Hi, I’m Nicole Williams. I’m a freelance graphic designer & game artist based in Melbourne, Australia. I love creating low poly, hand painted, flat shaded characters & environments.
Challenge: Hand Painted Winter Scene
I was super excited to see that Curlscurly was co-hosting a competition with Sketchfab, as their work is a massive inspiration for my own. The competition came at a time when I had not worked in 3D for a good 5 months, and I was excited to be able to hop straight back into texturing without having to worry about my rusty modelling skills holding me back.
My family lives in Switzerland & I visit as often as I can. When I think of my winters there, I think of sparkling snow, vibrant sunsets, and warm wood huts nestled in the countryside, and I wanted to capture that in this piece.
Colour is probably the most important thing to me when working on any piece. I started out by gathering a lot of photo references, bringing them into photoshop, increasing the saturation & using the eyedropper tool to sample their colours. I focused mainly on snow, wood & their shadows. I wanted to heavily feature snow’s cool whites and bright sky blue shadows, while contrasting them with the orange/red/purple hues of the wood and the peachy pink of a sunset sky.
To start off my hand painted textures I take the model into Maya, set up some basic lighting & bake it out using the Hypershade > Edit > Convert File To Texture method.
When I have the light map baked out I take it into Photoshop, raise the brightness & contrast and delete the white areas, so all I’m left with is sharp black shadow blocks. I then split these blocks up into layers for snow, wood, leaves & stone, recoloured the shadows based on their materials and applied colour burn to the layer style at 30% opacity.
This is a quick & easy way to create a base for your textures, and block out light detail onto your model before you even pick up your stylus.
The only software I used for texturing was Photoshop, mostly just painting directly onto the UV map. When I needed to see the texture on the model to block out or tweak things, I’d open the .obj in Photoshop, reference the .psd file and draw directly onto the layer I needed to edit. The texture is 4k.
Using the edited light map from Maya, I created a mask & blocked out the border of the shadow using a pencil/crayon brush and a freckle brush. I then added some colour variation to the edge with a color dynamic spot brush. I added in some cyan highlights to the edges of the shadows as subsurface scattering.The snow base colour is an off white light blue, so I could paint on highlights with a true white.
For the tree alpha, I used a leaf brush to create the leaf effect. The snow was done using the same method described above, but with more colour dynamic spot brush to make it appear more sparkly.
The wood beams were created by blocking out strips with the polygonal lasso tool then adding colour variation & highlights. I painted the frame around the window to match the architecture of the door. The door UV was warped and required me to block out the shape of the panels on the 3D model so they wouldn’t come out wonky.
The stone was originally a lighter beige colour but I changed it to be more of a slate stone. I left the details fairly simple on the stone items, relying on the baked shadows.
The hut felt very plain and boring to me, and I really wanted to drive home that it was a swiss hut; so I drew some edelweiß motifs for the facade using the pencil/crayon brush. Reference for pattern.
Once I’d created the final version of the texture, I saved it out as a .png and used Unsharp Mask to make the texture appear more crisp and defined.
I always like to know how any assets I’m working on will look like in their final presentation, so I’ll keep an up to date version in whatever engine I’m working in. When a piece’s final presentation is in Sketchfab, I’ll set the scene up & regularly update the textures as I’m working on them to see how they’re progressing. I’ll also tweak the camera settings and post processing effects as I go.
I reduced the field of view to 10° to reduce depth and make the model appear more like a flat 2D illustration.
For post processing I added in some grain to help blend the background with the model.
I increased the sharpness a bit in post processing to make the textures appear crisper, and to match the hard lines of the lowpoly model. Then I used a little bit of chromatic aberration to help outline the model slightly.