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Freelance Hard Surface Modeler Cohen Brawley shares the small considerations that transform a 3D asset from good to photorealistic. Whether it’ sculpting details or texturing, here is how you can improve your modeling game:

  1. Consider Real Life
  2. Be Precise
  3. Exaggerate Sculpting Details
  4. Add Variation
  5. Tell a Story

1. Consider Real Life

Sometimes, it can feel like enough to add scratches, nicks, or worn edges on your assets just because you know they’re supposed to be there. However, this detailing is unintentional, and even if the final product looks good, it won’t look real.

When you’re adding textures or details to your asset, consider how they would get there in real life. Worn down by a repetitive grip? Dropped on the ground? How long ago did that happen? Is there rust?

For Cohen, considering real life meant working on placement. He pulled up an old weapon model and showed a scratch that followed the curvature of the plastic stock. “The likelihood of that happening in real life is very low,” Cohen said. “It’s kind of like that CG aspect. You can tell it’s a computer-baked model.”

If weapons aren’t your preferred subject, read “6 Steps to Create a Realistic 3D Character: Mursi Man.”

2. Be Precise

Not everyone is a weapons expert. If the placement of your scope is slightly wrong, it’s unlikely a player will stop playing, zoom in, and wonder aloud if the angle of the rifle’s optic mount is a couple degrees off.

However, Cohen warns against letting the small stuff slide. “[A player] might not know that looks wrong, but your brain, psychologically, will be like there’s something wrong right here…”

It’s often the smallest details that flag in someone’s brain, so even if you think your audience will never notice something is off, it’s important to be precise anyways.

Read “Why Artists Add Details Nobody Will See” to hear Cohen expand on the importance of internals and other invisible details.

3. Exaggerate Sculpting Details

When it comes to sculpting, Cohen has learned to exaggerate geometry in the mesh. Weapons design takes a lot of research and reference building. By the time you’re modeling, you should have an extremely good idea of what the asset should look like. Be confident and bold with the choices you make during sculpting to end with a more realistic product.

4. Add Variation

Beware of smooth surfaces! Texturing is a great way to add variation to your asset. If there’s subtle edge wearing around the entire weapons with one or two edge chips.

On one pistol, Cohen demonstrated the difference of texture between the engraved letters and the rest of the grip. “You’ve got the plastic grain right here,” he said, pointing out the slight bumpy surface on the grip, ” But on a real-life weapon, this is cleaned out for design,” he moved his arrow over the smooth, engraved letters.

Read “6 Steps to Create Weapons for Games: 1 Process for 2 Guns” for Cohen’s step by step process to make a high quality gun.

5. Tell a Story

Once you feel good about sculpting and texturing, storytelling elements add so much to your final asset. On a SCAR-H assault rifle, which Cohen created the third time he took Weapons and Props for Games taught by Ethan Hiley, he hung a dog tag and wedding band on the rifle. He also added a faded Scar from Lion King sticker on the side of the gun as a nod to the weapon’s name. A weapon doesn’t just have to be a functional prop, it can also be a narrative tool.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

If weapons aren’t your preferred subject, read “6 Steps to Create a Realistic 3D Character: Mursi Man.”

Read “Why Artists Add Details Nobody Will See” to hear Cohen expand on the importance of internals and other invisible details.

Read “6 Steps to Create Weapons for Games: 1 Process for 2 Guns” for Cohen’s step-by-step process to make a high-quality gun.