A crazy concept for a pistol in a steampunk universe
This is one of the projects that I detailed in my 'Work in Progress' blog and you may find more detail there. I intended for it to be a way for me to learn how to use Blender. I would say it was pretty successful in that regard, I learned a lot about the software, some of its quirks and features, and many of the tools it offers.
I started with this relatively quick sketch of a concept. I've been playing around with this idea for a steampunk gun for quite a while now, but I finally decided to make it. I had numerous other drawings of the concept that may be better, but I couldn't seem to find them, unfortunately.
After a few hours with Blender I was beginning to become pretty comfortable with it. In fact, I think I prefer it to Maya, the tools allow you to create a model non-destructively and the interface is clean and overall the experience was very stable, fast, and one of my favorite things, it only took a few seconds to launch.
Above is my blockout of the model. I'ts pretty basic bot has all of the major shapes and components. Quite a bit would be adjusted and added down the line. It was also here that I fixed a design flaw from the concept that would prevent the top from spinning around as desired.
In the end I had this as a low-poly. The geometry was pretty good overall with just a few issues. It was a real challenge, some of the pieces were really strange and hard to clean up and still keep the unique shape. After I finished making the base low-poly which was 13,165 tris, I went on the make the high-poly.
This was by far my most ambitious high-poly yet. I experimented with adding additional geometry that wouldn't just increase smoothness, but also add a lot of surface detail. For this model, I added pins, bolts, decorative elements, increased the visual interest of the screws, and also added bevels to everything.
I was now ready to prep for baking and textures. I decided to use a vertex-painted color ID workflow for the materials. This let me experiment a lot in Substance once the model was in. I could easily change the material of several sections of the gun and swap them out to do comparisons. It proved to be a really smart move and it saved me a lot of time in the long run. I also got to take a screenshot of my gun looking like a plastic neon toy, which is fun.
I recreated the UV sheet maybe four times overall and settled with this one. My first few bakes were awful and I learned that the jagged bake edges can be caused by angled edges in UV space. I spent the time making everything as straight as possible including all of the disks in the main body of the gun. This bake came out so much better.
Here are the final textures that came out of Substance. I learned a lot more about Substance while working on this project as well. I discovered how to really tweak smart mask and materials to get what you want, how to tweak the bakes to be more accurate and cleaner; I will say I wish I could get a cleaner bake, but I'm just not sure how to do that yet. The color ID workflow let me play a lot with my materials so I could easily experiment with different textures and colors without needed to mask everything out each time I added something new, which was unbelievably useful.
I think it all came out well. Of course, my model isn't quite professional level yet, but it looks really cool and is game ready minus a rig. It looks pretty decent, has a nice story to it, is super unique, and is interesting. I learned a lot about Blender, too, which was my main goal, and I also learned a lot about Substance Painter in the process.
A few things I know I need to work on include baking my high-poly, making my own materials in Substance Designer, not just Photoshop and Substance Share, and I think I can get better at knowing what shapes I need to model and what shapes I should bake.