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Artem Gusak has recently given an informative talk on the conference CG Event about 3D-Coat, how it can help 2D artist develop 3D skills, what benefits this knowledge brings and much more. Artem kindly shared his thoughts and talked in detail about 3D-Coat software.
Hi! My name is Artem Gusak, I have been working in CG for 10 years, no more, no less, and everything started with animations for games, specifically Disciples 3 where I animated a couple of characters. Thanks to Dmytro Ishchenko for his patience, correction and for preparing me (a young CG soldier) for constant growth in the future. Then there was 3D modeling, then – a small pause in favor of visualization. But soon I got back to games and never left this field ever since.
Having accumulated significant experience and a feel for the freedom of freelance I started working as a remote art leader, team leader and art director for various games, mostly mobile. Being surrounded by both young and experienced artists, I hit upon an idea that it is not only others who would win if I share my experience, solutions, and proven pipelines. As it’s said: “If you want to master something, teach it”. I started thinking why not to make a video tutorial or something like that. Then, all of the sudden a miracle happened. My old buddy and remote co-worker Igor Vertakov (one of the pioneers of Room 8 Studio) wrote to me: “What about our own school, man?” I answered: “I’m on board! I already have a couple of course summaries.”
And off we went! Igor took lead on unsurmountable organizational issues, andфтв I, in my turn, got down to the educational programs. We both had been analyzing and testing the material excitedly. It was very fun! We didn’t have a clue that our school from a small team (with one CEO, a teacher, and an assistant) would turn into one of the biggest CG schools in Ukraine (or even in Post-Soviet states). Now I am one of the co-founders and the Head of Study at ArtCraft CGSchool. I teach 2D, 3D Concept Art, and ZBrush classes. Sure thing, sometimes I take part in art projects to stay in a good shape. Mostly it is concept sculpting of characters and creatures, as it is my passion today.
I made my project in 3D-Coat and there are a lot of reasons for that.
Firstly, 3D-Coat is quite an adaptable software solution for artists who decided to mix 2D and 3D techniques for the first time. There are other more or less simple 3D programmes (for example, SketchUp). But our 3D-Coat will outdo them all! When I demonstrate it to students, I always mention that is was made by Ukrainian guys, and it really helps to promote it.
Secondly, 3D-Coat allows completing a lot of modeling and sculpting tasks without much knowledge of 3D. If you ever opened some classic 3D programmes like 3ds Max or Maya you definitely understand difficulties with learning, adaptation to the interface, polygonal modeling… I mean all that daily routine of “orthodoxal” 3D-ists. Leave aside ZBrush, its interface is another story!
You might ask though why I chose ZBrush for my previous artwork. Well, yeah, ZBrush is my main instrument in case of super-detailed models and concept sculpts. But! For overpaint bases, cartoons and creative researches I increasingly opt for 3D-Coat. I’m quite experienced in classic 3D and have been using ZBrush since version 3.5, so it is a part of my life. But if I were a newbie, I would choose 3D-Coat rather than waste nerves and time on studying ZBrush.
Another key aspect for 2D and 3D artists is multitasking. Here you can make everything from a 3D model for an animation to an ordinary 2D picture.
As for other possibilities, 3D-Coat has perfect tools for sculpting, retopology, UV-mapping, and even a native render. By the way, you can also use it with non-commercial Renderman and it is cool! Actually, the guys have been diligently establishing cooperation with third-party applications, just take a look at Blender applink, it is great! Personally, I want to pay a special attention to texturing, but I’ll better do it later.
Importance of Learning 3D and How 3D-Coat Can Help
Why do artists need 3D? If you are a skilled academist, who spent a lot of time doing plein-air painting and painting from life, you know everything about composition, color, light, construction – in that case, you wouldn’t probably need 3D in the beginning. But as soon as you want to add variability and speed, you will have to change the approach and use special techniques. At least, having different perspectives of a scene will help to discuss it with your team and to develop the project.
On the other hand, not every CG artist has an academic background or spare time to do academic art instead of work. The reality is that we have to learn classical drawing (mind that it is not always a piece of cake!) and at the same time quickly complete our work tasks at work even if it’s outsourcing.
Here comes 3D-Coat! If you have a 3D model, it is much easier to build a complicated scene in perspective, set up light, forms, and as a result – get a better understanding of the academic rules. Anyway, it is better than to sit in front of a piece of white paper with an empty head! Or struggling to imagine a complicated scene without enough experience and practice. Yet, I am sure that today everybody knows about 3D blocking as it became an inseparable part of the workflow of many experienced artists. 3D-Coat just made this technique even handier for isometric art, casual games, game backgrounds and everything else that stays in the way of young artists.
Also, I want to mention another aspect which is strategic. More and more job positions require basic 3D skills from 2D artists and vice versa. While software becomes easier and more intuitive, it’s not hard to predict that “Swiss Army Man” will be in great demand not only for entry positions (he or she has a basic understanding of the process and will faster adapt to the pipeline) but also for key roles (he or she has a general understanding of all processes, can correct them, collaborate with teams and is able to solve difficult problems).
Pipelines tend to blend with each other. You often need to do something beyond your specialization. The more you know – the more you think outside the box to solve your tasks. Later it will help you to deep into the chosen specialization, or even completely switch from 2D to 3D. Why not? 3D-Coat helps to understand technical aspects like textures and retopology. Of course, I might be a bit biased, my experience comes from the years of teaching young GameDev artists for companies in Post-Soviet countries. Yet, I believe that there is a kernel of truth in my words.
3D-Coat Advantages & Disadvantages
Of course, just like many other programmes, 3D-Coat has its own disadvantages. It eats a lot of memory and isn’t very friendly to heavy models, but it has been developing every day and I hope soon they’ll fix it. I, as a concept sculptor, feel a lack of common tools for detailing similar to ZBrush. Working in 3D-Coat requires adaptation to its pipeline and a use of “normal sculpting” to get the best out of it.
As for precise calculations, 3D-Coat has its measuring tools but “orthodoxal” modelers get stuck without polygonal modeling and classical parameters, and can’t adopt their pipelines. Maybe the developers will improve Retopo Room in the future or add a new one, similar to ZModeler. Who knows?. There is a lot of unused space in the interface.
As for technical advantages, they are powerful retopology, convenient UV Editor, and a great alternative to Substance Painter with different texturing techniques and styles (from hand-painted to PBR). 2D artists are happy with voxel sketching, quick painting, shaders adjustment, and built-in visualization. I often use my own Toon Shaders to work with Thumbnails or if I am looking for a final composition. No limits, just creation! I also quickly paint 3D concepts for visualization in 3D-Coat or Marmoset Toolbag.
Texturing in 3D-Coat
Texturing is quite easy here and doesn’t require wide technical skills and preparations, which is very important for concept artists. For example, Substance Painter requires knowledge in game production and preparation of a model for game engines. In 3D-Coat you just open a model and draw hand-painted or PBR textures. Materials adjustment is quite intuitive – just move sliders, change distribution zones. Drawing tools are familiar to any CG artist who ever opened Photoshop – brushes, Eraser, Filling, etc. Easy! I am quite satisfied with standard materials and their modifications which are enough to work with game sketches and complicated texturing of realistic ZBrush concepts. Combined with ZBrush, 3D-coat is really something!
Challenges of Learning 3D & School
In learning 3D, the artist’s main obstacles are fear and rigidity. Add here an illusion that many things are quicker to draw manually. But as you see,3D is a perfect alternative and can tremendously boost your speed!
At our school, freshers must survive for the first two weeks during which they will adapt to the new environment and interface. Soon your brain will adapt to volumetric thinking, hands will accustom to new tools.
However, the two weeks of continuous work with a new tool and its fundamentals are hard. They will require persistence and patience. I try to increase the complexity gradually and always show to students the results that new skills will let them achieve. They should be able to do something new every lesson and brag about it, even if the result is rough and messy. It is a progress, it is the first step towards a finished model and 3D art in general. It is better than a theory without understanding the purpose.
During the classes, I use a funny technique. When students come to us for the first time I ask them to make a talking magic ball! As a result, everyone makes a unique monster with its own character. Do you remember your first steps in 3D? What did you get after the first tries to sculpt something from a simple sphere? That’s right, monsters and imps! That is why I decided to use this experience as a separate task so that the first steps toward modeling become more pleasant and quicker, given that there is no way to fail this exercise. This is the way the students learn the software solution, combine, paint and make their first steps in mixing 2D and 3D. What is more important, 3D becomes for them not only a complex incomprehensible tool but an instrument for complicated tasks and for reconsidering classical drawing.
Advice for Learners
There are a lot of 3D-Coat tutorials on the Internet. Probably, the most detailed ones can be found on the official youtube channel. I also recommend watching artworks and pipelines by Jama Jurabaev. Nowadays he rarely uses 3D-Coat alone, but a few years ago he made a great contribution to the popularization of 3D-Coat, teaching people and speaking at conferences!
Thanks for your attention!