Art Spotlight: First Aid Tank

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My name is Cristian Villalobos and I am an Environment Artist from San José, Costa Rica. I am a senior in Simulation and Digital Entertainment currently in my last semester at the University of Baltimore.

I took my first 3D modeling class a year and a half ago. They were teaching Autodesk 3ds Max back then, but I was not able to install the program on my personal computer after several attempts. Because of this issue, I asked my professor if he would let me use Blender outside of class for projects. He agreed, as long as I used 3ds Max for in-class assignments. I ended up teaching myself Blender by learning the keyboard shortcuts, watching YouTube videos, and reading through forums and documentation.

Inspiration

Before I started work on the First Aid Tank, I was looking for potential portfolio pieces that could display my hand-painted/stylized work instead of realistic texturing like the Clock. The concept for the First Aid Tank was made by Trudi Castle, an excellent senior concept artist that has worked on The Darkest Dungeon and The Long Dark, among other video-game titles. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with her multiple times, including the Eggbot.

I approached her once more to ask if I could make a 3D model out of her First Aid Tank concept art. She happily agreed, so I started work right away, and here is a breakdown of how I made it happen.

Concept art by Trudi Castle

Modeling

I do all my 3D modeling in Blender, I have tried 3ds Max and Maya, but Blender has always been what works best for me!

Whenever I begin to 3D model, I start with shapes as basic as possible. For example, I started with the main shape of the tank because initially I didn’t plan to add characters.

Blockout of main shapes

Once I have the main structure finished, I work on more complicated shapes while making sure that the proportions are correct. For example, the tank’s treads took a little longer because there are so many of them.
As soon as I felt comfortable with the overall look of the modeling, I focused on fixing proportions.

Addition of complex shapes and proportions adaptation

I try to create documentation of my work as I go. It’s a good way to keep track of my process, and it also allows me to create crazy GIFs like this!

GIF showing all the progress from basic shapes to being displayed on Sketchfab

Once I have all the modeling done, I make sure that the polycount is as low as possible. I have to balance that with not losing any important details. And then, I proceed to UV unwrapping!

UV Unwrapping

I unwrapped everything until I was able to get to a point in which there was minimal stretching and texture density was even throughout the model.

The way I check is by adding a 1024×1024 or a 2048×2048 UV grid texture in Blender.

UV Unwrapping of all the pieces

Texturing

For the First Aid Tank, I used Blender’s texture painting and Adobe Photoshop to do a couple of touch-ups for the polka-dot pattern shown below. 

I always try to work with 2048×2048 texture maps or higher in order to get the most detail possible while having the opportunity to optimize by reducing the file resolution.

Texturing is similar to the modeling stage. I start with the base colors and add more detail as needed.

Texturing process

I ended up using six textures:

Textures used on the 3D model

Normally, I would have only used 2-4 textures, but I wanted to add as much as possible to each part of the model. I also wanted to make the tank’s treads as close to the concept which required me to draw specific detail on them.  Initially I was not going to include the characters, but it was essential in order to capture Trudi’s style and concept, which ended up adding two more texture maps, one of the threads and one for the characters.

Presentation

Once I finished everything, I uploaded it to Sketchfab. I adjusted the ambient occlusion, sharpness, vignette, and tone mapping. Lastly, I used a flat color background, added camera limits, and saved the view for the thumbnail!

Sketchfab was not only great for me to show my work to more people than usual, but it is extremely easy to use. All done! I took a couple of shots/GIFs for my website and shared the Sketchfab link on social media!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!

I can be found on:

Artstation

Twitter

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About the author

Cristian Villalobos

3D Environment Artist with a coffee obsession!


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