Number ONE game prop you should model as a beginner is a wooden crate.
Number TWO game prop you should model is a wooden barrel.
In this 4-part tutorial series you will get access to the complete process pipeline from beginning to end from modeling, UVing, texturing and exporting/importing a game ready asset into UE4.
Let's get to it...
Every artist will tell you that modeling reference is essential to creating accurate objects.
You also need to know a bit of context about your object, such as:
In my book "Preproduction Blueprint" I go more in-depth about the entire preproduction process of an environment and level design.
Wooden Barrel is a cylindrical shape. So that is what I started with.
Initial size I used:
I introduced many additional edges into the geometry so I can reshape and change the silhouette curvature.
Additional edges were also inserted and then used for adding the metal rings around the wooden barrel.
I ended up beveling many corners of the wooden barrel for extra edge. This added to the triangle count but it makes the mesh look better because it avoids a hard 90 corner that many low-poly props have.
The hard edge can be improved through normal map bake from high-poly however I didn't want to create a high-poly mesh. I wanted to introduce this geometry with a bevel. I only used one segment for the bevel.
How do you decide if you need to add bevels or not?
You should always know what the outcome of your project/asset/prop will be.
If you don't know this then you can't make a decision what to add or what to leave out.
I chose to go with a bit heavier triangle count. Low-poly was 1,504 before the addition of bevels. After I added additional detail, my triangle count jumped to 2,988
I also added a cork on the side of the barrel for additional detail along with some metal bolt straps:
After modeling is done, you are ready to UV.
UVing is often a time consuming. But if you know few techniques and tricks then it can become a quick and enjoyable process.
In fact for this wooden barrel it was very quick.
You simply select the faces to project then go to Create > Planar or Cylindrical:
Select edges where you want to make a cut then Modify > Unfold for any overlapping UVs. I use Modify > Unfold (Unfold3D) a lot. This one tool can help unwrapping objects a lot faster.
I kept the metal ring UVs separate from the wooden UVs to make it easier to texture. Anytime you have a separation of material/texture then you should also separate the UV shells.
Here is the final UV layout:
Substance Painter is a time-saver. Texturing process used to be tedious and time-consuming if you had to create all textures and masking/blending yourself.
Now with Painter or Mixer you can speed this process up to just a few hours, depending on complexity of the mesh.
Smart Materials give you a quick way to use something right away that contains many layers for you to adjust for your prop/asset.
I used 2 Smart Materials for the wooden planks, metal rings and 1 regular Material for the cork.
The key is changing Smart Materials to fit your object's needs. I went through all the layers from the Smart Material and changed color, added color variation, adjusted dirt, rust intensities etc. Go through it layer by layer.
You can enable/disable visibility of each layer to see what effect it produces.
Don't ever use Smart Materials as-is. They are good starting points but then you have to add your own unique additions to it. At the very least, change them with the layers provided.
Since I didn't model individual planks on the wooden barrel, I had to do this within the texture.
I added wooden plank detail by:
Additional Custom Dirt/Rust
I added more custom dirt and rust. This helps to introduce yoru own unique touch to the prop/asset.
For Wood Dirt I used a Generator:
For Steel Rings Rust I used a Smart Mask:
You are now ready to export your textures from Substance Painter. Go to File > Export Textures.
Export with the following settings:
Packed texture means that you will have one texture that will contain 3 textured packed into each color channel. I like using an acronym ARM (RGB) to remember which channel belongs to which texture.
Go to File > Export Selection and export your meshes from Maya for UE4 with the following settings:
On UE4 Static Mesh import I enable the following settings:
Important: after importing textures into UE4, open up the Packed texture that contains Ambient Occlusion, Roughness and Metallic. Then disable sRGB.
Create a Material and connect the textures like so:
The best way to assign the Material is through the Static Mesh editor, so the Material is assigned to all instances of the mesh. Double-Click on the Static Mesh in the Content Browser and open up Static Mesh editor:
Or you can drag-drop the Material onto each Static Mesh placed in the level.
If you want to make your mesh have physics:
Final mesh in UE4, ready to be used:
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