Edit: I wrote a more in depth article which got featured on level 80! Check it out here;
My internship has come to an end and I finally had time to work on my own project. I decided I wanted to give myself one full week to get from concept to finished result. I choose a subject I never did before but always wanted - a weapon. I like to build stylized assets so finally decided to go for a stylized shotgun, inspired by the art from Overwatch and Tobias Koepp's 'Piranha Launcher' here on sketchfab. I'll just show the model down here, and talk about my process below, so there is hopefully someone out there that will learn from me! Also I'd like to take the opportunity to hopefully gather some feedback and tips from you guys!
by Math Roodhuizen
So when I started out I had a general direction in mind. However, I learned that for me sketching is the best way to generate ideas and get some visuals going in my head. Once I draw even the simpelest of guns ideas quickly start to come. When making something in 3D as a personal project I usually don't spend a lot of time on sketching at all - I really just use it as a way to generate an idea. So please don't shame my crappy sketch - I can do better (I make 2d art aswell, if you are interested check out my ArtStation).
Yes - very crappy - I know.
After that I just jump straight into Maya and start modeling! Just get out some basic shapes, not paying too much attention to the poly's just yet. Because my sketch was so simple I had to do most of the designing in Maya so I approached it in a very 'sketch' like way, creating lot's of different shapes and moving them around. Eventually I came up with this, loosely based on my sketch.
I made the 'aim sights' kinda really big almost as a joke to how inaccurate this weapon is supposed to be. If you would aim with this thing about 2/3ds of your sights would be within the iron sights. Doing things like this can help adding some character to your props, instead of making just another futuristic assault rifle with lots of detail that is basicly a iteration on modern-day rifles. Instead I choose to almost create a mobile cannon, with a huge muzzle and giant iron sights, fuelled by a non-existent combustion liquid.
Next step was to make the other side a bit more interesting and get the silhouette right. I played around a bit more with the different parts, changing their sizes and moving them around. Try to see your prop as a whole - zoom out often and look for shapes. Do not let your design be dominated by details, instead, view your prop as a thumbnail - is it easy to read? Does it look interesting when zoomed out? If yes, only then you can start adding details making sure it still looks interesting when zoomed it - however, zoom out occasionally to make sure the details do not take over! Especially when creating stylized work the balance in this is key. 'Less is more' is something I used to say often, but details are definetly important. Again, all about finding the right balance.
When you think you are done - do something else. Go get some groceries, go outside, come back, and see if you are still done. You'll find that with a refreshed mind there are plenty of things you still want to change. Give it a bit more work and ask yourself again - is it done now? Watch a video on YouTube and come back to your model. If it is still done now, you are ready to move on to our least favorite bit - UV's...
I hate doing UV's, especially because I really want to do them right. Getting your UV's and smoothing groups right is key to getting a good, clean result when you want to bake your high poly onto your low poly later on. Trust me, spending a bit more time here will save you a headache later on. If you are a bit new to this stuff, Allegorithmic, the creators of Substance, have some very nice video's on normal map baking and how your smoothing groups and UV's affect the results.
If you want to learn more about that check out this link;
This one is also really usefull and goes a bit more in depth in UV's
Top: high poly (NOT UV'd)
Bottom: low poly (UV'd)
When my low poly was all done and UV'd, it is important to get the names right, especially when working in substance. This will save you time later on and result in a cleaner bake. For example, I named the muzzle-part of my gun 'muzzle_low'. Then you simply change low to _high when you work on the high poly version. When baking, substance is able to only bake the high to low meshes based on their name. Meaning, if your gun has two meshes close to one another, the raytracing will completely ignore a mesh with another name and will only bake normals from the mesh with the same name! So muzzlelow will only get its normals baked from muzzle_high, ignoring all other surrounding geometry.
For this project I just copied my low poly (with all the correct naming!) and made my high poly from the duplicate, hiding the low poly in another layer when working on the high poly version. Make sure you do not move the meshes around starting from this point as they still have to line up perfectly even if your naming is correct. You could use sculpting software like Zbrush or Mudbox to create your high poly but since this model is almost completely hard-surface I chose to do the high poly in Maya. Give edges a smooth bevel, add as many poly's as you want (though don't go above a few million, if you want to go that high use sculpting software). When all of this is done you can move over to your baking software (in my case I baked inside of Substance Painter) and project your high poly on your low poly and get a nice normal! Doing this will make your low poly appear somewhat as the high poly, meaning that the hard edges in your low poly will appear as the beveled edges in your high poly! However, normals have a lot of limitations and it really is just a trick to make your models look a bit nicer. Again check out the videos I linked earlier if you want to learn more about this.
My low poly with normal maps, and a first pass at my textures. I'm calling it a first pass but it actually did take up quite a bit of time. I haven't used colors in my sketch earlier so it took me a while to figure out a nice color scheme. I did the texturing in substance painter, I can ramble on for hours about this awesome piece of software but instead I'll just tell you to visit Allegorithmic's YouTube and go the the Playlist section. Here you'll learn everything you need to know if you are interested.
From here on it really was just spending more time on it. Applying everything you know to make it look as cool as you can.
I gave him a name, WildFyre, and tried to give the gun a real character. Giving something a name can sometimes help, and I even decided to put the name on there.
The final details I did on a livestream on my facebook page, adding bumps and scratches to the metal parts, and things like the blackness in and around the muzzle from the heat and smoke. Damages like this will make it look used and again - add character. The final result to all of this can be viewed at the top of this post on or my sketchfab page.
I hope this was usefull to somebody! Lets keep the conversation going - give me feedback on my work, I would love to hear your opinion, and ask my anything you want! If I can help someone get better at something I'd love to do so.
If you are interested in following my work, you can do that for both my 3D and 2D work here on Sketchfab, on ArtStation (Math Roodhuizen) or on on facebook / instagram ( /mathsgameart ).