Katana – Prop Breakdown – Hung Nguyen
My name is Hung Nguyen, I love doing art and playing video games, I’m from Ha Noi, Vietnam, I’m currently a freelancer with over 4 years of experience in the Games Industry. I have had experience across the board with character, environment and prop art.
Inspiration and References
At this time, there are so many games that have Japanese style such as Sekiro, Nioh 2, Ghost of Tsushima. All of them inspire me so much. It was what motivated me to do a Japanese-style character. This katana is a part of my project.
The references are very important, to push me in the right direction. I usually find images by searching on Google, Pinterest and sometimes if that doesn’t have enough information, I watch some videos on Youtube then take some screenshots. I use Pureref to manage my image references.
My plane is doing with the normal pipeline, I did every project. I block out in Maya, then sculpt details in Zbrush, go back Maya to retopology, after that bake texture in Marmoset. Texturing is in Substance Painter. Finally, I render in Marmoset toolbag 4.
The blocking was made in Maya. I imported the reference image in this scene, then made sure the katana model was fit with it.
All of object I will add details surface already have UV before import in Zbrush. Example the fabric below:
Once I was happy with the blockout, I then imported it into ZBrush. I have so much freedom to create details in there, I really love sculpting in Zbrush.
I want to share with you some very helpful ZBrush tips, down below.
For the surface details, I used Surface Noise in ZBrush, let me remind you that the object already has UV’s.
I generated a tile noise surface using Substance Designer. You can download it free in my Artstation market https://www.artstation.com/marketplace/p/dBJWk/katana-zbrush-tile-map-4k
After the highpoly was done in ZBrush, I decimated every object around 20% then export them for baking. Meanwhile, I always have another version for retopology at around 5% of decimation. There are many software that can do retopology, but Maya is the best for me.
The UI is friendly and I can adjust low-poly and UVs at the same time.
The UV of my Katana is a bit specific because the ratio is not fit with square mapping. It is reasonable with a 4069×2048.
Small tip, I used Layout UVs to change the Packing Region. Automatically, the UV islands had been arranged nicely with the same pixel.
*Notice: Before using the Layout Uvs, I have to arrange it a bit.
When I was happy with UV, I scaled it to square. Then, it was all ready for baking.
I used Marmoset Toolbag for baking, changed the resolution of the texture set to 4096×2048.
This part I like the most, after a massive step. I give myself some time to chill, I look at the references then play with color, roughness and metallic channels.
Small tip, using ID mapping is very useful. I baked the ID map in Marmoset using by ID object.
Honestly, the material that comes out of Substance Painter is not accurate in the render of Marmoset. I always render and adjust textures at the same time, to make sure they are.
I used Unreal Engine 4 template to export texture.
When I import everything into the Marmoset scene, I had to change the R, G, B channels of the texture.
R: Ambient Occlusion
The lighting, I set up is basic. Three-point lighting is the key light, fill light and a rim light.
Small trick, try to adjust the light so that it highlights the edges. This way your model will look more defined and realistic.
Thanks to everyone who has finished reading my article. I hope you learnt something new. I have so many things to share, but it is very difficult to write all of them in this article. Any questions? Ask me if you want. Follow me on:
It is an honor and pleasure to share with you my artwork and experiences. Thanks to the GamesArtist team for reaching out to me, I really appreciate it.
Thanks to Hung for allowing us to have such an in-depth look at his process. If you liked this Samurai Sword prop breakdown and want to see more like it from other inspiring artist’s make sure to follow us on: