Mossy Forest - Art Test

I know I'm in the middle of the bar scene right now, but an art test came up, and I need to come up with a cool forest maquette by Wednesday. I've been making some trees and materials for them. Here's the reference;

Here are the bark & moss material I've created so far. The moss material has opacity so the bark will show through at certain areas.

And the trees;

Biggest issue I'm having so far; The materials look pretty bad close up due to the trees being so big. Of course, I've got the UVs repeating 20ish times, and I'm using 2k maps.


  • Ashervisalis
    Here's a sample of what the materials look like when added to the trees. I'll be texturing the trees and then adding some hanging moss later on! I'll be using Zenpat's Ryse moss tutorial ( for a log I'm going to sculpt and paint for the ground.

  • Ashervisalis
    Had to adjust the geo a little bit and oddly found some texture stretching in some areas, fixed those and updated textures.

  • radumitroi
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    radumitroi polycounter lvl 2
    I think the branches could be thicker, longer, and more of them. What looks cool in the reference image is how dense it looks, and that's because there's a lot of trees. You can't add more of them because it will take too much space on your ground, so adding more branches would capture that "dense feeling". You should also spend more polys on them, right now they're blocky and you can see their edges. If you have the time, you should probably sculpt the trunks to add more organic shapes. The trees/wood pieces are the main focus in your small scene, so they should probably be your priority.
  • Maximum-Dev
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    Maximum-Dev Polycount Sponsor
    What studio gave you a "Forest" art test and put the deadline on "Wednesday"? A good looking and very well optimized forest takes a good amount of work/tweaking and few days for that doesn't sound right at all.

    But anyways, pick some moss references it currently looks like a mask multiplied on green color.
    The bark material is kinda nice but can benefit from some finer and sharper details. It also needs more volume in the normal map as well as it looks flat on the tree mesh.

  • Ashervisalis
    Thanks guys! @radumitroi  I didn't want to add many polys to the branches because I was going to add hanging moss on them like below. I'll be sculpting a log, and I've gotta create the forest floor texture and some ferns, so I won't have time to sculpt the trees.

    @Maximum-Dev I receive the test last Wednesday, so in total they gave me a week. Still doesn't feel like enough time though! Thanks for the tips. I've been trying to get my moss to sit right for a while now. The biggest issue I'm having here is that I've got the UVs multiplied by 15, and then up close, the texture looks pretty low quality. It looks alright if I up the texture size to 4k, but I don't really want to send something in with textures that high.

    My specular for the moss is definitely throwing the realism off quite a bit, I've gotta tone it down. I'm going to adjust it and move onto something else for a bit.

  • Ashervisalis
    I come bearing log renders! Still yet to finish; it's 1 am now. Stopped messing with the trees around 5ish, then started sculpting the log. Only took me 8 hours to sculpt, retopo, UV, and get to this stage in texturing. Has to be some kind of record for me. I think tomorrow I'll do ferns and ground texture, maybe some sticks if I can fit it in. I've actually modeled palm fronds before, so I have a good idea of the workflow for that. I'm going to leave tweaking the trees until last because I've already spent 2 days on them.

  • Ashervisalis
    I added an extra layer of polys to one area of the log to give it that fuzzy look, and it looks sick!

  • TheLazyScarecrow
    @Ashervisalis Hi, I'm just curious, in which software are you sculpting those trees and logs ? (I like the log a lot by the way!)
  • Ashervisalis
    @TheLazyScarecrow Thanks!! I used ZBrush for sculpting! The materials were made inside Substance Designer, and the moss was created using this tutorial;
  • Ashervisalis
    Forest floor texture! Had a load of fun creating this. Kind of worried that I'll get so good at Substance Designer and then I'll get a job where they want me to make this sort of stuff in another program haha

  • Ashervisalis
    Here's a couple of ferns I created. I'm going to add a little extra geo to the leafs which are really bent because they have obviously flat surfaces. Looks like I might have the time to create the fallen log which is leaning against the tree.

  • Ashervisalis
    Started throwing everything into UE4. During the texturing phase I was a bit weary of adding too much moss; I wanted the bark to show. Now I'm kinda wishing I had added more moss. Might go back to the trees and really moss up the bottom. Will add more vegetation to the forest floor, and will add a bunch of sticks! I'm pretty excited about my earth texture and the ferns.

  • Protokoll_Studio
    It's interesting to see of this project is going.

    The bottom of your trees are maybe too circular. It will be a little better to add some details (if you have the time to do that :) )

    Good luck ;)
  • Seal40k
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    Seal40k triangle
    Maybe it´s just me, but I feel like the Mask you used for the Moos and the way it is spreading over the tree looks a bit procedural and not very natural. The Moos spreads evenly over the the tree were in reality it would collect more on single spots. Maybe you can break the pattern up a bit more.
  • Larry
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    Larry polygon
    Seal40k said:
    Maybe it´s just me, but I feel like the Mask you used for the Moos and the way it is spreading over the tree looks a bit procedural and not very natural. The Moos spreads evenly over the the tree were in reality it would collect more on single spots. Maybe you can break the pattern up a bit more.
    I somehow agree that something should be done with the moss, but let that be an issue if he finishes in time. I myself dont like the idea of using opacity on a layered material because that kills your performance especially if you have a whole forest covered in it. If i understand the procedure correctly, the renderer has to scan all the pixels shown and then re/scan all the invisible pixels out of your screen. So wouldn't it be better to just vertex paint the layer on top of your existing material?
  • Ashervisalis
    Thanks guys! @Seal40k I agree with you on the moss bit. If I have time before handing it in I'll definitely be adding more moss and making it less patchy. Since there's not too much in the scene, I might use the second layer moss trick on the bottom of the trees to give it a fuzzy look, as well as bringing up the brightness of the green.

    I'm always drawn to dark colours when texturing but I need to learn to let the in engine lighting do some work too.

    @Protokoll_Studio If time permits, I'll throw some extra geo at the base of the trees!

    Regarding what Radumitroi mentioned early on, I'm seeing what he meant. I've lowered the trees, as in the renders above, so that the branches start lower down. It's going to be difficult choosing a view for the maquette which shows off the height of the trees reaching into the sky, but also shows the small details of the textures and log and stuff.
  • Ashervisalis
    So my love of dark colours was ruining the composition. I've brightened up the moss more and now it actually pops out. Today I'll try creating a twig bush. I'm wanting to add a little bit to the colour variation. It's either going to be a purple twig bush or a red one.

    I realized I didn't need to create an extra fallen tree. The trees are so tall, so I just cut one in half and nobody will recognize the half tree is the same as the large tree!

  • Ashervisalis
    Gave the maquette a square ground, looks far more presentable now. Created the red bush, it looks alright from far away, but frankly it has such a weird alpha that it looks like a red blur when moving around. Hmmmmmmm. Tomorrow I might redo the opacity/normal in order to make it more visible from further (farther?) away.

    Flipped the moss texture onto the underbelly and created a new set of log textures so I could rotate the log and use it a second time.

    Added more ferns. Haven't gotten around to adding sticks, but frankly that'll be the easiest thing on Earth.

    Tomorrow's to-do list;
    - Sticks
    - adjust the hanging moss texture so it doesn't look like stripes hanging off the tree.
    - If I have time, create some sort of second leafy plant for the ground so I don't have to add more ferns just to fill everything out.

    I'm thinking Wednesday will be fully about getting home from work, creating some sick renders, packaging everything and sending it off to the potential employer with a kind thank you note!

  • homart
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    homart polycounter lvl 2
    I would say that you need to add more interesting shape on the trunk : for instance look at the bottom of the tree : The details are barely noticeable .
    I would not create a little diorama but instead put a lot of vegetation/tree in one place to show how dense the environment look ! You need to do a forest no?!
    Tweak the reflective value for the objects.
    Fern should cast shadow
  • Ashervisalis
    @Homart Hmmm... I'm not sure why the ferns aren't casting a shadow, I didn't notice that last night. Thanks for pointing that out! I think today instead of creating any more plants I'll do as you guys suggested and add more geo to the base of the trees, although I might create some modular roots instead else I'll end up having to model, UV and texture the two trees again. Will play around with reflective values. I've also got to keep it as a diorama because that's what they asked for (a maquette).
  • Maximum-Dev
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    Maximum-Dev Polycount Sponsor
    Like I said, the 1 week deadline was very unrealistic since the beginning. That only works for people who already have done a bunch of similar work before already. Since your time is almost up, I'd recommend doing some quick ground cover i.e clovers to make it look more dense, match your colors and lighting with a reference image. At this point you should just try to quickly make it look good/better so use a cubemap in PPV instead of skylight if you can, to have some nice fake bounce light. Enable DFAO and up the SSAO intensity to make those ferns/plants sit on the ground. Set shadow cascades to 4 on directional light. Set a better background, the sky is brighter which is making the whole assets look darker in the eye. Disable eye adaptation as well and slightly increase your sun intensity. Don't forget to play around with color grading in PPV.
  • Ashervisalis
    @Maximum-Dev Really, thanks for all that advice, it's helping me out quite a lot. The instructions were to not use advanced lighting solutions. I'm not sure if that would exclude a cube map or not? I'll play around with the colour grading tomorrow, but I've done everything else you've mentioned!

    I'm still not able to get my ferns to cast a shadow. I've tried setting the lighting mode to both Surface Translucency Volume and also Surface Forward Shading, but the little guys refuse. I can't for the life of me figure it out.

    Currently I made the red bush have less alpha so it stands out a little nicer. Took Maximum's idea and created clovers; it worked really nicely! I also made two modular roots and put that around the trees to try and appease Homart and Radumitroi telling me to add more geo to the bottom of the trees! Lastly, I've updated the texture of the hanging moss so it doesn't look like strips of moss.

    I now have one more day of work I can put into this. All your tips have helped me out so much, and any more would be appreciated!

  • Ashervisalis
    I got the shadows! I was using translucent material, it should have been masked and two sided foliage;

  • Maximum-Dev
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    Maximum-Dev Polycount Sponsor
    They should've specified. IBL is very basics. They might have been referring to volumetric lighting or special lighting setups like studio or something. "Advanced lighting solutions" could mean anything but yeah no idea what they meant by that.
    Make your clover slightly darker than the ferns.
    It seems like the backfaces of ferns are black.Plug your fern Albedo to Subsurface Color pin as well if you haven't.
    Seems like you are using Translucent shading model for the stuff hanging from trees. Remember such sort of things should always use Masked blend mode and Two Sided Foliage shading model. Revert all the Translucent settings to original.
    I think the clovers have no normal map? try to get a normal map on them to break up that uniform light reflection.
    New lighting and background is now far better than the default ue4 sky sphere.
  • Ashervisalis
    Well guys, my time is up! I want to give a big shout out to all you guys who gave me advice and tips. I tried implementing everything suggested to the best of my ability and within this deadline. The final renders which I have submitted are below. Of course, any critique is still welcomed and will be remembered by myself in future projects. I'll update on how it goes, whether I land a job, and what critique they give me, if any.

    In retrospect and self critique;
    - I could have put a lot more creativity into the trees, and adding a few rocks would have been a nice touch.
    - The moss on the branches could also use a more subtle transition into the non-hanging moss parts.
    - There is no hanging moss on the fallen tree.
    - The dirt texture is a bit too uniform, would have been nice to paint in some darker textures and spots.
    But once again, I was on a tight deadline, so I won't be too harsh on myself  :p

    @Maximum-Dev I did your suggestions, except for making the hanging moss two sided foliage. When I did that, it just didn't look as good as before, so I reverted it back to translucent. If the deadline wasn't right now, I'd play around with it and try getting the foliage option to look better.

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