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The Bi-Monthly Environment Art Challenge | January - February (88)

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Hey everyone! Wishing you all a happy new year and a warm welcome to the 88th edition of the Bi-Monthly Environment Art Challenge for the months of January and February!

This challenge is a way for real-time 3D artists to test their skills and create a piece of work based on concepts provided. It's open to those of all skill levels and we do our best to provide meaningful feedback along the way so everyone can come away from the challenge with actionable points on which they can improve their craft!

Anyone is welcome in this challenge no matter your skill level! It's a test of your own ability not a competition between members. We're all here to improve as artists and learn from each other.



Subway by Maciej Sidorowicz


Cute cats by Hanna Khalupa

The environment is the focus here, cats are optional!



Jusant art drop by Sheng Lam


Dungeons 4 - Traps by Tobias Frank


Please read all the rules before starting:
  • Try to post at least one critique for every post that you make. This will make for a better learning environment and help us all grow as artists.
  • Try your best to finish as much as you can in the time frame provided, but remember even if you don't finish by the end of the challenge we encourage you to keep pushing and finish your piece!
  • Post what you are working on in this thread so that way it's a more centralized place for advice and critique. Please avoid creating a new thread as we don't want to spam out the forums.
  • It is recommended to use a game engine to present your work. Unreal Engine, Unity, and CryEngine are very common engines that can be used but feel free to use any alternatives that you want. (Marmoset Toolbag for example.)
  • Feel free to change up your chosen concept a bit if you want! Interpret these concepts to your liking, especially if your aim is to add storytelling elements.
  • If you finish your project and decide to post it to something like Artstation, make sure you give credit to the concept artist in the form of a link to their profile. Additionally, it is recommended to ask a concept artist for their permission to post a 3D piece based on their work before doing so.


  • When you are just starting out making a scene, it can seem complicated or imposing. Take your time planning and blocking out, it will set you up for success later on.
  • Think about how you can re-use assets, re-use textures, break it down as simple as possible and plan it out. A lot of people will break it down in their own way when they start out their challenge. Gather some reference images as well for different parts of the scene, don't be afraid to make it your own.
  • We strongly encourage you to go and look at other games and see how they make their assets as well as get concept art to give it your own feel.
The goal is to learn and grow both artistically and in your ability to both give and receive critique, but don't stress about it and remember to have fun!

Good luck everyone!


  • MikeKhine
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    MikeKhine greentooth
    Hello everybody! Decided to participate in the challenge. I'll go with this beautiful stylized environment from Hanna Khalupa

    Already did a blockout and lighting, trying to respect the concept as much as possible. The blockout I made in Maya with the concept attached to the camera view, so I can have the right proportions of all the props. Then I import blockout into Unreal and set up the camera there. Just found out that there is an fSpy for Maya as well, probably would save some time on blocking if I had known it earlier.

  • MikeKhine
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    MikeKhine greentooth
    Hey everyone! An update on a blockout-low-poly, just missing the plants. Most of the props in the scene are instances, I just made one of each kind and duplicated them.

  • J_East96
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    J_East96 polycounter lvl 4
    Hello, after watching the recent challenges with great interest, I've decided to participate this time. I've selected the hard surface environment as my challenge and plan to render the scene in Unity with baked lighting.

    Firstly, I attempted to determine the correct dimensions and perspective using the software F-spy and Perspective Match in 3Ds Max. However, for some unknown reason, I only obtained inaccurate results. Additionally, I tried rectifying the distortion of the reference image within Photoshop, but I was dissatisfied with the outcomes. Consequently, I decided to abandon this approach and opted to eyeball it in order to make quick progress, planning to refine it later.

    I proceeded to create a small blockout scene in Unity, incorporating a fog volume and adding blockout materials.
  • Alahyla
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    Alahyla polycounter lvl 6
    Hi everyone I decided to participate in the challenge I will go with the stylized prop. Here is what I have so far.

  • Fabi_G
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    Fabi_G polycount lvl 666
    Happy new Bi-Monthly! Nice concepts and work in progresses.

    @MikeKhine I think the blockout captures the concept nicely. Good job transferring the lighting/atmosphere! How are you planning to texture? Will you make use of trims? Will you add cats? Looking forward to updates.

    @J_East96 I think so far the blockout looks good. I would test in engine with a player controller/game camera and make the space look good/natural from that point of view. In my opinion using fspy is a good starting point, but to make a concept work in 3d might just require going beyond and doing adjustments checking in 3d. 

    @Alahyla I think that's a good start with the blockout. I think the big shapes could be more accurate, for example the shape/corners of the pedestals. Currently the corners look rounded (intended?). What's your plan going forward? Will you turn this blockout into a highpoly to be baked down or are you still experimenting?

    I chose the chest trap too and had some fun modeling. Then I made a small atlas for the textures. Refrained from baking/ using normal maps. I think doing the same assets with a high to low poly approach for comparison would be interesting, but I'm not sure I got the time/patience.


    Albedo texture atlas 512x256, also used metallic, roughness and emissive maps

  • MikeKhine
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    MikeKhine greentooth
    Hey, amazing artists!
    My progress during the last week. Started to texture big modular pieces, which is 70% of the whole scene. I sculpted the high poly in ZBrush and it was super chill since it's almost all wood and I like to sculpt wood. I will bring the whole scene to the same stage and then work on textures properly, so now it's the 1st iteration, just to have an idea. 

    Meanwhile, if anyone could share a link to some tutorials about stylized glass material in Unreal, would appreciate it a lot!

    Fabi_G Thanks Fabi. I go with a standard approach: lowpoly - highpoly - then adjust the lowpoly to highpoly if necessary. I try to reuse as many parts as I can to save the texture space and time. 
    No cats!
    I really like how you managed the prop texturing, it's simple and efficient, yet gets the work done. Good job!

    Have a great day, artists!

  • archie_garcia_27
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    archie_garcia_27 polycounter lvl 5
    Hi everyone! I'm excited to take part in the bi-monthly challenge for the first time! I really wanted to take part in the first challenge for this new year. As I am an environment artist and wanted to build up on my skills, I decided to go with the hard surface environment concept. My previous project that I'm currently still working on I've found has taken much longer to complete then I'd like, and that's mainly due to poor planning on my part. That project can be seen at this link by the way, any feedback is greatly appreciated  =)

    For this new project, I wanted to really emphasis an importance on planning this project thoroughly so that building out the scene is as smooth as possible. I started by building out a Pureref file with real world references of all the things I will need to model out. Once I got that going, I started to block out the major pieces in Maya. I wanted to make sure everything was modular and that I could put everything together in Unreal.

    To figure out rough scale of the interior, I used the 6 turnstiles as a point of reference. I looked up standard sizes for turnstiles like the ones in the concept, and made sure the width between them were proper for a person to fit between. I then used that to gauge the overall width of the room. Ceiling sits at 3 meters high. Everything seen in the screenshot so far is built with the assets shown at the bottom the screenshot.

    My next step is to plan out my next steps LOL. In a way that makes sense and is efficient in completing this project in a timely manner. I plan for the exterior elements to be very rough and mostly implied, as I plan to have the glass mostly grungy and hard to see through.

    I'm excited to work on this one, and I wish the best of luck to everyone else on their projects!!

  • Fabi_G
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    Fabi_G polycount lvl 666
    @MikeKhine Ah cool. Nice update! I would be mindful with the size of bevels and irregularities. I feel if they are too big, the material could be interpreted as one that's hard to put in shape, like stone.

    @archie_garcia_27 Nice to see your additional references! While your blockout it might be faithful to the concept, I think it feels a bit tight/cramped. Another thing you could do (and maybe you did) is watch/inspect footage/images of polish Metro stations. That way you get a feel of the mood and, more importantly, see people in relation to the devices. Sure ultimately, you have to do an eye test, see how it feels with the camera you will present with.

    Keep it up!
  • MikeKhine
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    MikeKhine greentooth
    Hey artists! Here is an update. Added all the props and even VFX in the scene and working on the textures now, trying to bring everything to the same visual style. Still figuring out how to deal with the glass, now it looks more like polished clay. 

    Found it useful to add the SSAO to the scene, it's not working by default in Unreal with Lumen. It helps to ground the objects in the scene.
    Link to the X post about how to switch on SSAO in Unreal Engine 5 - https://x.com/ali3ser/status/1669644182560940032?s=20

  • orangesky
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    orangesky polycounter lvl 3
    I love seeing all the Bi-monthly challenges organized on Polycount, showcasing the talent of people who love 3D art for video games or other audiovisual media. Let's see if I dare to participate sometime during this 2024.

    I love how your interpretation of the Hanna Khalupa environment turned out. I noticed that, like @J_East96, you used 3D modeling software for the initial blockout iterations. I'm also more accustomed to using 3D modeling software for blockout on my 3D environments, but I'd like to know about your workflow when doing this.

    When we perform the blockout in 3D modeling software, we usually export the result to UE4/5, Unity, Godot... and then check that the environment's scale is correct in relation to the player. We then adjust the blockout as needed until it feels right.

    From this point, we have a finished Blockout model of the level in the graphics engine. This model is a single piece, and here are my doubts about continuing with this workflow.

    At this point, we need to start cutting the map into pieces, creating modularity where possible and swapping modular pieces and "intermediate final art" for the new pieces we're modeling. Doing this, I realize that it's quite uncomfortable for me to have the Blockout model as the base in the graphics engine. To see the result we're getting with the new pieces, I find myself having to hide and unhide the Blockout model in the engine to see if the result is correct or if I'm deviating too much from the initial concept.

    When the Blockout is created directly in the engine, it's very easy to remove the blockout pieces that we're replacing with the "final art." Personally, I don't like creating the blockout in the engine.

    How would you describe your iterative process for transitioning from the result of the 3D modeling software blockout to modular models and unique pieces? How do you organize the scene so that the blockout piece doesn't become a hindrance to working comfortably?

    Thank you very much for your opinion. It's always a pleasure to talk to artists more talented than me.
  • somePizzaBoy
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    somePizzaBoy polycounter lvl 6

    I'm going to give the hard surface environment a shot.  I'll be deviating from the concept a bit, but I'll keep the general feel.  Once I get further along, I'll probably change the textures on these assets to be less NYC specific, but these were the easiest to find good reference for.  I plan on creating a full interior in UE5.  I'm most nervous about getting the blockout proportions correct so I've been putting that off.

  • MikeKhine
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    MikeKhine greentooth
    Thanks for the interesting question, I'll try to give you a full answer based on my experience. 

    It's my first time making the interior so I also had to figure out many things down the road.

    This is quite a small scene, so I can afford to build it inside the 3D software, but if we are speaking about something bigger, like a city, it has to be done in the engine or you'll blow up your machine.
    In an ideal situation, working with small-scale environments, you just create the camera in your 3D software, attach the concept behind it, and start blocking, then export the camera and blockout into the engine and go back and forth (use fSpy for this purpose). In the engine, it's all combined but in your 3D software it's all separated, so you just delete parts of the blockout that already have a proper mesh and re-export it. This way you don't have to hide/unhide the whole blockout mesh.

    In my case, I didn't use fSpy, because I found out about it after I already finished blocking. I created the camera in Maya, attached the concept to it, and made the blockout, without worrying about the real scale. Then I created a mannequin to adjust the scale of the blockout, and started to make lowpoly models using blockout meshes as a base. Still had to eyeball some things like perspective and camera settings when exporting it to the engine, but at least I knew that the proportions and the scale were right. 

    One more important thing to keep in mind if you have a camera setup properly only in the engine is to plan which parts will be exported as a single object (you can't adjust it in the engine), and which will be separated objects (you can). If you have a basket of apples, for instance, you want to scale, rotate, and move them in the engine, so you don't waste a ton of time on import-export when you tweaking it.
    In the end, you probably will have your main block of assets which are combined in the engine, and a separate group of smaller props to place directly in the engine. That's at least how I managed to do it, but I'm sure there are other great ways. 

    Lastly, if you have the opportunity to do so, I strongly recommend buying a course made by Blizzard artist Thiago Klafke. I learned so many things about modular environments from watching it. It's a treasure and a good investment. 

    Hope it somehow answers your question. Have a good day!

  • orangesky
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    orangesky polycounter lvl 3

    Thank you very much; you have solved all my doubts perfectly.

    It is impressive that this is your first interior; you have achieved a very nice result.

    I had indeed considered this solution; thank you very much for reaffirming it. I wanted to make sure to see what people's general workflow is when using modeling software to create blocking. Actually, there's nothing stopping me from updating my initial blockout as I go along with the final scene models, whether modular or single, as long as I follow good planning from the beginning, taking into account measurements, scales and constraints. I shouldn't have too many problems.

    I enjoyed learning a bit more about the breakdown of your participation in the challenge during these two months.

    I bought Thiago Kalfke's course a while back; it's really educational, but he talks little about using 3D modeling software as a basis for blockout. He only mentions it briefly when he talks about a job a few years ago on the UDK (Unreal Engine 3) where he and a colleague used that approach. In the videos, he focuses on creating the blockout using modular models prepared for it directly in the engine; it's a good way, but I prefer to do the blockout in the modeling software. Really, that video series is gold for the amount of learning they provide. I have yet to finish it, and I enjoy every time I watch them.

    Again, thanks for sharing this information. Regards and have a nice day.
  • somePizzaBoy
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    somePizzaBoy polycounter lvl 6
    Starting to get the main interior blocked out.  I plan on using a trim sheet + weighted normals for all the long metal bits.  I always have a pretty hard time getting interior sizes correct.  Also, these doors have a very weird 3 segment design that I couldn't find reference for.  Definitely still adjusting everything.
  • MikeKhine
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    MikeKhine greentooth
    Good day, artists!
    I think I'm almost done with this one.
    I managed to create a glass material using the new UE5 feature - Substrate Materials. (link to YouTube tutorial - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omaNjcat188&list=PLbaxFWr2C3J_HkH_SvNj5jFNTiieiyv_d&index=3&t=3s )

    Appreciate feedback or critique, because my eyes might be blurred after a few weeks of seeing this.
    Have a great day everyone!

  • Mahelix
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    Mahelix polycounter lvl 6
    Hello everyone, and a happy new year 2024 ! Those assets you all have been making are looking really great !
    Here's my contribution to the Subway environment : 

    For this one, I decided to leave my comfort zone and go back to UE4 after a long period of sticking with Unity. So, more than just creating models, I also wanted to  incorporate multiple techniques (traditional baking, trimsheets, vertex painting, decals, etc.).

    Here is the break down : 

    The assets : 

    Even though this won't be seen anywhere in the final render, I also went the extra mile and created snowy variations for the sidewalk and the road that I would then mix up by using UE4's vertex painting : 

    Keep up the good work y'all !
  • MikeKhine
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    MikeKhine greentooth
    Hello everyone! 
    My weekly update. 
    I received a lot of useful feedback during this week, which helped me to push the visual further. And I also made a quick animation to justify the mess in the scene.

    Thank you! Have a great week.
  • PatSaenzG
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    PatSaenzG polycounter lvl 4
    Greeting fellow 3D content creators! 

    I decided to try out this challenge mostly to get back into the swing of things with Blender after only using Maya at my workplace for a year and change. I chose the stylized treasure chest and started last Monday, working on the blockout in the afternoons after getting off from work over the week.
    I'm planning on proceeding with sculpting of the wood and stone parts tomorrow in ZbrushCore.

    Camera match of the model

    Orthographic view of the blockout

    Perspective shot from behind

    Any feedback would be appreciated and I thank you in advance. :smile:
  • MikeKhine
  • PatSaenzG
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    PatSaenzG polycounter lvl 4
    Hello everyone!

    I had a busy week on the 12th such that all I was able to really do was take my blockout and make some HP bases to import into ZbrushCore for sculpting for last week.

    As for the actual sculpting I decided not to include the fireworks or the rug since I don't think that they need it and only included two of the arrows instead of all three and only one of the posts that hold up the arrows. 

    Here are the results of that, if there's any feedback it would be appreciated and in the mean time I'll be working on the low poly version of the asset. 

  • Pinkfox
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    Pinkfox sublime tool
    Hey everyone! :)

    Some great work from so many people these last couple months! It's been fantastic to see the different approaches and strong effort that everyone put towards creating their pieces.

    With March upon us it is time for a new challenge to being! Would love to see you all there. =)
  • Zyier
    Good Day Everyone! I just joined polycount last week but still wanted to participate in this challenge. I decided to go with the wind turbine by Shen Lam. It has a lot of challenging shapes! I still have the plants to model out. I started learning blender last month but I am originally a Maya, Substance Painter, and Zbrush user. Here is where I am at so far:

    @MikeKhine I really love how your piece turned out. The sculpted look on the glassware really adds a charming effect to the piece. Its really interesting to see your breakdown of the behind the scene work on artstation. Very informative. I wish I had some sort of feedback but I think its perfect as is. The cat batting at the fruit animation is a really cute touch too.

    @PatSaenzG Your trap chest is coming along very nicely. The sculpted details look good and I can't want to see it in color! My only critique would be to see the chest shapes pushed a little further. It has a nice curve from a front view, but it loses those dynamic curves from the other views.

    @Mahelix Nice work on the Subway! I like seeing the breakdown of assets and materials. I'm not very good at lighting, but I feel like the foreground lighting could be warmer. I've never been to a subway so I'm not sure what would be in front of those turn booths but it would be a nice touch to put something off-camera and add some reflection captures so that it picks it up on scene. 
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