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I had an idea in mind of what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to make a pumpkin building!
At first I did a couple of quick thumbnail sketches these are really loose and small in size, the trick here is not to go detailed, just using a simple brush with 100% opacity and grayscale try to get the composition and the depth of the image that you are trying to achieve (this is extremely helpful in the beginning stages).
Thumbnails depicting some of the ideas I had, as you can see they are very small and rough
After you have done a series of thumbnails try to choose two or three of your favorites and keep developing them. I chose number 3 and 9, I liked the overall size and position of the pumpkin in the environment. I started detailing a little more and adding color to the scene. Here is the result, even thou the two top thumbnails are similar they have a couple of different things in the scene. I thought about adding a frog as a foreground element that would give it more depth, but the scene looked too saturated, compressed and flat. The bottom one was looking boring and too predictable there was not that much story telling going on.
When you have tangents in the scene they disrupt the eye of the viewer
I liked how the pumpkin was looking, but I didn't like what I was doing with the environment, so I painted over the other elements and ended up with a completely different result, don't be afraid to change or paint over what you already have done, but save a layer with what you had before doing big changes so you can always go back in case you don't like the new result. As you can see the blocking of the environment is still pretty loose, even thou the lighting of the pumpkin is starting to be a little bit more clear there is no definition yet.
The final result of the thumbnail process was happy with all the elements in the scene.
The first thing we are going to do Is scale up the thumbnail to the appropriate size. When you are resizing an image in the image size properties choose Bicubic smoother (best for enlargement) on the bottom tab, this won't create many artifacts while scaling. After you scaling create a series of horizontal lines approximately with the same distance apart from each other and then using the perspective feature in the transform tool (ctrl+t and then right click on the object affected and select perspective) create a 3 point perspective (or the kind that you want) and keep it on the top part of the layers, this way you can turn them on and off and reference the perspective of your scene at all times. After this start refining the entire piece.
While I was doing this I notice I had a couple of areas where I saw tangents, when you have tangents in the scene they disrupt the eye of the viewer and make them focus in that area, the more the objects are overlapping over each other the more depth the scene will have, try to avoid tangents and if you find them fix them. I also lightened the trees in the background this way by overlaying a light green layer on top to give it an atmospheric feel.
After blocking in the basic color of the house on top of the pumpkin I then went on a different layer and chose a darker tone, I went in and started doing the details of the wood (you can also do this step with a multiply or overlay layer if you want to test it out or have more control) and then near the dark edges go back with a lighter color and paint the edges (this will give it a nice wooden look). Also, if you want to do cuts or holes on the texture I learned recently a really good trick just paint with a 50% gray on a layer the shapes you want to have dipping in on the objects then double click on the layer and go to the bevel and emboss option and turn it on, play with the settings until you get the light and shadow at the correct places where they would be and on the layer style put it on overlay. This will save you the time of doing each individual hole manually plus you can always go back and paint with the 50% gray and modify them.
After I'm almost done rendering out the scene I felt like the eyes of the pumpkin needed more brightness so I went and created a layer on top either on soft light, hard light or screen (depends on what you want, in my case soft light did the trick) and with a light orange I painted on top to add a little mode brightness from the light, this made the focus of the scene more apparent. also I noticed the tree in the foreground looked to flat even thou it was broken by the horizontal lines because they didn't actually affect the silhouette, I fixed that by creating a layer and painting over break ups in the silhouette.
In this section, we are going to start blocking in the scene and all the objects, then sculpt the most organic ones in Zbrush and retopologize them with the Nex feature that the new Maya 2014 has included.
For this part open your scene in the preferred 3d program, I used Maya for this one. Create a camera that's going to be locked in the same angle as your concept (or roughly the same) now load in the concept that you have (in my case the pumpkin scene) now that you have the camera in place with simple objects block in the scene to make it match the scale and composition of your concept. after the blocking is done I created a base object where the pumpkin is positioned and then start to sculpt out the shape of the pumpkin out in ZBrush and then I take it back into Maya for retopo.
For me creating organic shapes in ZBrush and then retopoing them in Maya is quicker than just poly modeling so in this case I brought a base mesh from Maya for the pumpkin ( it was just a simple cube smoothed two times) and then a cylinder for the foreground tree and started sculpting, at the beginning I like to use the move brush until I reach the silhouette and volume I desire then I start shaping it with the clay, clay tubes, and dam standard brush. Once the sculpting is done go to export options turn of grp and export as an Obj.
When UVing things like planks or walls try to keep them straight specially for games because you can get away with using tileable textures
I use Nex for retopology, it is quick and integrated with the Maya 2014. First we need to select our high res mesh and set it to be the constraint for the new geo that we are going to create. In Nex go to edit > PolyTransform Constraints > Set selected as Transform. After that click on quad draw and then start creating the topology, when you click green dots will appear, all you have to do is create four and hold shift inside the space of the four dots and then click, this will create the quad face. You can drag the vertices by holding down middle mouse on top of them, click and dragging them around, also if you need more subdivision on the face holding down shift on top of an edge will split it where you click (when you create new topology like this it'll snap it to the high res automatically) and holding down alt will delete the faces when you click on them. After we have all our geo created we can start the process of UV mapping.
I use Maya for this process, but you can use Headus UVLayout if you like, or any other UV layout tool. All I do is select the object and do planar mapping from the front side and top of the objects, then sew all the projections for some objects in the case of the pumpkin I left it in pieces. also when doing things like planks or walls try to keep them straight specially for games because you can get away with tileable textures this way you can connect objects together and they will blend in seamlessly. In this case however I wanted to make every object a hero object there are no tileable textures in this scene I wanted to challenge myself into texturing everything as much as I could (the only tileable texture is on the ground)
In this section we are going to texture our UV'd objects and do the final render.
Once I had all the UVs I exported the Objs into Mari, and loaded up the concept I made for the scene, since I modeled the scene after the concept to match it was easier to project the concept up to the models and then clean up the textures as a base. (this saved me a lot of time because I was able to use some of the details I already had in the scene. Usually, I would start from scratch but because of time constraints I had to use this method). Then I uploaded the result into Photoshop and kept cleaning up and adding more details to the overall areas, always saving the progress out and loading it up in Maya and rendering to see how it was looking.
Final diffuse color map.
For this scene I rendered it out in gray, I used one main key light a rim light and a couple of smaller lights for the glows of the windows. The eyes of the pumpkin I just used the default vary lights. I had to turned off all the reflection in the gray materials and the last thing I had to set up before rendering was the water. I used a basic gray material with the reflection amount all the way up to 1 and a tillable bump map for the water.
In the render settings under the gray render elements tab I created a Extra Tex and loaded the Vray edge shader onto it (so when you render the scene out you get a pass with the wireframe). I opened the render in Photoshop and loaded the wireframe and set it to screen so I could have the render and the wireframe to show.
Associate 3D Artist at Blizzard Entertainment
Los Angeles, USA