And my axe! Hardsurface, Hipoly, C&C needed

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polycounter lvl 9
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Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
*insert vagina my axe picture*

Hello all :), my first proper thread here, with a model and such.
Looking through some threads I came across this artist, loved the axe and thought it looked simple enough even I could make it. It's my first real attempt at hard surface modeling, I've used turbosmooth with smoothing groups info extensively (thank you Racer) and I've tried using as little floating geo as possible (got lazy near the end with the bolts and such..)
Anyway, enough babble, pictures:

Concept, belongs to shimmering sword:
Contact___Weapons_3_by_Shimmering_Sword.jpg

Hipoly render, 5 million quads
339orj8.jpg
HP, no turbo:
j5fe4o.png
HP,no turbo, wire:
34tbprt.png
Aware of the blade part being longer, kind of felt it was too short in the concept to make any serious viking-damage, so made it longer.

Going to make a low poly and attempt a good normal and AO bake, but before I do that I want some comments on how well I've translated the concept into 3D, if I've done some horribly dumb issues regarding the HP mesh that will look terrible in a bake etc. Any relevant critique is helpful, butcher this axe!

Replies

  • Titus S
    Even though you said you made the blade longer to make it look like it can do "damage" I would still have given that semi swoop hook at the tip of the blade. It gives it more character.

    34tbprt2.jpg

    Yours is on the right... I exaggerated the curve a bit more than the concept art, it's just personal taste, but it's probably not going to fit the style the artist was going for.

    I also should have mentioned to bring that arch on the right of the blade down too with the edge of the blade. It helps.
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Thanks! Did some adjustments to make it look a bit more like what you suggested, imo the very sharp edge doesn't fit too well with the rest of the axe, so just doing that slightly and lowering the right arch. Again, thanks :)

    t52ddy.png
  • Titus S
    Skamberin wrote: »
    Thanks! Did some adjustments to make it look a bit more like what you suggested, imo the very sharp edge doesn't fit too well with the rest of the axe, so just doing that slightly and lowering the right arch. Again, thanks :)

    t52ddy.png

    Looks better and seems to match the art better.
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Update with some tweaks and base colour materials applied. Removed some segments and fixed some smoothing groups to make it look a little better.
    1z2nhnp.png
    How's the thickness? I feel it looks right, but I've been staring at this thing for hours.
    I plan on doing the low poly without the sunken parts on the side of handle, but I don't know if a normal+AO map will make it look good enough in, for instance a first person view. Any tips on that? and of course, any glaring errors with the HP or is it good enough to start on the LP? Thanks
    *Edit: noticed and fixed a smoothing error on top of axe head*
  • Will Faucher
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    Will Faucher polycounter lvl 9
    I would make those recesses along the length of the shaft much, MUCH deeper. Those recesses are there to reduce weight, yet maintain the strength. It's sort of like a fullered sword. (Swords with a recess along the center of the blade). Other than that, it looks pretty darn close to the concept! Are you going to give this a very painterly look to it, just like the concept has? Or are you going to make it realistic?
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Thanks! I'll make them deeper :). When it comes to textures I want to maintain the painty look of the concept in the diffuse and try to get the same good looking highlights in the spec.
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Bump and changes done:1z4v2w1.jpg

    Deeper recesses, changes to thickness, smoothing group tweaks and trying to clean up the mesh so bakes won't look terrible. I've decided to go for a First Person Weapon level of detail on this, so I guess 3k tris for the lowpoly isn't overkill? I'll try and go as low as possible, only thing I know about the lowpoly is that I won't have the recesses as a texture only, there will be geometry there.

    Before I move on, any crits or suggestions would be very welcome, this is pretty much my first "serious" attempt at anything non school related and I want it to be good, even though the model and subject may be simple.
    Thanks
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    2vsewye.png
    Low Poly. I'm thinking it's done, of course I could be wrong. I think my budget of 3k triangles was a bit too high as I feel this one isn't too bad. I can probably touch it up a bit more in some areas that I am spotting now and I will do so.
    Now comes one of the harder parts, unwrapping. I know how to unwrap but I'm pretty green on it and I don't much care for Max's unwrapping tools as I find them slow and difficult to work with.
    Any tips regarding unwrapping and comments on the lowpoly would be muchly appreciated.
  • Snader
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    Snader polycounter lvl 11
    I'd personally try to round these curves out some more:
    axe_rounder.jpg

    Why is the large screw not circular?
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Thanks, I was thinking about doing that too.
    The large screw seems to match up nicely with the high poly equivalent. I'll take a look again and make sure it's right though.
    Again, thanks :)
    EDIT: Did some changes, up 200 in polycount but things are rounder now.
    2hi08w0.png
  • n88tr
    Those grooves in the handle, are they just verts pushed in or did you do a boolen with a rounded object set inside?
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Pushed in verts. I try my best to never ever use boolean as I'm too lazy to clean up the mess they can leave.
  • n88tr
    Haha I was sure it was a boolen, it looked too clean for just pushed in verts. You do anything else I can't see ??
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    I use smoothing groups as a reference for a turbosmooth modifier, which I multiply by 3, then I add another turbosmooth modifier over the other with the default settings, with 2 iterations, which smooths out the sharper edges. Learned it from Racer :) check his tuts or download that sniper rifle of his in the workshop forum to get a better idea of it :)
  • n88tr
    I thought you did something like this,

    normal_float.jpg
  • shinobix
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    shinobix polycounter lvl 11
    Very nice axe! Are you planning on doing the other objects in that concept as well?
  • imperator_dk
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    imperator_dk polycounter lvl 9
    I would pull up the red piece further on the blade, since it breaks the illusion of the axe actually being functional, it would stop cutting the moment it dug deep enough into an object to reach that red block.
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    n88tr: That works too, but I want to use as little floating geo as possible in my future attempts at things, I feel I'll get a better grasp of modeling in general by doing so :)

    Shinobix
    : I really want too! I love the artists weapon concepts and if he is okay with me using this axe for a portfolio or something (while giving him full credit for the design of course) I'll probably try making another weapon :)

    imperator_dk: but what if the swing was SO powerful it-, I'll shorten it :) Thanks!

    EDITS:
    2enucfp.png
  • shinobix
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    shinobix polycounter lvl 11
    haha. I'd love to see what you do with the other ones Skamberin :D

    As for what imperator_dk was saying, I think you've followed the concepts to the tee. The ax blade on your model is a little further out than what the concept has, if you look at it close enough... So perhaps subconciously you were already thinking on the same lines at imperator_dk was? :D
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Heh maybe :), I did shorten the red piece a bit though, and I feel it does look more "axy" now. Could probably get some pretty deep cuts with it :)

    So, what do you guys think? Ready for Unwrapping/baking?
  • shinobix
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    shinobix polycounter lvl 11
    Bake Away I say!!! How are you going to approach the texturing? I hope you're going to try to match the concepts toony/painterly style, rather than going photoreal-ish ??
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    I'll try my best to replicate the painty style of the concept as I really like it :)
  • shinobix
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    shinobix polycounter lvl 11
    Rock on!! Can't wait to see it!
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Okay, so the unwrapping is done (so far) and I've done a Normal and AO Bake.
    However there seems to be some issues with the shape of my low poly no longer fitting too well with the high poly, due to the maybe too aggressive "optimization" on my part :/
    While the AO map looks okay, the Normal shows edges and kind of ruin the "smoothness" of the entire low poly model.
    Pic, Xoliul viewport shader: 2048x2048
    otq748.png

    And here are the bakes, half size.

    Normal:
    w12tsn.png
    AO:
    28je236.png
    So, any tips on a "easy" way to fix this, maybe a different way of baking out the maps? I've tried XNormal but had some trouble getting decent results and felt more comfortable with max so I went with that. Comments on the unwrap itself would also be helpful, Thanks!
  • SHEPEIRO
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    SHEPEIRO polycounter lvl 13
    first thing is you dont need so many hard edges in your low, you wil get a better bake if you remove these.. as the breaks mean that the render rays miss tiny parts of the high here giving you seams... you only really need hard edges where the edges is greater than 85 degrees (or there abouts (pretty much garuanteed to fuck up at 90)

    also another rule thats good to know is if you have a hard edge in the low you also need a split in the uvs, otherwise a single pixel has to produce two different tanget offsets, it will be averaged and that pixel on each surface will have the wrong tangent offset giving you a messy seam, split the uvs and each surface has its own pixel

    i would try....

    save a version of your high without so many polys, for speed of testing the baking

    change low poly to 1 smoothing group and bake with low res low quality maps in xnormal

    most of the model should bake well as there are not too many 85 degree + angles but where it does fuck up with bad shading, try adding a smoothing break at the adjacent steep angled surfaces, maybe just the axe tip for starters you may need more, but this is the only obvious one.... and bake again

    rinse and repeat until you get a perfect bake

    when you do swap the high for the really high and bake using HQ settings

    job done
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Oh man, that's all new too me. Really, thanks for sharing, it means a lot. I'll try out splitting the UV along the hard edges first and see what I can get, then go for lowering the high res and testing out bakes in XNormal with different smoothing groups.

    Also, sorry if I seem very dumb but, I'm not really sure what you meant with this:
    adding a smoothing break at the adjacent steep angled surfaces, maybe just the axe tip for starters you may need more, but this is the only obvious one.... and bake again

    Thanks for the help though, it's really really appreciated :)
  • SHEPEIRO
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    SHEPEIRO polycounter lvl 13
    nono reduce the hard edging first not the uv breaks, best normal mas come from fewest smoothing groups fewest uv islands

    i just meant make sure there is a hard edge down the tip of the blade, you deffinatly need one here
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Okay, been trying out what you said about one smoothing group and adjusting based on baking results in xnormal, and it really is a big difference! So thanks a lot :)
    Only issue now bar needing a little more tweaking is some smoothing errors showing up in the normal (or maybe its in the lowpoly mesh..)
    2e3psb5.png

    As you can see in the circled areas there are some smoothing errors with the polies, I've tried different smoothing groups and the like, but the only thing that "fixes" it is having a hard edge, which ruins the normal edge :(.

    So how do I go about fixing this? and ignore the noisy baking error, that's just a cage issue.
    Thanks for all help so far :)
  • Will Faucher
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    Will Faucher polycounter lvl 9
    Could you show us your normal map results? Maybe it's just an issue where you can paint out the errors.
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Yep, it's an error within the normal map itself.. Dumb me not to check that..
    i4h09i.png
    Anyway, it could probably be fixed in photoshop, but I would like to know if it is avoidable entierly. I guess getting a "perfect" bake is kind of impossible though.
  • Will Faucher
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    Will Faucher polycounter lvl 9
    I really don't know what to say honestly... your first bake seemed pretty good, now there seems to be some really messed up bake. O_o
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    First bake was3dsmax, last one was Xnormal. Tried exporting my projection cage to Xnormal but it didn't work too well :X
    Here's the newest bake, 3DsMax Light Tracer bake:
    9vayh5.png

    Pretty sure the issues with the Xnormal bakes is located between the keyboard and the chair. No luck with fixing the distortion yet. This is in no way the final bake setup by the way. Once I find a way to fix those distortions I'll spend way more time adjusting the cage and other settings for the best result.
  • mickyg
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    mickyg polycounter lvl 7
    I might be completely off the mark, but I remember someone saying once that Xnormal cannot respect smoothing groups, and you have to actually detach the meshes that are different groups.


    So, everything that is smoothing group 1 is a separate object, everything that is group 2 is a second separate object etc. But then still exported to Xnormal as one OBJ.

    Can anyone confirm or deny this?
  • SHEPEIRO
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    SHEPEIRO polycounter lvl 13
    erm not true if you export smoothing groups in you obj options im sure i have not come across this...maybe play with you export settings and check in xnormals veiwer that the settings are coming out correctly

    dont use maxes normal baking its tangents dont work aswell as xnormals, mayas etc for most realtime applications...theres a BIG thread in the technical section about this

    i dont like using a cage either just use ray distance to get the right bake, you get more accuracy if your not bending the ray direction... if you need to explode the objects to render with no overlapping raycasts

    dont fix in PS... you could and maybe in a production schedule you might want to, but a perfact or near as damn perfect bake is completely possible and as a learning project dont give up...

    a few things to try

    triangulate your mesh befor export to make sure the exporter is respecting the triangulation (dont need the low mesh to be triangulated just the exported one, this often fixes alot of slight issues

    if you are still getting errors on the handle, try reducing the indentations in the low, not by much but a small change can reduce the angles at the edges by quite a bit fixing slight errors

    EDIT- in the particular area your pointing out you may need a hard edge or chamfer to get rid of the harsh angle... again working this way round, lets youy see where the problems are and fix those as you see them. good luck
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    God dammit, this is frustrating. Tried exporting it as a triangulated mesh with default settings and tris.

    Tried a bake without a cage in xnormal and one with. The one without misses the inner circles, the one with only misses slightly. Can't really see any difference between them either.

    I'm honestly not really sure how to proceed now. Giving the harder surfaces their own smoothing group would split the edges and give me the old result again. The floating geo doesn't bake properly in XNormal either.

    Not trying to dispute anything said by the way, this is all just unknown territory for me. I need to understand the theory behind smoothing groups and normal maps to properly wrap my head around how to actually solve this.

    These are the bakes so far..:
    XNormal, No cage:
    fuumh.png
    3Dsmax Bake, with cage:
    124k21i.png
    Lowpoly mesh with smoothing groups:
    amzj36.png

    EDIT: And there my latest save crashed, fffffffffffuck.
  • Rang3r1
    This is what I would say. Since you are getting better results in max, bake it in max. OR you can bake out a object space map in max, then convert it to a tangent in Nspace, and have it be fine. Or just bake the tangent in max, then when perna releases the max fix soon, you can fix it then.
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    A fix? Thanks for the info, appreciated. I was thinking about just going with the max bake but that still has the distortion issues. I also see I need to take a new look at my Unwrap and straighten out some areas as the vertical "cuts" on the handle look stretched on the side due to a stretching issue in the unwrap. But yeah if I can learn how to fix this now it won't be an issues the next time.

    And just to not have this be all text here's a diffuse quickly thrown together.
    nd0y37.png

    Just trying to get the right feel colorwise using the broken AO and nrm bakes. It's nowhere near final, just something to work with till I get more help (man, I feel like a whiny dumbass for not figuring this shit out on my own).
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Wall of pictures coming in:

    So, been a while, APB beta bug bit me and due to the issues seen earlier in this blog I've been reluctant to continue.

    then 3 point released their shader and I gave it a whirl. Before this though I exploded the model for a cleaner normal map, I chamfered some areas of the model where the distortion was the most prevalent, cleaned up the model and split the UV's along the edge where the distortions would start and did a UV cleanup in general. Slapped on 1 smoothing group and did a bake, this is the result:

    First some wires of the spots where the distortion is still prevalent:

    28mpp20.png
    awdkoz.png
    15hybnm.png
    2yoajco.png

    Two pics without the wireframe for a better look:
    2rhwsx5.png
    1yo1vt.png

    And here are some pictures with the Quality Normal Map option on:
    1z5nk2p.png
    2ztio7l.png

    And finally here is the normal map and the UV:
    118zhp3.png
    sd39md.jpg

    OKAY, good god that was a page break, hope you're still with me.

    Now as you can see, despite breaking the UVW along the edges where the issues occurred, things didn't change. This is probably because I am doing it wrong.
    When it comes to the smoothing groups I have seriously NO idea what I'm doing, I thought I understood what was said earlier in the thread but I didn't, so I'm still kind of stuck here.

    Another thing is that the 3 point Shader Quality Normal Mode kind of hides the problem ( and very well so, love the shader) but it will still be visible in game engines since it's a baking error in the normal and not the realtime shader.

    So again I'm kind of at a miss here. How do the smoothing groups work with baking? how should I set this up? what is the better way of unwrapping this thing? I really really want to understand this but I just can't make it work properly.

    PS: I've tried in Xnormal with and without a cage, the bakes end up looking the same, with the same errors.
    PPS: I've yet to try Maya as I don't have it and would rather learn how to do this right in Max.

    Thanks for all help so far, I really want to get this right and you're helping with it, thank you.
  • elitewolverine
    is your high poly mesh smoothed grouped as well? Because your low poly mesh is what is getting its information from the high.

    from what i understand in my app, the uv layout of the low poly mesh is just telling the highpoly details where to go. And its from the high poly version that all the smooth groups etc are being created from...hence why you could remove all your smooth groups from your low poly mesh and still get these smooth errors (at least it happens to me that way)

    i could show what i mean by using a simple cube. If i took two cubes both even same resolution, made the 'high' cube smoothed, then told it to bake that cube to the 'low' cube that is mapped, i will get a norm map that is trying to smooth all the faces. I think this is what is happening here..

    also as a 'quick' fix have you tried making a normal map from your ao map? while its hardly a substitue for the real thing you could use it as a placement version till you get your smoothed groups worked out...
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    It's not a problem with the high poly, tried bakes earlier in the thread with and without smoothing groups, baking without smoothing groups nets horrible lines everywhere :(

    And my high poly is smoothing grouped and turbosmoothed.

    And I could do an AO to nrm, but I'd rather save that for last so the AO bake I get is actually in order, I might also change the UV layout to better work with getting a decent normal.
  • elitewolverine
    hmm that is abit odd, how detailed is your turbosmooth? in terms of divisions...

    i know my way a little around max, but my main app is blender, to bad i didnt have your file and see if blender would bake out the norms with the same problems...

    the reason why i mention that is because in blender if i have a issue with subdivision (turbosmooth) and the norms coming out well smoothed when they should be flat i have two ways going about it...

    smoothing the whole high poly mesh and select 'autosmooth' and make it a angle of 45 or something, and that sometimes fixes it. In fact in max i believe you have a 'autosmooth' as well, check to see if that is checked. Because now that i think about it, all your flat norms are trying to act smooth. With autosmooth it will ignore faces that have angles higher than what you specify. If its that simple i know youll kick yourself in the but (i do that alot, forget my autosmooth settings)

    and the second method, is edge crease. Unfortunately i dont know what that is in max, but basically when a object is turbosmoothed (subdiv for me), i select faces that i want 'flat' and put thier edge crease to +1 ( -1 to 1 scale). And it will bring that trubosmooth right up to the actual meshes edge and not turbosmooth that part. This sometimes fixes smoothing as well in blender. unfortunately i dont know what that would be in max
  • Tea Monster
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    Tea Monster polycounter lvl 10
    I'm kind of new to this, but I'd check your low poly/cage and see if there are any smoothing artifacts there. If you check your normal map in the problem areas, you'll see some jagged edges. If you are using Blender, try the Edge-split modifier. Be careful as if you set the angle too high, you can harden round areas. I've found that the best thing to do is to highlight the edges around the problem areas and then go 'Cntrl-E' and make sharp. That way, the modifier will only affect edges that have been marked as sharp.

    You should be able to easily see any problems with the mesh in the viewport.
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    I'm using 3Ds Max, pretty sure the High poly is not the problem as it is using a turbosmooth modifier. I've split the Unwrap into more islands than Indonesia and I've added two more smoothing groups to different face collections to fix the distortion and try to hide ugly seams.
    This is the result, using the 3point shader without quality mode on:
    10yoxms.png
    11t33ma.png

    Problem is, there are still some visible seams, but I've done my best to hide them and unless you zoom in and really look you can't see them.
    I'm not sure if I want to call this done at the moment, I've split the unwrap in too many areas, I don't think I should have to resort to splitting it this much to get a decent result, so I'm probably doing something wrong. If anyone has any tips on what I should do to get an even cleaner bake and an easier to work with Unrwap, please tell me. Here is the current Normal and the unwrap:
    2ykzytt.png
    2hnwfo6.jpg
  • PredatorGSR
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    PredatorGSR polycounter lvl 7
    I think you just may not have your lp smoothing groups and uvs laid out optimally. If you want to post the low poly Max file, I can show you how the smoothing groups and uv layout should look for the cleanest bake.
  • BradMyers82
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    BradMyers82 greentooth
    I think you are not fully understanding how normals work/ and how the baking process works. So your running into many problems as a result.
    The technical side of hardsurface work, is actually what makes it difficult imo.
    However lots of these shortcomings with tangent space normal maps and real-time preview have been fixed with the 3point shader.
    Get it here: http://www.polycount.com/forum/showthread.php?t=72861

    The best article I have found explaining normal maps, and smoothing groups/uv layout/baking is here: http://www.svartberg.com/tutorials/article_normalmaps/normalmaps.html

    i know it can be frustrating, but stick with it. Your almost there!
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    Epic amount of thanks man, this is driving me crazy, really grateful for you taking a look :)
    http://www.mediafire.com/?mymmnzk1mgj <--- download there.
    That's the Max scene with the LP and unwrap only, thanks man :)
  • PredatorGSR
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    PredatorGSR polycounter lvl 7
    Yea, there are a bunch of mistakes, I'll optimize it and post it for ya. If you want to post the HP too, I can do a test bake to show you the results you should get. If you don't want to post it publicly, you can pm me if you want.
  • Skamberin
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    Skamberin polycounter lvl 9
    No offense meant but I'd like to keep the high poly, for now at least and try a new bake with what you've done to the low poly. Thanks a ton for doing this though, really grateful that you're taking time to do this =)
    Actually, nevermind, PM'd.
  • PredatorGSR
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    PredatorGSR polycounter lvl 7
    So here are the results from a quick redo of the smoothing groups and topology, as well as a quick uv map. This is primarily to show where you should have hard edges and split uvs, you shouldn't necessarily unwrap it the same way I did since it was done really quickly and without worrying too much about texturing.

    You'll notice that I cut out the notches, this was to get the best possible smoothing result in a game engine. As you noticed in the 3point example, some engines will solve those errors, and some won't. You should take into account the final engine when deciding how much smoothing from the low poly is acceptable. Most engines don't do the greatest job, I've found that if something doesn't look good in marmoset, it won't look much better in CryEngine2 or UDK.

    I collapsed most of your bevels since they weren't doing much from a normal viewing distance, and made them hard edges instead for the best smoothing result. You were putting hard edges on the bevels, if you use bevels, they should be smoothed.

    This was exported as an obj to xNormal, baked at 4k, and then reduced to 2k. I created a quick cage in xnormal by just extruding it out in the 3d viewer. I baked it all as one piece, and you'll see some errors where some pieces join, you should bake the pieces separately to get the best results. It will also allow you to use individual cages which will be more accurate since they will be tighter.

    Marmoset: LP with normals

    axe_marmoset.jpg

    LP + UV seams:

    lp.jpg

    You do have some areas in the HP that are a bit messy, especially circular seam at the base, and the normal map accurately bakes that to the low poly, so some of the messy areas areas are actually from the high poly. You should redo those areas with cleaner lines. Also on the axe head, I would model in the blade bevel instead of relying on a turbosmoothed hard edge, because it doesn't read well.

    I'll pm you you the zip file with all the relevant files as soon as it finishes uploading. As I mentioned before, it was done quick and messy, so use it as a guide, but redo it yourself.
  • PredatorGSR
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    PredatorGSR polycounter lvl 7
    One thing I noticed from your low poly, is that you seemed to think that hard edges were important to influencing the shape of the high poly. For example, putting hard edges where you had tight seams in the high poly. If there is a hard edge in the low poly, as long as there is a uv seam, the normal map will cancel out the hard edge completely. So hard edges are only important to control smoothing information, you don't use them to influence any shapes in the high poly.

    Let me know if you have any questions or need clarification on anything I did.
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