Daniil Alikov: From Siberia to the World

AREA | Posted 3 March 2011 5:05:59 am


  1. Autodesk Maya
  2. Autodesk Mudbox


  1. Film & VFX

Project Links

  1. Autodesk Maya
  2. Autodesk Mudbox

Daniil Alikov- Photo

Daniil Alikov

My name is Daniil Alikov. I'm a CG artist specializing in texturing and shading for feature animations. I was born in a small northern town in Siberia, Russia in 1980. After school, I was learning fine arts and computers graphics. It was 2004 when I dropped in on a couple of Maya courses in Moscow. That time, I worked as a polygraph designer, but 3D graphics was more interesting for me. I learned 3D mostly on my own till 2007, when I moved to Moscow. Since that time, I’ve worked for several animated feature projects. Here in Moscow, I’ve also since gotten married and became a father. Now I have no much spare time for my personal art, but I always felt that CG is both my hobby and my profession at the same time. I am constantly looking ahead and working to improve my skills. I dream to see the world by working in different countries and meeting interesting people around the globe. Peace! =)

The area avatarThe Area:

Welcome to AREA, Daniil, you have a beautiful portfolio of artistic imagery and we thank you for sharing it with us here.

The area avatarDaniil:

Hello! Thanks for inviting me.

The area avatarThe Area:

Your images are always telling a story…either in the style they are rendered and/or the objects and atmosphere of the scene. They give you a good feeling of wonder and curiosity. What is the inspiration to the style and imagination of your work?

The area avatarDaniil:

Usually my ideas come to me from my everyday life. I really like it when different images of reality are merging together, to make a brand new image, harmonious and contrasted at the same time. For instance, one day when I saw the most common thing… a concrete mixer… and my mind merged the mixer with an image of a locust, so I ended up with the idea of a giant walking-jumping robo-locust.

Sometimes, I just want to improve on my skills and I try to create more technically-driven artwork (such as still-life studies). Also, sometimes I make 3D work from sketches painted by my wife. Unlike me, she is a real artist with traditional art background training. I always love to work with her sketches because they are so alive and really well executed. I think my wife and I work well in tandem. It’s not only limited to art either =)

The area avatarThe Area:

Any books/comics/films that influence your work?

The area avatarDaniil:

I tend to think all things in life are continuously influencing each other. Films or books that I like, can give me new ideas and inspiration. Likewise, films, books and works of other artists that I don't like, guide me in what not to do and things like which hooks don't work for me.

The area avatarThe Area:

What is your school background -- does it help you in the work you do today?

The area avatarDaniil:

Without having any formal art training, I am mostly a self-taught professional. I had one year of art school when I was a teenager. Twice I had tried to enter into an art college, but was unsuccessful. I don't know why it happened that time, but now I don't have any regrets or discomfort about it. By the way, currently I’m working to improve myself by learning traditional art with great help from my wife. I think this will help me further develop my texturing and shading skills.

Probably I'd gotten all my skills because I never tire of studying art. Who knows what would have been for the better, but without a doubt, I'm wholly satisfied with my life. On top of that, it always makes me happy when other people are pleased with my artwork.

The area avatarThe Area:

How did you get started doing CG and how long have you been working with 3D?

The area avatarDaniil:

It was in 2004 when I first started to work with 3D. I worked as a polygraph designer at the time and all my software tools were 2D (Photoshop, CorelDraw, etc.). But I felt 3D would be more exciting for me. I dropped in on a couple of Maya courses in Moscow, which gave me a good basis for learning 3D. I didn’t have any 3D assignments at the time, so I did some personal artwork instead (Elephant Excavator, Sorrowful Moon, etc.). This worked out to be good training for me. I tried different techniques, learned how to model, texture and render. Maya Help was my primary reading material that time. =)

The area avatarThe Area:

What kind of work does a polygraph designer do?

The area avatarDaniil:

When I was a polygraph designer, my duties were to design business cards, booklets, posters and various other things. It was all about advertising. That said, it turned out to be a really useful experience in the work I do today. I'm not only referring to Photoshop, but about overall designer's understanding of things and having an artistic eye.

The area avatarThe Area:

When did you get your first 3D job and what did you do?

The area avatarDaniil:

When I moved from my hometown to Moscow in 2007, for the first several months, I still worked as a polygraph designer. Then I got the position of Texture Artist for an animated feature project called "Frogs' Paradise". It was a really exciting job for me. Over a short period of time, I grew to the position of Supervisor of the Texture department. To tell the truth, I wasn't satisfied working as a Supervisor.

I wanted to paint textures and advance my skills instead of supervising people. In the end, this project soon closed due to some investigations problems. I've since changed many 3D jobs after that time and was never a supervisor again.

The area avatarThe Area:

In every image of your portfolio, we can see a combination of realistic+stylized textures on your models and scenes. Let's take your award-winning "Bison Extirpator" for example, what did you use to texture the rayrifle with?

The area avatarDaniil:

Actually I always try to use photographic textures for my models and scenes. For the "Bison Extirpator", I used photos mixed together, though such things like dirt, dust and stains were hand-painted in Mudbox.

Achieving truly photorealistic results isn't an easy task since the artist has to keep attention to a great number of details. I had a tight deadline doing this rifle for the competition. Fortunately, the result was good enough to win. My work was considered as the finest raygun rifle of the Global Raygun Shootout competition.

The area avatarThe Area:

By the way...what did you win for this cool design?

The area avatarDaniil:

Yeah, I won a fantastic Righteous Bison raygun collectable invented by Greg Broadmore, a concept designer for Weta Digital. They sent me this fabulous toy from far-away New Zealand and now it is a worthy element in the interior of my room =)

The area avatarThe Area:

In the image "Waiting", again, very nice shader work. Can you tell us about how you made the metallic textures?

The area avatarDaniil:

A persuasive look of a CG object is always a harmonious combination of the right model, texture maps, shader settings and lighting. I know it sounds pretty obvious, but it's the truth.

There could be quite the simple shading network without any procedural tricks, but also having it in such a way where all the texture maps are set up so that everything is correctly and logically connected. In my case, there was a color base texture combined of one or two copper photographs.

Additional maps such as bump, specCoefficient and specColor were made from a base color texture in Photoshop. Hi-res bump of tiny scratches was made of two simple tiled grayscale images mixed together with mental ray mib_bump_map2 nodes.

I used Mudbox only for texturing, not for sculpting in "Waiting". I think Mudbox is one of the best texturing solutions. It is really intuitive to understand and surprisingly handy and useful to work. By the way, I've learned to texture in Mudbox in less than one week!

The area avatarThe Area:

How long did it take for you to complete the image from the sketch your wife painted?

The area avatarDaniil:

There were a couple of major breaks in the work on "Waiting". I think it took about one month to be completed.

The area avatarThe Area:

For the image "Still life with black pepper", this image is composed of seemingly simple objects, but when you start to analyze the image, the realization comes that there are many different shaders and texture work…not to mention lighting set up, to achieve this amazing composition. Can you please tell us about how you approached the task of making shaders for the items.. the dusty/oily glass and the oil inside, used lamp, iron frying pan, wall, wood desk... etc.

The area avatarDaniil:

Thanks for this question. For me it was the hardest shading/lighting work ever. As you noticed, they are quite simple objects but they had to interact together correctly. It was my basic goal to achieve good integrity of mood and atmosphere of composition. The most difficult task was to set up shaders of glass+oil and cheese with subsurface scattering. I had to thoroughly research the workings of the mia_material_x mental ray shader.

If anyone is interested in the shading settings of bottle with oil, it is available through this link to the making of "Still life with black pepper"...

Making of "Still life with black pepper"

I've also tried a pretty exotic material misss_physical in this artwork. Since this shader only works with photons, I had to create a special light source as a photon emitter which was disconnected to all other objects in the scene except for the cheese mesh.

The dust on the bottle is very simple work of texture maps connected to color, reflectivity, transparency and bump attributes of mia_material_x.
As for me, what I found most interesting to make was the garlic. From the model to shading, it was a brand new experience, to work on such an unusual object.

The area avatarThe Area:

What kind of lighting set up did you use to sculpt the image with light/shadows?

The area avatarDaniil:

It was a complex lighting system with three classical light sources (key, fill, rim), plus several light sources connected to select objects via LightLinker and Final Gather was used for global lighting, as well as an HDR image in the ImageBasedLighting node. It was pure sculpting with light. Some sources gave highlights on desirable objects, other sources were created to lighten up certain areas. It was all to get the mood and realism that I wanted to see in this piece.

The area avatarThe Area:

Why do you prefer mental ray as your renderer of choice, over other rendering solutions?

The area avatarDaniil:

Like every Maya user, I met mental ray earlier than the other renderers. As I stated before, I’ve always tried to achieve photorealistic results in my renders. So mental ray serves as a really good solution for that kind of work. Nowadays it is quite a handy and powerful tool for me. Actually it has almost everything I need to render my images.

The area avatarThe Area:

Do you use any custom scripts or plugins for Maya?

The area avatarDaniil:

Oh not much really, but a couple of free custom scripts for some quick manipulations with texture nodes and UVs. I won't mention all the in-house scripts I use in the studio where I work.

The area avatarThe Area:

For your personal work, what would be your biggest wish for future release of Maya?

The area avatarDaniil:

I'm not sure I can remember so many wishes on the spot, except for one. It would be dramatically more useful for everyday work if the Place2dTexture node is situated between the texture node and the shader node in the shading network. I know it's already realized in the mental ray nodes, but I think it would be cool to see it in the Maya shading network. It allows us to use one texture node with different placement settings on different shaders. We can get a more cleaner and lightweight network.

The area avatarThe Area:

What would be your dream CG job?

The area avatarDaniil:

It's really cool that you asked me this question. Currently I have big changes in my life due to my new job. In mid-March I move to Singapore and will work there as a Texture Artist for Lucasfilm Animation Singapore. I am absolutely excited about this and I believe it will be the realization of my dream CG job!

The area avatarThe Area:

What are you currently working on now?

The area avatarDaniil:

Right now I'm working on packing my things and finishing my business here in Moscow, ha-ha-ha! I've quit the Moscow studio Glukoza Production where I’ve worked the last two years and now all my thoughts are on the new job and the new world where I’ll find myself in a couple of weeks.

The area avatarThe Area:

Daniil -- thanks again for inspiring us with your delightful imagination!

The area avatarDaniil:

Thank you very much! Bye!

Additional Images

Additional Links

Making of "Restricted Area"

Daniil Alikov



Posted on: 8 March 2011 9:06 am

this is an inspirational interview for my self hope it should be for all ..
Thanks Daniil for sharing all these stuff..
Thankx Area


Posted on: 14 March 2011 1:20 am

I'm interested in how you textured "Bison Extirpator" and your shader network. Can you please elaborate or give a tutorial on how to achieve your results. Thanks.

Posted on: 15 March 2011 7:35 am

very nice work...


Posted on: 15 March 2011 6:06 pm

nice texturing i like it well done


Posted on: 16 March 2011 8:09 am

Beautiful work. I think you've achieved a great level in terms of natural, un-computer generated looking artwork.


Posted on: 18 March 2011 5:03 am

Your very good. Supply us with texturing tutorials in photoshop please. Thank you and you inspire me to study harder like a lot of these interviews. work work work


Posted on: 26 March 2011 7:11 am

great man, i love ur works


Posted on: 11 April 2011 8:57 am



Posted on: 25 April 2011 4:40 am

I like your work, but i don't have a time to learn again.
I was have learnt 3ds max 7 years ago, when i need to present my final project
Great, Beautiful, Very Good!
i amazed by your work


Posted on: 25 April 2011 11:38 pm

Great work. Inspiring to see such a good use of materials


Posted on: 12 July 2011 2:51 pm

Very Good Great Jobs.


Posted on: 20 October 2012 9:10 pm

This is freak show dear, I want to be your student this is an outstanding imaginary show, hope I also would get this in me, thanks for sharing it, so valuable knowledge was this, totally you are an outstanding.... keepit up....... and keep posting

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