Remington 1900

Prop Breakdown

Tomas Tagesson

tomas-tagesson-tomastagesson-remington1900-render04-scaled
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Tomas Tagesson

3D Artist

Introduction

Hello, my name is Tomas Tagesson, and I am currently working at Section 9 as a 3D artist, where I am working on an unannounced project. My journey to becoming a professional artist started while attending The Game Assembly, in Malmö, Sweden back in 2016. I then graduated in 2018 and got an internship at Ghost Games EA.

When my internship ended, I got my first job as a Vehicle Artist working on Need for Speed: Heat. I then started at Pieces Interactive as an External Art Lead where I worked on Alone in the Dark.

I absolutely love hard-surface modeling, specifically guns, so that is what I have primarily focused on since I started making 3D art back in 2012.

Goals

I started this prop to see how much I had improved since my last time making a shotgun. Redoing assets can really help you gauge where your weaknesses are and where you have improved. It can also help you recognize how far you have come in your journey as an artist.

As artists, we can often be very critical of our own work and feel like we stagnate.

NewVsOld

I also wanted to explore modeling something a little more organic in Fusion 360, as I still struggle with it sometimes; especially with complex surfaces like soft shapes going into more hard surface shapes.

Tools

For this project, I used Fusion 360 to create the high-poly – Fusion 360 is completely free for personal use.

I tend to use Fusion 360 for most of my projects now, as I have found it increases my speed and efficiency when making more complex hard surface models.
This does not mean it will work as well for someone else.

I recommend that you try different workflows and software to find where you are most comfortable.

Once I finished in Fusion 360, I brought the model into Zbrush, where I used a combination of Dynamesh and Polish to finalize the high-poly.

I do this because the 3D mesh you generated from Fusion isn’t always the best for baking; it can come out a bit too sharp, which then makes the baked model not read as well. Generally, you want to exaggerate the bevels on your models to catch the light better.

I then used Maya to retopologize and UV. For retopology, I use Quad-Draw, and for UVs I just use the built-in UV-editor. I packed the UVs with Rizom, as I find it very easy to use and it saves me a lot of time.

The reason I find it easy to use is that their auto-packing algorithm seems to do the best job of the various software I have tried when attempting to pack a lot of UV shells.

You can, of course, pack it manually, which can give you an equally good result or even better depending on how much time you spend on it. Once that was done, I used Marmoset Toolbag for baking, as it is by far the best baker out there in my opinion, due to its tools like painting out skew, the ability to paint your cage bigger or smaller, and the baking groups.

It can also handle a much higher triangle count where, in my experience, Substance Painter is more likely to crash.

For texturing, I used Substance 3D Painter. I use this software for its procedural workflows with smart masks and also the ability to paint straight on the 3D model. Finally, I used Unreal Engine 5 to render; I recently switched from Marmoset Toolbag once I watched the “Ultimate Lighting Course” from FastTrack Tutorials.

I highly recommend this tutorial, due to its in-depth overview of lighting for both basics and more advanced knowledge. It also goes through environments, props, and characters.

This course made me switch because I found myself getting better results quicker, and I could also play around a lot more with shaders and camera settings which made me feel more creative.

References & Inspiration

When I started this project I knew I wanted a plain shotgun that someone had modified. Maybe it’s for the apocalypse, perhaps it was for a criminal; the story being so open for the asset leaves a lot of room for creativity.

Having a story for your assets can often help you in texturing and presentation. You can make it personal to someone, which then helps to make it more interesting, as well as give you a direction to go for.

When I am looking for references, I always try to find the highest resolution I can, which is generally found on auction sites like eBay.

I went with a Remington Model 1900 due to its simplicity, which then let me be more creative with how I wanted to present it.

References-2

Something that a lot of beginners and student artists forget is that scale and measurements are incredibly important; since a lot of references we gather have distortion due to how camera lenses function.

This can lead to inaccuracies and pieces not matching or fitting as they should, making it tricky to fix.

Scale-Reference

Therefore, I tend to get as much information on it as possible, such as, what size is the barrel? What terms are used for each weapon when it comes to measurements? What caliber is it?

And so on. The more of those questions you can answer, the better the final result will be.

The easiest way to answer the questions above when making realistic assets is to find out what the make and model are and then, from there, search for as much information on it as you can.

Scale-Names

Blockout & Modelling

This is probably a very controversial opinion, but personally, I don’t block out my assets in the traditional way; where you would normally make simple shapes of the asset and ensure the scale is correct for each part, or as close as possible.

Since I use Fusion, which has built-in measuring tools due to it being CAD software, I can type in each of the measurements, and it will be a proper scale from the start of the project.

I do, however, always start with the cartridge for any gun I make.

This is due to it being one of the core components of a gun. It is essentially built around that specific measurement and if I know that fits, I know the gun will look authentic.

BarrelAndCartridgeFusion

Once I have the bullet, I make the barrel. I can base that off the cartridge and the measurements I have gathered. After that, I’ll move forward with creating the magazine.

When I have these two components, I can build the rest of the gun since it encapsulates those two parts which, most of the time, is the foundation for any gun.

For the shotgun, the barrel and magazine are combined.

Since I went for a double-barreled shotgun, it doesn’t have a detachable magazine or an internal magazine, which made this a bit faster, and easier, as it had fewer parts and essentially just cylinders within cylinders.

FinalFusionModel

High & Low poly

As I have already touched on briefly, my workflow involves going from Fusion 360 to Zbrush for my high poly. One of the biggest factors as to why I think CAD (Fusion, Plasticity) is superior to poly-modeling, is that you can completely disregard topology.

You don’t have to add support loops or do booleans, and cleanup as you do in standard subdivision workflows.

FinalHighPoly

For my low poly, I do the retopology manually in Maya with Quad-Draw. I find this to be easiest and the best option for me since I have full control over the density of the meshes, as well as the flow of it; in other words how the topology follows the shape.

Something very important to remember when doing hard surface assets, like this gun, is that silhouette is what is important and everything else you can reduce as much as possible.

I have written a blog post about this on my ArtStation. There I explain it in a bit more detail if you are interested in learning more about it.

FinalLowPoly

However, it is also important to note that you can over-optimize something just to save a couple of triangles. This means that you lower the resolution of the mesh so much that you can see edges on the model.

You will want to have a set goal in mind for your model’s mesh density. I recommend that you bring your model into the software you are rendering in, and look at it from the distance you are going to render.

If it is too low, you may see faceting, and if it is too high, you may realize that you can actually reduce it without affecting the silhouette. This differs a lot based on what the end goal for the model is.

It could be for a third-person perspective, it could be a cinematic asset, or it could be a first-person perspective. These are just some examples, but some things worth thinking about when doing retopology.

Faceting

Triangles and poles (where several edges go into one vertex) are also acceptable to use. What’s important here is the silhouette, and not necessarily the cleanliness of the topology.

There is no reason to have quads everywhere. You can even use n-gons (a face with more than four vertices) while retopologizing if you find that faster for you; it all comes down to preference.

The reason n-gons are okay in this instance is that you will triangulate it before baking anyway.

We do this because different software might triangulate it differently and, hence, possibly cause shading issues. If we do it pre-baking, we ensure that the triangulation never changes.

Sculpting

I tend to not sculpt any low or mid-frequency details in my high poly unless it changes the shape and silhouette drastically. This is due to it being time-consuming to change after I have baked my asset.

I always do this in Substance Painter since you can change the size and intensity of the damage/irregularities effortlessly, without having to rebake every single time. This is because the information is not stored in the high poly sculpt but rather the textures.

Height is very powerful in Substance, as you can imitate sculpted details fairly easily like scratches, dents, and other low to mid-frequency details.

HeightDetail

Uvs & Baking

Something I have started doing recently for my portfolio projects is to have a lot more resolution than I would in a professional setting. In a game, for example, you would almost never use a 4k texture on a weapon.

This is due to the performance and memory costs it has as well as storage costs. For a portfolio, it doesn’t matter as much with performance, memory, or storage costs.

However, you should still be mindful that adding more resolution isn’t always the best answer. It can look just as good at a 2k resolution.

It all depends on what you intend to do with the asset, and what the end goal is. I recommend you try exporting it in different texture resolutions to see if it actually needs that 4k.

For the shotgun, I used 3 UV sets with all of the sets being 4k resolution (4096 x 4096) which is completely unreasonable in a game, as I explained above briefly.

For a portfolio piece, this gives me the freedom to really get into the smallest details and practice those low-frequency details that are otherwise hard to achieve, due to the limitations of the texture resolution.

This is not the best idea if you are a Junior wanting to get into the industry because you need to show that you understand the technical aspects and that you know what is reasonable within a game.

You can find this out by asking professionals for tips and information. However, sometimes we just want to do art without any restrictions, and that is also okay, as long as you are clear with your intentions for the project. F

or example, “I made this asset for a cinematic purpose and focused more on quality than optimization”.

UVBreakup

Texturing

For texturing, I tend to use fill layers and generators like grunges, as well as smart masks, with some hand painting.

I prefer using fill layers within Substance Painter over paint layers, as I find it’s more flexible if you want to change something like color or roughness later on.

PainterLayers

Something I would recommend that I did on my shotgun is making some of the materials a bit lower in roughness than it would be in reality, since it can enhance the details and make it a bit more interesting.

Materials in reality often look quite plain and boring when translated into 3D, in my opinion. Experiment with your texturing and try out different things rather than trying to replicate reality; try to enhance what you see.

PainterResult

Also, everybody has probably heard that metalness should either be fully black or fully white. I don’t agree with this, as I think you are restricting yourself when you think this way.

Break some rules and see what works or what doesn’t work for your asset. You can absolutely use grayscale in metalness as long as you are doing it with purpose. Some materials need to have a bit more of a gradient to them than others, like rust or dirt.

If you want it to blend nicely into the metal, you would benefit from using a bit of grayscale. Otherwise, it can make a very harsh transition and that is not always the intended result.

MetalnessShowcase

Polish & Final pass

Once I have gotten my asset to a point where I don’t know what else to improve upon, I will begin the polish pass and start asking for feedback.

I also do this at other crucial stages, like when I start getting base materials in or when I finish the bake. I then get extra sets of eyes on it, in case I have missed something.

FeedbackProgress

You can also do this when finishing your low poly or if you have an area you are unsure of in general. This is a crucial part of becoming a better artist. Feedback is really what can take your asset from being pretty alright to really good.

If you don’t ask for feedback at these stages and get it pointed out to you later on, it can take a lot longer to fix these issues. You will most likely have to go back and rebake, import into Substance again, and reload the maps, which can be a time sink.

When you are asking for feedback, try to be as specific as you can about what you want feedback on. This will drastically improve the feedback you get.

It will also improve the quality of the final asset since you can get a better direction to follow in most cases, and it will be easier for your peers to give you the feedback you need.

You can always join discords like Dinusty Empire, The Weapon Room, Pilgrim’s Lounge, or others. You can also post on forums like Polycount or even places like Twitter to get feedback.

Lighting & Rendering

For rendering my final shots, I use Unreal Engine 5 as I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

I have a scene that I have set up for all my props in Unreal. Where the post-processing volume, shaders, skylight with HDRI, and backdrops are ready from the beginning.

This means I don’t have to set it up for each asset. This makes it faster to start the presentation of a project and also keeps a more consistent overall look of my assets.

UnrealScene

Since the main components are already set up in the scene, all I need to do is import my new asset with textures, plug the textures into the shader, and create new cameras and lighting, which speeds things up quite a lot.

UnrealSceneGun

For lighting, I tend to set up a main camera first and light the scene based on that. I also have an infinity room (just a big beveled cylinder) with emissive on, that I use to get a bit more soft and studio-esque lighting.

InfinityRoom

One thing I see a lot of people do is not treat their albedo values correctly, so their metals might be very bright vs. their other materials being too dark.

This makes it incredibly hard to light, as you will crush the white colors to balance out how dark the black colors are.

AlbedoValues

For the shotgun, this wasn’t really as much of an issue since the wood has equal values in general to the metal.

However, I did have to tweak the metal so it would present well together since my metal was a bit too bright in the beginning and it made the wood too dark in terms of lighting balance.

tomas-tagesson-tomastagesson-remington1900-render06-scaled

Conclusion

All in all, I am very happy with how this asset came out and I think I learned a lot about my own workflows. I also became more efficient at a lot of the steps like handling more organic surfaces in Fusion and reaching a higher quality of texture work faster.

I hope you all liked reading through this little article, and if you have any questions, you can always message me on my ArtStation. I always like to help if possible.

I would like to thank Games Artist for reaching out and letting me write this article.

Thank you for reading!