For my most recent scene (Greenhouse) I took the time to make hanging Fuchsia baskets. I’m going to go through the breakdown of how I did this.
Reference / Research
The first thing I did was a ton of research and reference searching for what type of Fuschia I wanted. I own a few Fuschia plants that were not in bloom yet when I started this so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the owns I had or another variety. There are 110 species of Fuschia and a majority of them are categorized as shrubs or trees, within that they are also split between trailing (hanging, vine-like) or upright (shrub or more tree-like).
In the end, I decided to go with a Fuschia I owned (Igloo or Wedding Cake - both trailing ) since I could take clippings to use later on and gather more precise reference.
First Pass Textures
When I started to work on the atlas sheet for the Fuschia, the plant was still not fully in bloom. So I did a rough pass from photos and from the few clippings I brought inside. I sculpted the atlas in Zbrush with the hopes to get a good material from Substance Designer with it. There was a lot of troubleshooting to get a decent first pass texture.
WHAT DIDN'T WORKED: Taking the high poly model of my atlas and baking onto a plane in Substance Designer OR Substance Painter. I got a lot of noise in my normal/height/ambient occlusion map. It was something I tried to troubleshoot for about 2 days and then found another method.
WHAT WORKED: Taking screenshots within Zbrush of the maps I needed and tweaking them within Substance Designer.
Modeling Foliage Cards + Flowers
For the branches, I went with the simplest way to do the foliage cards. They are on a single plane (2x10), I tried my best to have the branch line up with the middle edge for ease later when placing the flowers. I could then just snap the flower stems to that middle vert for ease of placement. The flowers are a bit more complex. I modeled the ‘bulb’ of the flower, then everything else is cards.
To help with ease of placing and creating branches I made a joint chain for my branches card and applied a twist deformer. That way I could create different varieties of my branches that would look interesting from all angles. With the branches being on a simple plane and not modeled, it's possible from certain angles you won't see certain branches. By twisting the branch it makes it more interesting and doesn't leave you with gaps in your plant from certain angles. I also made a joint chain for the flower stem for more variety of placement.
Final Pass - What Changed?
While doing my final pass what changed most was the textures. I ended up doing photo scans of the flower broken apart to use along with the leaves and branches. I edited them in Photoshop, then took them into Substance Designer for further editing to get all material outputs I needed. The other thing I did was fix the vertex normals, which was something I forgot to do in my first pass.
In the end, the Fuschia turned out better than I anticipated and I learned a lot. My advice to anyone who tries to do something similar;
Vertex normals are important
You can always do another pass on textures just figure out the layout of your atlas sheet to save time later.
If your initial plan doesn't work out, it's okay to pivot. Especially if troubleshooting is taking up a lot of time you did not anticipate.
I hope this helps anyone who is working on foliage projects! If you are curious about more of my process for this project you can check out my twitter thread of process work here!