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[Finished] Rock Study Dioramas - Unreal Engine 5

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Mr_Nova polycounter lvl 3

(Long Post. TL;DR I've been working on two separate dioramas during school and blogging about it.)

Following up from my last upload "Desert Rock Study" which can be found here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/vJdn4x

I've been attending school in Canada and hopefully within the next year I can land something in terms of an environment artist role. In that time I've been working on two dioramas to fill more space in my portfolio on Artstation just to demonstrate more of my technical/modeling skills and presentation.

I mainly started these as small element studies (Desert, Water, Forest, etc.) and currently I'm halfway on the water diorama and a quarter done with the forest scene..

Starting with the water study.

1.) Water study I found this cool concept by (I believe, google translate) Qi Pig? from the Star CG page on Artstation... and figured it would be a good concept to create some rocks and a water shader.

Currently, inside UE5 I have this setup.

The water shader isn't perfect but I'm quite happy with the result after battling with school and then on my spare time trying to learn how to make a shader from the ground up. Piecing together a few tutorials (Mostly from PrismaticaDev, Joshua Weinberg and Rimaye) I cobbled together something I feel is stylized water. Currently I'm using the water falls from the cartoon water shader from the Unreal market that I want eventually change to be much more rapid looking (from the concept) as I'm slowly learning. Hopefully to also make the greenish/teal tint on top as the water moves....

But, overall not bad for not knowing how to do this 2 months ago.

It was a rats nest at first but I organized the shader making clearly readable now and knowing what everything does and is connected to.

All of this being a SingleLayerWater and combination of hand made textures, 1 material function that (doesn't show it) but allows the waves to sparkle (Thank you Joshua Weinberg for his breakdown on making that possible).

To end this update, I think I will only focus on getting the water done for now as juggling two projects plus college is a nightmare. I may go back and redo the textures a bit on my rocks as I'm not quite happy with them yet. Eventually I will be adding the moss and some additional foliage to this scene just to make it more alive (plus a cute animal, cause why not?) make it feel lived in.

Let me know what you think, I would love to hear your thoughts and appreciate any advice I'm given.


  • Mr_Nova
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    Mr_Nova polycounter lvl 3

    Got some time this holiday so far to update the textures of the rocks as I felt the rock textures were too plastic looking and the color variation was not to my liking. Below is a gif of the current state in UE5 of my shader and setup w/ the new textures :) I think it looks pretty cool.

    Next, I've been tackling the moss overlay on the rocks as shown in the original concept. I've slowly been chipping away at it inside substance painter for the textures, originally I was going to take this opportunity to try vertex painting and blending different materials into each other but decided not to. Reason being is the shader creation was a headache already and I will learn the vertex painting alongside using substance designer for the first time (soon.)

    Inside substance painter right now I've been using a hard brush for making a rough looking moss that I will adjust. Eventually adding in some color variation, and foliage on top to make it more lively in comparison to the concept. When all that is done I will be testing adding in the updated moss overlay into my scene. After that it's adjusting the speed of the water falls, better lighting and some birds on top of the rocks :) excited for that.

  • Eric Chadwick

    I like where you're going with this!

    It would be nice to get that dappled lighting from the concept, if you can. It's nice how the original artist was hinting at that "sun kissing a clearing in the forest" kind of look.

  • Mr_Nova
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    Mr_Nova polycounter lvl 3

    @Eric Chadwick Thank you!

    For the lighting I'm aiming for the same look :) right now I was focusing getting the textures right and foliage, and then getting the lighting setup

  • Mr_Nova
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    Mr_Nova polycounter lvl 3

    Got a base lighting setup a day ago and very happy with the drastic difference lighting makes :) This is looking really cool. Currently I'm sitting with this inside Unreal Engine, I plan on taking a screenshot and concepting out my next steps I want to add in this diorama.

    1.) Concept foliage + model foliage via alphas

    2.) Add some fish and birds into the scene. Birds to be perched/hiding in the moss. Fish in the bottom portion of the diorama, should stop the viewers eye from going off the set.

    3.) (maybe) doing some small godrays + making an invisible mesh to impose a tree shadow into the top rock as seen on the concept

    4.) Ripple decal

    5.) Adjust post-process volume :)

    Been a long road with this one, I really underestimated how difficult making a custom water shader was.... but it's getting close :) just in time for school to pick up again.

  • Mr_Nova
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    Mr_Nova polycounter lvl 3
    Holy.. well it has been a long time since I followed up with this but I can proudly say it is finally finished! I basically took advantage of the short break between semester switching to power through/finalize everything. I lot of tutorials and learning to build a shader was well worth it, plus my girlfriend offering up advice on overall composition (couldn't have done it without that kind of insight) :) I think the end result was really worth the effort, especially checking my values at the end. I most likely will be cooling it on dioramas for a bit and focusing full scenes again, and seeing what I can do.

    Full project here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/lD9D9V
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