Gregory Khodyrev showed how he models and textures sweet low poly hand-painted projects in Blender.
My name is Gregory, I am teaching at the university in Russia (Ph.D. in biology). I’ve been interested in computer graphics for a long time. In my childhood, in the early ’90s, I had one of this “Spectrum” PCs, made animated dinosaurs in 16×16 resolution or animated colorful lines, circles and polygons in BASIC with my parents. A few years later I had an opportunity to practice video capturing with an analog video camera. And of course, I was and still am a big video game fan. Colorful and realistic pictures of Flashback, Dangerous Dave, Another World, Space Quest 4 and many others, as well as my first 3D experience in Wolfenstein, Doom 2, Quake, Hexen, have stuck with me.
I had many attempts to enter 3D graphics (you can’t imagine the struggle of a schoolboy in ’90s/’00s with no study materials, expensive and super slow internet, and manuals on a foreign language). Now you have tons of videos on youtube, articles, online schools. Thanks to social media you are in a few clicks from your favorite artists, you can talk to them and learn from them if you wish. You can progress much faster today!
My true love in 3D was photorealistic renders (still images or movie scenes) – I realized it when I made my first project which was a metallic pen. I remember how I showed it to my relatives and they thought it was a photo!
Here’s an example of my early works (this one is a commercial project):
Sharing on Sketchfab
Since I discovered Sketchfab, I realized that I wanted to do some simple but effective things. After my “photorealistic era”, this was something totally new for me. Sketchfab itself was that impulse for me as a new way of presentation and it also motivated me to hone my skills in modeling and texturing. Texturing was pain before, but I pushed myself through it.
The first finished work in this series was «Go on vacation!» inspired by Alejandro Diaz:
It was so well received by the public that it was like fuel for my creative engine. Don’t be shy and share your work!
Sometimes I look at a picture and feel a strong desire to transfer the mood and feelings from 2D to 3D. This happened when I saw «Sør-Helgeland» project by Kristofer Haugvik which resulted in my project Parallax.
I should say, the Sketchfab team is very open and friendly. The Sketchfab community is great – there are a lot of very inspiring and supportive talented artists, so I’d encourage you once again to try and share your work there.
Modeling in Blender
I make almost everything in Blender and use a standard modeling process starting from a plane or verticles.
If I need some organic shapes I switch to sculpting with the help of Skin modifier. It works almost like ZSpheres in ZBrush. I use it for making animals, trees and even fire and water splashes like here.
Another good tool is Shrinkwrap modifier which helps with retopology. Also, try to use Snap to Face, it’s very helpful (the Magnet icon or ‘Ctrl’ key).
Since we are talking about low poly modeling and hand-painted textures, remember that you need to keep a good silhouette with minimum edges needed, all the time. Keep it simple and model the elements that will impact the silhouette. All the small details will be added during texturing.
Texturing in Blender
For UV packing, I use UVPackmaster 2 which speeds up the process a lot.
I prefer to paint textures right on the model in the 3D view. For most cases, I use Standard brush with hard enough profile or plain profile for soft lights and shadows. I also increase/decrease the pen pressure for harder/softer colors. I almost never use 1.0 pressure, usually, it is somewhere between 0.3 and 0.8.
I often use Sampler (key ‘S’). It helps to match the colors taken from reference and mix the colors on your textures to make them softer. The idea is to start from blocking your model with a few main colors first and add details, shadows, and reflection after that. Painting small details right on the object helps to make sure that everything works together. Also, make sure that UVs are clean and have enough margins between islands with no unwanted overlapping.
Actually, there is a good tutorial for hand-painted texturing in Blender which can explain the workflow better. I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to learn this technique:
I also recorded a small video to show you an example of my approach: