Percussion Target Pistols

Prop Breakdown

Guillian Fombelle

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Guillian Fombelle

3D Artist

Introduction

Hello, I'm Guillian Fombelle, a junior 3D artist living in France.
My goal is to work in the video game and animation industry in foreign countries such as Canada and the United States.

Inspiration

First of all, I wanted to surpass the quality of my first project, which was also a weapon, a Nerf gun that is totally different visually both in terms of materials and its history as a simple toy.

I’ve always been a big fan of history and art, and I wanted to recreate a weapon with a very special visual.

During my research, I came across a famous French gunsmith, Alfred Gauvain (1801-1889), who in 1844 created a pair of percussion pistols designed to be exhibited at the Paris Industrial Exhibition.

These pistols are masterpieces of neo-gothic iron chasing, and my aim was to recreate them identically, both as a tribute to their creator and to improve my texturing and modeling skills.

Software

  • Blender (Modeling/Second pass of UV)
  • Autodesk Maya (Retopo/first pass of UV)
  • Zbrush (Sculpting)
  • Adobe Substance Painter (Textures)
  • Adobe Photoshop (Post Prod)
  • Marmoset Toolbag (Render)

Blockout

The first step in creating these percussion pistols was to create a blockout of the model. Here, I was able to set up the various main shapes and proportions of the weapon to render it as faithfully as possible to the basic weapons.

This phase can easily be carried out thanks to the MET website “the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” where the weapons are on display. The museum has taken a huge number of photos so that you can see the weapons in detail.

This enabled me to recreate the weapons as faithfully as possible throughout the creation process.

Midpoly

Starting a Midpoly can always be a bit stressful, so I always start with the simplest parts to warm up for what’s to come. Creating my Midpoly for this project was a gradual process.

I wanted to work on each part as closely as possible to the basic model, and once the part was finished, I moved on to another and so on until the Midpoly was complete.

To make sure that there would be no problems exporting to Zbrush to work on the Highpoly, I made sure that the different parts of the model (barrel, handle, trigger, etc.) had the right topology to work as efficiently as possible.

Highpoly

In order to work in an optimized way, and knowing the rather old components of my computer, I decided to work on each part individually, so as to be able to work quickly and efficiently.

On most of the parts for this project, I often worked in the same way:

I retrieved the parts from my Midpoly and then DynaMesh’d them on Zbrush to achieve a polygon level that suited me and then used the “polish” slider in the deformation section to make the angles softer and less direct.

This step effectively added bevels to the edges, while the DynaMesh gave me the resolution to carve the numerous ornaments featured on the pistol.

For my other method of creating ornaments, I started with simple spheres that I then reworked with a very low level of DynaMesh so that they corresponded to the exact shapes of the ornaments in my reference, then I accentuated them as I added details.

Knowing that the aim was to DynaMesh all the different parts of the ornaments to weld them together and then finish the details with different brushes like DamStandard, ClayBuildUp, Standard, but also special brushes created with handmade Alphas.

My favorite part was to create the different ornaments, it’s often a part where I work the easiest or I allow myself to work with music to be more efficient.

Finally, I decimated all the assets and re-exported them to Blender to prepare my Lowpoly and Highpoly for the bake phase in Substance Painter.

UV & Baking

To create the UVs, I decided to cut the gun into three parts to bring out as much detail as possible in the final rendering. First of all, I imported my Lowpoly into Maya, as I’ve always been used to working on my UVs with this software.

Then I went back to Blender where I was able to use the UVPackmaster addon, which enabled me to organize my UVs better. It was the first time I’d used this addon, and I can’t recommend it enough! Once all the objects had been correctly named and matched, I switched to Substance 3D Painter for the bake phase.

Thanks to the non-destructive workflow I used, the lowpoly and highpoly silhouettes matched almost perfectly, allowing me to use a tight cage, thus greatly reducing the risk of artifacts.

To minimize artifact problems, I decided to bake my Highpoly on top of my Lowpoly in an exploded format. This method may take a little longer to set up, but with the right nomenclature and organization, I’ve had no problems whatsoever.

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Texturing

The first thing that interested me most about these pistols were the wooden ornaments, but also the engravings we can see in the metal. To be as faithful as possible, I created alpha patterns which I then applied to the various metal parts of the gun, such as the barrel.

I then created several metal materials to deepen the details of these engravings. To add credibility to my textures, I used alphas found on Quixel Megascan to hollow out the metal or add damage as on the original weapon.

Starting with the metal parts and the engravings made the task easier, as I could see the progress of the project in great detail. The easiest part was to create the wood material found on the rest of the weapon.

After applying these details, I introduced some wear and dirt on the whole weapon. Finally, I followed Adrien Roose’s tutorial on creating a Dust material, which I then applied to the weapon and the storage box I used on my renders.

Props, Surroundings & Story

Once I’d finished the textures, I decided to make some scenery elements to tell the story of this weapon in the renderings I was then going to set up.

My idea was to use a storage box as a support, along with the maintenance tools found on this type of weapon. Not having found the original Alfred Gauvin gun box, I decided to use one of my references from “La Maison Firmin,” a French company.

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Their storage box with blue velvet and fine gold detailing matched the guns perfectly. So I recreated this box and the various tools, adapting the box to the size and shape of the weapons.

My aim was to recreate the visuals we see on historical weapons resale sites. For the rest of the renderings, I decided to recreate the MET photos.

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Lighting & Post-Processing

In order to recreate the atmosphere of professional photography, I decided to use as little lighting as possible. I discovered that when working with a lot of lighting, I often got lost in the shadows created by the different lights on this crescent.

So I kept it simple and wanted to work in the style of product photographers. For most of my renderings, I used only a few lights and an HDRI to achieve a natural look.

During the rendering process, I changed the Marmoset Toolbag software version, which enabled me to activate Ray-tracing and better manage Ambient Occlusion.

The difference was considerable and it enabled me to see a clear improvement in my work. To finish off all my renderings, a wave of image processing was carried out in Photoshop to accentuate details and colors, allowing the color of the wood and the weapon, in general, to stand out against the blue velvet of the box.

Throughout the creation of this weapon, I wanted to get as much feedback as possible, not only from my friends who know nothing about 3D, to see if their eyes could see something I might have overlooked but also from a Senior Artist who’s been working with me since the beginning, giving me feedback on my portfolio.

He’s helped me improve enormously since the start of all these projects. It’s also important to make WIPs of your projects to see the progress and effort you’re putting in, so it doesn’t take long to make a few screenshots.

Conclusion

In the early days of creating my portfolio, I never thought I’d be able to create a telescopic weapon in such detail. I’m not going to hide from you that it wasn’t without a few tears and a few doubts about my skills.

But thanks to this project, I’ve managed to become a better artist and can easily assert my skills as an artist. There’s no secret, any job where you put your heart and soul into it is bound to have good repercussions.

Believe in yourself and you’ll get there! Thanks again to Games Artist for allowing me to share this project and its creative process with you. Thank you for reading this article!