16 October 2021

Jordan Shoes – Prop Breakdown – Nicole Cardenas



My name is Nicole Cardenas, but my friends call me Nicky. I’m currently doing an internship at Secret 6.

I’ve just finished my Master’s degree at Voxel school. I made these Nike air Jordan shoes for my final project. I still consider myself a student, and I think one of the most beautiful things about 3d is that you never stop learning.

One of my most important goals is to improve my skills both in the artistic and the technical fields for video games.

For this project, my objective was to create a Hero Asset that looked and felt like it could exist in the real world and I would like to share some tips and advice on how the piece was created and what I learned in the process.

What software did you use?

The piece was modeled in 3DS Max, then I added details In Zbrush, retopology was done in 3DS Max, textured in Substance Painter, and rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 4.



The reason why I chose to create these specific shoes, came unexpectedly. I saw a random news article that said that the sneakers Michael Jordan used in 1985 were for sale for thousands of dollars, that’s where my inspiration came from, this is the link to the news article.



The program that I use to collect all the references is PureRef. The references are one of the most important parts of the process.  You have to ensure that you have enough reference images of different angles of your prop. Having good reference images can greatly reduce the time guessing and allow you to utilize your time more effectively.



In the modelling process, I started with the blockout. I focused my attention on having good shape and volume. The accurate proportion was a bit tricky at first. Keeping the topology simple is very important, that way you can adjust things easily. I use references with front, left, and bottom views, which helps me to have a better idea of the proportions.

Once I was happy with the shape, I started modelling the panels of the shoes, then adding the modifiers, shell and turbosmooth, finally exporting the objects into Zbrush.


High Poly Sculpting

First, I verified the general shapes and volumes and made any necessary corrections, then I smoothed the edges.

For the details, I added primary and secondary details on the ZBrush layers to have better control over them. I then focused on sculpting wrinkles with my references in hand and added some wear/tear use.

I use multiple brushes to get the primary and secondary details. Then I use an Alpha to get the extra details of the wrinkles of the leather.

For the stitches, I used the IMM stitches brush that comes in Zbrush.


Once I am happy with the Asset, I think about retopologizing it. I decided to work on all the high polys at once and then move onto the low polys, rather than 1 high poly, 1 low poly, etc. There’s no right or wrong way to approach this, you should do whatever works for you.



This part of the process sometimes is a little tedious but is very important, because your assets go to a real-time engine, and it has to be optimized, therefore this process has to be done by hand. For this, I use the Quad Draw tool from Maya, since it is well adapted for Wacom tablet use.



For UV’s, I use Maya’s UV Editor. You have to keep in mind the geometry needs to fit in a 0-1 space. Make sure to know where to add seams, prioritize the larger forms first, then work your way from there.


The soles are normally baked in order to optimize the geometry, but in this case, as it is a personal project, I decided to leave it to be able to work on the texture in substance a little more.




The entire prop was textured in substance painter. My first step was to observe the reference from my PureRef in the materials section, then  I began to quickly do research on what type of materials I am going to cover, if it is fabric, what type of fabric and fabric weave, also what type of material my asset has and how will it age?

Once I do my research and organize my references. I set the painter to 2k, start to make base materials from scratch and then slowly build up the layers to achieve realism.

The way how I organize textures is to divide them into 3 groups. Base, Texture, Dirt & wear.

Base: In this group, I create layers with a solid color and make the selections with color selection.


Texture: In this group, I add the texture layers of the material, for example, the leatherette, the leather, the fabric, and the corresponding weave of each material.

Dirt and wear: In this group, I add everything that is external to the material, dirt, grime, dust, mud, wear, scratches. All these layers are normally smart layers, but I never leave them as they come, I always edit or combine them.


Final Note

 Making something look great can be challenging, but remember, stay close to the references, don’t forget this is our passion, have fun when creating your personal projects and be patient.


Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone, who has helped me develop as an artist and contributed to my growth.

Thanks to Games Artist for allowing me the opportunity to share with you this article.

Follow me on Artstation, https://nicolecrdenas.artstation.com/