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3D Environment Modeling

Create 3D models for environments with a dragon skull as an example. Discusses high-poly modeling in ZBrush or Maya for low-poly creation.

Emphasizes references and experimentation, detailing techniques, mesh separation, and procedural details with ZBrush's noise plugin.Touches on retopology, UV unwrapping, and shader assignments for Substance Painter.

Workflow for low-poly modeling in Maya and high-poly sculpting in ZBrush, optimizing poly count, using beveling, curve tools for modeling, and UV generation.

Modeling - Full Pipeline

- Workflow

  • Every sculpture will start with one of the basic shapes inside ZBrush.

  • For this one, we are starting with a sphere and slowly shaping it into the head of a dragon.

  • Use DynaMesh to fix the topology when making major changes to the clay.

  • Slowly build up and add to the shape.

  • Work with shapes you already have, duplicate the teeth, and move them around to save time on making a tooth from scratch every time.

  • Horns might look hard to make, but they are only 2 spheres dragged out with the SnakeHook bush and DynaMeshed to fix the topology.

  • When sculpting horns or teeth, we need to make the seams where the teeth or horns are coming out.

  • There is also more clay build-up around the teeth where the gums would be, this can also apply to the horns.

  • To split anything that is grouped together, mask one part then in the subtool use the SplitHidden tool.

  • Now that we have the basic shape for the horn we can add details using the mask brush and gizmo tool.

  • Mask some parts of the horns, then with the gizmo, scale down the masked parts to create the indents between the horns.

  • Once we reach a point where we need more topology, instead of using DynaMesh we can switch to using Divisions instead.

  • Holes are easy to make in ZBrush using Booleans.

  • It needs to be activated from the top left corner of the UI, after activation, use any of the basic shapes to subtract parts of the sculpt from the layers.

  • If you want higher-quality details, you’ll need to add more Divisions to the model.

  • It’s best at this point to duplicate, ZRemesh and project details on the duplicate from the original model so that there is a low and high poly model in one mesh instead of retopologising the model later.

  • In the Subsurface tab, there are Noise modifiers you can use to add texture to the model.

  • Be sure to use the noise curve to change the noise.

  • The Layers in ZBrush also provide better control over the noise texture.

  • After we’ve added all the details and finished the model, export the model in the lowest subdivision so that we can open UVs for it inside Autodesk Maya.

  • Import the low poly model in Maya by dragging and dropping the FBX file in the scene.

  • Open a Planar UV for the skull since there won’t be any UVs shown in the UV Editor.

  • Once we have the UV Shells shown, we can start cutting the UVs for the skull using the Cut and Sew tools from the UV tools.

  • Depending on how complex the model is, it can have one or multiple shaders.

  • For this skull, we’re adding 2 shaders, one for the skull and one for the horns.

  • After the UVs and Shaders have been made, re-export the low poly mesh.

Low and High Poly

  • Some props will be started and made in Autodesk Maya.

  • The props made in Maya will be our low poly models that don’t have a high number of polygons and have UVs.

  • We’ll export those props one by one into FBX files and work on them in ZBrush to create the high poly.

  • This means we add more topology to the model so that we can add the details.

  • If the mesh doesn’t have enough topology, the brushes won’t be able to make high-quality strokes.

Sculpting Cloth

  • Cloth can be made using the gravity simulation inside of ZBrush.

  • Place a plane above whatever you want to have cloth, add divisions, and use Dynamic divisions to add thickness to the cloth so it’s double-sided.

  • This will also help us to add details with some custom cloth brushes on the cloth once the simulation is done.

  • In the Dynamics tab, set the gravity settings and run the simulation.

  • Once you are satisfied stop the simulation.

  • Use any brush if you don’t have custom cloth brushes to add the details.

Tree It

  • Trees can be created in Maya or ZBrush but there is also an alternative software that is made to create 3D Trees.

  • The software is called Tree It.

  • In this software, we can create trees, and control their shape, color, and size.

  • The settings are simple and easy to use, and most of them are sliders that can be easily adjusted to get the desired shape.

  • Create a variety of different types of trees, at least 4-5 types so that the scene doesn’t look repetitive.

  • There are also different types of leaves you can place on the trees, control the size and the color.

  • There is also an option to create a gradient of colors for said leaves.

  • After making each tree, export the textures and the model.


  • Just like how we scaled the block out, we need to scale the models before importing them inside of unreal.

  • Add a Male Character model as a scale reference from the Content Browser.

  • Make sure that everything is in the middle of the grid before exporting as well.

  • Once everything has been scaled and exported, import them inside the Unreal Project to replace the blockout.

  • Move the objects to the position where the blockout is then delete it.

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