The focus with Low Poly models is to capture the silhouette of the High Poly as much as possible and then leave the rest of the details (surface details mostly) to the Normal Map, Color Map etc.
Here is my final LP:
Also, this mesh needs to be composed of triangles only as the game engine always triangulates the imported models. An artist should never leave the triangulation process to a program as undesired errors might occur. You model the LP in the typical quad-polygonal (four sided polygons) fashion and then just add more edges to achieve the triangles.
Here are the textures I have ended up with. I've used Photoshop to heavily paint over the color map I've created in ZBrush. I've added more depth and color change to the various surfaces to really sell the look of something rich and believable.
I've added various gradients here and there to keep the viewer's eye interested in looking at the entire asset. A successful model is not just about its shape, but the surface colors as well. Hand painting is everything here.
I desperately needed some professional feedback, so I posted my work to Polycount.
I've learn that I had a big technical issue regarding the texturing phase. In order to paint over a model, I have to unwrap it onto a flat surface. The unwrapping phase is important, because if you do not do it efficiently, you will loose pixel space, hence decreasing quality of the texture itself. It is a very technical matter, but has massive influence on how the art itself is shown at the end.
The feedback also reflected on how the asset looks. I've gotten positive remarks from people who have been in the industry for years. People thought it looked accurate to the concept, which is a huge thing for me, as the number one challenge when creating 3D assets from reference images is to make it match as close as possible. It is so easy to get off track and create something that is just "similar" , instead of something that is just like it.
I've learn a great deal from this project and even though it's one small asset it provides me with a better insight on what is required to create an entire environmental scene. Going from small to big is always a good approach.
Here is the final outcome, which I will be adding to my portfolio:
As a bonus, I've found out that the look of one's work HEAVILY depends on what monitor it is shown on. Older, less performant models can completely kill off all the small details you have added to the image. Not only that, but the lighting values and the contrast changes drastically as well. I am working on a IPS panel monitor, which is all about very high color accuracy. If I will be presenting my work somewhere I need to make sure that the screens are up to par in quality or it might have a negative effect on my art.
|Lesser quality monitor on the right.|