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Hello, my name is Derk Elshof and I’m a 3D artist and student from the Netherlands studying 3D animation at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht. For the last year, I’ve been working on commercials and trailers during my internship at Colorbleed 3D Animation Studio where I worked on modeling, sculpting and look development for props and characters. I’m currently in my graduation year working on my own short film and other personal projects.
In 2009, I got introduced to texturing when I re-colored my favorite characters from Team Fortress 2. It was nice seeing some of my “own” work in a game I really liked playing. Two years later when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 came out, I made 3D intros for the frag movies a good friend of mine and I created. I got more into motion graphics with the tutorials by Andrew Kramer (Video Copilot) and Nick Campbell (Greyscalegorilla), did an internship at a VFX company and grew more towards 3D eventually.
Clothing Study Project
I started this project in order to create a couple of shoes. My main goals of this study were to create various fabric textures in Substance Designer and test those out in Maya with the use of V-Ray displacements. I also wanted to learn a small bit of anatomy, get introduced to Substance Painter and learn the basics of Marvelous Designer.
This time I did not create a reference board for this project. I got most of my reference from women’s clothing and shoe magazines as well as my brother’s shoes and jeans from my own wardrobe as references for the fabric. When I needed other images I looked at 3D scans and some Pinterest boards.
Within this article, I go over my process of sculpting and texturing of the pants. Because I do not like the outcome of my old jeans, I made a new version and tried to avoid the mistakes I made previously.
In my previous sculpt I tried creating jeans in Marvelous Designer, but couldn’t get the desired folds that I would have liked. My knowledge in Marvelous Designer was very limited and still is, but this time I got something I could work with. I retopologized and UVed the mesh in Maya and brought it into ZBrush.
Once in ZBrush, I imported the high poly model from Marvelous Designer and the mesh from Maya and transferred the details using the Project All function. Before transferring any details I stored a morph target and created a layer so I would be able to erase any unwanted details and errors.
After transferring the details I created a new layer, adjusted the existing folds and added new ones. I also made some small adjustments to the clothes to make a better fit. Looking at the gathered reference images was key to create the folds I wanted.
Once I had all the major forms onto the sculpt I started adding the stitches in a new layer. For this process, I used alphas shared by Jonas Ronnegard. To avoid any visible seams when texturing it would be ideal to have the stitches on one side of the UV. To preview the UV groups you can create the polygroups with Auto Groups With UV.
During the fourth step, I added some tiny folds with an alpha I created in Substance Designer. The small folds give the pants a worn look and will eventually help to add variation in the diffuse.
Once I finished the textures in Substance Painter, I refined some of the folds in ZBrush. Some folds were a bit harsh and made the jeans look more like latex instead of a cotton fabric. I mainly smoothed the folds around the area of the knee.
Working in layers allows you to work in a non-linear workflow. Being able to refine the major forms after detailing the fabric and the stitches by simply turning those layers off is of great value. It also allowed me to output multiple normal maps of separate layers to create the curvature maps that I used throughout the creation of the diffuse. Because we have good UVs in ZBrush, we can output the ambient occlusion, normal and displacement inside ZBrush.
Building the Diffuse
For the base of the jeans, I created the texture in Substance Designer. All of the outputs should have a minimum amount of color variation and height difference to avoid a noticeable tiling once you put it on your model. I prefer to work on the diffuse map first and approach the glossiness or roughness later on. The surface area should be as big as possible while still retaining the shape of the weave.
Most of the details are derived from sculpting data and the texture made with Substance Designer. The curvature maps and ambient occlusion do most of the work. I like to work with mask extensively and set up my workflow as procedurally as possible. Within an environment where you have to texture multiple of these assets, it can speed up the process extensively. The only thing you have to do is replace the imported texture maps and adjust some of the masks.
After finishing the diffuse, I came across some tiling issues with the normal map due to compressing. I avoided this issue by increasing the size of the pattern in Substance Designer and lowering the UV Scale in Substance Painter. If I knew this beforehand I would have done earlier render tests to look for any errors before heading into Painter.
I find texturing to be the most fun of the process, but working with bad UVs and crappy baked data will not make it fun in any way. Aim for excellence from the start, because if you don’t you will probably have to redo certain steps along the way, and it often causes the entire process to take much longer.
For those who want to start texturing their own assets I highly suggest to take references from real life and rely less on photos from the internet. Using 3D scanned models and photo-scanned textures is also a great addition to use as a reference for sculpting and texturing.
If you found this article interesting, below we are listing a couple of related Unity Store Assets that may be useful for you.
Derk Elshof, 3D Artist
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev