I had the honor of having my first talk ever at the animation festival Pictoplasma in Berlin. It was such a lovely, incredible experience in which I met many other artists that I admired for a long time!
I talked about my experience in the game industry so far and a bit about how my path effected my mental health, as well as how I tried to cope with these new changes and stages in my career.
It was really the perfect venue to have my first talk as everyone was super supportive. Especially the staff behind organizing the event, Peter, Lars, Fanny, Sophie, Tristan and all the others!! If you are interested in seeing my talk, it is available to download on Pictoplasma's website here.
WORKING WITH PRIMITIVES
MAYA LIGHTING MODES
VERTEX COLOR OPTIONS
VERTEX COLOR IMAGE COLOR PICKER
If I make any more short process gifs I'll continue to add them here!! If you're feeling generous feel free to buy me a coffee ko-fi.com/salmikawolf
Thank you for looking (*°▽°*)
Nowadays, having a social media presence is almost a requirement in order to get noticed and get a job. It makes sense; if you don't put your art out there, how will people know what you can do? In order to earn a living doing art, it's essential to market yourself.
How I Got Started
During my second and third year of University, I didn’t focus on concept art at all. My course didn’t demand it; I’d spend most of my time modelling in Maya or working in Unreal; drawing wasn’t part of the process. Entering my senior year, I made the switch to modelling characters - and simultaneously made the realisation that I simply wasn’t happy with my ability as an artist.
If I couldn’t draw characters, how would I be expected to model them in 3D?
I made the decision to change that. Not only would I become a better artist, I would also show to people that I had the patience and motivation required to do so. I set myself the task to create a drawing every single day before midnight, with the intent to develop the skills I’d left behind; digital painting, character design, and composition.
I began posting these to my Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook accounts each day. I hadn’t really used any social media up to this point, but I thought “if i’m going to be making art everyday I may as well put it in front of anyone that will look at it”. They were not pretty at first; very rough and ambitious. But as I continued I began finding my own style, and started to integrate my 3D into it as well.
If you're very curious, you can see all my daily doodles here: http://salmika.tumblr.com/archive
There’s way too much to cover if I go into the details; so I’ll go into my daily doodle project a bit more in depth in another post. Basically, this was the beginning of me marketing myself! There are a few big takeaways that I learned over that period that I'll go into now:
THREE BIG THINGS
1. Posting Consistently
The internet’s attention span is very short. People see something for an instant as they scroll past on their social feed, and then it's gone. That’s how long you have to capture their attention.
Posting consistently is probably one of the easiest ways to start getting attention from people and say “I'M HERE! LOOK AT WHAT I DO!”. This doesn't exclusively mean posting art content; people want to get to know the person behind that, too, so don’t be afraid to show your personality.
Setting myself a goal of one drawing a day ultimately forced me into posting something every day - even if it wasn’t what I deemed “finished”, I found that people were just as interested in the work in progress as they were the final piece.
In my experience, daily doodles made me both post consistently and made me just generally spend more time on social media. It's easier to see the trends of things that are popular right now, and be engaged in what is happening with others in the art sphere. I got to see what other people were posting and how often, which helped influence what I could be doing on my own account.
2. Engaging with Others
As I started posting on Twitter and all the other channels, I started to follow a lot of other artists. I got very familiar with their names, art styles, where they worked and what they were doing. A lot of them already worked in the entertainment industry; a place where I ultimately saw myself, and so I looked up to many of them.
Contrary to popular belief, they aren't a part of some exclusive club you can't get into, in fact; it's the opposite. I started commenting on artists’ work I liked, and asking them questions. I was almost always met with kind responses and answers. That said, don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive a reply, though; it’s important to realise that they are just people too, busy with their own lives!
I’ve noticed that most of the opportunities I’ve been given so far have been from getting to know the people in the industry, and having conversations with them. For almost all of my freelance jobs that I got after University, it was from someone I had already spoken to online. Having good art certainly helps having people recommend you, but you'd be surprised how many people prefer having someone they feel they can work with easily over someone talented, but difficult to chat with.
3. Know your Audience
To help understand what kind of content to produce, you need to ask yourself the question; Who are you trying to get to look at your work? This can be a big question to ask, but it is important to figure out what kind of content you want to make and who you think it is for. In order for your posting consistently to really get going, you have to think about who your target market is.
After I asked myself that question, I realised that the people I wanted to see my work were people within the indie dev and video game scene, and that I wanted to be known by them as a stylised 3D character artist. This helped me curate my work to the types of jobs I wanted to be getting, while still occasionally keeping in the self indulgent doodles.
I understand that marketing yourself can feel like a burden, but the earlier you jump on the train the easier it is to keep up.
However you choose to market yourself, remember that your social media should reflect you as both an artist and as a person. Over a lot of time, hard work, luck, and persistence, I managed to get my first full time industry job at Ustwo Games just after graduating University. I didn’t know anyone at the company before hand, but several of them had seen my work on Twitter before. Of course, I can’t guarantee that doing these things will get you a job, but it’s about focusing on the things you can fix rather than the outside forces you can’t.
There’s no perfect way of doing things; but I really believe that if you post consistently, engage with other people, and are conscious of the work you’re putting out, you’ll have a much better chance at getting your work seen by others.
I wish you good luck in your social media endeavours! ヾ(￣ー￣(≧ω≦*)ゝ
My name is Danette and I am a 3D artist from Houston, TX, though I’ve moved around quite a bit across the states. I am currently employed full time by Ustwo Games in London. I graduated this May from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, with a Major in Game Art. You can see my art on my work tab above
Immediately after graduating I moved out to Seattle in an attempt to be closer to the industry, but right before I moved out I ended up with a freelance position at Sirvo Studios working on characters for their new game Guildlings. I have also done some work with the talented Rebecca Cordingley on her adorable game Ooblets.
I wanted to make art for games as soon as I realized that it was a career path I could take. I knew nothing about the logistics of how to make games, and I had never touched a 3d program before but games have always had a very large influence in my life.
Originally, I started my “daily doodles” (a drawing a day before 12am) in August of 2015 as a way to improve my drawing skills, which I had identified as a weakness of mine. I only did drawings at first, but then I started adding other genres of art to the mix as I went, including short personal comics, 2D animations, and 3D models. Developing these skills has helped massively improve my 3D art and color theory. My daily doodle campaign has also been a great way to market myself on social media. I had never been one to post before but it is especially important nowadays to get your art out there and seen, in order to get noticed.
Despite slowly feeling more confident in my drawing abilities, I still wasn’t exceptional at character design. I remember saving so many images of things I wanted to model when I felt I had the ability to do so. The first model I had chosen to do was a concept from Janice Chu called Toti. As I posted more on Twitter I got to know several artists’ work that I admired and I would pick out my favourite designs to adapt to 3D. This was an exercise in translating a 2D character into a 3D one and training how fast I could get something done, but I was also building relationships with people within the industry. Instead of doing fan art of popular characters, I was doing fan art of artists work that I admired and learning from it. I learned so much paying attention to every detail they drew and how I could best represent that character, and what made that character stand out to me and why.
I think what unites these characters is that they seem to have a cohesive look despite being concepted by completely different people. It’s really nice to be able to say that my 3D characters have a similar look about them, almost like my own 3D style. Each design has its own particular challenges when translating to 3D, and I was able to apply that new knowledge to the next character and get to learn how I specifically like to approach modelling.
When I was first starting out with these characters I wanted to really cut down the number of programs I was using to get to the finished product. For more complex characters I start with a generic base in Zbrush, but for simpler characters I prefer to keep all of the modelling in Maya. I use simple primitives and shapes to build the proportions of my characters and then retopologize them using my favourite tool ever: ‘Quad Draw’.
I learned early on that my characters would require a good set of hands that could be reused, as well as a proper base body mesh. I made a body and hands separately, then in Maya I used Quad Draw to create a cleaner low poly mesh. The great thing about Quad Draw is that it allows you to draw on top of a high poly mesh and create the exact the poly flow that you want to have on your model while being particular about the shapes you’re making in order for the silhouette to look correct.
I used the same base body on a lot of my human characters while modifying them appropriately to match the concepts, but sometimes I still need to start from scratch. Having a body base made a big difference in the amount of time it took me to finish the character, helping me focus on getting the smaller details right. Using Quad Draw on top of the base shapes that I made for the character was a much easier way for me to model props then to try to make them from scratch.
Going Low Poly
With low poly in particular, it’s most important to get the shapes and proportions of the characters correct. You want enough polygons to be able to have a clean silhouette, but you also want to make sure that you clean up the polygons that are unnecessary. Working with so few polygons means that each one needs to be relevant to how I want the character to look. Though having a lot of polygons these days doesn’t matter as much, I try to be as efficient as possible in using as little resources as possible.
The faces are definitely one of the main focuses of my characters, and I’ve appropriated a few tricks on how to approach faces from Twitter and other sources. One of the tricks is to model eyes as inset cavities, and use a floating textured plane for the pupil and highlight. I do this by making a sphere and shaping it the way I want the eye to look and sit in the face, and using the Boolean tool to cut the shape into the face. I then clean up the vertices around the eye merging together unnecessary ones and cleaning up the topology. Using a separate plane for the pupil and highlight in the eye, if done right, adds the illusion that that the eyes are following you as the character moves. You can see how I did the eyes on any of my characters on Sketchfab!
With Kiki I inverted the normals of the mouth, taking advantage of the polygons only being visible from the front, in order to create the illusion of thickness around the mouth when looked at at an angle. I modeled the face as I normally would, and made sure that the faces around the mouth matched up exactly how I wanted, then selected the faces I wanted to invert in order to see “into” the face. I then extruded into the head around the inverted normal faces of the mouth and created an enclosed space. Next, I created two objects, one for the red interior of the mouth and another for the tongue. I had to invert the normals of the red inner mouth as well in order to be able to see the tongue inside.
A lot of the colors that I used came from the concepts, but certain color choices needed to be made in order to adapt the characters into my 3D style. I always take a bit of artistic liberty with the colors and as long as the character had the same overall feel and proportions I don’t worry too much about the colors being exact. I learned a lot from the artist’s color choices in the images I was using as reference, and it certainly helped me along in making my own color choices later. I have folders of images that I use as color reference, but also all the painting I had been doing for my daily doodles came in handy. There’s no better way to learn what colors look good or have a certain feeling than to paint with them yourself and experiment.
With my 3D models specifically, I really enjoy using 3D Coat to paint directly on my model. I UV them in maya and bring them into 3D Coat and paint a base of each of the flat colours used in the concepts, colour picking from the image. I normally paint at a resolution of 2048 so that I don’t have to worry about my painting not being sharp- you can always down res the texture later on if necessary.
After I get the base down I start to paint in the lighting, being worried more with the overall look rather than trying to get lost in the little details. Once I reach a point that I’m happy with I start on the smaller details, but I add them in roughly. I use Photoshop to clean them up with some of the brushes I like to use (Kyle Webster’s Megapack) and take the whole thing back into 3D Coat for finishing touches. Usually that means playing with the different adjustment layers in order to create highlights and overlays to help the character get to a more finalised look.
Alternatively, for my flat coloured characters I use vertex painting in Maya as an even better way to speed up the process. With this method, the character doesn’t require UVs in order to colour. This takes out a very time consuming process, and it is a much faster way to get a character to a finished state. Usually when I begin my characters, I aim for the modelling and UVs to be done in the first day, and then the painting of textures and rigging/posing/final renders to be done in the second day depending on how complicated the character. Vertex colours allow me to get almost a completed look with minimal changes all in the first day of working. It is very liberating being able to create a piece of art so fast.
The best thing about working in low poly to me is that it takes away extra steps to the process of making a model and strips it down into only the essentials. I normally give myself a strict timeline to make my characters in order to keep up with my dailies so keeping it fast and simple is very important, this way that if something isn’t working you can easily change things. The process of focusing on the form and proportions of the character over the smaller details allow me to break up the process into manageable chunks. It’s always more intimidating to think of everything you need to finish in order to get a finished product, so I just take it one step at a time.
***Please take all of this with a grain of salt as I am writing this up as a solo project on the side to then go into further detail with my process.***
UI & Hotkeys
Hold Alt & Left Click to tumble camera
Tool shelf on left hand side shows different options
Select tool is Q but you can also use move tool
Move Tool or W
Rotate Tool or E
Scale Tool or R
Double Clicking any of these allows you see the options such as snap settings, axis orientation and soft selection.
Different shelf set ups/panel layouts
Normal all one screen
4 view panels to view all sides/top down
Outliner (very important!!!)
Grid size! Display - grid options
Set at 1000, 100, 1 For scale each box is approximately 1 meter per grid line
important to set scale before you begin
Heads up display - poly count
Important to keep track of what you’re doing & makes it easier to check for multiple verts in one place
Different tabs & options
Upper left has options for Maya’s different modes
These tabs change the top UI tabs to be tailored per subject.
The options for the actual categories are also available in the tabs/types you can see near the top
HOT TIP: Maya is mostly 3 different ways to show you all the same things.
The tabs at the top show the tools you can use
The tabs close to the top show you the same tools in UI
Hot keys (shift & right click or control & right click)
The most important tools are under MESH, MESH TOOLS & MESH DISPLAY
On the right side there are two very important tabs that give you info on whatever you are selecting. It also gives you options to edit.
- CHANNEL BOX
- ATTRIBUTE EDITOR
THE CHANNEL BOX
This shows you information on the selected mesh such as transforms & rotation as well as the history of the mesh
THE ATTRIBUTE EDITOR
I mostly use this to figure out what material is on the selected mesh
So you want to make 3D things
( ˙꒳˙ )
There are a few different ways to get started
Make sure you are in the POLYGON tab in the upper left
There are several different primitives in the UI menu shelf
- You can use these to create a 3D primitive of your choice
- Whenever you create a mesh, it appears in the outliner
Be sure to name your meshes as you go!
In the channel box you can do some base edits to your mesh such as changing the subdivisions, transforms, or radius.
Use QWER to then edit your mesh in different ways
When selecting a mesh, there are several different modes you can edit your mesh in
Hold Right click and drag to select an edit mode
The main modes you’ll be using are Edge, Object Mode, Face and Vertex.
These modes are exactly what they sound like
Edge mode allows you to select & edit edges
Face mode allows you to do the same to specific faces
Vertex mode allows you to edit vertices
Object mode allows you to go back to normal selecting an object/multiple objects.
- If you Left Click & Drag you can select multiple meshes, though if you want to multi - select in edit mode you’ll need to turn on SELECT BY COMPONENT or combine your mesh:
(F8) Modeling Toolkit
- When you create a mesh, the mesh “remembers” what you’ve done to it/ what tools you’ve used. You can see this history inside the channel box as you’re working.
Healthy tips for modelling:
As you’re editing a mesh it will also track the translate, rotation and scale as you go.
In order to “reset” or clear this information you must do a few steps:
Delete by Type
Delete History or Command + Shift + D
- Doing this will "reset" the mesh
- Doing this will reset the translation, rotation & scale of the mesh.
DO THESE OFTEN!
You want to make sure the history doesn’t mess with any of the tools you’re trying to use on the mesh.
When you select a mesh, the pivot automatically places itself at the centre of your mesh when you create it.
It can change as you build out your mesh
In order to change/ specify where your pivot is select an object in object mode and hold D
Holding D enables “edit pivot” mode, the move controller should change to show rotation as well.
If you want to snap the pivot to a verticy, hold down D & V (for vertex) and middle mouse over where you want the pivot.
There are a few different options to snap meshes including:
Snap to grid (X)
Snap to curve (C)
Snap to Vertex (V)
- Holding one of these buttons down allows you to snap a selected mesh to one of these options
- You can always reset your pivot by double clicking the rotations tool/tool options and hitting reset pivot.
- You can also type in the rotation values and toggle on/off edit pivot mode here.
- Soft selection is a selection option in which Maya will attempt to select multiple vertices/faces to varying degrees that you can specify.
- You can tick on soft selection mode in the tool options, or by hitting B
- You can edit the fall-off radius of your soft select in tool settings, or by holding middle mouse & B and moving your mouse left/right
- When modelling I mostly use the Polygons UI tool shelf which keeps all the primitives & most used tools/UV tools in one place
You can add tools you want to the shelf with Shift + Control Click from the top menu
You can also set up hot keys or shift/right click & drag to see a mini menu
I’d like to go over several of my most used tools:
INSERT EDGE LOOP
- This allows you to add an entire loop around your selected object
In the tool settings you can set up:
- Equal distance from edge
- Relative distance from edge
- Multiple edge loops (can add how many)
APPEND TO POLYGON
- When you delete a face on your mesh and need to re-append (close the gap) you can use this tool to draw a face in
MULTI - CUT
This allows you to cut in your own edge loops by hand
- Make sure you don't have 5 sided faces, triangles are ok!
- One of THE most powerful tools, this tool allows you to take one face, multiple faces or even an entire mesh and “grow” it
- You can use this tool to make A LOT