How a 3d Artist Creates game art

Want to really know how art is created for a game? Want to see an actual example from a real 3d game art artist? Well, here you go.

The artist is Josh Brown and he is also the best-selling author of  How To Become A Game Designer - The ULTIMATE guide to breaking into the Game Industry

In this tutorial he takes us through the steps that he progressed through in creating this wonderful 3d world.

And you can also experience it by watching the youtube video. Yup, that's the world that he built.

The scene and world is called "Autumn Spring" and in this tutorial Josh shows us his workflow. Be sure to check out Joshua's website right here.


Creating the world environment is one of the most amazing things about game making. And this tutorial gives you a wonderful look at how it is done. Josh takes us through the steps he followed.

Watch the video first!!!!!


The making of Autumn Stream - My Workflow

Autumn Stream - Mood board/Inspiration

Inspiration - This project began during the recent change of season. By seeing the natural beauty of the area I live in I was inspired to recreate some of it in my own vision. Below are photos of my own and others that I put together to inspire me.

'Look and Feel' - I have always liked the rough but delicate look of the bark on birch trees. Games like Call of Duty and Oblivion helped inspire me for the look and feel. The vibrant orange colour that is produced when Autumn first starts is something I really wanted to convey in this project.

Initial Design

Sketches - I created a few initial sketches to help me visualise the ideas I had in my mind and to get a layout and design focus for my scene.

Scene/AssetsList- At this stage I also listed all of the objects that I want to fill my scene. This works almost as a checklist for me later on so I know what I have made and what I still have left to create.


.Trees - x3 variants of a Birch tree .Birds
- Background trees (Pine?) .FallingLeaves
.Stream- fast flowing, water .Mist/Fog
splashes, mist, world pos offset? .Moss Wall
.Rocks - x1 .Grass
.Moss Wall .Terrain - create inside of UDK


Concept Art

Finalizing my Idea- I painted this image in Photoshop using a graphics tablet. The purpose of this concept art is to show my final visualisation of my scene. I used this opportunity to convey the colours and mood of my scene. This image will be used throughout the rest of my creation process as a reference of how my scene should turn out.

Scene Blockout

Blocking out my Idea - This, again like my quick sketches helps me to visualise the scene but most importantly it allows me to determine the amount of time I need to designate to each asset within my scene and the terrain itself.

Placeholders- I put my blocked out scene inside of UDK rather then Mayaso that the assets become placeholders that I can update by simply re-importingthem into UDK and not worrying about have to replace them around the scene.


Sculpting the World- Now that I have a blockout of my level and I have been able to work out a timeframe for creating each model. I define my landscape to one that is near complete. However I will continuously tweak it later on to get the correct look but getting the scale right now is important for all of the scene assets. The Landscape Editor allows for tweaks to be made without ruining placed objects as they will move to match the edit.


Techniques- I use all the tools within the Landscape Editor my favourite being the 'Noise' and 'Smooth' brush as these tools allow me to craft realisict and visually pleasing terrain - especially mountains for the background.


Creating the Assets 01

Creating the HighPoly Version- Now I begin to create the assets in full. Most of the time I like to create my foliage by first creating a high poly version that I design myself and then adapt into a lower resolution form. A good example of this is are the trees. To create the branches of my trees I first make the leaves in 3D from a high resolution image; next I create the branch using extrusions, in 3DS Max there is a 'Branch' tool which is useful for this.

Utilizing time savingtools/techniques- Once the leaves and branch are modelled I then used the 'Paint Poly' tool in 3DS Max to place the leaves where I desired on the branch. From here I then tweaked each leaf individually to get the right shape, size and rotation.

The high poly leaves are created in a matter of minutes by 'tracing' around a high resolution image of a leaf. I then created 3 variations.

Deformers help me quickly get the look of the braches savingtime, e.g. The 'Noise' deformer.

Creating the Assets 02

Creatingthe Low Poly Version- Once the high poly is made I do 4-5 renders of it using different colours to achieve a base diffuse, alphas, shading, normals and gradients. I then take this into Photoshop and create my textures. I can then re-import the textures back into Maya or Max along with an alpha map and get similar results as shown below:

On the left is a high poly version of over a million triangles. And on the right is a low poly version of just 5 triangles and game ready.

Foliage- I use the high to low poly technique on all my foliage from grass and trees to rocks and flowers. This allows me to create unique, highly detailed and clean textures and meshes.

Advanced Materials, the Stream


CreatingAdvancedShaders - The material I created for the stream was important for me to get just right and push what I have seen previously in games. For this material I used a flow map, distortion, ripples, reflections, multiple layers of foam and flowingwaterand my favourite - scalable 'waves' in the water. I did this usingthe world position offset node which allows me to control the size, depth and speed of the waves makingthe water feela whole lot more real than just the standard normalmapped ripples.

Parameters- Parameters allow me to control the waves, water colour and The materialwas applied to a mesh and then particle effects formist on where added.

Advanced Materials, Instances & Particles

Particles- Particles play a big part in bringing the scene to life. I created particle effects for falling leaves, mist, birds and dust/fireflies. I placed small patches of mist over the rocks and waterfall in the stream and large patch of mist for the wooded area and distance. This helped bringout the autumn morning feeling.

Material Instances- Materialinstances are key in my work within engines. They allow me to work much fasterand get incredible results. As shown above, I use instances to be able to match the colour of my foliage to the ground texture. And by having a material instance for almost all materials I can change the colour at anytime which in turn creates a whole new mood forthe scene. I spent a long time compiling the correct colours for the scene .

Creatingthe mood- The lighting for the scene was hugely important and something I take great care in getting'right'. UDK has a great lighting system and for this scene I did three main things; I edited the world light settings, edited the dominant light (main light source) and created a post process chain. Although I generally establish a good lighting setup during my blockout faze to establish mood, there is a lot of time to be spent finalising the scene.

Tweaks- In this scene I used only the main dominant light of the sun which I mostly tweaked to get the colour and brightness of the scene. I used my own post process chain to determine the amount of bloom, the contrast, AO, and added a custom filter for a vignette effect. The lighting is the last step of my scene.


Final Scene

From Concept to Reality



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