Exploring Fusion 360 & Zbrush for Weapons - By Howel Ganuchaud.
9 min read

Exploring Fusion 360 & Zbrush for Weapons - By Howel Ganuchaud.

In this article, Howel Ganuchaud will share with us his discoveries when using Fusion 360 and Zbrush for hard surface and weapon modeling. Enjoy!
Exploring Fusion 360 & Zbrush for Weapons - By Howel Ganuchaud.

Hello, I'm Howel Ganuchaud, a Weapons and Environments artist from France. I had the pleasure to write a previous article here, where I focused on my texturing workflow and how I approach texturing in general. Find the article below:

The Howel Ganuchaud Guide for Modern Gun Texturing.
In this very complete article, Howel Ganuchaud will teach us his methods and thought processes when texturing guns.

I'm doing weapons for some years now. I always used the subdiv workflow, the "classic" workflow, I would even say. I knew Fusion was something I wanted to look at, but I was good in my comfort zone, and because I never took a real look into Fusion, I always thought it was complicated. How wrong I was, but I was just not ready to jump.

I recently started to learn Fusion 360 for my weapons creation. This powerful software is easy to use/learn/work with, and I wanted to write something about all the stuff I learned to help anybody else who wants to switch to it.


.01 - Fusion 360 - Base Mesh Creation.

First, I'm going to list the videos I watched to learn Fusion:

Credit: 3D Gladiator
Credit: Duard Mostert
Credit: Duard Mostert

These Artstation Learning series by Duard Mostert are great as well. I'm also linking a great article that helped for Moi3D.

During the first hours of using Fusion, I was amazed at how easy it is to work with. Fusion handles so many "small" things for you that would usually annoy you (or at least annoyed me).

From my point of view, CAD software is made for people who are not 3D artists, so everything needs to be simple and accessible. Working at 100% in non-destructive, keeping the edges control, even after multiple Booleans is incredible, and I don't even talk about the time you save when you don't have to take care of the topology at all.

I start with a blockout (as always), and then I do a mesh with almost zero bevels on the edges. I try to keep the model as sharp as possible. The idea is to create the only details that affect the silhouette of the object.

After watching the videos I posted above, you should be able to make any kind of object in Fusion. It will be enough for you to understand the modeling logic of Fusion.

I don't know if I would recommend this software for a "newbie." The subdiv workflow is still used in our industry, but it gives you the "problem solving" skills that will appear when you're stuck in Fusion (but I'm sure this is something you can develop using only Fusion, of course).

Fusion allows you to create a "perfect" mid poly model in a short amount of time. It's not really a "mid-poly" because when you export it from Fusion, your model is relatively low, but what I mean by "mid-poly" is this version between your high and your low. It's not high enough to be a High Poly, and it's not clean enough for being a Low Poly.

These are the times it took me for each asset (Fusion, Zbrush, Blender):

- Aimpoint T2 + Support: 6 hours.

- Vortex Scope + Support: 8 hours.

- MAWL-DA Laser: 9 hours.

I am sure and not afraid to say that with the subdiv workflow, it would have taken me twice or almost twice that time for each asset (especially the MAWL-DA, that one is a tough one).


.02 - Moi3D - Adding topology.

Using Moi3D in this workflow is quite a "grey" area for me. I don't really like to have one more software in my pipeline that I basically use only a couple of minutes, but I don't know how I would work without him now. I'm still looking for other possibilities. I need to give a try to the Zbrush's Remesher, for example.

My usage of Moi3D is pretty short and straightforward. When I'm done with my Fusion mesh, I export it in STEP format. Then I import it in Moi3D, and you will see that the mesh is pretty low poly (even too low), and you don't have a good enough topology to work within Zbrush.

Moi3D just allows me to add a lot more geo for my ZBrush base mesh and a bit more for the low poly that I will clean in Blender after. So, basically, I'm just importing my STEP mesh in Moi3D and directly exporting it in OBJ or FBX with those export settings:

High Poly export settings (Left) vs. Low Poly export settings (Right)

Take those values as a "base." Sometimes you will need to change the values based on your objects. But it gives you an excellent base to work with 90% of the time.

When these are exported, we can move on to the high poly.


.03 - Zbrush - High Poly Creation.

Now that I have an excellent base to work within Zbrush let's jump into it!

The ZBrush part is relatively short and straightforward too. Thanks to Fusion and Moi, all we need to do is Dynamesh and smooth the edges. Now, sometimes you will need to subdivide a bit, especially some rounded parts.

Nothing scary here. Just add a crease set with a value between 20 & 35. If it missed some edges, you can use the Z modeler brush, choose "crease," and select the edges manually.

For the smooth edges, I only use Polish, Polish Crisp Edges, and Polish by Feature until I get a result I'm happy with.

When I'm happy with the high poly, I just do a decimation master pass on every subtools and then do an "export all" using GOZ/GOB (I'm using the free plugin GOB to import Zbrush GOZ meshes into Blender*).

Small info about this, I saw a performance issue using it. The models exported/imported using GOZ/GOB take some minutes to export from Blender and are imported in Toolbag 4 for the bakes. I'm not sure why and I need to make some tests with a "classic" ZBrush export to see if I'm facing the same problem.


.04 - Blender - Low Poly & Unwrapping.

Now that my "low poly" mesh is exported from Moi3D, I can import it into Blender for some cleaning and Unwrapping (favorite part !!!). The cleaning part can take time because the mesh isn't 100% clean when exported from Moi3D. But even if you put two or three hours to clean your mesh, this is still a lot faster than the classic modeling workflow at the end of the day.

The cleaning part is pretty simple, just merge the vertices that are alone, connect them to avoid Ngons, delete the faces we will not see, reduce the edges of the rounded areas, etc.… classic low poly stuff here.

My meshes could be lower in polygons and a bit cleaner in some areas, but I decided to keep a "high" low poly count for these tests, and aye, it's 2021. We can have suitable poly counts now :D.

For the Unwrapping, thanks to the hard edges we kept in Fusion and Moi3D, who automatically marked the edges as "sharp," I just need to select them and do a "similar select (SHIFT + G) -> normals" to choose the other sharp edges and marking these into seams.

Then, I add all the other seams I need (like cutting cylinders, etc.), and then I make my first unwrap. After some fixing here and there on the islands and making the cylinders straight, I'm doing a pack with UVPackmaster. After some iterations and some custom padding values, it's ready for the bake.

As you can see, I let the Aimpoint's UVs on purpose here. This is the first mesh I tested in this workflow, and I messed up the export settings in Moi3D. It resulted in the cylinders that weren't "good/perfect," so it wasn't possible to straighten them. Do not hesitate to put a bit more geo when you export from Moi3D.

I did my bakes into Marmoset Toolbag 4. I decided to not cover this process. There's plenty of articles and videos online that cover the subject. I did nothing crazy for the bakes. Toolbag is such perfect software. I just dropped my meshes and baked them.


.05 - Conclusion.

My conclusions on Fusion 360 paired with Zbrush: This is awesome!

More seriously, in a way, I regret not having learned it sooner, but, in another way, I wasn't ready for it, and thanks to my subdiv experience, I got that problem-solving experience that kicks in if needed. I recommend this software, paired or not with Zbrush, to any weapons/hard surface artist.

It's easy to learn (it took a couple of hours for me), it's simple to use, you're working in a non-destructive workflow, you still have the control on all the edges, you don't have to bother about topology at all, and this is super fun to use.

Thank you for reading this article! I recommend you to take a look at the previous article I wrote here, The Howel Ganuchaud Guide for Modern Gun Texturing, and all the other pieces around here, they all have super valuable pieces of information for you, so go read them ! (yes, I give you orders now :) )

You can follow me on Artstation for more stuff in the future.


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