Unwrapping High-Poly 3D models

So, I’ve made my first 3d model, and unwrapped it, it is just a simple crate, so nothing special. This means that the unwrapping wasn’t that hard, but now I have made a way more complicated model, with lots of poly’s. I sculpted it, so I don’t know if i should lower the poly count, because I think sculpts have a lot of poly’s?

Now I want to know how to unwrap that high poly model, I’ve heard about making a high poly object, low poly, and use that low poly version of the object as a cage, which you model I think? I really don’t know why it is done, or how.
So if it is done by making a cage, I’d love to know how that is done.

Or is unwrapping a very high poly 3d model just the same as unwrapping a model with much less poly’s?

Also, does anyone have any recommendations for unwrapping programs?
So, if anyone could help me with this topic, thanks a lot! I’d love to know how.

99% of the time, there’s no need to unwrap the high poly model, just the low poly.

For a typical game asset with a high poly model, this is the process.

  • Create a block out, this is just a quick rough and dirty model to make sure you have the right scale, proportions, and problem solve any rough areas before getting caught up in details.
  • Create the high poly, sculpting or sub division modeling, or anything inbetween.
  • Create the low poly
  • Unwrap the low poly
  • Bake the high poly model down to the low poly.

The lowpoly should match the high poly as closely as possible. A cage is basically just the low poly pushed out a little bit to just encompass the entire high poly model, it’s there to make sure the bake goes well and there’s no projection issues.

Any 3d package should have decent unwrapping tools, at least as a starting point. You might need a plug in or two to make it a great experience though.

Thank you A LOT for your help!
This wil definitely help me creating assets, I can’t thank you enough.

So by your explanation this is what I think I have to do:

  • Create a low poly model in Cinema4D, unwrap it, export it
  • Create a high poly version of the model in Cinema4D, export it
  • Bring the low poly version into Substance painter, texture it
  • Bake the low poly version, and select the high poly version while baking


  • Bring the high poly version into Unreal Engine 4
  • Apply the bake from the low poly version, for the high poly version in UE4

If this is not the right thing to do, then I’d like to know what to change, or what I should do.
But still, thank you a lot. You definitely helped me with the process of creating game assets. cheers.

Generally, I suggest creating the lowpoly model after the high poly model, or at least finishing it after the high poly model. This is because you want the lowpoly to line up with the high poly as close as possible with the lowpoly, and the lowpoly being easier to edit it makes sense to tweak the low poly at the end instead of the highpoly.

With Substance painter, you will want to bring in the low poly and then immediately bring in the high poly and bake the maps before texturing.

You made it really clear for me! You definitely helped me with the process of making assets.
I was able to make a simple rock, with your help.

So, thanks :wink:

Some ppl prefer to create the highpoly first >> highpoly to lowpoly workflow.
Others do lowpoly blockout, highpoly, retopology >> lowpoly to highpoly workflow.

Sometimes it just depends on the kind of model you’re creating.
Same applies to the way how the highpoly is created.

Most of the time, organic shapes are sculpted while hard surface stuff is better off with SubD modelling or sometimes only needs beveled borders on the lowpoly (often called midpoly mesh).

In Cinema 4D you always need a basemesh for sculpting, so there’s not really a good way arround that, since there is no voxel based sculpting like in zBrush.
So you’ll have to do a basic blockout in any case.

My usual workflow for sculpting in C4D is:

  • create a very basic blockout, e.g. a rock would start as a simple cube
  • subdivide a few times and sculpt the basic shape
  • create a copy of one of the lower subdivision levels that have a good balance of polycount and shape
  • do the UV layout for that subdivision level
  • reproject the new lowpoly onto the old highpoly sculpt
    (if you had the HP on Level 5 and used Level 2 as new basemesh, reproject with Level 3)
  • finish sculpting details, eventually increase the subdivision level for that
  • once you’re done, bake down the sculpting to your basemesh.

Pro-Tip: very fine detail e.g. the poores of a stone don’t need to be sculpted, they can also be done with shaders in the bump channel
and baked into the final normalmap.

In fact it’s even possible to create highpoly rocks just by using layered shaders in combination with a displacement deformer and a subdivided cube.