Stefan Wacker is Senior 3D Artist with a range of special talents, whether he’s creating vast landscapes and environment concepts or developing characters and super detailed mechanical creatures. Today, we look at his latest series, NAKATO, learn more about how he uses KeyShot in his workflow and hear how he made his move from 2D to 3D.

Stefan Wacker

Modeling software used: ZBrush / Modo / MoI3D / Fusion 360 / Oculus Medium
Website / Artstation

What sparked your interest in becoming a 3D Artist?
I can actually pinpoint the moment – it was the day I played Gears Of War 2 on the Xbox 360 for the first time. I was so blown away that I started to learn ZBrush and explore other 3D tools to work out how to create high-quality 3D graphics.

What was the turning point in your career?
I was asked to lead the art department for a new turn-based RPG game at the studio I used to work at. It was originally planned to be in 2D but I convinced them we could do it in 3D. It went on to become the most successful game the company had produced and encouraged me to create more.

What is unique about your approach to a project?
I like to keep on top of which new 3D tools and software are available to help me achieve the looks I want to create. Whether that’s experimenting with landscape creation tools, games engines, CAD software or others – if I can figure out how a pipeline could benefit from it, I want to try it out. When I have to stick to concepts, I like to propose something cool on top of that – it pays to go the extra mile.

What is your primary 3D modeling software?
It all depends on the task at hand, but I regularly rely on Modo, ZBrush, Moi3D, Fusion 360 and Oculus Medium for a lot of my projects. For exploration concepts like the NAKATO series, I love the iteration speed of the ZBrush to KeyShot bridge.

Where in the process do you use KeyShot?
Since ZBrush and KeyShot work so well together I use Keyshot right after my first 3D sketches to test material and color combinations. I use these early renderings for overpaints in Photoshop so I know exactly how to proceed before I model any details.

Lighting in KeyShot is powerful and gives me full control over the result. The material library and the ability to tweak and create shaders makes exploration pure fun.”

What makes KeyShot an important tool to have?
First of all, KeyShot’s speed and ease of use make it an invaluable part of my pipeline. Lighting in KeyShot is powerful and gives me full control over the finished result. The material library and the ability to create and tweak shaders makes exploration pure fun.

What advice would you give to someone interested in doing what you do?
I would start by studying artists and references that inspire you. You can develop great skills by trying to recreate or pastiche pieces of artists you admire.

Good workshops and tutorials are also a worthy investment – they’ll help you become really proficient with the software you use. You’ll get things done faster by learning cool shortcuts and develop new techniques to fuel experimentation and enhance your work.

Once you’re feeling like you have a grasp at that, you’ll really advance by pivoting – close your reference sheets or concepts and go with the flow, start making your own mistakes and indulge your creativity! That’s the way to create something new and find your own unique style.