The Bi-Monthly ENVIRONMENT ART Challenge | January - February (64)

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  • MagicTurtle
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    MagicTurtle triangle
    @Raybees Thank you very much, I'm trying to push the narrative aspect of this scene as much as I can, glad you noticed :)

    @blot12345 I absolutely love how your scene is progressing, the mood and the cartoonish look really sell it! Speaking about things that stick out, your scene looks really solid but some props like the chairs look a bit under detailed compared to other props like the fridge, nothing really major but it caught my attention.

    @alytlebird It's the first time participating in a challenge for me, and I started to be active here on Polycount since this one started so I don't really know what to suggest to be honest.

    This is my progress for today, the glass was particularly difficult to create in Substance Painter but I'm quite happy whit this result, I only need to make it work in UE now.

  • Raybees
  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg polycounter
    Got my bakes done and doing my base pass in substance painter on the crane. I'm going to texture it then construct the entire thing with a couple of mirrored areas and all the ropes/chains and stone then do a complete asset AO bake on the second UV channel so everything looks put together.

    Link to the turn around video of my bake in Marmoset.



  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg polycounter
    Last update for tonight

  • Raybees
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    Raybees polycounter lvl 7
    Hand Painted My Book Shelf looks like I'll be going this long route, Trying to up my painting skills i guess.

  • Raybees
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    Raybees polycounter lvl 7
  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg polycounter
    Started the surroundings for this piece today. Wanted an actual place to put this crane in.


  • Raybees
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    Raybees polycounter lvl 7
    @Gustavo_Elliott Those Bottles are looking great, I feel like some wear and tear on the labels would add some nice breakup. Maybe part has been torn off, or some dirt accumulation.

    The stove thing is some sort of Distillation Apparatus, If you google "big distiller" or "glass distiller" you can find similar props. I couldn't find an exact match, but from what I saw that is what I have concluded.  Also there is the mini distiller on the table so it appears to be a important part for making potions.
  • MagicTurtle
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    MagicTurtle triangle
    I started to work on this huge trimsheet. 197 books condensed in a single uv set... I'm going to have a fun time texturing it :p


    @zachagreg both the environment and textures looks fantastic! can't wait to see the whole scene put together!

    @Gustavo_Elliott Thank you! As @Raybees pointed out, that thing it's probably a distiller, couldn't find anything similar to that design tho, I assume is a unique piece designed by the concept artist. For the references, I used pictures of old cast iron stoves and old telescopes for the cylindrical thing on the pedestal. Btw, I really like the material you made, nice looking and very clever solution!
  • laurens.tjong
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    laurens.tjong polycounter lvl 6
    Does this idea sound good to everyone? Whether or not you're planning on participating during the next challenge, I'd love to get some reactions. :)
    I think it's a good idea!

    @blot12345 ... your stuff looks great. Great amount of effort you're putting into this!

    And sorry for not posting in a while. Didn't have a lot of energy to do the challenge lately, But I did chug along a bit. and finished almost all the complicated props. Looking forward to start putting everything together...


  • Raybees
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    Raybees polycounter lvl 7
    Finished painting up my box and made a nice toon shader in C#. XD
  • icegodofhungary
    blot12345 said:
    @icegodofhungary I like your trim on the chest. As for the rest of the wood, the dirt seems to uniformly noisy. It might be worth trying to punch some large grain patterns through the noise to sell the fact that it's wood.

    Thank you for your reply. Your piece is looking really well. I can't find a critique in it.

    I re-worked the wood chest and focused on making a more readable texture. I also went ahead and did what I saw as a metal chest of drawers. Both use 512x512 trim sheets.


    @zachagreg : looks good. Placing it in an environment is a good idea.

    @Gustavo_Elliott : that's a good idea for quick generation of variations. I was thinking of a substance that would do a similar thing.

    @MagicTurtle : I'm afraid I'll have to do something similar. Looks a little tedious lol. I'm kinda dreading it.
  • MagicTurtle
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    MagicTurtle triangle
    Update on the trimsheet. Textures are not done yet, but they are starting to look ok.


    @icegodofhungary A bit tedious yeah, but not that bad once you find a good workflow and keep everything organized. Good job on the textures btw, I really like how you redesigned the chest on the right.
  • Konzui
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    Konzui triangle
    I've started this scene three days ago and this is what it looks like so far. However, I am still quite uncertain whether I should leave the lamps on or off, because they cast a strange shadow. In addition, I will probably replace the floor texture later with a new one that fits more into the scene. (Lights are not built yet)

    blot12345 wow, your scene looks amazing! I'll definitely leave a like on your Artstation.
  • kelly_caroline
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    kelly_caroline polycounter lvl 2
    @zachagreg After the explanation I think that it's pretty neat how you've modified your model to be structurally sound, and I'm also enjoying the addition of the symbol you added carved into the wood. For right now I have 2 uv sets - one for the main part of the model and one for the ropes and pulleys but I am thinking of breaking it up some to get more detail. 
    @Taas I like your ideas of the machine lifting a statue and think with your Norse symbolism idea some embossed metal accents would turn out nicely! I'm interested in seeing what you come up with

    I've been messing around with substance painter to learn the workflow, but have run into some issues when trying to bake my normal maps. I'm using a .fbx with all models and the fbx named _low, and for my highpoly models- in the baking options- they are all exported from zbrush as .obj's named _high, but when I hit bake maps nothing seems to happen and I have seemingly empty maps. I've tried baking from .obj to .obj and that works just fine. Is there a setting somewhere I forgot to check?

    I'm loving seeing how everyone progresses, keep up the great work!
  • icegodofhungary
     Is there a setting somewhere I forgot to check?

    There's a drop-down box in the settings next to "Match" and you should choose "by name". It's below the anti-aliasing setting and above the suffix settings.
  • kelly_caroline
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    kelly_caroline polycounter lvl 2
    @icegodofhungary I do have the match by name set up. If I import a .obj with multiple pieces it is able to normal map them correctly with their high-poly .obj via the naming conventions, but if I import a .fbx it cannot. Do the high and low poly models have to be the same file type? 
  • MagicTurtle
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    @kelly_caroline Be sure both your files share the same .fbx extension or the option Match by mesh name won't work (multiple meshes are likely merged in a single one when exporting in .obj). I also suggest to just explode your object instead, it usually provides better results.

  • kelly_caroline
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    kelly_caroline polycounter lvl 2
    @MagicTurtle After some testing and troubleshooting with zbrush and substance, I've realized that for some reason upon export to .fbx zbrush changes not only the scale by 100 but the position is changed too (i have an axis setting wrong?). It does not do this with my .obj files which is why they were baking fine.....I will have to do some looking into export settings as I've never really had to export .fbx from zbrush before!
  • icegodofhungary
    Small update, got a few more items done. Probably won't update again until I get much further.

  • broken_shadow
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    broken_shadow polycounter lvl 13
    Hi guys.  Late post, but not a late start- I started this last month but didn't think I'd get anywhere with it, but now it's suddenly February so I thought I'd show where I'm at.   I'll write more tomorrow.   I do enjoy seeing everyone's progress here!





  • Raybees
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    Raybees polycounter lvl 7
    Lots more painting done, slowly getting there.

    I'll have whatever @Konzui is having, cause apparently it makes you get things done, I mean damn dude making the rest of us look like sloths. Everything looking great although everything kind of blends together and it's hard to make it out, more lighting wold help. Also I would vary up the books I can tell they were duplicated and reused.

    @broken_shadow Your assets are looking fly dude. I think the lighting from the lamp is a little distracting from the dots, also your star is too perfect I would try to make it look more painted.
  • PastyPict
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    PastyPict triangle
    I've been delayed in posting my work due to matters outside of this project, but also this asset had me stumped for a while. I was trying to figure out what to make the ornamental piece on the front of the crate.
    I started off trying to make a piece of metal wit wing engravings. I'm still a ZBrush newbie, so that proved to be too difficult of a task for me at the moment. I dabbled in butterfly wings and using masking with the inflate deformer, but I decided I would settle on a skull ornament so that I could have something I know I could have completed to some degree.
    If you look at the teeth, you can probably see how slightly warped and unclean the shapes are compared to the rest of the skull, since the teeth are sticking to engraved idea I had. I think it's passable for now and I'll have to work on this sort of workflow more to know what I'm doing.
    In terms of sculpting, I'm calling this asset done. Just gonna retopologise, then texture, and start putting it into the scene with some other assets.

    I'm guessing something like those teeth should be done with the chisel brush?
    Not sure how well that would work with feathers.

  • Raybees
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    Raybees polycounter lvl 7

    Sculpted my lamps up
  • RavenGirl
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    RavenGirl polycounter lvl 2
    @zachagreg Your textures are looking amazing! I'm not sure if it's the environment or your textures, but you may think about tweaking the roughness values on the metal brackets to separate them more from the wood.

    I am calling this complete for now. I have other projects that I need to get onto. I really enjoyed working on this, and I learned a ton in zbrush and substance designer. Thank you @alytlebird for organizing this challenge. I can't wait to see everyone's completed projects!





  • Raybees
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    Raybees polycounter lvl 7
    All Assets now hand Painted, although I will rework some color maps If I have time.  Currently trying to get FX and lighting set up nice.  My Toon Shader setup is only really affected by the directional light, so I have to go in  each material and tweak it manually to achieve fake lighting, but I'm liking where it's going. This is in Unity btw.

  • Konzui
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    Konzui triangle


    This is my progress so far. There are still a few models missing and some have to be revised again. 

    @Raybees I'll definitely add some more variation to my books, but I had to focus on other assets to get more progress. I made all books with a Blueprint Note, so all of them are procedural and I can easily add a few more textures.
  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg polycounter
    Doing all of the ropes/chains/stone stuff now and getting my post process and lighting in
  • Klawd
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    Klawd polycounter lvl 3
    zachagreg said:
    Doing all of the ropes/chains/stone stuff now and getting my post process and lighting in
    I think the background makes the whole set as not very readable. You kinda lose your prop in the composition. Maybe different rock material?
  • pixelpatron
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    pixelpatron polycounter lvl 7
    Your robbing yourself of a great piece zachagreg. The background is not doing you any favors. Why not just have the crane holding a block, next to some sort of structure constructed of those blocks? Pyramid maybe? A backdrop like this wouldn't take too many more assets to pull off; and as along as your prop is in the foreground, and this stuff is pushed back; possibly even depth of field out of focus....you'd have a way better composition and feel than the direction you're currently heading towards.. Image result for pyramid construction
    Ancient Egyptian pyramid of Giza against the sky and close up of the pyramid blocks
  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg polycounter
    I've received similar critique on a couple of Discords, and edited postprocess, fog, and DOF to put more focus on the crane. Knocked back the normals and AO for all the cliffs and plants to reduce noise. Introduced some tight DOF and a heavier fog seems to alleviate the issues from those critiques I mentioned. Let me know if you agree though.



  • Klawd
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    Klawd polycounter lvl 3
    zachagreg said:
    I've received similar critique on a couple of Discords, and edited postprocess, fog, and DOF to put more focus on the crane. Knocked back the normals and AO for all the cliffs and plants to reduce noise. Introduced some tight DOF and a heavier fog seems to alleviate the issues from those critiques I mentioned. Let me know if you agree though.


    It's already more readable, but could go a long way with better overall lighting, and maybe tuning down saturation. The prop itself is pretty good, at this stage it's just (still) being penalized by the presentation environment.
  • engelmanna
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    engelmanna polycounter lvl 12
    @zachagreg I'd rethink using an environment unless the environment will get the same level of polish as the prop. There is nothing wrong with letting your prop stand alone as a showpiece. Just a solid color backdrop with nice lighting will keep the viewer's focus on what is important. Here are a few examples from artstation that do it nicely in my opinion:
    If you feel strongly about adding an environment, maybe just do a ground plane, or treat the scene more as a vignette:
    And if you really want to do an environment, think about ways to simplify the background to make your prop's silhouette really stand out. Right now the noise of your environment camouflages your prop. Here are a few examples that use simple environments to give context to the prop:
    I hope that helps. Your prop looks amazing, I don't think it needs an environment to sell it as a good piece of work.



  • Raybees
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    Raybees polycounter lvl 7
    Reworked my bookshelf a bit to break up the books more. Added the star for Wiccan Spell capabilities.


  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg polycounter
    I'm conflicted I'll be honest. So I threw it into Marmoset which I was going to do anyway for compliment shots on this piece.
    I want to do the background as a set on this. I feel like this will push me more artistically than just rendering the prop.


    This is just a quick light and render in Marmoset nothing final. While I do like this I don't think I want to completely drop the environment surrounding it.

    @engelmanna I looked through those and while I can gain inspiration and lighting from those renders (which is super helpful so thank you) I find myself in conflict because those items are all smaller or relatively smaller than a human. Bar the minecart of course. I just don't feel like these kind of solo renders capture large scale well. Which was my original reason for placing it into an environment.

    @Klawd Definitely agree the shot can come up in lighting, in composition, framing and general post process. This was more of my goal on these recent updates to get critique on all aspects of it so that I can get this thing to fit in an environment with this as the obvious focus.



    Increased fog a bit more and provided another angle I am mulling over. I've got basically a 160 degree shot of this thing without seeing obvious ends of the surroundings. If it's a matter of composition, framing, lighting, post process or the prop itself I am more than willing to have critique on those things. I just want you guys to know I very much appreciate the feedback I just think I need to push myself as an artist on this more to get a good result with the prop in the environment.

    Like you guys said there is nothing wrong with just presenting a prop, which is my fallback if I can't get this to work.

  • broken_shadow
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    broken_shadow polycounter lvl 13
    @zachagreg

    One of the things throwing me off with the background environment is that the sky color feels like it doesn't match and feel natural with your light setup.   The cliff itself looks a bit busy and does distract and your asset gets a bit lost in it. 

    I do like the columns and other stuff you have laying around the ground level, and that you're building a story with it.  Since the crane device looks like it's used to pick up heavy concrete blocks, maybe you can also have something that shows something in progress is being built:


    Also I do like the contrast of the trees in the background, it definitely makes the object pop out more.  I would probably experiment with swapping out the cliff (but keep everything else on the ground level), and try something like trees in the background:


    Otherwise, like many of others have said, the asset itself looks super solid!
  • Raybees
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    Raybees polycounter lvl 7
    @Konzui I think your scene looks amazing great work!!!  One critique is the chandeliers look a little fake compared to everything else that looks extremely realistic.  Also I would try to make everything a bit lighter, I can't really make out most props that aren't on the table.

    @zachagreg I agree with others after seeing your prop in just a black background, it allows me to see more detail. While it is in the environment It's harder to see the details and it just seems out of place in an all organic environment and only one man made tool, that would never happen in real life, if you do make a scene I think you need to add more man made props and add story elements to make it fit.

    I feel I am at an end point as well with this challenge, I definitely will continue to polish it here and there, but I have much more projects to work on and I think time to get moving on them.  I had an incredible time doing this and looking forward to the next challenge.  I used Maya, Photoshop, Zbrush, C# and Unity.  All textures are hand painted, I played Zelda: Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild as well as Torchlight 1 and 2 for inspiration, and learned a ton about painting textures.

    Here it is:

    Cheers!!! Looking forward to seeing everyone else's work!
  • icegodofhungary
    I'm trying to get this done. I think the next time I do one of these I'm going to pick a single prop rather than a room full of props.


  • broken_shadow
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    broken_shadow polycounter lvl 13
    @Konzui Great job man.  The lighting and the mood looks great.  My only critique is that the books are a bit hard to read on the shelf from the patterns of the light (which I've run into myself), along with the colors of the books.  Their color ranges blend in a bit with the shelf and light color.  

    @Raybees Thanks for the comments- I adjusted the star and the lighting patterns of the light to make them more subtle.  I like your stylized approach.  It definitely has that BoTW feel to it.   I really like that you added the double door to create an entrance to the room, which is a great attention to detail.  I was going to the same myself but I ran out of time.   I think it would great too if you maybe dim natural light down a little, and then let the hanging lights and candles be the main source.  I think the lighting contrast would make things pop out a bit more.

    @icegodofhungary Looks good so far, and I know what you mean.  I had to cut out some props myself, and tried to re-use as much as possible to make things feel populated. 

    I'm calling my finished for now too.  This challenge I decided to try something different and light it with realtime raytracing in Unreal Engine 4, so all the lights are dynamic and nothing is baked.  Unfortunately I couldn't get the old particle effects like dust/smoke to work with it.  I used Quixel Megascan textures for the floor and walls, and for everything else I used Substance Painter.   














  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg polycounter
    Well I am calling this one done. Ended up not putting in scaffolding because I felt like I was noodling. Re-did my framing and composition and then moved some of the already present man-made stuff into frame to show it a little more. Upped the shade on the sky to make it more bright and natural. More and higher quality shots as well as a video on my Artstation: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/mqN32E







  • TayloredChaos
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    TayloredChaos polycounter lvl 6
    Thought I'd do the hot dog van since it would be a great excuse to start practice using Blender. Here's the geo so far. There's a few area I think I'll still optimize further (especially the small lights area), but I'm deliberately using some extra geo to smooth out edges to improve the silhouette.
    Here's also the initial lighting pass before I hit the texturing.

    Wow amazing stuff everyone. @zachagreg The surrounding environment really helps sells the prop, simply awesome.

    Wildcard category sounds like an interesting addition - If you end up including it I'll be looking forward to seeing what concept comes up for the next challenge. 

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