Hello everyone, my name is François Larrieu, and I am currently a student at New3dge and a Contract Artist at Dekogon living in Paris, France.
Since I started 3D five years ago, I immediately knew that this was what I wanted to do in my life. This job brings me everything, creativity, concentration, imagination, and a sense of personal criticism.
Through this project, I wanted to show a large part of my childhood: The Brittany. It's been 2 years since I went back, and I miss it, so I wanted to pay him "homage" by recreating the most symbolic of things in Brittany, fishing (and also the crepes but maybe for later).
My representation of this boat exists in real life. It is called the STRINKEREZ-DOUR and is an old gillnet-dredger from Brest. Seeing pictures of this boat, I immediately knew that it was him I wanted to represent, adding some personal touches, such as the cabin or the hull, which are not really the same.
Like any project, the first thing to do is to collect as many references as possible. They must be as precise as possible and in fairly large numbers. The best place to find referrals is, of course, the Internet. Personally, I use Pinterest and Google Images a lot. The advantage of Pinterest is that once you know what to look for, it delivers many images of the same style to you.
What I always do once I have lots of references is a cleaning phase, keep only the references that will be useful to you, often I try to have lots of references, but that bothers me more than anything else, be sure what you want to do and don't get lost in the pictures. Once the desired props have been identified, look for as many references as possible on them.
Once this work is well prepared in advance, it is time to get to the heart of the matter. Let's start with modeling first. I use Blender, a tool that I have been using for many years now and that I find excellent. I start by creating the general LowPoly of my scene before changing the software. All my LowPoly is created in Blender.
It is crucial to always work to scale. For this, I use the Unreal mannequin to make sure I don't make mistakes in the dimensions.
The part that took the longest was creating all the ropes; I used both the Blender curves and the Marvelous Designer simulation. The small ropes and the knots were all created using curves; the piles of ropes were simulated in Marvelous.
For the simulation of ropes, I used this generic mesh that I simulated in Marvelous. I advise you to add a little pressure to the simulation parameters so that the rope does not crash on itself; then, I have lightly touch up by hand in Blender. The ropes were the most important part of my project.
Once the LowPoly modeling is finished, I go to UVs. There is nothing exciting here except that you have to do them as cleanly as possible to avoid them being distorted by texturing.
To help me in this task, I used two Blender plugins, UV squares, and UV Packmaster, which saved me a lot of time. One allows me to square my UVs, and the other to automatically pack them according to a wide choice of options.
The most important thing when you work, which I have understood over time, is the organization. If you are not, you will quickly get lost and give up; everything must be stored in files, and under files correctly, this is not a problem if you have 2 props in your scene, but when you have 50 of them, it can get much more complicated.
Blender offers simple tools to properly organize your scene in collection and sub-collection.
I always keep a copy of my Low, my High, and the exported asset; this allows me to be able to go back in case things go wrong.
Once I've finished my LowPoly, it's time to move on to HighPoly. For this part, I do this work in ZBrush. I love this software to create my highs. It is speedy and does this cleanly.
My workflow here is quite simple, once the props are imported into ZBrush, I crease all the hard edges; for that, I use the "crease edges" of ZBrush, which allows me to crease according to a specific value of angles, I finish the rest by hand when a few creases are missing.
Then, I just have to subdivide my mesh and dynamesh. For this part, I don't need to put a lot of information in my HighPoly. The texture will do the rest. Finally, I decimate and export to Blender.
For baking, this is quite fast. I use Marmoset Toolbag, as it is, in my opinion, the fastest and most accurate tool to do this. It is essential that your two props, High and Low, be positioned in the same place and have a good nomenclature, for example, "SM_Table_A_low" and "SM_Table_A_high."
Then you just have to import them into Marmoset and bake. I always bake in 4K, and only the normal as well as the Ambient Occlusion.
Once the baking is done, I can move on to my favorite but also the most complex step, texturing.
For this step, it is imperative to look at our references because they are the ones that will really dictate our texturing. You can obviously go and look for more if the ones you have are not precise enough.
For this project, I really wanted to give an "old boat" look, a little run down and rusty. I advise always working with styles that are a little used/abandoned. The texturing and the story behind your props will be more interesting than just smooth, clean textures. Remember, your props have to say something.
For texturing, I start by setting up my Painter viewport. For that, I use Jason Ord's setup post in this tutorial video that I recommend. It is excellent.
I often start the same way. I start with the biggest areas and end with the smallest. For the details to come to an end, the base material has to be right first. My texturing is an assembly of colors variations, roughness, the addition of dirt, dust, stencils, etc ...
I wonder what could have damaged this surface, the wind, the water, the storms... each prop is different. We do not texture a weapon like we texture a boat by example, but the construction logic of layers is the same; we start from the largest to arrive at the smallest.
As we can see here, the tire is damaged by time and by shocks with other boats. Many traces of paint are visible, probably the hulls of other ships. It's all these little details that will bring your props to life. My goal is to transcribe the history of this tire on my prop.
I start by creating the base of the material of my tire, a gum/rubber texture. I give it characteristics of colors as well as roughness. Then I add color variation, here rather white/gray, damaged tires tend to go towards these colors. I then add variations of roughness. The tire is not entirely flat, the light is reflected inside, and you also have to remember that my tire is probably wet here.
Finally comes the part where I bring life to my tire, details. As said above, we see many traces of paint, shocks, etc. Here is a set of layers of dirt/dust, generated procedurally or created by hand using a stencil. I recommend the video of Rick Greeve, who explained very well this process.
The rendering is also one of my favorite part. It's here you create your image, your composition. I have used Marmoset 4's raytracing here, which I find excellent, I use it quite regularly, and it can give really cool results with good settings.
The first thing I do when opening Marmoset is set up my scene. For most of my renderings, I use cameras with an orthographic FOV. I love the rendering it gives. Always activate the ACES and slightly sharpen, which avoids having a too blurry result, and that's all. I prefer to work it in Photoshop for all of the compositing and color correction, which gives me more control.
For the light ambiance, I use the HDRI "Indoor Fluorescents," which is the one, in my opinion, that gives the best result and which creates the least contrast. It also allows me to have a reasonably flat light, which I can rework behind.
The scene is composed of 2 directional lights, one to illuminate the right side and one for the left side. I don't like to use too many lights, which can modify the appearance of the color or the textures. I really want it to feel the same as in Painter. Finally, I regularly use a classic black background, which allows you to see the main elements.
For the final part in Photoshop, here too, I try to make it as simple as possible. I use a set of composition layers like contrast, brightness, saturation, etc ... and I try to make the result I want.
I also advise you to add a High Pass filter, which brings out the details much better, put it a little higher than you just think because Artstation tends to compress the quality of the renderings a bit. Just go to Filter > Other > High Pass. You may not see the difference on the screen, but try it, and you will see a big difference in quality.
I am coming to the end of this breakdown, thank you for reading my article, and I hope it will help you. Do not hesitate to send me a message on Artstation for more precision if necessary!
I'd like to thank Game Art Blog for giving me the opportunity to write this article. Do not hesitate to join us on Discord to discuss and ask your questions if necessary.