Stone Lantern

I created this Japanese stone lantern (Ishidoro) in Cinema 4D, unwrapped in 3D Coat, textured in Substance Painter and rendered using Redshift for Cinema 4D.


For the pillar (Sao) I used a Torus object as the starting point, with a Symmetry object to save time. Yes I could have used a spline and a Lathe but have found myself using splines less and less as I get more comfortable with polygon modelling.


The base (Kiso) started as a Disk object with one section split off, half deleted then placed in Symmetry which was then placed into an Array object.


Using Symmetry and Array objects allows you to focus on just one section and create complex looking models easily.


The base was duplicated and placed at the top of the pillar. The section above that with the cross detail (Nakadai o chudai) started as a 6 sided Disk object, once again using Symmetry and an Array object to minimise modelling. I wanted this section to be a single piece of geometry, which made sharpening the tight corners on the crosses a challenge.


A 6 sided Cylinder object was the starting point for the main lantern section (Hibukuro). Windows were cut in by selecting polygons and using the Extrude Inner tool then deleting the resulting geometry.

ishidoro_07 ishidoro_08

Adding depth was made more challenging because of the raised floor.


The window detail looks complicated but was simplified by using four levels of Symmetry, leaving just one small section to work on.


Once complete, the window was extruded then placed inside a SDS. Splitting the geometry away from the main geometry allowed me to add various control cuts for sharpening and not propagate those cuts into the main mesh.


I actually started out by using a Subdivision Surface and control cuts to create the sharpening but the result ended up messy with way too many polygons (left).


So ended up going for no SDS and used the Bevel tool instead to add the beveling.


At this stage the lantern was starting to take shape so the next step was to model the carved details on the faces of the main lantern section.


The Polygon Pen tool was used to create the leaf topology, under Symmetry of course! Once that was right, the edge was extruded out and scaled to create the rectangular shape. Only at this point were the leaves extruded by first extruding all of the leaves then deselecting the bottom leaf, extruding again, deselecting the large side leaf and doing one final extrusion for the centre leaf.


This section was modelled flat using the Polygon Pen tool then smoothed and given depth using the Brush tool.


At this stage I was ready to move onto the roof (Kasa).


A Disk object was the starting point for the roof, which was placed inside a SDS then adjusted to create the flared dome shape.


One section was split off and placed inside an Array object, with control cuts added for the main extrusions.


This section was extruded in sections; first the central strip followed by the 2 side strips and finally the large rounded extrusion on the rim. The next step will be to create the control cuts to sharpen those extrusion.


Here I’ve used  a Taper deformer and made that a child of the Roof geometry. Deformers are an important part of the modelling process as they allow you to modify geometry quickly and easily in ways that would more difficult if you were to adjust the geometry directly. They’re also non-destructive which makes them more flexible.


The next step was considering how to add the spiral detail without propagating cuts into the rest of the geometry and messing with the gentle curves created by the SDS. I decided to use an Inner Extrude and split the 4 polygons off so as to isolate the spiral detail but as you can see I ended up painting myself into a corner with a loop I couldn’t terminate.


Sometimes getting it right means going back a few steps and trying a different approach. Toby Pitman reminded me that I should simplify the geometry, select and weight the edges (hold down the period key and drag the cursor), then use a SDS but only at a setting of 1. Collapsing that down creates a clean, mesh with enough geometry to allow for easier and cleaner edge sharpening. Once again I fell into the trap of not starting with enough geometry when working with curved surfaces! Toby explains all of this in Making It Look Great 11.


The main roof section turned out pretty well, with all quads and looks smooth under subdivision. At this stage I was happy enough to move on to the main spire at the top of the roof. I’m considering adding the spiral insets using a normal map.


For the detail on the spire I used a Spherify deformer applied to a disk section (under Symmetry and Array) to create the base shape. This gives me a far cleaner result than if I was to adjust edges and points directly at this stage.


I adjusted the topology by pushing points around to create the rounded tops.


Still working flat, I added more loops to further refine the main shapes plus additional polygons on the side to create the triangular connection between the petals.


At this stage I extruded the main shapes, using Soft Selection and the Brush tool to smooth the topology.

ishidoro_28 ishidoro_29

And here’s the finished model. The top spire was fashioned out of a Cylinder object under subdivision. I pulled the point out use the Soft Selection setting. I may add some kanji characters to the back face but basically this is now ready for me to unwrap.


To unwrap the UVs I used 3D Coat. Check out this tutorial in which I walk through my workflow. Compared to working with UVs in Bodypaint, 3D Coat is a pleasure to use and can make short work of unwrapping UVs.


I got surprisingly good results using the “To Planar” method and a few Relax passes, which was literally just few button pushes in 3D Coat.


Correct seam placement when UV mapping makes a big difference to how the UV island unfolds. The one on the left was my first attempt!


At this stage I exported an FBX file from 3D Coat and imported that into Substance Painter. This is the result of adding a few smart textures to the model.


This is a worn metal look that I was playing around with in Substance Painter…


Before moving onto the final stone look I needed to add the carved characters and swirls. This was done using alpha stamps with a brush set to Height mode. Once the details were in place they were baked into the Normal map so that ambient occlusion and curvature include the added height details.

ishidoro_41 ishidoro_40

I could have worked for days on refining the look but was pretty happy with this aged stone look. Substance Painter is such a joy to use, especially if you already have Photoshop skills.


Once the texturing was complete I exported the various maps out of Substance Painter and imported them into Cinema 4D via the Redshift plug-in. Thanks to @Serge_Step for helping me out with this stage.


To create the rock at the base of the lantern I used Forester for Cinema 4D which has a handy rock generator. The texture is the same one as the lantern, which I simply saved as a Smart Material in Substance Painter and applied to the rock (which I unwrapped in 3D Coat first).


The final step was adding some small plants on and around the base rock using Forester for Cinema 4D.

ishidoro_02 ishidoro_03 ishidoro_04 ishidoro_05 ishidoro_06

And this is the final render. I really enjoyed this project and learned a lot about the roundtrip workflow from Cinema 4D to 3D Coat, Substance Painter then back to Cinema 4D via Redshift. I’ll be using this workflow for future projects.

  1. Mark Thornhill

    Looks great John! Cools to see it all laid out like that.Those textures look great too!

  2. Eric Gooch

    Very nice…thanks for the detailed breakdown!

    • John Dickinson

      Thanks Eric, you’re welcome.

  3. Nicolas montana

    Hi John, nice job here!

    I am trying to understand this workflow c4d_substance painter_c4d

    Just one question. Did you unwrap and export as an fbx the high poly mesh and you work on that mesh in Sp only?

    I am kind of confuse in tutorials with the step of baking high poly into a low poly mesh. But I can see that you basicaly jumped that step.


    • John Dickinson

      Hey Nicolas, the High/Low poly workflow is basically for gaming assets. I always use a high poly workflow. I bake a level 1 SDS into my mesh, unwrap, texture, reimport into C4D then add another SDS at level 1.

  4. Michiel

    Interesting. What’s the reason for baking the level 1 SDS into the mesh before UV unwrapping? Is it to minimize distortion of the UV’s/texture?

    • John Dickinson


      • Michiel

        Thanks, I’m definitely gonna try that out!

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