Earth-Cleaning Bot

Prop Breakdown

Vladimir Zhuk

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Vladimir Zhuk

Environment Artist

Introduction

Hi everyone! My name is Vladimir Zhuk, I'm a 3d environment artist.
I've been working in the cg industry for about 8 years. I started out as a lighting artist working on the animated films.

The more I worked, the more I wanted to master a full production cycle - modelling, sculpting, texturing.
Currently I work on the game environments and cinematics in the genre of stylization. I'm also experienced in teaching junior artists and project team management.
One of the reasons I came into the 3D sphere is that I really enjoy the process of self-education and I like that it is cg industry where you have a constant opportunity to study and learn something new.

Goals

While creating this asset, I didn’t have any challenging goals in mind. It was more like something I wanted to do for myself, without any specific purpose. Sometimes you come across an image that inspires you to bring it to life and continue a story.

Such moments remind you of why you got into CG in the first place. I appreciate that in small artworks like this, it’s possible to go through all the stages of the pipeline – from modeling to lighting – quickly moving from one stage to another and optimizing the process. It keeps me energized.

I created these assets in my spare time within a maximum of one week.

One of my favorite phases of work is sculpting, though, in this project, I decided to set a challenge for myself – to add almost no small details at the sculpting stage but to incorporate them during the texturing stage instead.

Software

  • Maya
  • ZBrush
  • Adobe Substance Painter
  • Unreal Engine 5

References & Inspiration

This time, I chose a concept art by the outstanding artist Pablo Hern├índez. I really admire the unique style of his works, the use of pure colors, and the storytelling. It’s not just props taken out of context.

Despite the fact that this concept by Zinkase was created 6 years ago, I feel it is still relevant today. It reminds me of the style of projects like “Love Death & Robots” and “Fortnite.” I can imagine these objects in one of these universes. Moving forward, I’d like to create a small location, produce an animation, and craft a story with these assets.

References_inspirationj

Blockout

I start with model blocking. This stage usually doesn’t take much time, but it’s important to ensure that you capture the overall proportions and maintain consistency from all angles. There should be no small details at this stage – focus on large and medium-sized shapes.

Typically, I do blocking in Maya, but in this case, due to the simple shape, I went straight to ZBrush.

Blockout

Modeling & UVs

Once I have the blocking done, I proceed with model detailing. I pay close attention to the facets to achieve soft and pronounced edges. I used the project “Heroes of the Storm” as a reference.

To create holes and complex shapes, I use “Live Boolean” in ZBrush – I like this approach because it provides more freedom to work with shapes and allows for improvisation.

Later, I created a retopology of the finished parts in Maya. I add fine details like seams, bolts, small holes, and panels using brushes with custom alphas (which are better prepared beforehand in Photoshop).

modeling-1
Modelling_-workflow

Breakdown for creating holes, etc.

modeling_01

The way to quickly make dividing lines and clear seams on the object.

modeling_02

This is the approach I used when creating the teeth of the model.

modeling_03-scaled

Texturing

Once I have UVs made and all the maps baked, I proceed with the most interesting stage of this work – texturing. I really like the classical technique of hand-painted texturing, but since I wanted to optimize my workflow and create the asset in a short time, I started by using a standard smart material.

It allowed me to quickly achieve soft gradients, accentuated edges, and basic shading. I try to achieve a harmonious color combination at this stage, and only then do I move on to details.

Base-Color_01

In the next stage, I gradually add details, starting with the largest ones (rust and scratches). Some small chips are then added, followed by some color variations to the overall tones.

To speed up the process, I analyze the surface beforehand and prepare custom alphas for brushes. I work here only with the base color channel, and once I’m satisfied with the result, I set the roughness and metallic values.

I try not to make them overly pronounced to maintain the feeling of hand-painted assets. The last thing left to do here is to customize emissive maps for the eyes.

Base-Color

Lighting & Rendering

I set up the scene in the game engine UE5 since I created the object with the game development pipeline in mind. Possibly in the future, I’ll continue working on this object by creating the environment, animation, and some simple effects.

The lighting stage is one of the most enjoyable for me. It’s essential to be consistent when setting up the lighting. I begin by placing the key light to create the primary lighting effect and the desired shadow direction. To achieve softer shadows, I added a second light source, the fill light.

I ensure there are no overly contrasted or burnt areas, especially in stylized art. Finally, I incorporate colored sources, including a Back Light, with warm and cool tones (you can use the color wheel, typically opposite colors).

This is one of the most common working schemes that results in a harmonious effect. You can add additional light sources, but make sure they complement the basic ones rather than competing with them.

My experience in film production, where I learned to set up lights for scenes, has been valuable for me. Manual adjustments to light sources, including movement, brightness, temperature, and patterns, provide a deeper understanding.

If you have the opportunity, try working in a photo studio – take pictures of friends and objects, experiment with different schemes, and observe how physical lighting behaves. If that’s not feasible, analyze photos and film footage.

Visualizing and identifying used light sources can enhance your acuity and speed when working with lighting.

lighting_scheme
ue5_lighting

Conclusion

I enjoyed the working process, and I managed to meet the deadline. What particularly pleased me is that the result didn’t go unnoticed. I received feedback from the person whose concept I had referred to, and that was especially valuable to me. My sharing concludes here. Thank you for reading!

If you have any questions after reading this article, please feel free to reach out, and I will respond as soon as possible. I wish everyone excellent artwork and inspiration!

Special thanks to the portal GamesArtist! You’re doing a great job bringing artists together and providing aspiring artists with opportunities to learn something new.

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