Hard-surface and Substance Painter Inspired Project: Anti-gravity Racer

In order to develop my skills in hard-surface modelling and texture/material painting in Substance Painter, I set myself a little project that would provide a suitable canvas to demonstrate and develop my skills AND fulfil a dream I’ve had since 1996!

One of the first games I purchased for my PlayStation was Wipeout 2097. This game was the sequel to Wipeout, one of the launch titles of the PlayStation – which I never really cared for.

To this day, I have yet to play a finer racer that tests your reflexes and pushes your senses to almost overload while still maintaining a pleasurable and rewarding experience. Multiple sequels followed but none (for me), ever recreated the intensity, enjoyability and impact of 2097. Wipeout 3 came close, thanks mostly to its soundtrack and high definition visuals, but that’s about it. There is even a current Kickstarter campaign by the original developers to bring back the franchise after the originating studio was shut down! Looks promising and will no doubt resonate with nostalgic-eyed mid-lifers wanting a taste of their young adult lives to relive for a while – but it looks so outdated and already too complicated.

Anyway, back to my dream. Since 1996, I have periodically thought, if I were an anti-gravity vehicle designer, what would my ideal craft look like? I have started many projects to realise this. In fact, one of my first assessed pieces of 3D work at college was an exhibition stand dedicated to Wipeout 2097 which featured a full-sized model of my preferred craft of choice, the Feisar F5000. I never really had the skills in modelling or texturing to realise my ideas for an original craft. Until now!

I have always had an idea how the craft would look but to make this even more of a challenge (and to demonstrate how graphic design skills are transferable to 3D design), I am also going to create a new racing team. This involves creating the team colours, logo and branding, as well as design all the details and wear/tear the vehicle will have sustained during previous races. Also, this means that every aspect will be original so I can avoid any permissions issues and infringement of copyrighted materials.

After a few quick sketches (and I mean quick… and I mean few – 1 in total), I set about modelling the craft. If starting this process from scratch you would need lots of sketches from all angles but I’ve been thinking about this for 20 years so it’s pretty clear in my mind what I want!

A basic description of the design would be that a smooth and sculpted body is divided into 3 main panels and attached to the chassis so the design will be aerodynamic but disruptive as the panels are separated. This might generate instability which is a method of improving manoeuvring ability as featured on the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Modelling the Craft

Anyway, after a few hours in 3D Studio MAX modelling the panels, this is what I arrived at:


Please note that this only half the ship. It’s best work like this until happy with the form. You then duplicate, mirror and attach to create a perfectly symmetrical model. I am happy with the overall shape and the inlet vents,which depending on what powers the craft could either be air for combustion/reaction or air for cooling or ventilation.

The chassis still needs a lot of work as I intend to cover it with a sort of exoskeleton onto which the panels are attached. Obviously, this will mostly be unseen but I intend to show this off in various areas such as the aft and the panel gaps. I will post the final model when all components have been modelled.

Designing the Logo & Painting the Mesh

After the first panel was modelled, I UV mapped it and took the low polygon version into Substance Painter to see if there was anything wrong with the way I was creating the mesh or with the UV mapping applied. I am pleased to say there wasn’t and after I had created the team’s logo and colours, I started painting the details. Here’s what I came up with:


The ARO Racing logo is inspired slightly by the original F5000 racing series logo and incorporates an associative image of an arrow into the team’s name. I feel this strikes the balance between connecting it to the Wipeout franchise, but being original enough to distance itself if need be. Incidentally, the logo image above is the alpha texture I created to import into Substance Painter to use to paint the logo as a decal onto the panel (below).

I then applied the logo and colour scheme to the portion of the hull I had created as a test for the workflow and output quality:


None of the detail on the above is mesh, it is all material and texture work.

I was happy with the colours, the application of detail, both macro and micro and I’m happy with the application of the logo. I think improvements can be made to the legibility and contrast but these are quite easy to make and need tweaking inline with how the output looks in the game engine:


As you can clearly see from the above (a 4k textured version of the panel in Unreal) there are discrepancies with the colour (which I am still looking into) but it’s great to see the details are being picked up by the lighting in the game engine and neither the model, nor material lose any definition from the workflow.

I am now going to complete the model and texture it as a single entity so look out for a future post and I’ll share anything I find along the way.


Today (the day after the original post), I created the exoskeleton which will attach the chassis to the panels. This will be most evident at the rear of the craft.

I also took a quick peek at what the craft would look like when all panels were duplicated, mirrored and attached:


To generate the lightning and Ambient Occlusion, I simply added a ‘skylight’ to my scene in 3D Studio Max and changed the renderer to Nvidia’s Mental Ray.

I also rendered a close-up of the rear to see the detail in the geometry of the exoskeleton: