11 April 2021

Propane Stove – Realistic Prop Modelling – Joseph Forrester



Hello! My name is Joseph Forrester, I’m a recent graduate and a freelance 3D artist from the U.K. In this article, I’ll take you through the process and idea’s behind my most recent work. So as of recently, I’ve been really into post-apocalyptic themes, probably from playing games such as rust and fallout a lot. I just really love the idea of repurposing everyday items into something completely different and unexpected.

I found this concept from an artist called kalon wright and he does a lot of different post-apocalyptic designs (https://www.behance.net/gallery/42330289/Rust-concepts) mainly inspired by Rust. I loved the idea of this concept in particular and I wanted to see if could recreate it with a more realistic style.



So to start I gather any reference relevant to the prop im creating, impartially the first thing I look for is measurements so I can make sure I’ve got the correct scale before I start modelling. I then went ahead and grabbed images of different propane tanks and materials, as well as things that thought could be reasonably found in a wasteland environment, just to formulate so an idea of what I could add to the concept.



In this project, my block-outs changed quite a bit as I got inspired by new ideas as time went along. The one here is the one I settled on in the end. I basically blocked out the basic shapes as a lot of the detail would be sculpted in Zbrush.


When modelling I usually use a standard sub-D workflow on the less complicated shapes. For the top and bottom I decided to use a method where you create a mid poly in Maya, then bring it to ZBrush to make the high poly from poly-groups. An artist called Dylan Abernethy (https://www.artstation.com/artwork/D5kXE0) has a great tutorial on this but basically, You make a mid-poly mesh then separate each area with hard edges into its own UV Shell.


You can then take this mesh into Zbrush, Split the UV’s into different poly-groups and then dyna-mesh. With the mesh dyna-meshed, you can then go and use the polish tools to smooth the topology. I generally prefer this method as you can quickly make a high-poly without having to worry too much about the geometry of the midpoly.




The high-poly is where I wanted to give a lot of personality to the model such as welds, dents and other imperfections.

A lot of this was achieved by just using the basic brushes inside ZBrush. The smaller more unique dents were created by using a mixture of the clay tubes brush and smooth till I got something I was happy with. The welds were created with the clay-build-up brush by just making small circles with the cursor.


Before I moved onto the low poly, I went over the main body of the propane tank with a very light trim dynamic brush, to add in subtle dents and imperfections that add more detail to the normal.

Low-poly and UV’s

With the high-poly completed, I split the mesh into different parts and export them for retopology. I tend to use the Midpoly as a base if the sculpting hasn’t drastically changed the geometry much but in this case, I went over most of the model with the quad draw tool in Maya.


For UVing I use a plugin call UV mapper that just keeps all of Maya’s UV tools in one place and just helps me be more efficient when im UVing. For this model in particular, I wanted to try to push as much detail as I could onto a single 2048 so things like the screws/nut and the hinge all share the same UV space.


For the bakes, I used Marmoset toolbag 4 as their baking groups to help avoid intersections problems and in general i prefer it to substance painter.



For me texturing is my favourite part of the process, A lot of my time is spent looking at my references and breaking down what details I can make out.
On this model, I wanted to focus on making the metal look as realistic as I could. I usually use a mixture of fill layers masked with different grunge maps to help with the Roughness and albedo variation to give it a dirty and aged look that I was after. On top of this, I also like to add some more interesting and smaller imperfections such as stains and scratches.



Rendering is by far the most satisfying part of any project, and there is a lot of different tricks to get your model to really stand out.

I usually start by setting up the lighting for the scene. For this prop, in particular, I used multiple child lights to highlight different areas of the model. I mainly just selected the most dominant colours in the scene then edited the direction till I got something I was happy with.


Post effects is an area where you can get the model to shine. Personally, I like to sharpen the scene and add a slight bit of film grain as it helps highlight the edges of the model. Playing with the tone mapper can also help change the contrast and highlight smaller details in the model.

The last thing I do is make the thumbnail. A Good thumbnail is extremely important as it’s the first thing someone will see before viewing your work.
Usually what I do is find the most interesting angle of my model and bring it into photoshop. I then duplicate the layer and use a filter called Highpass and overlay it over my original image.

While this can be quite subtle, it helps highlight the edges making them easier to read from a distance.



Thank you for reading this article! I hope you can take something away from it a apply it to your own work! To finish off I just want to say thanks to the games artist team for allowing me to share this with you! You can find more of my work at https://www.artstation.com/josephforrester and if you have any questions feel free to shoot me a message!