can't get my stylized stone sculpts to look the way I want

polycounter lvl 2
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Markdidit polycounter lvl 2


I'll say it plainly:  

I'm slightly obsessed about learning to sculpt stone more like Michael Vicente (Orb) and Fanny Verne (Faf).  I've been working on this goal for maybe a year now, and am doing my best to understand how they work.

I love the planar-yet-organic simplicity of the flatten brush.   Cute, hand-placed details.   Rhythm.  Composition.  

I think I've found and read everything they've shared online about each of their respective techniques (similar, but there are nice little differences).  

I realize I've made some progress learning their styles, I'm still just close enough to... it's frustrating to still observe how much better everything  just... I don't know.   In their sculpts, everything just sits in it's right place.. ugh.  

I'll link a bunch of specific examples of their work that I'd like to emulate better, but anybody familiar with their work or knows what I'm talking about, I'd really appreciate any advice on what I'm not seeing yet.   or just any critique in general, of course.

thanks!!

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  • Next
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    Next polycounter lvl 8
    mh i did alot of stony things too. - I only can say that many of the details you have here feel to forced and planned thus not generating that flowy stylised natrual feel you can see in orbs stuff for instance. I would suggest, i know it sounds dumb, but maybe just put cracks and dents down in a rush, try not think about it that much and then just pick the ones you like and  you are happy with. Throw the others away and do those again. Also reallife reference helps tremendously to really boost that aspect. i know looking at other peoples stuff can help alot but only in terms of technique and visual language but for detail flow and things i still would go with real rocks and stone reference.

    cheers
  • Markdidit
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    Markdidit polycounter lvl 2
    Next said:
    mh i did alot of stony things too. - I only can say that many of the details you have here feel to forced and planned thus not generating that flowy stylised natrual feel you can see in orbs stuff for instance. I would suggest, i know it sounds dumb, but maybe just put cracks and dents down in a rush, try not think about it that much and then just pick the ones you like and  you are happy with. Throw the others away and do those again. Also reallife reference helps tremendously to really boost that aspect. i know looking at other peoples stuff can help alot but only in terms of technique and visual language but for detail flow and things i still would go with real rocks and stone reference.

    cheers
    OMG thank you so much, that all makes total sense.  thanks for the quick reply too!   Yeah I do need to look more at real references, exactly like you said.  But yeah I have a feeling the 'in a rush' feel might be the bit I've totally been missing.  Thanks!!!!
  • Tobbo
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    Tobbo polycounter lvl 6
    On top of what Next has already said. I would store a morph target in ZBrush and try and sculpt loosely. If you don't like something, don't beat yourself up over it just use the morph target brush to go back to a previous state with that part and try again. 
  • Markdidit
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    Markdidit polycounter lvl 2

    update.

    ok I'm trying my best to apply all of the above advice on a stone wall
    specifically I'm focusing on:

    1) put down details more quickly, with almost 0 planning (trial and error)
    2) look at real cracked stone references (tbh I'm still lacking here)
    3) use morph target to knock back details

    this time I'm really trying to go more specifically with fanny verge's layered rock sculpting style.  
    I've noticed that the morph brush allows me to sorta pull all the details flatter to the overall surface, letting them layer sharply but flat to the face of the stone.  hard to explain, but I think it's what she's doing?

    below I've attached 3 references of her stone work that I've been looking at the most:

     

    gosh, just looking at her sculpts again, I see I have soooo much still to go.  my details still look a bit too planned.  
    she has such an eye!!
  • stickadtroja
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    stickadtroja polycounter lvl 6
    i think you are pretty close. biggest difference is the amount of detail, yours have less. just continue in the direction you have now but more and smaller details, such as small sharp edges and holes.

    one thing. i think you are better off looking at real world references and trying to stylize those than to copy the style of another artist. not only does it make yours more original, but you also get a deeper understanding of the shapes you trying to portray.
  • Cube Republic
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    Cube Republic polycounter lvl 5
    There's a rhythm to their work. It's no secret, it just comes from practice. There's a certain amount of stiffness that I found when learning zbrush. I eventually got over it. Along the way one develops ways of using the brushes that create satisfactory results. 
  • Markdidit
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    Markdidit polycounter lvl 2
    thanks @stickadtroja and  @Cube Republic  for the advice as well!

    Really trying to rest on that advice as I sculpt over christmas break.   Not sure if my rhythm has improved any yet, but at least I'm on the path:


    (trying to go faster and simpler.  tricky to keep large forms organic while keeping a decently non-repeating tile going, but I think this is decent)


    (a plane to create a small detail alpha.  not applied on the other examples but may be in the future)


    (probably the best balanced tiling wall of mine so far, imo.  needs a few more touches, but I think it reads pretty well)

  • mrgesy
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    mrgesy polycounter lvl 4
    I think you need to study real stones before trying to create stylized ones. Learn how they damage and crack in nature then you can apply it to stylized rocks. Know the rules before you break them.
  • Eric Chadwick
    Please use JPG instead of PNG. Saving a JPG at level 8 converts a 8MB PNG down to a 128kb JPG, and looks virtually identical.
    See the thread http://polycount.com/discussion/161965/why-is-everyone-using-massive-png-files-for-their-shots/p1 .
  • Markdidit
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    Markdidit polycounter lvl 2
    @Eric Chadwick ah thanks for the heads up!

    I'd just been uploading my default screengrabs for reference, which are png.  Will swap these out momentarily!
  • Markdidit
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    Markdidit polycounter lvl 2

    I think I'm going to do my retopo and bakes and see in Unity to help me visualize this
  • Cube Republic
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    Cube Republic polycounter lvl 5
    You're welcome. The surface looks a bit flat. I often paint on some material build up using clay tubes with spray on. I then knock this back with the usual trim brushes. 
  • Markdidit
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    Markdidit polycounter lvl 2

    @Cube Republic   I think I should also post these references from Orb, as they show more of the stone style that I ended up going for for this wall.  Less layering, plenty of cracks.  



    Of course, there's still so much I have to learn about achieving this look, but the heavily layered rock in Faf's examples above was a bit too difficult/awkward for my stone wall.  Maybe because that works better for floor patterns, due to how stone would be laid? idk.

    That all said, if my stone looks too flat, it looks too flat.  Thought I did some very subtle layering, but I noticed that my cavity map I baked later missed all of that.  It only grabbed the corners and cracks. 

    :/  sadly I need to move on to the next models for the game already (so my team doesn't get upset with me)
    I actually took way too long on this wall, and need to get better at going 'in a rush' like was mentioned above.

    eeesh.  production timeline isn't very friendly to exploration.

    but I will be posting back here once I have more time to explore/improve my style work.  Also, if you guys see anything else I'm doing wrong here, tear me apart :D 
  • pixelb
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    pixelb polycounter lvl 6
    I'm slightly obsessed about learning to sculpt stone more like Michael Vicente (Orb) and Fanny Verne (Faf). 

    Welcome to the club. :| This is my own take on Faf stone. I made it a year ago but here’s what I remember from the process:

     

    Don’t try to sculpt small forms over large ones, you’re more likely to screw up what you’ve already sculpted. If you want rock that has layered detail, sculpt one layer on a separate plane, grab an alpha from it, and apply it to your main subtool. The layer brush with dragrect is ideal for this. Don’t try to use the standard brush, it looks awful and lumpy where your layers overlap.

    If you haven’t already figured it out, the flatten brush works way better when its focal shift is set to ~-70. Took me forever to figure out why I was getting such mushy results with the regular flatten brush, but that’s it.

    Trim smooth border works well for sculpting fast layers (also chipping at adges). Scribble some detail in loosely and clean it up with flatten.

    Trim front’s nice for bringing flat planes back in once your sculpt’s gotten too noisy.

    Your second attempt looks way better already. You’ve got a good composition going, you just need to layer your details correctly. 

  • Jakob Gavelli
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    Jakob Gavelli greentooth
    Markdidit said: I'm slightly obsessed about learning to sculpt stone more like Michael Vicente (Orb) and Fanny Verne (Faf). 
    Haha, add me to that club aswell!

    What you'll notice when you compare the old and new works of Orb, is that the style has changed quite a bit. Whereas your wall looks more similar to his earlier work. It's very sharp and crisp. If you look at the Throne it's much softer and it doesn't look as overworked when it comes to details and edges. Alot of the edges are still smooth and haven't been touched by a trim/flatten-brush. It'll probably bake alot better and look better in-game. 
    Smooth edges will show up much better on the normal than having super sharp edges. I'm a huge fan of that switch in style ^^ 

    Fafs rocks from Siege of Orgrimmar might aswell be magic, so good. Not even after the tutorial do I have a clue about how to composite it into a handpainted look.

    @pixelb : Not to derail the thread, but I'm super interested in how you composed the maps into that handpainted look. I assume that there's alot of painting over aswell ofcourse, but I've been trying to do this for ages but never get it right without painting over pretty much 95% of the maps. 
  • pixelb
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    pixelb polycounter lvl 6

    It's tricky, definitely. When I did that one, I had no idea how to go about it. My strategy was just to bake out every kind of map from xNormal and a lot of ZBrush matcaps and fiddle around with blending modes until I found something I like. It took a lot of trial and error just to get to that, and the final result is an unholy mess of colorized occlusion and cavity layers- not something I could easily reproduce.

    Nowadays when I want to get a stylized texture from baked maps I do something like:

    1. Build the texture I want in greyscale values by giving the different materials appropriate grey values and blending over them the ao, directional light (taken from the RGB channels of the bent normal map), sometimes a top-down gradient, and occasionally cavity.

    2. Colorize it by giving each material type a gradient ramp set to "color" mode.

    3. Add stuff like mold, rust, or paint, that isn't captured by the baked maps. Usually through some mix of multiply/overlay layers.

    3. Paint in edge highlights and last minute fixes. I think it's best to do as little at this stage as possible. Anything you handpaint in will look unnaturally "brushy" against the baked maps, and probably won't follow the normals cleanly.

    For reference, here's what the texture looks like before and after handpaints. If I were to remake this I would try to paint in even fewer details than this. 


    Fafs rocks from Siege of Orgrimmar might aswell be magic, so good. Not even after the tutorial do I have a clue about how to composite it into a handpainted look.

    She said she would do a gumroad tutorial at some point. I'm still waiting for it... :(

  • Burpee
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    Burpee polycounter lvl 3
    Lot's of amazing info here guys, I'll join that club aswell, thanks for sharing your tips !
  • Markdidit
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    Markdidit polycounter lvl 2
    Great the advice you've all shared here, its all been a great help!

    Last night I had an artist message me, asking for a bit of an update on this stuff.  I'm far from the expert of any of this, but I ended up going in enough depth in my reply that I figured I'd post here also, for any new artists stumbling upon the thread.  

    -------------------------------------------------------
    my recent discoveries I’m focused on:

    1) Think of your sculpt as a drawing.  EVERY visible detail is part of the design of the whole.  Any tiny divot, beveled corner, crack, plane-change, etc only exists to serve the immediate read of the over-all shape.  Zooming-in for new detail placement is bad, but maybe for fixing mesh artifacts in a detail it's ok.

    2) loose/free flowing placement is okay, but don’t ignore the resulting 'read'.  Notice how lines are more powerful than spots, so be extra careful about bad lines.   Every imperfection, however soft, affects the flow of the eyes and the proportions of the shape.  Every shape implies a relationship with all the others- and this is what you are crafting.  It’s all you’re worried about.

    3) Again, this is all about the 2d implications of what we make in 3d.   2D art tutorials are the best place to look for this sort of advice.  Study/follow more amazing Disney/Blizzard concept artists.  Joe Madureira, Cory Loftis, Mr Jack, Baldi Konjin, Paul Richards, etc.  Good sculpting/modeling tutorials will focus on reference, brushes, workflows…. but shape design is 0% related to this.

    For example, rotate around your sculpt, pick a part of something that bothers your eye, and ask "would I have drawn that, if this was a pencil sketch? Would that crack be placed/angled differently?”  Or before, as you’re about to bevel or crack your form, ask yourself “what should I draw on this?”  So you’re still using 3d sculpting brushes, but the design is 100% about the 2d results from each brush.

    smaller, specific bits of advice:

    get Orb’s new brush set from his ArtStation, and listen to his advice in this interview:

    my key takeaway from this was that hard/flat faces with smooth edges are actually SO pleasant.  I now dislike how sharp beveled edges look when I see them.  (I actually don’t have a lot of work posted since learning this, its all been private personal work but it’s SO MUCH NICER) 

    I think there’s a lot of shape psychology here… but on top of the fact that, for game art, there’s some important technical baking/resolution reasons to keep edges smoother.  Not sure how experienced you are with retopo / normal maps / mip-mapping... but this is huge. Your details basically don’t matter unless they are thick enough to see in game.  Models look really gross and ugly when they try to get too sharp for their texture maps.  It’s sorta hard to explain, but if you’re making game art, just polish your edges a little.  

    So try letting go of your detail a bit with a bit of Polish.  I use the deformation panel’s ‘Polish’ slider with a value of 1-2 right after I think I'm finished with a sculpt.  This is dependent on your polycount, so if your model is a bit on the low-res side, maybe subdivide once first so the polish doesn’t totally destroy things.  
    I now use OrbFlattenEdgeProtect instead of Flatten, Trim Dynamic, or any of those 90% of the time.  I don’t hold it all the way out past the edges, I leave them smooth.  This way, you get straight/flat faces and smooth edges.  This actually ends up making shapes bolder, not blobby.  Again, think of the 2d equivalents. here

    A weird thing I imagine of for stone bricks/patterns is like a melted soft candy instead of a box shape.  Something about about keeping the center of the stone wider, like it was a blob that is trying to be a cube.  This is super vague, but maybe you understand.

    I’ll use the OrbRockDetail on stone surfaces sometimes, once I have my over-all shapes working nicely, it usually doesn’t ruin anything.

    For some amazing 3d art to study this from besides Orb and Fanny, check out Brian Jones aka Bobo the Seal.  He’s like the OG of stylized character modeling, so his stuff is super old and hard to find, but its the best.  Try to find his original character sculpt renders for Darksiders I&II

    Well that’s it!  I know the direct style of the wording in here sounds ‘mean’ or ‘matter of fact’ but I don’t mean to command anything for anybody else but myself.  This is just how these lessons sound in my head while I sculpt, hopefully you understand D

    Btw, my hunch as to the reason there’s few zbrush tutorials that help in this area is that even once you master this, it feels very liquid and super hard to explain in steps or methods.  And I’ve definitely not mastered any of this—its all still really tricky to get right, every single time I sculpt/model.  The nice thing, is that once you know basic brush/hotkey stuff, you don’t really have to think about anything else.  Only the ‘drawing'

    mark
  • wirrexx
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    wirrexx polycounter lvl 6
    How Did you do this texture? General tips?

    sorry for bumping these again


    (a plane to create a small detail alpha.  not applied on the other examples but may be in the future)



  • Larry
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    Larry keyframe


    Are you certain she did that with sculpting in zbrush? For example she might have had made a height map in substance designer and used it as a stencil to make the base pattern.I mean,even the cement behind the bricks is most certainly not hand made, or she might took a previous stone pattern she made and tiled it with a mask for a background
  • wirrexx
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    wirrexx polycounter lvl 6
    Larry said:


    Are you certain she did that with sculpting in zbrush? For example she might have had made a height map in substance designer and used it as a stencil to make the base pattern.I mean,even the cement behind the bricks is most certainly not hand made, or she might took a previous stone pattern she made and tiled it with a mask for a background
    This was before Substance though! =)
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