Due to popular demand, I have done a step by step recording of how I create my low poly, hand painted game models. It’s probably not the most efficient workflow but perhaps it can be of some help to people wanting to give it a go. 🙂

You can find a free download of this model on my website here.

I use MayaLT, Zbrush and Photoshop to build my models. This step by step assumes that you already know how to model and unwrap UV’s in your modeling software of choice. So without further ado… here is step1!

STEP 1

I start by building the very basic model and unwrapping its UVs. Be sure to lay them out efficiently and don’t overlap them so you can paint texture directly on the model later in Zbrush. In the case of the dungeon arch I only had to build half the model as I will later mirror this half over to the other side.

STEP 2

Subdivide the model until you have a good numer of polygons to work with for polypaint. Make sure to…

  • Turn smooth off when subdividing, -turn off Zadd,
  • Select the flat color shader,
  • Set the color to 50% grey and paint the whole model
  • Use an alpha that allows you to paint crisp, hard edges.

STEP 3

Use a BIIIIIiiiiiiiggg brush to paint a global gradient from light to dark, top to bottom. Never go all black and never go all white.

STEP 4

Use a smaller brush to paint downward facing surfaces darker and upward facing surfaces lighter. After that use a smaller brush still and lightly define some ceases with dark and edges with light color. At this stage you can also very lightly paint in some ambient occlusion in creases and corners.

STEP 5

Now that the shape has been defined, I sometimes map down some macro detail as well as a reference for when I take to painting the detailed texture in Photoshop.

STEP 6

Export the texture from polypaint and export it to bring it into photoshop. You will most likely have to V flip your UV’s for this in Zbrush so the texture won’t come out upside down :). Once in Photoshop, get rid of the black background and lay your UVs over the top to see how well everything matches up.

STEP 7

Now it’s time to put some color behind your B&W image. Set the blending mode of your B&W texture to overlay. I have used a texture I painted earlier and that I use as a base for all my dungeon assets, but really, using a rough, big brush to blot out some color or another low contrast texture will work. (low contrast is important!!)

You can now also douplicate your B&W texture and run a color adjustment over it to color highlights yellow and shadows to blue. Set this to Soft Light blending mode and tone down opacity until it’s barely noticable. This gives you a nice subtle hue gradient.

STEP 8

This is the most time consuming part. Once you have blotted out your colors and materials, it’s time to create a new layer and make it all come together by customizing the texture to fit your model. You will need a graphics tablet for this.

Turn off your UV layer if you have not already, create a fresh layer, select a rough brush (I like to use the charcoal brush) and set the opacity jitter control to pen pressure so you have direct control.

Try to find the lightest color on the canvas (use your color picker to sample it), make a color swatch somewhere on an unused bit of texture so you can easily and quickly pick it again when you need it, do the same for the darkest color. Make sure your dark color is not less saturated.

Start by carving out the details and destroy obvious shapes that run across multiple rocks or cracks and edges to get rid of that slapped on texture look. Pick up on some of the highlights and shadows on the edges and define them a little more. Keep sampling right off the canvas and only go back to your swatches when the canvas colors are too subtle.

Use your swatch colors very sparsely to define some deep cravices and strong highlights. Take your time, work loosely and start with a bigger brush first, then go smaller and smaller in brush size for more details.

At this stage you can also define the edges of your model a little more by increasing contrast between light and dark around an edge using subtle gradiants. 

STEP 9

Once you are happy with your texture in Photoshop, save it out as .jpg and take it back to Zbrush. Apply it to your model using create polypaint from texture and fix any seams you can find.

STEP 10

Export your texture again from Zbrush, take it back to photoshop for some final touches like color and contrast adjustments.

You can now use your modeling software of choice to put some edges into your models and break up the silhouette, warp edges a little and define some details.

DONE!! 🙂

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