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Prop Breakdown

Oleaf Kovtun


Oleaf Kovtun

Prop Artist


Hi! My Name is Oleaf, I'm a 3D Artist, passionate about making handpainted props and characters.
I'm currently working as a 3D Artist and have been for about 4 years, I started my 3D experience working on interior rendering and modeling home furniture.

Whilst handpainting, I like to start with a baked model, not a blank model or with flat colors. The typical pipeline already exists and many 3D Artists already use it, this includes painting greyscale over a baked Ambient Occlusion layer and then adding color on top using gradient maps. This pipeline has its own pros and cons, and the internet already has TONs of tutorials, I like to use this method sometimes, but I won’t be using it on this prop.

Instead, I will be using Substance Painter for color blocking – this is a great software I like to use, it has handy dynamic masking, generators, smart materials, etc. and, unlike photoshop, will show all your actions in realtime. For painting materials and details, I use 3D Coat. Its brush engine is pretty similar to Photoshop’s and easy to use.

Step One: Maps baking

As for color blocking and gradients, I will use generators, I need my baked maps. It’s okay if you don’t have a high poly mesh – just bake maps from your low poly.

Go to the Texture Set Settings panel and press button Bake Mesh Maps. You can play using the lowpoly mesh as highpoly mesh option, sometimes your result may vary depending on the polycount of your model and smoothing groups.


Step Two: Basic colors blocking and project structure

I have a concept, so I will stick to its color scheme. Always remember to organize your colors and materials into separate folders, so you can easily change things out if needed. Here is my folders structure – 1 color/material = 1 folder


Use masks, placed in your folder, to keep every material separated.
I will give some more examples of my gold folder, here I will show you my material blocking structure.


First fill layer with a basic color. I am using a mix of different colors, using the concept and some reference to get a color of gold which should be an in-between for both.

The second layer is AO Color – Fill the layer with a mask generator on it – this is based on our previously baked AO map and has a darker color to show up the volume.

The third layer is the color gradient – fill the layer with a black mask and generator named 3D Linear Gradient. This layer will help us to get the typical color gradient to match lighting – the upper part of the model should be lighter and the bottom darker.

The next 3 layers are fill layers that also have masks in them. They have different colors that represent gold metallic tints.
The last layer is a top-down gradient with a light yellow color to make the upper part look more lightened.

For the other materials, I do the same steps, using different generators. Here are my favourite ones:

Light generator


This one is using Position information to show the volume of your model in 3D space. Just create a Fill layer, add a black mask on it, and place this generator on the mask.

Gradient generator


This one is also using a Position map to make a top-down or side-to-side gradient.


Play around with layer modes and masks to get a desirable result.

Final Step: Painting

Now as we have all the basic colors set, just export the Base color map from Substance Painter and move it into 3D Coat.
The folder structure here is similar – 1 material = folder. At this point all boring technical preparation is finished, so you can start to paint over your base colors to detail each material.

You can watch the timelapse process here:


My final tip for you Artists would be to watch tutorials, try new pipelines, but always customize them to suit your preferred workflow. There is no need to follow a step-by-step guide if it’s uncomfortable for you – it’s all about speedup and developing your skills. No need to rush – you will find your specific style and workflow, just give it time.

You can find more of my artwork here –
If you have any questions, I stream on Twitch on the weekends –
You can also watch my stream recordings on my youtube channel –