Artist Filip Hodas on creating an incredible, brand new 'pop culture dystopia' artwork series

Filip created this illustration series to learn how to use 3D painting software Substance Painter – and he's just released some new works. Check them out here.

We featured the first part of 3D artist Filip Hodas' 'pop culture dystopia' series in August last year, but much to our delight, he has now released Part Two including Spongebob Squarepants, a Stormtrooper and Mickey Mouse among other icons. We've featured the new illustrations first, followed by Part One of the series.

The Prague-based 24-year-old's atmospheric, earthy 3D art can be bought as prints, or followed on Instagram (@hoodass) for a daily fix of sensory, calming and sometimes dystopian scenery.

This series is centred around a "dystopian world of pop-culture icons", in which Filip depicts symbolic icons like Pacman, Bender from Futurama, Hello Kitty and Mario Mushrooms in desolate, abandoned, and overgrown landscapes. The images are incredibly stunning, shocking and eerie all at the same time, reflecting the destructive relationship between mankind and the environment (whether this was intentional or not). Simon Stalenhag was a huge inspiration for the series. See Simon’s illustrations of an invasion that went wrong.

We spoke to Filip to find out a little more about how exactly these tools work together to create the overall series, which might give you an idea, if not inspiration, on how to use these tools for your own projects.

With Filip’s pop culture dystopia series, he wanted to learn how to paint textures using Substance Painter and to see how far he could push Displacement Maps within OctaneRender.

"The main goal of this series is to learn how to use Substance Painter (3D painting software), and implement it into my texturing workflow," Filip explains.

He goes on to provide a very lengthy list of all the tools and software involved in creating the 3D series, including familiar names like Cinema 4D, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and ZBrush, but also OctaneRender, Substance Painter, Substance Designer, 3D Coat and World Machine. In part two of the series, Filip also started creating and using photogrammetry assets with a Sony A7 camera and Agisoft Photoscan

In allegorithmic's Substance Painter you can texturise and render your work using a familiar set of texturing tools, particle painting, brush with opacity control, smart masks and other tools. Choosing from a range of scanned-based materials or creating your own mesh-adaptive materials, you can create textures that support 8K export and can integrate into your workflow easily. Another helpful feature of Substance Painter for game developers is that you can preview your work exactly as it would appear in Unity and Unreal Engine – however Filip hasn’t used these tools for his illustrations.

Filip coupled his texture creation in Substance Painter with Otoy’s OctaneRender for Cinema 4D, a GPU-accelerated renderer which uses the graphics card in computers to render photo-realistic images quickly. Octane is used widely because of its speed. It supports a bunch of different plugins and has an interactive, real-time 3D editing viewport.

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By using OctaneRender, you can create complex surface geometry in Cinema 4D using 8K displacement maps.

"I explored adding minor details to my objects via Displacement and creating realistic rust, wear and dirt maps based on the model shape,” says Filip. "This project was ideal because the main objects weren’t too complex and I could go all in with the rust and dirt.”

He says this allowed him to create "truly custom maps" based on his geometry.

"Before (using Displacement), I just used (Octane) procedural Dirt Node (it masks concave/convex edges) with cube projected dirt maps on top, which doesn’t yield very realistic results most of the time."

Procedurally generating Octane’s dirt map can create textures for render in Cinema 4D, but you will have less control over the geometric aesthetic. The dirt maps can be used to create rusted surfaces, worn and weathered paint effects, as well as water stained materials, much of which can be seen in Filip’s work.

Taking his Mario Mushroom illustration as an example, Filip explains his workflow. In this illustration he introduces another tool, 3D-Coat, which is one application that turns your 3D block of digital clay into a production ready, fully textured organic or hard surface model. 3D-Coat is useful for concept art and digital sculpting.

"I started by modelling it in Cinema 4D then I took it to 3D-Coat for unwrapping," he says.

Unwrapping essentially 'unfolds' a mesh so that you can create a 2D texture which fits the 3D object. It’s great for when you want to texture an object accurately.

"After that I went into Substance Designer and created some custom height alphas (the eyes for instance). I also did some rust and dirt material.

"Then I went to Substance Painter and started adding height information via alphas - the eyes, some bolts, vents and connectors. Then I painted the dots on the top part of the mushroom. When that was done, I started painting rust and wear masks with some physical brushes and generators," says Filip.

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Filip doesn’t use Substance Painter to create entire maps, but rather to create masks he uses later in OctaneRender.

"I find it bit more flexible when I need to adjust something later on. When all that was done I started creating the layered material in Cinema 4D using OctaneRender from the masks and materials I created."

Here is part one of Filip Hodas' 'Pop Culture Dystopia' series.

Creating the Models

Filip says creating the designs of the central models – a giant Pacman icon, Hello Kitty head, Mario Mushroom, McDonald’s Happy Meal box, Coca-Cola can and Space Invaders icon – was fairly simple because he wanted to add as many details as possible through Displacement. Designing the models he "freestyled most of the time".

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Creating the Environments

Most of the environments were created using materials he made in Substance Designer (such as the ground, rocks, cliffs, roots, plants and metal bits), but Filip also used Vizpark (an online store where you can buy complete packs of 3D models for specific software) and Laubwerk packs (specifically 3D plant models) for plants with custom materials, and “a bunch of other packs for more specific details”.

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