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Coral Reef Inspired Planet
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Coral Reef Inspired Planet

Coral Reef inspired planet with plenty of mushrooms. I want to experiment with different software to test some new techniques.

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Update - 14 May 2021

Final Update

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Update - 10 May 2021

I had some more fun with the spaceship and spent more time texturing it.  Also, I really wanted to give Marmoset a go so here it is.

Update - 9 May 2021

I've been working the whole week dressing the scene using my own assets, Megascans (with textures tweaked in Quixel Mixer and Substance Painter), and I also used 2 human models and animations from Mixamo library. I spent a lot of time tweaking fog settings and making sure it works well for the entire scene.

Update - 3 May 2021

The spaceship is my own concept. It was a good Zbrush practice.

Update - 28 Apr 2021

I haven't submitted any updates for a while because I really wanted to finish the spaceship before I do that. I still haven't touched it but I've made some progress over the time. My own assets are the big mushrooms, all the corals and the trees. I made the trees in Houdini, added some displacement, retopologized them and coloured in Substance Painter. I used Megascan leaves and baked them with branches in Houdini. I made the terrain textures by tweaking Megascan surfaces in Quixel Mixer.

Update - 7 Apr 2021

This week I've worked some more on the terrain. As I want this environment to be humid (mushrooms and coral plants), I tried to work with terrain masks in Houdini but I encountered some problems and had to be a bit more creative. Below are some of my new references with mask experiments.

I looked up some interesting satelite photos of swamps, found one place with interesting shapes, took a screenshot and tweaked it in Substance Designer. I used the heightmap in Houdini as a terrain mask, added my mountain and had some fun with layers.

This is how it looked like in UE. I used Megascans texture for the water. I may make my own shader later but I need to prioritize my time right now.

Then I used Houdini to generate layers. Balancing everything took a lot of time but I think was worth it. I plan to make my own textures and replace these in the future.

Once I was happy with the terrain I came back to one of the trees. I wanted it to have a bit better silhouette and to look a bit more realistic. I want my environment to look stylized but not too cartoony. I personally love cartoony art but I prefer working on a bit more realistic stuff right now for some reason.

I tested out different displacement textures and asked some people for feedback  (I had my own preference but I thought that may be a funny thing to do). Opinions were mixed and I also ended up mixing two different textures in Substance Designer into one.

I used ClayPolish in Zbrush to add some more detail to the fruit after displacing it in Houdini.

Update - 4 Apr 2021

This week I spent some time on working on my assets. I want to mix mushroom-looking plants with some coral reef-like ones. I focused on creating strong silhouettes and interesting curves. The assets still need some extra polish.

The tree was particularly fun to work with. I wanted the fruits to be instanced. I experimented a bit with NanoMesh in Zbrush but I found that working with scattering tools in Houdini gave me a bit more control. I will rearrange the fruits in Zbrush by hand later on but I wanted to work on the asset as a whole for this moment to have a general feel of it before I decide how I want to develop it further.

For the fruits I tried out different fruit models out of Megascans library. I started to work with a pumpkin and I sculpted it in Zbrush a little but later on I found garlic to work a bit better. I downloaded some textures and photos from and used them with Labs Three Planar Displace node in Houdini.

I used two different Height maps and mixed them together using merge node and voxelizing again. Mixing the textures in Substance Designer or Alchemist probably would give me a better result but I am still during experimentation phase. I will work on the textures later.

I made this plant using L-systems in Houdini and I added a Palm Tree texture as a displacement. I will throw it into a scene later to see how it works out with the rest of the models.

Some fun with the main scene rock in Substance Painter. I used the textures which are available in the program to see if the shapes are working with rocky textures. I want the end terrain to be wet-looking and to look more like a swamp to suit the environment I want to create - mushrooms and coral plants grow in humid conditions.

I was satisfied with the shapes but unfortunately, Substance Painter can only work with 4K textures (I don't want to use UDIM  textures for this project) and I think working with Unreal terrain would be a bit better solution as I will be able to sculpt it later to make final tweaks to my scenes.

Testing out the terrain in UE. Textures are pixelated but I am happy with the initial compositional shapes.

Some Substance Painter renders.

After fair bit of experimentation I decided I want to sculpt the terrain in Zbursh, project it into terrain, add some noise detail, simulations and layers in Houdini and move it to UE. 

Update - 27 Mar 2021

As I wanted to make the environment as organic looking as possible I thought I could use Zbrush as my main block out tool. Also I really like the flexibility it provides.

I keep testing my block out in Unreal to make sure the scale is correct, everything feels right and the main path looks good.

I painted over some screenshots in Procreate to get some ideas for composition and assets I could create.

I really wanted to check how some of my foliage ideas would work with terrain and scattered across the environment. I created a simple terrain in Houdini and projected a terrain sculpt I made in Zbrush on it. I think the tree looking model looks good instanced through the area but the silhouette of the mushroom tree needs more variety. 

A single rock formation of that height seemed to be unlikely to happen in nature by itself. It needed some company. Firstly, I scattered some more models and projected them, but this didn't feel right too. That's why I make sure that they are clumped together.

Now I have a bit better idea about the overall environment. I will probably place all the assets by hand or make some clusters, which will be scattered randomly. I want to paint over some more screenshots before I decide what assets I want to create for the scene. I think it's a pretty good way for getting stuff out of my head. Also I need to focus more on storytelling elements.

Update - 23 Mar 2021

I had a bit more time this week so I experimented with some Zbrush tools. As I want the scene to look good as a whole I assumed that working on all assets at the same time may be a good idea. That way I can think about composition and shape language and get constant visual feedback. The models below are mostly sketches and experiments. I want to research my own abilities and develop new techniques and use some of the sculpts for a final concept.

Update - 16 Mar 2021

For the World of Real-time Discoveries competition I would like to test what I've learned so far using Houdini, Zbrush, Maya, Substance Painter and Designer. I plan to create alien looking environment with foliage similar to flora present underwater like algae, seaweed, coral reefs etc. and connect it with interesting objects observed with a microscope like bacteria,  fiber tissue and other uniquely looking objects. I will use terrain tools in Houdini, experiment with some  procedural abstract looking shapes and add some detail in Zbrush. I want to use some displacement textures created in Substance Designer and see where my experimentation takes me. I want to create an environment with rich flora and make it looking familiar yet alien. Here are some of my references:

Some of my Houdini experimentation for the project. I was trying different tools to create organic looking objects. I don't have a lot of time at the moment as I need to submit work for my college deadlines. I hope I will be able to get back to it next week. I've experimented with L-systems, displacement textures and voxelization.