“For this image I used a classic process: sculpt in ZBrush, pose in ZBrush, quick Polypaint, and then I did some tweaks on the materials in KeyShot to get a nice SSS effect,” says character artist Hadrien Gouedard. He begins his creative process with some quick 2D sketches before rushing them in ZBrush, then finishing off with 3D-Coat, Substance and Marmoset, or directly in KeyShot.
Gouedard’s work on this particular image was driven by a desire to lend a crazy personality to such a wild and dangerous animal. “The challenge is always more artistic than technical for me,” he adds. “The goal is to keep it fun throughout the entire process, when I look at the sculpt it needs to make me smile.”
16. Nasu Tepee
Iranian artist Hossein Yadollahpour got his start in 3D back in 2001 when he found himself reading through a tutorial booklet for 3ds Max. “My father gifted it to me alongside my first computer,” he adds. Since then he’s gained experience in architectural visualisation, environment design, character design and VFX, and nowadays he manages his own studio in the city of Qaem Shahr.
He adds: “This re-creation of the Nasu Tepee started when I found some photos of this beautiful building on the internet.” According to Yadollahpour, the biggest challenge on this piece was tree simulation, but he managed to overcome it with the help of vegetation modelling software SpeedTree. “This powerful software is one of the best choices to make any kind of tree. You only need to know what kind of tree you want and SpeedTree makes it for you.”
17. Space Frame
This image took freelance artist Praveen V. S just a day to complete. No stranger to delivering huge projects at speed, he once created an 8K rendered BMW interior in less than 24 hours.
For this particular project Praveen employed a number of his own notable techniques. “I used the round edges option to add a bit of roundness to the sharper edges. These help to catch the highlights, adding to the realism,” he explains. “To add extra details I export to ZBrush, remesh, add the detail, unwrap, then import back to 3ds Max.”
Praveen sees 3D art as a means to explore his passion for automotive design. “In real life I don’t have cars or even a home yet. That said, I have done CGI visuals for Mercedes, BMW, Jeep and a few other automotive brands.”
18. Cambot – Memory
Dong Liang is a 3D surfacing artist based in Singapore. His personal project, Cambot – Memory, shows off his talents. “Every artwork begins from a story I try to tell,” he explains.
“To start with, I usually do a bunch of concept sketches to explore the design and composition while also looking for reference images. Once there is a decent sketch, I start blocking in the low-poly geometries in 3D.”
From here, Liang begins working on the detailing and lighting. This piece, however, posed a unique challenge. “The rain effect was done a little bit unconventionally,” he reveals.
“I randomly instanced five different streak models onto a nParticle system to mimic the rain streaks instead of using motion blur to do so. Rendering noise-free motion blur is too heavy for my machine.”
19. Welcome to Paradise
This final year 3D art project by 3D animation students at the University of Hertfordshire was created over eight months. “We spent the summer discussing the story and created some rough concept art, but it was only in the final year that the project took off,” says Veronika Epsteina.
The animation is inspired by a piece of concept art created by the artist Gennaro Grazioso, which portrayed small nomadic people with big robots. “A storyboard was created, and based on that, a really rough animatic – where we filmed ourselves playing out the scenes. This helped with the editing, to get the timing and camera angles right,” says Epsteina.
“One of my favourite shots to work on was the reveal of the alien planet. We knew it would be one of the most important shots in our film so we put a lot of time and effort into it.”
20. Hover Car Garage
“I spent four weeks on this project – almost 100 hours of modelling and 50 hours of texturing,” says Rico Suyang Wang, from China, who’s studied at Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Games & Animation in Hollywood. The concept was inspired by Alejandro Burdisio's work: “He is one of my favourite artists and I have always wanted to turn his designs into 3D art with a realistic style,” says Suyang Wang.
The biggest challenge was making everything look convincing and functional in 3D, explains Suyang Wang. “I modelled the scene in Maya, textured in Photoshop and rendered with V-Ray. I spent a lot of time blocking the scene and defining the mechanical details. For the texturing, nuance is crucial and reference is key. My mindset is very simple: when I feel something is wrong, I know it must be wrong, so I change it very quickly.”
21. Waiting for the Bus
“The goal for this 3D art project was to study and introduce Substance Painter into my workflow, and also to test Marmoset 3,” explains Mariano Steiner, a character artist and digital sculptor who created this piece in two months. “I wanted to provoke a weird feeling when the viewer sees it,” he reveals. With its realistic setting but unusual character, it’s certainly a piece that will make you look twice.
“In my personal work, I always try to input a bit of what I’m excited about in that moment, and always try to push the level in some way,” he adds. With Steiner finding inspiration through movies, games and toys, as well as nature and space, it sounds like he certainly won’t be short of interests to fuel his imagination.
22. The Free Autonomous Republic of Dieselville
“I’ve been doing photorealistic renderings for seven years. 3D has been my greatest passion for almost 15 years, and it’s not fading,” says artist and programmer Federico Ciuffolini. This particular image took him just 100 days to complete.
“I used a lot of cloth simulations in this work,” explains Ciuffolini. “For the smaller objects I used MassFX, which is quick and stable. For more important objects, where I needed more control, I used the cloth modifier.”
For inspiration, Ciuffolini turns to his fellow artists: “I think that we, as 3D artists, are very lucky. We have a broad, open and passionate community and watching what other artists create is a constant, unbelievable flow of inspiration. I frequently find myself awestruck, and when that happens I often feel a real need to work on my own projects, to try new things, to create. It’s almost physical. I really think that the creative process is a fundamental need of human beings. I hope that my works inspires people in a similar way.”
23. Study of Julia Blattman Illustration: Gecko Car
“Pretty much everything used to create this image is a basic modelling technique taught to new students,” says Yisu Zhang.
“I used displacement for the ground and dirt, V-Ray 2-Sided Material for the leaves and varying degrees of SSS material for the geckos and berries,” he explains. “VRaySun and Sky provided the only light source. I painted my diffuse/spec/bump maps in Mari. V-Ray fog and depth of field are tweaked in Photoshop.”
“I always start in ZBrush from a sphere,” explains freelance artist Rodion Vlasov. He goes on to outline the 13-day process behind this image: “From then on the pipeline is pretty regular, nothing tricky and special – I even used the standard shortcuts and UI in ZBrush. When I need custom topology, in the eyes for example, I do it by hand in TopoGun and then merge it with the ZRemeshed mesh.” Lastly, Vlasov does his polypainting in ZBrush as a base for the texturing process in Substance Painter.
Highlighting his favourite part of the process, Vlasov concludes: “I love the process of sculpting, it’s the reason I do this. Some people play games for fun, I play in ZBrush.”
Modeller and texturing artist Stefano Strabla utilised HD sculpting for surfacing on this insanely detailed image. He explains: “The advantage of HD is that it allows me to focus on the hi-res sculpting without being concerned with seams or splitting the geometry into many different subtools. It depends on the type of creature and how big it is, but you can reach a really high density for fine surfacing. Also baking out the displacement is surprisingly faster and far more detailed.”
The entire piece took Strabla three weeks to complete, and discussing the process he says: “I’m always inspired by great concept art or artwork with solid shapes and forms. On this particular piece I enjoyed surfacing in ZBrush and the texturing and lookdev phase, where you can finally see the results of all your hard work come together.”
26. Ebola Virus
Medical artist Alexey Kashpersky has won international competitions in scientific visualisation, and his beautiful 3D art rendering of the Ebola virus is a fine example of his skills. "I wanted to transform Ebola into something fantastic and something that had its own unique character," he explains. The image took him three months to complete, with everything modelled by hand.
27. Ghost Mantis
“I’ve always liked insects, especially the mantis,” explains Dmytro Teslenko of the inspiration behind this ghostly image. “There are so many species. I chose my favourite, the ghost mantis, because he has such a mystique about him.”
Teslenko created the image on and off for over four weeks, choosing not to employ any revolutionary new techniques in the process. “It was all pretty simple, old-school modelling, sculpting and then texturing,” he admits. “Sculpting is my favourite part of the process, I absolutely love every moment of it.”
For Teslenko, improving and refining your work is crucial to its success: “I always try to do as many corrections as possible. When I get to the rendering stage, if I don’t like something, I’ll go back to sculpting or texturing the model before rendering again. Sometimes I’ll do this a few times. Don’t be afraid to spend a lot of time correcting. This is your project and only you can make it look better than it did yesterday.”
28. Here Be Dragons
Sandeman says of his process: “Modo has quite a robust replicator system which was used to generate most of the forest’s density and randomisation. Flowers really benefit from replicators because you only need to build one or two hero assets then use the replicator with randomised size, position and rotation.”
Seeing the image come together was a big moment for Sandeman. “It was really hard to tell if it was going to work out or not,” he admits. “With a forest being so diverse it can be hard to see the whole picture when you’re building one flower at a time, so to speak.”