Sketchbook: Austin Labarbera


Hello everyone, 

First time doing a sketchbook on Polycount. My goals are to improve with World of Warcraft texture painting, and environment art. I will be mainly focusing on trying to make my artwork look as close to Blizzard's as possible on some projects, and try out some style experimenting on others. Critiques and comments are very welcome.  

I just dove into Zbrush (was formerly using Mudbox) for the first time and created a basic brick texture for testing/learning.

I am currently working a full-time job, but hope to post more shortly. 


  • AustinLabarbera
    Hello again! 

    I went back to an old sculpt of wood planks I did, and threw the base mesh into Zbrush. After sculpting in Zbrush I painted over the detail maps in Photoshop. Here is a before and after comparison of the results. Hope there is improvement! 

  • AustinLabarbera

    Did some concept art for a grungy hallway scene I am planning out. 
  • AustinLabarbera
    Hello everyone. I decided to focus on creating and improving on Blizzard-style hand-painted textures. I know this is just a stinkin' crate, but I decided to go with a very basic model (6 faces) to focus on painting alone. Diffuse only. No sculpting, no manipulating photographs, just straight up painting in Photoshop. 
  • AustinLabarbera
    Hey dudes, 

    Been a few weeks since an update. 

    I have been busy with work, but in my free time I have been diving into getting a better understanding of Zbrush, and what makes Blizz's textures/models look the way they do. 

    I bought Zbrush Core a few weeks ago, but it just wasn't cutting it. I was running into many issues where I needed a tool (rendering, bringing in /creating custom brushes, and reducing the overall polycount just to name a few) that Zbrush Core simply didn't have. Yesterday I upgraded to the full version of Zbrush 4R8, and I'm not looking back!

    Here is a sculpt I did in about an hour. Can't wait to begin comping, and painting over it in Photoshop. 
    I also began looking at my old work, and seeing areas I need to improve. I think lighting and following concepts was my biggest issue. Luckily at work I am getting a lot of experience with this. So looking back at my work from a few months makes me cringe. Which I guess is a good thing haha. 

    I began a block-out of a garrison model based on concept art by Blizzard's Jimmy Lo. 

    Until next time.
  • AustinLabarbera
    Hello again. 

    Finished the low- poly, and began sculpting the wood high-poly.

  • AustinLabarbera

    Finished Sculpting the high-poly mesh on the wood for this model. 
  • AustinLabarbera
    Began painting in the wood texture. Still has a way to go.  

  • AustinLabarbera
    Hello everyone, 

    I made more progress over the long weekend. 

    I touched up the wood texture a bit, but decided to put it on hold and paint the brick sculpt I did a few weeks ago. 

    I liked the color variation, but some of it doesn't fit with the original concept art, so I am going to go back and change the blueish grey stones to something more neutral between the darker and lighter bricks. 

    I also sculpted the stone base to the structure. 

    I also did some testing in Marmoset and back in Maya. 
    I placed a base material on the stone, but the whole thing needs to be composited and painted over. 

    Still has a way to go, but I have enjoyed tracking my progress so far. 

    Until next week,

    Cheers! :smile:
  • AustinLabarbera
    Hello everyone, 

    This weekend I have been working on upgrading my workstation. I have jump through some technical hoops, but all is well now. I have spoke with someone I work with and got some great feedback on my little project so far. I began going in and making changes to the model, and textures I currently have such as the wood and the brick before jumping onto painting the stone. I want the current textures to be the best they possibly can before proceeding. I also went back and looked at the model and wanted to add more variety to it. Looking at models by Blizzard you will notice there are no (or at least very few) straight lines in anything.

    At the end of the week I fooled around a lot in Zbrush just trying to see what workflow would be best to follow for future projects, as well as reading up on what next piece of software I should sink my teeth into. I use Quixel at the moment in tangent with Photoshop for texturing but have heard and seen such great things about 3D Coat. I may have to pick it up after I move on from this project. Should make things easier for hand-painted texturing. 

    This piece above has been a weekend project for me, but I hope to share some more WIP images before next Sunday. 

    Until next time...
  • AustinLabarbera
    Hello everyone, 

    been awhile.

    Before I left for the holidays I posted this image to the critiques thread, and as a WIP to my Artstation page. 
    I got some feedback from some fellow Polycounters, and from friends. (Thanks!)

    I am currently in the process of going into a more detailed and modern workflow rather than straight-up diffuse like I'd originally planned. More Heroes of the Storm or Overwatch-esque. 

    This weekend I jumped back onto my little project and tried to dial in the materials, and give more detail to the roof and blocky objects. 

    I did a black and white test on my render and realized the contrast on the wood and the stone bricks were too similar. I brightened up the stones, and bumped down the contrast on the material. I also darkened the wood and added more contrast. Much happier with the result. 

    The roof was looking flat, and I tried many things to fix this issue. At first I took the main roof off and made 3-4 cubes on each side of the roof with the tileable texture place on them, but it ended up looking odd. So then I tried taking the base mesh (before it was brought into Zbrush of course) I used to create the tileable texture for the roof and began spreading them all over the building so each tile was modeled out. The polycount was way too high and I wasn't getting that much depth out of it. I would have to leave the back faces of each shingle for it to make sense and the polycount was high enough. So I ended up putting the original roof on, but adding some extra edge-loops and adjusting the height of the top surface. I also modeled out some shingles to sit along top of the roof. Its not perfect, but I think it is better now. I will return and try to dial it in more and maybe add more shingles along the edges of the roof. 

    I moved onto the metal and touched up the base texture, and added more micro surface information. There are still way too many dark and contrasty spots which I am going to try to work on fixing. That issue also is apparent in my other materials as well. I went back to the brick and roof texture and removed a lot of the areas that were reading as black and filled them in with a lighter and more saturated color.  I also went back and added a sharpen filter to all my textures which I like a lot. 

    Here are some samples: 


    This week I want to go back and give the stone some love, and try to fix mentioned issues above. I need to also play around with the lighting more, as well as the camera angle. I am  loosely going off the concept art by Jimmy Lo, but if I present my work next to his I think the angle and lighting needs to be as close as possible to the concept.  

  • AustinLabarbera
    It's Sunday again my dudes...  Time for another update.

    I went back a redid the metal. Still need to fix up the spec map, and fix some UV issues, but I am liking it a lot better now. Old material was way too glossy and bright. Also, metallic materials in Heroes of the Storm and even Overwatch aren't that shiny and don't drastically change when switching camera position. 

    I also took the model into a new Marmoset scene with no lighting other than the HDRi (but that is only temporarily) to get a fresh start at lighting the model after making more texture changes. 

    I took another crack at taking the roof in a different direct after looking at the buildings in the new "Blizzard World" map for Overwatch. Just started painting it slightly, not liking it so far though. I like how there is more depth, but I think the texture may already be on the wrong track. But I think the model in general might be on the right track... I hope. Will give this project some love during the week if I have time away from work. I am planning on doing a lot of work on this piece next weekend and post it to Polycount next Sunday for critique.  After that (hopefully after looking much nicer XD) I plan to give this model a break for bit so I can begin working on another project. 

  • sandrasketches
    Solid stuff! I like the overall design of the building - great bold shapes
  • AustinLabarbera
    Hey my dudes, last weekend I went back and touched up the roof model/texture again. 
    I have decided I am going to take a break from this piece and go back and recreate an old asset I did about a year ago. 

    I liked the model, but not so much the texture. So I went back and jazzed up the model a bit by creating a new high-poly model in ZBrush, then by making a new low-poly model based off the new high-poly and began painting in 3D-Coat. Here is the progress so far:


    I am going for a more WoW look than Heroes of the Storm look like the Garrison model. 

    I felt like I needed to take a break on the Garrison project for a bit and work on something else. Liking it so far, but it's not close to being finished by any means. 

    I also have decided I want to recreate the Alliance Steam Tank model from WoW and put it next to the Garrison model like in the original concept art, but in a HOTS style. I'm excited to jump back on that project and beef it up after I give this lantern some more love. 

    Until next time.... 


  • AustinLabarbera
    Solid stuff! I like the overall design of the building - great bold shapes
    Hey thanks! I appreciate you stopping by!
  • AustinLabarbera
    Hey dudes, 

    I have been busy experimenting and trying to learn a bit of Substance Designer this weekend. 

    Made some updates on the lantern however. 

    Have some ideas on a possible new environment piece I want to work on that isn't hand-painted related. 

    We shall see! 

  • AustinLabarbera
    Hey my dudes, 

    I have been juggling two projects..... so why not three??? 

    I picked up another model I did a year ago and decided to see (hopefully) how much I improved.
    Still work in progress for sure!  

    Brown or Green bag? 

    Until next time my dudes... 


  • AustinLabarbera
    Hey dudes, 

    Been awhile. Didn't ever show the updated pieces above on my sketchbook. 

    Oh well... here they are: 

    I got some changes I want to make to them, but I am putting them on hold to work on other projects at the moment.

    Last month I went to GDC and it was amazing! Got amazing feedback from some amazing people. 

    I have mostly been playing around with Substance Designer and Painter this month. Been planning a few projects based on some feedback I got at the conference. 

    There is just so much I want to work on!


    Here is a quick study I did in Substance Designer of my kitchen floor: 

    Decided to do something different and try to make a more realistic material. 

    As I said, there is so much I want to do. I love doing stylized artwork (and have some stylized projects in mind I can't wait to jump on), it was quite odd seeing this material sit next to my other work on my site. But I think variation can be a good thing, and experimenting can't hurt! 

    So besides stylized fantasy, I also have a love for grungy dark themes. I am really excited to explore those themes with some other projects I have planned. 

    We shall see... 

    Cheers everyone! 
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