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The Making of Retro Soda Vending Machine (Maya, Substance Painter, UE5)

Category: Maya, Environment Art, Substance Painter, UE5
July 07, 2022

Creating environments can be overwhelming due to the amount of work that's required.

Props can help you focus on one object at a time without having to worry on something bigger that will take weeks or months to complete. Most props can be completed within a couple of days. Not to mention that you'll need to create your own props to set dress your environments.

Every time you work on a new prop, you are presented with a set of problems to solve. From modeling to UVing to texturing, to lighting and rendering. Some problems are artistic, some are technical and you have to figure them out as they come up. The goal is always clean, efficient geometry while keeping the design accurate to the photo reference. In the end, every project will have something to teach you.

In this making of, I'm going to show you how the retro soda vending machine was created and challenges that came from it.

Software Used


Collecting photo reference is one of the most important things you can do as an artist.  No matter your experience or the type of object you are to create - you must always collect photo reference on the prop or the environment.  Collecting reference is a non-negotiable.

If your environment and prop lacks authenticity, accuracy and detail, it is because one of the following: you haven't collected photo reference or you are not using the photo reference to create from.

In addition to helping with knowing what to create, photo reference help with texture detail and material surface properties.

You also need to know the dimensions of your object so you can create it to correct scale  in the case of this retro vending machine, I found recreations on Amazon, Lowes, Home Depot and Ebay that all listed the height, width and depth in inches/cm.

Maya Tip: Maya dimensions are set to centimeters by default. You don't need to change this. In fact you should stay with cm. However, if you are finding dimensions in inches - just convert inches to cm. Then use these values to start your base shape.


The modeling process was straightforward. Once the base dimensions were established the rest of the modeling process was to match photo reference. I did use photo image plane setup to make the modeling more accurate.

I used Bevels for the overall shape as well as window openings. Bevels tend to create unclean geometry which is quickly fixed by using Target Weld.

I decided that I was going to put in rounded corner detail from the photo reference. So I beveled the outside corners. It did add extra triangle count but the results what better especially when you see the nice corner highlight from the bevel.

The entire vending machine case is one object and the only separate pieces of geometry are the buttons the door handle and the glass.

Here is the step-by-step modeling progression:

Click on the image to see larger size (opens in a new tab)

UVing and Layout

UVs were also straightforward. It was just time consuming.

The one most important part about UVing this object was separating the UV shells where there was a material change.

The silver part on the bottom, as well as the small silver border around the glass had to be separate UV shells. Reason for this was for Substance Painter texturing. It allowed me to apply a Smart Material onto the sliver areas of the UV shells.

Here is the final UV layout:

Texturing with Substance Painter

The final mesh was textured entirely in Substance Painter.

I made a list for different Material Types the object had:

  • Painted Metal (main red case)
  • Steel (sliver handle, front door border, buttons, bottom panel)
  • Soda cans
  • Glass
  • Inside plastic (red)
  • Shelves (white)

This means that all 6 of these different Material Types were going to be their own Smart Material in Substance Painter. Breaking this down from reference helped to know what I needed to create and manage going forward.

Smart Materials I used were:

  • Steel Painted Clearcoat
  • Steel Stained
  • Plastic Matte
  • Aluminum
  • Steel Stained
  • Glass Visor

To create glass, see this tutorial: Substance Painter: Creating Glass

For adding text to your textures, see this tutorial: Substance Painter: Guide to Adding Text

Exporting Textures

You are now ready to export your textures from Substance Painter. Go to File > Export Textures.

Export with the following settings:

  • Define output directory (where will the textures be saved)
  • Output template: UE4 packed
  • File type: png 8-bit
  • Size: based on each texture set's size (which is 2k textures)
  • Click Export

Packed texture means that you will have one texture that will contain 3 textured packed into each color channel. I like using an acronym ARM (RGB) to remember which channel belongs to which texture.

  • R = Ambient Occlusion
  • G = Roughness
  • B = Metallic

The vending machine had two Texture Set Lists, this means Substance Painter generated textures for the metallic parts of the mesh and for the glass:

Bringing the Mesh and Textures into UE5

Export your meshes from Maya for UE5 with the following settings:

  • File > Export Selection
  • Files of type: FBX export
  • Geometry: Smooth Mesh and Smoothing Groups enabled

On UE5 import I enabled the following settings:

  • Generate Missing Collisions
  • Generate Lightmap UVs (enable if you want UE4 to generate Lightmap UVs, disable if you have your own custom Lightmap UVs)
  • Material Import Method: Do Not Create Material
  • Do Not Import Textures

I kept the material simple.

Material for metal:

Material for Glass:

  • Blend Mode: Translucent
  • Lighting Mode: Surface Translucency Volume

Final Results

I haven't used this prop in any projects or environments but when it fits into a theme of something I may create in the future, I'll have it to use.

Next Tutorial: Maya/UE5 Breakdown: Creating Modular Steel Beams/Supports from O'Hara Airport Terminal


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About World of Level Design

My name is AlexG. I am self-taught level designer, game environment artist and the creator of World of Level Design.com. I've learned everything I know from personal experimentation and decades of being around various online communities of fellow environment artist and level designers. On World of Level Design you will find tutorials to make you become the best level designer and game environment artist.

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