Shield & Sword

Prop Breakdown

Denis Korystin


Denis Korystin

3D Artist


Hi everyone. My name is Denis Korystin, and I am a 3D Character and Props Artist.
Currently, I live in Georgia. I have more than 8 years of experience in the gaming industry.


Initially, I wanted to create a fantasy weapon or armor. To find an interesting concept or idea, I spent a long time browsing Pinterest. I found concepts of wooden fantasy weapons from the artist Becca Hallstedt.

I liked the idea and decided to make a concept of my version.
The concept of the sword came together quite quickly, but I ran into some difficulties with the shield.

My idea was that the tree should be grown into the shield, wrapping around the shield, as if being a continuation of it.


I had two goals in mind.

The first is to try myself at conception, the second is to practice sculpting wood.
I had never attempted sculpting wood before.


I used the following software for this project:

  • PureRef
  • ZBrush
  • 3ds Max
  • Maya
  • Rizom UV
  • Marvelous Designer
  • Marmoset Toolbag
  • Substance Painter
  • Photoshop


It’s very important to find good references for your project. I found most of the references on Pinterest.



I took a photo that suited me in proportions and silhouette, loaded the image into 3ds Max, and recreated the general shape. This step saves a lot of time for creating basic proportions. Then I loaded the created mesh into ZBrush. Often this method is skipped, and blockout is done in ZBrush from the beginning.


High poly

Unfortunately, I don’t have many old iterations of the blockout process left, but I think this is enough to illustrate the workflow. In ZBrush, I worked with general shapes, adding new objects using masking.

To detail the boards on the shield, I used alphas. Later, I refined them with brushes (DamStandard, ClayTubes, hPolish, Morph, Planar).

When creating the tree sculpture, I looked at references to old twisted tree trunks and tried not to go into the details. I needed to capture the overall shape and dynamics first.

I worked in Dynamesh mode, which allows you not to think about the topology while looking for shapes and always rebuilds the wireframe.

To detail the lower trunk of the tree, I used alphas. I sculpted the upper part manually, working only on big and medium shapes; I planned to add small details in Substance Painter.

Once the basic shapes were ready, I combined the entire model into one mesh and used Decimation Master to reduce the polycount of the model to load it into Marvelous Designer.

In this program, I made the fabric for the back of the shield.


I created the threads using a cylinder and manually arranged them.


For metal, I used ClayTubes, Planar, hPolish, and DamStandard brushes. For big shapes, I usually use the hPolish brush. It is easy to create sharp shapes and unevenness on the surface of the object, creating the effect of old metal. For medium and small details, I usually use ClayTubes, Planar, and DamStandard brushes.

Here is the final result for the Highpoly.

Remeshing and Low Poly

I didn’t want to spend a lot of time retopologizing all parts of the highpoly on the shield.

Therefore, I decided to use Decimation Master on most of the tree branches to get an acceptable result and connect them with another part of the mesh, which was retopologized by hand.

This method saved me a lot of time. The only thing to consider is that you need to check the mesh for geometry artifacts after using Decimation Master.

I used the same approach with the sword mesh. I combined the entire object into one mesh and DynaMeshed it.

After that, I used Decimation Master.


UV Unwrapping

My unwrapping process was pretty normal. I imported the new high poly model into RizomUV and carefully cut out my UV islands, making sure the seams were hidden in less visible areas.

RizomUV handles high-poly geometry well, so I always use this program.


At this point, I take the time to paint my high poly model in ZBrush to create a custom ID mask for baking.
I group colors based on the materials of the surface. This way I also separate elements from each other. For baking, I use Marmoset.

To save time, I bake only 3 maps – normal, AO, and curvature. The rest of the maps can be baked in Substance Painter.



Now begins one of the most enjoyable stages in my opinion – texturing. There are many ways to create textures and many different approaches to achieving good results.

In my current practice, I use Substance and ZBrush to get the desired result.

I would like to emphasize that in my work I try to avoid standard pre-made materials and smart materials. Sometimes I can use a basic material as a foundation to start with. It’s better to build the texture from scratch — this way it turns out more unique and interesting, plus you constantly practice.

I start by setting up the lighting in Substance Painter. I usually use Tomoko Studio Panorama or Studio 3. Sometimes I change the HDRI to see how the textures will look under different lighting settings.

Next, I create the base materials. At this stage, I decide what materials (metal, wood, rubber, glass, plastic, etc.) should be in the model, what physical properties of PBR they should have, what their base color or color variation should be.

Sometimes I add basic surface behavior (some basic texture patterns).

Here are examples of how I applied these steps to one of the objects:

As a final step, I added a final Sharpen layer with a passthrough blending mode, which makes everything a little sharper and gives the feeling of a higher texture resolution.


I rendered everything using NVIDIA Iray, which is built into Substance Painter. The renderer is easy to set up and provides excellent performance, allowing you to create good visual effects in a short time.


Thank you for reading; I hope that I was able to describe in detail the pipeline of this project and that you learned something new for yourself. ♥