Saturday, November 23, 2013

Texturing educational resources, a (growing) list


I'm partial to Polycount, but there's also GameArtisans,, ZBrushCentral, pixeljoint, and many others, each with their own flavor. Just generally, these are best places outside of school to get feedback on your work and see how what you're doing measures up to the competition. Sign up, lurk a bit, and start posting! 

Polycount in particular has an invaluable wiki with links to many, many useful threads and articles on texturing.

Video Tutorials

The big three all have terrific video tutorials that cover the most current and in-demand techniques. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of texturing-specific tutorials to point at just yet, but there's a decent amount of overlap in many of the sculpting and modeling tuts. I expect we'll see more dedicated texturing vids in the future.

There's also Digital Tutors and, though they're both geared towards software training more than artistic technique and so the tutorial projects tend to be less than stellar.

I do want to call out Tyson Murphy's series on 3DMotive, Hand Painted Weapon Texturing specifically because it's currently the most comprehensive tutorial on how to make WoW-style textures out there. It also comes with a sheet of rough concepts for you to practice with.

Unreal Materials- An Introduction from Eat3D is another favorite. It's focus is on creating custom materials using the unreal material editor, an invaluable skill for anyone looking to do "next-gen" (I guess now it's last-gen?) environment work. Even though it's for Unreal, the basic concepts also transfer to Unity via the Strumpy Shader Editor.

Model and Texture Viewers

The majority of what I've learned came just from downloading games and sifting through their model viewers. If your favorite game has a PC version and is mod-able or machinima-friendly, there's a good chance you can pull textures and model files from it. Reusing and distributing these models is a huge no-no, but they're great to look at and learn from. I recommend World of Warcraft and Allods for hand painted textures, both are free to download and have available asset viewers.


I feel obligated to mention this one because it's one of the rare made-from-trees books out there devoted to game textures, but as learning resources go it's flawed at best. The examples in the book are amateurish and the author makes some egregious misuses of the Photoshop filters. Still, the book does a solid job of explaining what different texture maps do and breaking down some of the more technical aspects of texture creation, like why you'd want to use certain file types and how texture channels work. It can take a long time to come across some of these rules in the wild, and for that reason alone the book is worth checking out.

The perfect counterpart to Ahern's book, this one is all about the soft skills of texturing. Rather than writing step-by-steps in a specific program, Demers teaches you how to look at surfaces analytically so you can recreate them yourself. It has some terrific advice on how to hone your observation skills and I highly recommend it.

Not a book, but a free downloadable pdf. All sorts of art tutorials taken from some of the industry's best artists, including texturing tutorials from folks at Naughty Dog and Blizzard. This is just about the most amazing resource you can find for free.

Individual Tutorials

Poopinmymouth's texturing tutorials - Terrible name, great tutorials. Ben Mathis's tuts are starting to show their age, but there's still a lot of legit advice on how to model and texture low-poly models. Don't miss the texturing theory and thirding tuts.

Slipgatecentral's tutorial on projection painting
I re-watch this video every couple of months and it still blows my mind every time. Slipgate uses an old program called DeepPaint3D but there are plenty of modern programs that do projection painting better, I do all of mine in 3DCoat.

Michael Dashow's character texturing tutorial-
Aw yeah. Nothing more to say, except I like using Dashow's checker texture to unwrap my models.

PhilipK's material tutorials-

Solid tutorials on some of the most commonly found material types. PhilipK does great realistic textures that take advantage of the full range of map types.

Racer445's sword texturing tutorial-
How to get your inorganic surfaces to look juuust right. Covers many of the mistakes beginners tend to make and how to avoid them.

They're written as general painting tips but they're also super-relevant when doing hand painted textures. Again, a lot of beginners tend to skip these principles so nailing them early will put you ahead of the game.

A classic. Teaches you how to think about surfaces, among other things.

Towards the future...

Personally, what excites me right now are the ways ZBrush has become more viable for creating stylized textures. We've been seeing many of biggest hand-painting houses (Blizzard, Riot, Carbine, etc.) slowly move towards ZBrush-heavy workflows. I think this thread is a sign of the times.

Done smartly, I expect this method for making textures doesn't actually take any more time than painting everything from scratch. It's something I've been trying to teach myself, although I don't have any stellar examples to show for it yet. I'm looking forward to a tutorial by Fanny in Vertex #2, coming out next month.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Secret State now online

Hey all, Secret State is now out in a handy digital format. Enjoy it here if you didn't get a copy at ArtPrize or homecoming.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Comic projects: Secret State and Spartan Super Hero Legends

Hey all, I'm going to be at ArtPrize this Saturday giving out AWESOME FREE STUFF.

#1 is the book Spartan Super Hero Legends, produced to celebrate this year's comic-themed homecoming at MSU. Half a dozen student and alumni artists (myself included) contributed pages to it and will be signing and giving away copies at the event.

#2 is the mini-sketchbook I put together JUST FOR THIS. "Secret State" is 20 pages of photos and drawings I did while I was at MSU. The inside of the cover has a map of campus showing exactly where I was for each page. These are in SUPER SHORT SUPPLY so come early if you want to get one.

Da cover.

Center spread.

Also, photos!

#3 I'll also have some nice postcards with my work on them.

I'll be at the ArtPrize Hospitality tent at 533 Monroe Avenue Northwest from 11am-3pm this Saturday.

I'm ALSO going to be at MSU's homecoming on October 9th, signing more copies of Super Hero Legends and giving away any of the remaining sketchbooks. Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics, is coming and will be giving a talk beforehand that you can register for here: The talk is at 7:00 and the signing is immediately after. Both are at the Broad Art Museum. Come say hi and pick up a copy!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

First 3D Print!

And it's adorable! I'm really impressed by the fidelity of detail.

It's the ytram, from Riven. I modeled him in Blender and used ZBrush's 3d print export plugin to scale his proportions.

The print is from Shapeways, using the frosted ulra-detail material.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tutorial: ZBrush Tiling Textures in 3D

Remember when I posted this

and was all like, "I've finally solved zbrush tiling textures!" and the didn't say how I did it? Yeah, that was a dick move. It also bit me when I tried to do it again today, only to realize I'd more or less forgotten how. So, I spent some time retracing my steps and I think I've got it down again. This time I'm going to be smart about it and write it down.

This method holds some significant advantages over the better-known 2.5D + tilde key method illustrated here because it allows you to rotate the model while you work, but as we shall see it has some drawbacks, too.

Create a 4x4 polyplane and group the middle four polys together. The yellow area is where our final texture is going to be.

Subdivide as many times as you think you'll need (without smoothing) and store a morph target.

Sculpt to your heart's content, using brushes with wrap mode (brush>curve>WrapMode) set to 2.

Now at some point, you've probably nudged around the border of your plane to the point where "fit mesh to frame" leaves gaps around the border. That's no good.

Time to break out the morph brush! Go to the highest subdiv level and carefully morph back the plane's borders, taking care not to get too close to the yellow area.

Frame the mesh, and use grabdoc to get maps for color, normals, and/or height.

Bring the maps into your image editor of choice and crop the canvas to 50%.

Voila! Perfectly tiling textures with NO seams whatsoever!

The big drawback to this method is that it doesn't work with dynamesh, and all the wonderful insert mesh brushes that come with it. It can work with appended subtools, as long as they're kept safely away from the yellow border.

However, if you still want to use inserted meshes on the border area, there is a way to do so.

Position your subtool on the seam where you want it.

Duplicate it, and using the deform sliders, offset it exactly 100 units so it's on the opposite side of the green square. (This is provided that you started with the default zbrush plane and haven't scaled it at all.)

If the subtool intersects a corner you'll need to do this two more times, for all four corners. If you want to nudge them around afterwards, just merge them together and use the move tool to re-position.

You can keep the ztools as they are and keep working, or grab the zproject brush (make sure it's set to wrap mode of 2) and use it on your plane to project details from the underlying subtools, then delete them when you're done.

When you're finished, morph back the borders as we did before, frame the document, and grab your maps!

This is what my final, cropped normalmap looks like.

And here it is applied to a plane in Toolbag. Beautiful!

An additional, smaller drawback to this technique is that you can't use the morph brush while you sculpt, because it's being used to hold the blank plane. If you're super-dependent on morph targets for sculpting, you can always mask out the edges of the plane instead. Just be very careful that you don't accidentally un-mask while you're sculpting, and save a new morph target at the highest subdiv level when you're done.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tutorial: Exporting skinned skeletal meshes from Blender to UDK as PSK/PSA

or, "Did I really just spend the last two days on this?"

I've been working on this riddle for twelve hours now (thanks for nothing, google) but I finally managed to get my rigged, animated model into UDK. I'm putting it here because eventually it's going to come up again when I've forgotten the process, and to spare any poor souls all the anguish it's caused me.

so, without further ado,

"Exporting skinned skeletal meshes from Blender (2.68) to UDK as PSK/PSA"

What I noticed is that edge splits and armatures can both be exported, but not the same time. The trick is to export the mesh and animation separately, with different settings applied.

Export mesh (psk) only:
  • With appropriate edges marked as sharp (but no edge split modifier applied).
  • WITHOUT an armature modifier applied (very important!)
  • "Smooth groups" is checked in the PSK export options.
  • DO NOT check  'rebuild on export' in the export options.
  • If you can hit "check mesh vertices" and the duplicated model looks normal (not deformed) you're good to go.
Export animation (psa) only:
  • WITH an armature modifier applied.
  • DO check  rebuild on 'export' in the export options.
  • Doesn't matter if your edges are sharp or not.
Other notes:
  • Make sure you have at least one material applied to your mesh, or else the exporter will throw an error. 
  • UDK will import separate material channels for each texture on your object in Blender.
  • DO NOT try to export either psa or psk with a mesh split modifier- it will crash Blender.
  • The FBX exporter is a million times easier than this and works fine for both static meshes and rigid-skinned animations, but does not like to work with paint weights that are set anywhere between 0 and 1, so it's not suitable for organic animations like humans or animals.

Good grief, this would've taken 30 seconds to do in Unity.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Warwielder Art

I recently finished my freelance job, making buildings for the unreleased game, Warwielder. There's a polycount thread where I posted wireframe shots, but here are the finished products:

As for the drawing a day thing...I may come back to it, eventually, but I think I burned myself out doing it. Part of it was that I would draw much more than I actually posted, to the point that I wasn't really doing anything else with my free time besides drawing. Taking a break from it made me realize how much I missed all the other stuff I like doing- reading, playing games, designing games, learning new software... Now that I'm not drawing and painting as much I've had some time to get back into all the other stuff, and I rather like it. There'll be more stuff to post here eventually, but I'm not going to make promises about what or when.