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3D Environment/Prop Artist Finn Stevens-Lock created a stunning witch cafe, making use of tiling textures and thoughtful modeling. If you’re looking to design some whimsical 3D stylized scenes, be sure to read Finn’s breakdown, which includes:

  1. Witch Cafe: Idea and Concept
  2. Modeling and Tiling Textures
  3. Working on Stylized Textures
  4. Adding Small Details
  5. Witchy Lighting
  6. Glamor Shots

Hi there! My name is Finn Stevens-Lock and I’m a 3D artist, specializing in stylized environments and props. While studying Game Arts at Plymouth College in 2018, I realized my love for stylized art. Having played video games for most of my life, I can still remember the bright, inviting colors in the platforms of my childhood such as Spyro, Crash, and Croc. For the past five years, I’ve been creating 3D art, but within the last year I’ve taken steps to really focus on my craft, push my limits, and develop new skills. I currently work as a contract artist for Dekogon Studios and I’m also doing personal projects for my portfolio!

1. Witch Cafe: Idea and Concept

There were a couple elements that inspired my cafe scene idea. For one, I I found cafes on Pinterest that had trees growing in them. I thought it was an interesting concept to bring the outside inside. I also magical, witchy aesthetics.

Finally, I was really grieving for the loss of my social life during the lockdown. I wanted to create a piece that reminded me of my friends, and somewhere that I could envision us all hanging out.

I knew I wanted to attempt to create the scene in the style of World of Warcraft. Since my instructor worked for Blizzard, it just made sense to emulate the style. I used references of individual objects to build my scene around: for example, I found an image of a cafe that had a giant arbor covered in wisteria and a shelving unit shaped like the phases of the moon. I try to use references loosely when I create a concept, with maybe one or two images that I can play with and try and create something new.

Explore CGMA’s Composition for Concept Art and Illustration course taught by Art Director/Concept Artist Mauricio Abril and Concept Artist/Illustrator Axel Sauerwald.

2. Modeling and Tiling Textures

For modeling, I used 3ds Max. I began with a blockout to figure out where I wanted everything to be. This also helped me to get the proportions right. Then, I refined the models and prepared them for texturing. I used 3D Coat and Photoshop in tandem for the texturing of the models.

A lot of my scene is made up of tiling textures, which I would say is probably the technique that I’ve gotten the most out of so far. The walls, floor, counter, and tree all use tiling textures. It’s such a great way to texture large parts of a scene quickly. To create these textures, I used Photoshop’s offset tool.

We also learned about 2.5D art techniques, where you work backward by creating the texture first and then adding geometry later. I used that technique throughout the rest of the course, actually! That was how I created the wisteria flowers that hang over the cafe, which you can read more about further down.

During the course, my modeling just improved overall. While I’m not extremely confident in my modeling, by the end of the course I felt that I had a better grasp on it, and I felt I could continue to improve. I was able to get a lot of help from both Ashleigh and my peers through the Discord we shared.

Want to add characters to your scene? Read “8 Steps to Create a 3D Stylized Viking Warrior” for a how-to on bringing your conceptual character to life.

3. Working on Stylized Textures

All of my textures and materials were created in either Photoshop, 3D Coat, or both. My process for creating stylized materials involves looking at real-world references and painting something that looks similar, but not exactly the same.

I tried to keep a medium level of detail in all of my textures and utilize large, chunky shapes. My textures are more approximate than accurate, which I think gives things a little more of a whimsical look. The bark of the wisteria tree, for example, is where I used a reference but took a lot of artistic liberties for the final result. I also ended up painting an inordinate amount of wood for this project, so I was able to paint wood quite quickly and with an established workflow.

My favorite texture of this piece is the surface of the opal table. I adore the look of opals and how many colors there are in them, and it took a lot of painstaking brush strokes to recreate it.

4. Adding Small Details

The smaller assets were really enjoyable for me. They were all super quick to make and I feel like they really pulled the scene together, making it look lived in and cozy. I used planar maps and gradients to texture all of the smaller assets, as I didn’t need them to have any kind of detail because you can’t really see it in the final images.

With regards to the flowers and leaves hanging from the tree, they were all placed individually by hand along the branches of the tree in 3ds Max. I wanted them placed in such a way that the ceiling looked full of blooms.

See three more incredible environments from this course in “CGMA Students Sweep World of Warcraft Environment Art Contest.

5. Witchy Lighting

When it came to lighting my scene, I wanted it to look dark and mystical. I achieved that by playing around with different settings and HDRIs in Marmoset Toolbag 3 until I came to a result that I liked and that I felt captured the mood the best.

I also added directional lights with a pink tone around areas that I wanted to bring attention to, like the counter and the rear table. I tried to keep the color scheme in the cooler tones, even with the lights.

6. Glamour Shots

Final Thoughts

  • I was introduced to CGMA by a close friend of mine who has also done a few courses with them. They sang the praises of the lessons and the instructors, and I was really eager to take a course myself.
  • Since I graduated in 2018, I felt like I’d been lacking direction with my art and how to level up my skills, so organized online learning felt like a really good way for me to move forward. I took Ashleigh Warner’s Creating Stylized Assets for Games course at CGMA during the lockdown. The stars aligned here for me so that I was able to take the course – I’d been furloughed from my previous job, and I felt it was the perfect time for me to just really indulge in art.
  • The main goal I had was to simply turn something in every week. It’s a very intense ten-week course, and with the exception of the last week, I managed to achieve my goal! Other than that, I wanted to get some more experience with hand-painting my textures, learn some new techniques, and just be in a learning environment with great feedback.
  • One of the biggest challenges in this project for me was actually knowing when to stop adding assets. It’s quite a small scene, and I had ideas to add a lot more than what ended up in the final cut. The composition as well helped me make those decisions on what to keep and what to remove: I spent a lot of time in the blockout stage moving things around and trying to make the scene look cozy without it being too packed.
  • My instructor gave us feedback every week over the five weeks of the project. Using that feedback, I was able to develop the scene a lot more.
  • My next endeavor is to learn UE4, and I’m working on a scene right now that I hope will become a great portfolio piece. I’ll also be continuing to look for work!

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

Explore CGMA’s Composition for Concept Art and Illustration course taught by Art Director/Concept Artist Mauricio Abril and Concept Artist/Illustrator Axel Sauerwald.

Want to add characters to your scene? Read “8 Steps to Create a 3D Stylized Viking Warrior” for a how-to on bringing your conceptual character to life.

See three more incredible environments from this course in “CGMA Students Sweep World of Warcraft Environment Art Contest.

Check out CGMA’s Creating Stylized Assets for Games course taught by Ashleigh Warner.