirt on it, those areas will feature slight height displacement and appear rougher (less reflective of light) than the rest of the casing. To maintain visual clarity while texturing, I provide ample space between decals and smaller details during the painting process. I believe that a prop that looks clean and pristine often lacks storytelling elements and context.
Since the back of the gun lacked a clear design, I decided to create one, incorporating a custom aim-down-sights feature and a monitor. Both of these elements are vector images I designed using Adobe Illustrator. I avoid rushing the texturing process, allowing room for new ideas and inspirations, as well as seeking feedback from my peers and former lecturers. The references I collected earlier proved invaluable at this stage, not only helping me refine the textures but also guiding me in determining the overall vibe I wanted to convey with this project.
In all my projects, I constantly seek new ways to present my work by studying the techniques used by various artists and game studios. One particular source of inspiration for me has been the artist team at Bungie, known for their captivating weapon and gear presentations in trailers before every season of Destiny 2. I was compelled to try my hand at their distinctive style, which became a significant challenge during this phase of my project.
After completing the texturing process in Substance 3D Painter, I exported the mesh maps and assets into Marmoset Toolbag 4. Here, I experimented with lighting, fog, and camera angles to create an optimal setup that closely resembled my lighting references. Marmoset is an exceptional tool for this purpose, as it allows me to fine-tune every aspect of my shot with ease. It even enabled me to incorporate my animated ammo mesh, showcasing its retractable propellers.
To provide more depth and context to the prop's story, I also took the initiative to model and texture a backdrop, which, in my opinion, elevated the final output.
This project helped me brush up on my hard surface skillset while reinforcing the importance of proper references. I went back and forth through the pipeline to adjust and tweak my model, aiming for the best results while also allowing room for new ideas. It also helped me improve my sense of design and presentation while texturing the asset and setting up my renders in Marmoset Toolbag.
I'd like to extend my gratitude to The Rookies for this wonderful opportunity.
You can reach out to Preetham via his Rookies profile here.