The Steampunk Pistol was modeled from a concept sketch by Vinod Rams (http://www.vinodrams.com/). This small project posed many learning obstacles that, in the end, taught me many useful methods that ended up making me a more diverse artist.
Most of this pistol was modeled with the use of splines. After placing the reference image on a plane in the front view of the viewport, the general shape of many parts of the gun were traced out with a line spline, then tweaked, and either paired with a circle spline to create a loft, or were extruded and beveled to create simpler shapes.
The intricate designs on the barrel of the gun posed their own creative challenges. Initially, they were approached with a simpler method of painting a custom black-and-white bitmap to be used as a bump map with the material that would be placed on the pistol. That method, along with a couple of attempts at creating some normal maps, was abandoned to be replaced with an attempt at sculpting the carvings in ZBrush. After a few attempts to sculpt them that way, it was decided that the sculpt just wasn't crisp enough using that method. The final solution ended up being back where I had started-- in creating them with splines.
Starting out, the snap tool was turned on to snap to faces. The barrel of the gun was made transparent in the viewport through object properties, and placed directly in front of a plane with the reference image assigned to it via a material. Then, in a front view, a spline was created, evenly spacing the vertices. The general shape of the curve was drawn out, snapping to the surface of the barrel as it went.
Once that was done, the spline was selected in subobject mode, and outlined to create another spline for the other half of the shape. Then, after positioning the vertices for the second spline to match the curve, the two splines were first made sure to be going the correct direction with the reverse tool, and then cross sectioned.
Then a Surface modifier was applied to the stack, with a threshold of 0.01, and the patch topology's steps turned down to 0. Then an Edit Poly modifier was applied to the stack, and from there, the ends of the shape were collapsed as needed to make the shapes come to a point at the ends. Also, the curves were connected in the middle, and the resulting edges were extruded downward to get the crevices in the designs of the curve.
After the shape was tweaked to fit the shape needed, a Meshsmooth was applied to the stack, smoothing out the final result, and giving us the smooth, nice looking curve we were going for.
Once the pistol was modeled, rather than just setting up a simple render of just the weapon, it was decided to create a small environment to show it off in. This small scene not only showcased the gun, but was able to add some interest within the image by implying a story. The feather was added via this script on Scriptspot, which creates splines in the form of feathers, with adjustable settings for the different parts of the feather.
The table and walls were assigned custom tileable wood textures I had previously made, and given matching bump maps to assist in the realism. The texturing of the pistol itself turned out to have several mapping problems, which were fixed by unifying the normals via an edit normals modifier, or adding a quick UVW Map modifier to the object in most cases. To get the subtle grunge to the metal on the gun, a tileable grunge map was made in Photoshop, as well as a map for sparse, yet tileable scratches to use on the barrel of the pistol. The grunge bitmap was combined with other maps in a combination of layers in a composite node to get the grunge of the diffuse for the material. The scratches were then subtly combined with the diffuse's composite node in a separate composite node to give the surface slightly more bump than just what the scratches produced.
The linen wrappings around the grip of the pistol were textured using a tileable texture made in Photoshop, with a bump created from the same map. The diamond-textured pattern on the wood of the pistol was photo sourced from a diamond pattern that was then made tileable in Photoshop as well.