Hi! My name is Tim Curry, and I’m a 3D Artist at Playful Corp in Texas. I’ve worked in game development for around six years, doing a little bit of everything, but one of my favorite forms of game art is modeling and texturing props!
Working full time at a creative job usually means I don’t have much energy for personal projects, but I was really interested in the two-phase format of the Artstation challenges. When I saw that Becca Hallstedt was working on a beautiful set of prop concepts, I knew I had to enter! Her style is so charming, and the smooth shapes and balanced palette really appealed to me.
Early on I spent some time strategizing the best way to maintain enthusiasm, because I knew I wouldn’t always have a ton of spare time or energy. I tried to emphasize workflows that would complement my strengths, and keep things as simple as possible. While I did think a lot about what I wanted to achieve visually, I wanted to be flexible and let the result be guided by experimentation. I started out in 3D Studio Max with a rough block-out, and then went right into making subdivided base models that I would take into Zbrush to sculpt.
I created all of the initial shapes with box modeling, and often used the line tool with rendering enabled so I could easily tweak curves and bends. As soon as possible I would add a Chamfer modifier to the stack, set to all un-smoothed edges, with carefully configured values for amount and tension. This allowed me to maintain consistent edge quality across all of my objects and easily change the shapes, and also preserved a decent base for the low poly version. I even used this method (plus a noise modifier) for the sand base.
I knew I was going to be a little rusty in zbrush, so I took a lot of extra time to experiment with sub-tool prep, brushes, and different techniques. I kept a lot of the surfaces soft and clean, because I wanted the final result to light well and almost feel toy-like. I also tried to prioritize my attention to surfaces that were most exposed, to save a little time and energy. Finally, I had Becca’s concept as a guide to make sure critical details were represented in some way.
In Substance Painter, I used a lot of masked fill layers to create initial color variation, soft gradients and a little bit of top down lighting. For the main props, I had base textures configured in one Painter document, and a second flattened doc where I painted additional details on top and overlaid a few final adjustment layers. I just used Photoshop for some of the supplemental materials that didn’t need a lot of attention, like the sand base and miscellaneous bits.
My animations skills are pretty limited, but I love doing it when I have a chance. At some point towards the end of the challenge I just decided to see how far I could get within a day or two. I created a hierarchy of dummy objects, and the only blended weights I had to manage were for the ropes in the back. The wheels are so wobbly, so I started out by keyframing looping rotations for them, and then rotated and translated the undercarriage every few frames to make sure the wheels were still somewhat grounded as they went around. I added rotations up the hierarchy with some kind of delay relative to the undercarriage, and generic shaking and swaying for small parts.
I initially relied on Toolbag 3 for my final presentation, as I had already been baking and previewing materials in it from the beginning, but I knew I also wanted to upload everything to Sketchfab too. I had seen how many improvements and new features had been implemented, and I thought it would be a great way to showcase the animation.
I used pretty standard PBR configurations for most of the materials, but I had a lot of fun with the glass bottles and their contents. For the external glass surfaces, I configured the refraction material properties to give a small amount of distortion, and tinted with the albedo. I also had interior geometry for the liquid contents, to which I applied the additive transparency material so it would sort nicely. To push the visibility a bit more I made the liquid slightly emissive. Finally, some of the bottles and the lantern glass had opaque geometry inside, so I tried to tweak the refraction intensity until I had a good balance of distortion and visibility.
Lighting and Post effects were also kept simple. I wanted a more crisp look, so I went with grain and sharpen, and skipped the depth of field. Almost everything else is enabled but dialed down a little, including some chromatic aberration which is set to such a low amount that you can’t even be sure it’s there anymore! Finally, I added some annotations so you can easily focus on the different components of the scene!