[Artist in Residence] - Graveyard Diorama

Welcome Lucy and Chris! I'll enjoy following you along. It's also the first time I've heard the word 'photobash' - that's a very cool technique to get started!

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Thanks, Bart! Enjoying doing it so far :slight_smile:

I'd definitely recommend trying it, quite a fun alternative to painting everything.

Over this week we've started to create the main assets for the scene, and thinking about how we can push the narrative.

In pretty much all the pieces we do, we try to convey some sort of story, to bring the piece to life and give it character.

Relating back to the ghost walk we went on, we heard a lot of stories about grave robbers and have decided to use this as the main point of reference. The mausoleum at the top is going to have some bolt cutters near it with an iron gate left open and the grave inside obviously open too. :ghost:

When modeling the mausoleum, I blocked out the main shapes first and replaced them piece by piece.

I find it easier to start models this way as it helps me to visualise the final piece. This is also a good time to get the scale right so I'm not having to reset the x form of individual pieces later on.

Blockout completed - I began by creating the pillars. To do this, I started off with a box, and used the bevel, extrude and inset tools in max to get a base sorted in which I can chamfer and sculpt onto at a later date.

I created the arch and roof awning in the same way. An example of how I went about creating the arch is shown below. I stretched a cylinder slightly to get the base shape, then chopped into it.

Once I got a shape I liked for the arch - utilising the extrude tool in max - I began modeling the rest of the asset. I prefer to get all the shapes correct first, and then go over it at the end with detailing and optimisation. Any minor details that don't affect the overall silhouette will be sculpted in ZBrush on completion of the mesh. For example, the roof tiles are going to be sculpted and placed in ZBrush, and then I'll use a displacement map to make them pop! :smile:

The reference I'm using had this beautifully intricate iron work where a gate once would've been - which means I was able to do one of my favourite things...splines! To create the shapes below, I used a helix spline and altered the rendering settings so I could just convert it to an editable poly with no hassle. Doing this makes it easier to see how the spline will look in 3D, and is much quicker than PathDeform - it just makes everything rather high poly so make sure you delete some loops if you use this method! :blush:

Here's how the spline work is looking so far...

I'll be calling it a day for now, but will continue to work on this tomorrow and post up some more progress! :smile:


Hi everyone, Chris here.

I went straight into modelling one of the gravestones. So this is just a breakdown on how I made it.

Started with the basic shapes in Max just to get a sense of scale.

I then exported my base mesh into zbrush. I dynameshed it so it was evenly quadded so I could sculpt on it Once it was dynameshed I used trim dynamic to chamfer the edges. The extruded parts were done by masking then extracting the selected area so I get more control over the part I've extracted.

Went in adding a few details with the clay buildup brush sticking close to the reference from the mood board. Used masking and extract some other details.

Tuned on symmetry and went ham with the clay buildup tool. Yes these are just random shapes haha.

I masked out a section, moved it inwards then smoothed out one side of it to make it look chipped.

I figured the grave needed some writing. I downloaded a font and wrote out a load of nonsense in photoshop. Used it as an alpha mask in zbrush.

Used lots of rock alphas to make the rock a bit more believable and just added detail in general
Cracks and bumps, things that make it a little more realistic.

I decided to add a base so the grave would blend into the floor rather than clip through it. The base is essentially just a cube. The rest is just rock alphas. I used alphas more than actual sculpting here.

Here's the final sculpt. I'll do another post fleshing out how I go about texturing.



Nice! That's a great looking sculpt. Can't imagine the poly count. haha. Keep it up!


this looks great!
i like the huge chipped depression right there below the text.. cant wait to see you texture this

you can also use @abbyec 's scans as refrence :slight_smile:

collection of tombstones-

Evergreen Cemetery by Abby Crawford on Sketchfab


A belated welcome to @lucyburb! Awesome idea and loving the WIPs. It'd be interesting to be able to interact with the WIPs, even though they aren't finished! If that's something you're comfortable with, feel free to upload them!

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Thanks everyone!

@chaitanyak those scans are awesome, thanks for sharing :smile:

Since the last update, I've been working some more on the mausoleum and have got it up to scratch ready to be sculpted.

I added a few more details to the helix spline and use some planes to create some leaf type objects seen in the reference.

I then chamfered the hell out of absolutely everything. Maybe a little bit too much...but the whole model sits at 9000 completed - which isn't horrendous and relatively low for something of this size. After all the chamfering, I began to add in the finishing touches. In the reference, on the archway, it had these little stone blocks that stick out which I thought looked really awesome, so decided to add these in too! :yum:

In order to create less work for myself and not have to place each of these individually, I created a circular spline and stretched it slightly to match the shape of the arch itself. I then used the array tool (Tools > Array) set the mode to copy, hit preview and then used the sliders to get the placement in between them correct. I then attached all of these meshes together, and put a path deform modifier on them. I was then able to move these little blocks around the circular spline, and they lined up perfectly! :smile:

I then modeled all the extra details such as the gate, windows, roof top cover thing (I have no idea what this is actually called, sorry :tired_face:) and the details on the pillars. The whole mesh was shading incredibly strange though, so it required some edited normals. Probably one of the most boring things, but I love it. I seem to enjoy all the boring parts about the modeling process :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

When editing the normals, I set everything to one smoothing group, create a cube, attach said cube to the mesh I need to edit and then whack an edit normals modifier onto it.

This means I'm able to select the way the normal is facing from the cube, and copy over that value onto the mausoleum mesh. Edit normals always seems to break on me and this is the best method I've found. You can see an in depth guide to using this method here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kONIPr_gBM

That video will tell you everything you need to know, so I won't repeat Mike. He explains it better than I ever could!

Here's the mesh without edited normals:

Here it is with edited normals:

As you can see, all that dodgy shading is gone! :blush:

Here's the model with fully edited normals:

There's still a few minor errors, but this will all be fixed on the sculpt in ZBrush :grin:

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Oh! I almost forgot, here's the 3D model of the mausoleum in its current state :slight_smile:


I've been working on the other grave. I'll go over the sculpting of the grave and the texturing process.

I started again with a block in in Max of which I could use to sculpt on.

Again, just the basic shapes.

Into Zbrush, dynamesh then trim dynamic for the edge wear.

I wanted more control over some of the details so I masked off a section of the cross in the shape I wanted then extracted it so it could be separate. I got all the swirly details where I wanted them before I re-attached it to the main cross.

Once it was re-attached I dynameshed it again then smoothed the shape over the cross. I went to town with my rock alphas again.

I added a cube which I squished down for the base. I sculpted roughly where the damage should be.

After going to town with more rock alphas and details, I polypainted where I wanted some off the moss to go. I can use the polypaint as a mask later on.

Here's my unwrapped low-poly mesh.

After baking my normal map, AO, curvature and position from my high-poly.

I start texturing by finding good reference and figuring out what I want to make in its simplest from. So I just add some general noise.

I add darker patches of noise by hand and overlay a slight blue tint.

I add slight purples and browns by hand. Something I noticed in my reference really subtly.

I add a few white patches and assign them by hand. I use another noise with a green overlay to act as my moss. I tell the moss to mask to the curvature of my mesh, so the edges.

I then tell my moss to mask to the polypaint from earlier.

I hand paint some whiter parts that I see in my reference.

I add a subtle white edge wear over everything to make it pop and to stand out.

I finally add the baked AO and multiply it over everything to add what is essentially fake shadow. Not really a good thing to overdo if you're striving for complete realism but for Sketchfab I think it'll really help it stand out.

And here's the two graves textured in exactly the same way. The folders and algorithms used to texture one grave were copied and saved and then applied to the other grave for efficient results.

That's all for now, more soon!


wow! looks so good!
yup the white bird droppings are authentic looking :slight_smile:

the texturing looks great.. although i like the look of well defined Lichen here and there

anyway think its region specific.. or maybe proximity to the sea etc?


I used the same sculpting method as Chris here, so I won't bore you guys by repeating exactly the same stuff!

Alphas etc.

Trim dynamic to soften them up.

The only difference was that the roof tiles (shown above) were sculpted and placed using the transpose tool in ZBrush. A variety of different alphas and brushes were used to break them up from looking too linear. The move tool was also used a lot on these to create the curved effect on some of the tiles.

Here's an example of the finish sculpt! So I'll be moving onto texturing next :grin:

Brushes/alphas that were used in this sculpt:



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For the texturing, I wanted to try and keep it quite subtle and not overdo it. I'm not actually keen on the colours in the stone in the reference image, so will be keeping away from those :relaxed:

After the baking has finished, I created a fill layer and placed my baked AO into base colour and turned off all the other channels. I then set the layer blend mode to multiply. I always find this adds a sense of depth and realism to models,as long as you don't over the AO obviously.

Without AO.

With AO.

From here, I then applied a base material with a few generators as a starting point to build upon. I utilised the shelf procedurals in Substance to create a decent looking roughness map too.

The ref I'm using has a lot of wear on it due to age, so I wanted to copy this over to my work and get some discolouration of the stone in - as well as a little bit of moss.

In order to do this, I used the 'Grunge 003' procedural on a fill layer with just base colour & roughness, set the blend mode to tri-planar and adjusted the UV scale to get something I could work with. After I'd gotten something I was happy with, I set the blend mode to colour dodge and adjusted the opacity to make it look more natural.

For the moss, I used a smart material and adjusted the curvature values on the mask. :grinning:

I then used the same moss generator on a new layer to make it more intense, and also darken the roof tiles.

I'm working at a pretty low resolution here to stop things from crashing - so apologies for the bad looking textures. :tired_face:

Towards the end of the texturing process, I wanted to add some finishing touches to really push it. I used the heavy leaking particle brush on a solid black colour, with a high roughness value. I then painted it in certain areas where this damage may occur. Obviously solid black is never good on anything so I adjusted the opacity to make it look prettier. :innocent:

That's pretty much it for how I textured this piece! Here's the model below with the textures on :blush:


I went ahead and did some pre-planning in regards to lighting. Sort of fixing problems before they've become problems yet. So with Sketchfab we obviously have limitations to lighting. We have our ambient or sky light which influences the whole model which will be used as a fill light. And then with Sketchfab you get three other lights which can be directional, point lights or spot lights. The initial photobash really solves the lighting issue.

If you were to imagine the lighting from the photobash as actual light sources, you can narrow it down to three sources easily. Two orange sources for the fire in the braziers and one as a directional light from the moon. The rest will be a fill light so you can see everything easily.

So let's put all this to the test and see if you can actually plan out lighting through a picture.

Here's a few of the assets lit in the same way described with no issues at all. Really impressed with Sketchfab actually. I thought the lighting would come out really dodgy but it's pretty good. Especially with the normals on everything.

Next I'll talk about how I made the island and how I got it to blend with the rest of the meshes.

After that it'll be breakdowns on the:

  • Brazier

  • Shovel

  • Water

  • Ivy

Cheers, Chris.


I realise I posted this on Lucy's account woops hahaa


heh thats fine..
looks epic!!


That's looking great!

Baking lights/shadows can also be an option to bypass the sketchfab lighting limitation, although it won't look great with highly glossy or metallic surface.


Terrific amount of behind-the-details. Thanks Lucy and Chris!


Thanks everybody!

On the topic of lighting, I'll go over the production of the brazier. Whilst not an overly complex model to make, there is a little trick I did to help sell the idea of a fire.

I began blocking out in Max. Relatively low poly as the asset would be quite small. Took it straight into zbrush.

Again, a straightforward sculpt. Minus the wood in the middle maybe. The wood is of two parts. The planks which only one was sculpted then placed around and the sort of ash in the middle. The ash part was just made from a sphere and crumple brush. Not much detail, it'll be on fire after all so you wont see it.

Here's the low poly with the high poly baked, the base metal textured. The low poly for the wood was done by merging all the wood sub tools then dynameshing them together, zremeshing them then finally decimating them. And then the little trick I was on about to get the burning ember thing going on. I used the ambient occlusion I baked from the high poly as a mask. Painted orange, yellow then a bit of white. That's it.

And here's the fire. A simple topless cylinder with an image of fire on it which is then plugged into emissive.

We now have one of our main light sources made.

Cheers, Chris.