Roughing up the architecture in Blender 2.8 and Substance Painter

Hey folks, while most of my past work on Peace Island has been coding to make the cat jump around and scratch carpets/eat, I also have a 3D environment art skillset and have been helping revise some of the assets Eric selected very early in the game’s development. This is a render of a gazebo that I’m retexturing, and in this blog post I’m going to walk you through my process.

Below is the original asset in my usual test scene. First off, it only has a diffuse/base color map, and not any of the additional texture maps (normal, height, ambient occlusion, etc.) that are common in modern game assets. This might be justifiable if we were making a mobile game, but not for something on Windows/OSX, so the first thing I did was gather reference images to figure out how I would retexture the model to look more like something in Maine.

A lot of my reference gathering came from gazebo pictures on Pinterest, but that will only get you so far, since they tend to be low-resolution (compared to what you can snap with a smartphone camera at least) and don’t catch close up shots of surfaces and all the details that come with them, so I drove out to Meeting House Park in downtown Farmington, ME and took these photos to get a sense of both the overall structure of a real life Maine gazebo and the details of various surfaces such as the wood grain and the painted ceiling boards.

For folks in or visiting Western Maine who want to check out this location yourself, here’s the Google Maps link. Of course, taking real life reference like this does suggest ideas I wouldn’t have had otherwise. As of this writing, I haven’t yet ruled out putting little halogen lamps in the roof of the gazebo, as pictured below.

Then I imported the mesh into Blender. Now in nearly all of the reference shots I looked at and in the real life gazebo as well, the roof slopes up at a constant angle, probably because, Maine winters being what they are, you want to be sure that the snow falls off in this climate. This was relatively easy to fix by scaling in the edges going around the dome.

Then I imported my color ID mapped mesh into Substance Painter. Substance Share is a huge time saver and here are the materials I’m making use of so far: Wood Shingles from, SP 1 Old Painted Planks by , and WoodPainted_01_v3 by Yui Takagi.

This is by no means the final edit. I absolutely want to play around with the pillars and railing to make them fit in better with the old wood/metal theme I’m developing, as well as get rid of the red metal panels up top. Be sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter, as I’ll post any new renders of touched up assets there.

(And then he finished up the gazebo and retextured another asset too.)

UPDATE 1-15-2020: Here’s a render of the gazebo after I finished retexturing it.

I finally got rid of the weird red cupola and replaced it with a nice grate using this alpha brush. The little posts sticking out from the roof simply did not fit well with the theme I was developing, so I deleted them and reduced the triangle count by about 800 tris in the process. I added the boards on top to both cover the texture seams between faces and because I saw this feature on several of my reference photos. Here’s how it looks when imported into the main scene of the game. Note that, because this is an in-editor shot, a lot of the post-processing effects that you will see while playing are disabled.

With the gazebo retexturing complete, Eric had me take a look at this pavilion, with the direction that, as is, “it looks too golden”. In other words, make it look weathered, but not TOO old.

One…interesting part of retexturing all these models from the Unity Asset Store has been getting to see a variety of approaches to texturing, some of which do not always work well with the modern PBR (Physically-Based Rendering) approach standard to AAA games and our kind of high-quality indie project. Aspiring environment artists, please don’t make a UV unwrapping (or UV shell for the Maya folks reading) like this:

For the non-3D graphics people reading, all of those lines had to fit in the small square in the middle for me to finish retexturing this model in Substance Painter. I had to use all sorts of tricks to make this thing usable, and even then I see flaws in the final result that are about too much trouble to fix without completely remodeling the object, but I persevered and got this:

I used the customizable base wood and WoodPainted_Peeling materials from Substance Share. Here’s what it looks like in the editor. Mmmm, those are some tasty floorboards.

At this point, I’ve moved on to some of the park bench and picnic table assets to give them a retexturing. Stay tuned for more posts and let us know on Facebook if there are other aspects of this work that you’d like me to cover. I’ll leave you with this reference photo I took at the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad in Phillips, Maine:

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