The programs I spend most of my time in would be 3d Studio Max, Zbrush, and of course, Photoshop. I also have experience in Maya and Softimage from the advanced modeling course I took during my days at college. There, I received the general gist that all of the concepts are the same, just located in different menus with a few additional tools hidden in each program (IE cloth is pretty nice in Maya, and Softimage’s ICETREE is great for the special FX guys), although I work fastest in Max as that’s where my muscle memory for hotkeys lie.
I find Zbrush a great tool to use when creating organic objects or character work. I’m rather fond these days of being able to use dynamesh to quickly “sketch” in a base mesh in-house due to its flexibility in geometry, and add in additional sub-tools and subdivision refinements as I go. Probably some of my most used brushes among others would be clay-buildup, move, flatten, hpolish, and dam standard. Dynamic trim is also a nice brush for carving in some harder edges and wear, usually a go-to for the humble rock models and the like.
3d Studio Max is used primarily for hard-edged modeling, creating UV sets, and retopologizing models from Zbrush into game-ready assets (I’m especially fond of the graphite tools in Max when it comes to this, such as Extend and Strips, with the new topology being drawn on top of the Zbrush model).
When it comes to creating UVs, I always start off throwing on a checkerboard map to work off of, and depending on the asset will choose from a different range of ways to work. (Pelt mapping is usually great for characters, with the seams being hidden in locations that make sense when it comes to anatomy, flatten mapping + stitching is also another method I go by) I find it is better to think about UV sets and how the texture sheets will be created when it comes to modeling for environments, such as in which ways the textures can be tiled and will be laid out.
When it comes time for texturing, and depending on the model, I usually will bake out an AO map to use as a basis in Photoshop and work in layers, from blocking-out color to painting in the final details. For more organic models, I will usually do my painting in 3d using Zbrush’s polypaint with a mixture of different brushes/alphas, and then carry the vertex color information over into the 2d diffuse texture by baking out the information to the low-poly’s UV set using xNormal. xNormal is also used to bake out the normal maps, AO, and any additional map variations I may need from the high-poly onto the low game-ready model. The final process ends with any additional layering and adjustments within Photoshop, and the final renderings are done in either a game engine such as the UDK, or in Marmoset Toolbag’s real-time rendering.