Practice 1: Places of the Mind (A2 – 1)

Practice 1

Skill Goals

I’m going into this week with a set of learning objectives, mainly centered around figuring out the high-poly low-poly pipeline for games. I have only ever done extremely high poly models meant for rendering; previously I’ve used automated decimation tools to reduce the polycount to a few hundred thousand for 3D printing, but never to the level (or with the manual care) that’s necessary for real-time. As I ultimately want to be making (potentially very performance-focused, e.g. mobile or portable console) games, it’s vital that I understand the full process.

From skimming a few timelapse videos and chatting with friends with more experience in the industry, these seem to be the main steps:

  • Low-poly base sculpt in ZBrush or Maya
  • Pull into Maya to create UVs
  • Back to ZBrush for the high-poly sculpt (added details, organic shapes)
  • Import low-poly into Substance Painter for texturing and bake maps using high-poly exported file
  • Export fully painted and textured piece to Unreal for real-time renderin
    (Obviously, there may be some changes if, say, the high-poly model needs to be retopologized or a character needs to be rigged, but I believe these are the basics).

Thus far, I’m quite familiar with ZBrush and somewhat with Maya, and have never touched any of the other software. I’ve also been doing limited UV mapping in ZBrush but there’s a real lack of control (e.g. seamlines are specified with loose polypainting and it’s nearly impossible to rearrange islands on a map) and I suspect it won’t be precise enough for industry standards. I’m excited to play around with some more specific tools!

Initial Ideas

My initial idea for ‘places of the mind’ was of the concept of a ‘happy place’ – I think of sunny fields and idyllic cabins in the woods. I’ve been collecting concept art to potentially use for my final semester project, as I’d like to create a partial environment with a small hut in a clearing, and so already had this beautiful artwork by Daria Silbern in mind. While I’m not really an environment artist, I figured a simple base model would be my best bet for experimenting with so many new softwares. I’m also still trying to nail down my style, so what better than a painterly, brightly-colored, cartoon-distorted piece for inspiration? With that in mind, I started sketching an orthographic breakdown of the house, as I was working purely off a slight 3/4 view and need to wrap my head around the full 3D shapes.

However, since digital painting isn’t my strong suit (er, at least, it’s something I’ve barely practiced..), I’d rather not hand-paint my entire piece. Rather, I thought of the overlay effect from one of my absolute favorite scenes from The Witcher 3, where the protagonist enters a painting. The entire world is transformed into a swirling mass of colors and brushstrokes, and it’s one of the most visually striking effects I’ve ever experienced in a game. I’m sure that it wasn’t painted manually, as my character can run through the world in 3D as the paint strokes adjust with depth of field. If I can pull off a similar look through filters or effects in UE4, it would save a lot of time!

A quick google found that The Witcher developers did use their own proprietary engine, so I don’t necessarily have proof of concept that this is possible in UE4. After extensive research on Youtube and Artstation, I did however stumble upon this tutorial for something called a Kuwahara effect. From my understanding, this is a mathematical formula for creating something of a smoothing effect with harsh edges, similar to the ‘cut’ filter in Photoshop. This isn’t necessarily the exact effect I’m looking for, but it’s surprisingly close and likely the best I can do in my one-week timeframe. This tutorial also proved to be an invaluable resource for simply learning UE4, as I was able to follow the author’s navigation through the interface.


astralis3d. (2022). Witcher Painted World. [image] Available at: [Accessed 11 October 2021].

Silbern, D. (2022). Herbalist Hut. [image] Available at: [Accessed: 13 October 2021].

Verkuijlen, M. (2021). Unreal – Tutorial – Painterly Post Processing – Directional Kuwahara Filter. Available at: [Accessed: 15 October 2021].

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