An article here by 3D Environment Artist Henrik Larsen, discussing the process of building and rendering a Soviet IS-3
A project of this sort will begin with collecting references. The first step is usually blueprints from top, bottom, front and side, where they will then be aligned as much as possible and overlaid with the early model.
From there, it’s off to look for photographic references, a couple hundred of them, so that each part of the tank may be broken down into its components. This also allows the artist to see what parts look like in various angles and in states of weathering.
Building each component involves breaking it down to its basic geometry, and then further refining that. As well as catching smaller details that may otherwise go unnoticed, such as the ‘dome’ of the turret being stretched forward, like a drop, or even the tiny cuts in the metal. Those details are where the photo reference comes into play.
Sometimes time can be saved by reusing components like roadwheels, and tracks. The tracks, in particular, consisted of 4 different variants, rotated and mixed around along the tread line to prevent obvious texture repetition.
After the addition of details like weld marks, weathering, and deciding on a color scheme, it’s off to rendering, where a few more tweaks are made to get a natural looking lighting scheme.
And then a finished product.
For those interested in the full article, you can read it here: https://80.lv/articles/henrik-larsen-realistic-tank-creation/
For those interested in Larsen‘s other work: https://www.artstation.com/artist/two_larsens/profile