I would like to share the process I use when creating a 3D weapon asset for games. For this tutorial, I will be using an existing concept by the talented concept artist Trent Kaniuga. The Heavy Knight's weapon was something I felt would be fun to create in 3D. I will cover my workflow from the blockout stage to texturing in Substance Painter.
If you're just starting out in 3D modeling, it makes sense to start with a project that is not overly complex and will allow you to easily understand how it is constructed. This type of weapon is a great asset for a beginner 3D artist. The main shapes are large and clearly defined, while also having small focused areas of detail.
"Heavy Ronin concept by Trent Kaniuga"
I have been in the game industry since 2007 with a focus on environment and prop modeling. Personal projects are one of my favorite ways to help develop my artistic skills and stay up to date with the latest technology. Oh, and everyone calls me “Tuna”.
At this early stage, I am just looking to nail down the correct proportions of the major shapes and make sure it feels right in 3D. I do not move onto any small details until a solid blockout has been defined. Once I am happy with the blockout, I work from the biggest shapes to smallest when adding more detail. For the wrapped handle grip, I simply use a 3ds Max Spring under Dynamic Objects with the wire shape set to rectangular. I create 2 of them with different parameters for turns and diameter, and move them on top of each other. Note: While this is exported as one object, I keep all of the components of the weapon as separate objects. This will come in handy when preparing for texturing later.
"Basic blockout to detailed blockout in 3ds Max"
Detailing in ZBrush
When detailing the weapon in ZBrush, I am trying to imagine where the damage would go from result of being used in battle. Dents, chips, and gashes are all what come to mind. For this sculpt I mostly stuck to 3 brushes: Dam_Standard for gashes, TrimDynamic with a square alpha for dents/edge damage, and the Move brush. I concentrate on adding damage and directional gashes to the head of the hammer, where it would be taking the most impact. The wrapped handle grip I keep separated as 2 different subtools, so I can push and pull parts of each wrap easily with the Move brush to add some variation. When I am happy with my sculpt, I use Decimation Master to create a mesh that will be manageable to work with in 3D-Coat and 3ds Max.
"Final detailed sculpt in ZBrush"
Low poly and preparation
For the creation of my low poly, I import the decimated sculpt into 3D-Coat as a reference mesh and retopolgize over it. When my low poly and UV's have been created, I then import the decimated sculpt into 3ds Max to assign my ID colors for masking in Substance Painter. As noted earlier, having the components of this weapon be separate objects makes this very easy for assigning the different colors. For this process, I create a Multi/Sub-Object material in 3ds Max and assign different colors for each ID that will correspond with different material types in Substance Painter. I then export the decimated mesh as an OBJ with “Export Materials” checked on in the export options.
"Decimated mesh with color ID's assigned and the low poly mesh."
Texturing and baking with Substance Painter
All baking and texturing was done inside Substance Painter. When baking in Substance Painter, be sure to change your color source in the ID map baker parameters to Material Color. Once all maps are baked, I create a fill layer for all of my different material types, and add a mask with color selection to each one. In the color selection, I pick the corresponding color for the material I want to use. I experiment with each material until I find the desired look I am going for, and then move onto the details such as dirt and edge wear which can be achieved through the Generators.
“Pro tip: The Allegorithmic YouTube channel has an amazing step by step video playlist on Substance Painter, which will get you up to speed very quickly.”
"Substance Painter is a great tool for creating fast and awesome textures"
I chose to use Marmoset Toolbag 2 for model presentation because of the quick setup and ability to present the model in realtime. You can spend a lot of time in this stage due to the amount of lighting environments available, and light setups that you can use. For my weapon I kept the lighting setup pretty simple. There is 2 directional lights: one warm light from the rear with a higher brightness value, and a cool light in the front with a lower brightness, while also slightly lowering the sky light brightness.
"The Final Result."