6 TIPS TO IMPROVE UV MAPPING WORKFLOW
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by Corncutter
2 hours ago

Yuck! I love it^^

Very nice indeed! Quite often starters and students are ignored when tutorials and tricks are released. This gives a nice overview of one of the basic functions in SP. Sure, for professionals, this might be a knows thing, but for the ones who are just entering this field, its great!

by Martin.k.hamilton@gmail.com
4 hours ago

Thanks for sharing my Materials 80.lv been following this site for a while now and it's cool to see my own work here Let me know if you have any questions about the materials

6 TIPS TO IMPROVE UV MAPPING WORKFLOW
14 November, 2016
Opinion
Our good friend Paul H. Paulino has submitted another great article, detailing the work with UV. Here are some tips, which will help you make this tedious task a little bit easier. Most of these are for the pre-rendered stuff, not exactly for games.

In this article, I’m going to share with you a few UV’s tips and tricks that I’ve learned in the past two years that I hope can help you get ready for the VFX industry. If you have missed my latest articles and tutorials, check out this page! I hope you enjoy the reading.

UV’s are often considered one of the most tedious and easily ignored tasks in an asset pipeline, and I totally understand that you might hate this process and just want to get rid of it as soon as possible to start painting your beautiful textures, right? But the thing is if your UV’s are not unwrapped or layout correctly you are going to have a massive headache down the road.

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That’s why I decided to write this tutorial to help you understand a few concepts that might help you save some time in the future and also make a good impression on your peers. This workflow mostly applies to VFX work, but some of these concepts might be implemented to games too. 

That being said, the techniques I’m going to share with you were things that I’ve learned from friends, mentors, and colleagues, and you have the right to disagree with them because they are mainly personal taste. I want to give a shout to my dear friend Christian Peck, who was the guy who was patient enough to teach me almost everything about UV’s and Justin Holt who helped me upgrade these skills to another level.

Let’s get started:

WHY GOOD UV’S ARE CRUCIAL?

The task of unwrapping and laying out UV’s varies from company to company. Some studios have the modelers doing it and others, the texture painters.

If you’re a modeler, it is essential for you to understand how painful it is for a texture artist to receive bad UV’s. When a painter is dealing with an asset with multiple materials and tiles, we have to paint masks and painting those masks we have to make unique selections in MARI. If the UV’s aren’t organized, that task might take a long time to complete, and we’ll end up wasting the company money.

On the GIF below you can see a good example of good and organized UV’s. Space is well used, and everything is easy to understand and select.

Now this one you can see the bad example of UV’s. Even though their unwrap might be okay and without any stretching, there’s a lot of wasted space, and it is hard to find pieces.

If you’re a texture painter and you’re not unwrapping, it is equally important to communicate with the modeler who is dealing with the UV’s. Let him know if you have any specific request in advance, such as organization, specific cuts and etc.

Good UV’s are going to save money and time. And you’ll also make good friends. When I’m working on an asset and the UV’s are perfectly laid out, I make sure to tell the modeler how awesome he is!

1 – DEFINE YOUR RESOLUTION     

While working on a hero asset, I like to determine how close the camera will ever get to the object. In production, you can get this information with your lead or your asset manager.

The general rule for film is that there should be double the final resolution of the piece in texture resolution. For example: If your screen output will be 2K and your UV tiles are going to be 4K,  the pieces that you see in your Maya screen should be doubled in your UV view.

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Having this in mind will allow you to have the exact amount of UV tiles that you need and you’re not going to worry about blurred textures.

2 – ADD SUPPORTING EDGES

Before unwrapping, I would like to point out another important thing I always consider when modeling a hard surface object: I make sure to avoid stretching. The texture will spread around a hard edge if that seam edge isn’t reinforced properly. To prevent this, I add extra support edges around hard edges. 

Check the GIF below and see how the edges move if you don’t have any support around them.

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3 – FLATTEN CYLINDERS AND STRIPS

While unwrapping cylinders, strips or ropes, we might get a weird result. This result might affect your textures and also occupy an unnecessary space in your tile. There’s a cool technique native in Maya that might help you making these UV’s straight (see video below). I learned this technique with one of my teachers and now co-worker Matthew Novak (He’s a genius). Or you can use a software like UVLayout as well (which is awesome, btw)

Having flattened UV shells will also benefit if you have any text or logo applied.

4 – KEEP YOUR UV’S UNIFORM  

Keeping your UV’s with a consistent scale is crucial to avoid any discrepancy later on with your texture resolution.  The best way to check if they have the correct size is to use a UV checker. You can find fancy checkers online, but I think that they end up being too distracting, so I prefer using something simple like this one.

I would like to share with you this excellent script for Maya which allows you to match the size of your tiles automatically. I found this treasure after I spent almost two weeks organizing and scaling my UV’s, one by one, for my Gas Mask project. Yeah…At least I learned something: “Always be lazy and search for cool scripts before you start a tedious task!”

Having UV’s with the same scale necessary, okay, we already know that, but there are a few exceptions which are acceptable to have multiple resolutions in the same object.

Sometimes there are parts which are going to be closer to the camera than others, and you don’t want to have unnecessary tiles, so it’s all about yours or your lead’s judgment. But even if you have different sizes, I would recommend scaling them proportionally (ex: ½, ¼, etc.). This way it’ll be easier for you to scale up later if you need.

Another two exceptions to that rule you can see on my gas mask project. I had to have my cloth UV’s with a different size because I had cut the seams based on the actual reference and the UV tile was too large to fit a 4K square. So I kept it’s size and double the resolution in MARI. I also scaled up tiny pieces (rivets, etc.) so they could have more resolution.

maskUvs.JPG

5 – MAKING GOOD CUTS AND AVOIDING VISIBLE SEAMS (IF YOU CAN)

Thankfully we live in a new era where we don’t have to worry about UV seams anymore, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be irresponsible with your cuts. Even though in some cases you need to cut it more to get more resolution (remember step one?), you must pay attention and avoid unnecessary visible seams.

Another thing to keep in mind while making your cuts is to avoid selecting edges that end in a 5 pole, which may cause distortion. 

6 – SEPARATE TILES BY MATERIALS AND ORGANIZE

This step is a personal choice, but it helps me a lot when I’m working in MARI. By separating tiles by materials, you’ll save a lot of time with selections down the road. Here’s an example of the UV’s for my Gas Mask Project and my Canon Reflex Zoom:

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Having said that, sometimes we end up having tiny pieces with different materials which don’t have the necessity to stay in its tile. So it is up to you to judge where you should put it. Just make sure to avoid putting it too close to other UV shells, this will make it easier for you to select it later.

If you read my article about organization, you might know how much I care about it. And when it comes to UV’s, this step is extra important. Not only you should separate them by materials, but it is also a good idea to find your way to laying it out in a smart way, making good use of the UV space you have, avoid empty spaces if you can. This is not a rule, but please consider making your UV’s look good. Some people will sincerely appreciate that (I am included :P)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope you found this article useful. I know that UV’s can be boring, but be mindful and remember that you’re going to be working on a team and it is essential to make things proper for other artists.

I want to keep sharing things that I’ve learned in the past year and a half that I’ve been in the VFX industry.

If you enjoyed reading this article, don’t forget to share it with your friends. And if you are interested in more content like that in the future, make sure to sign up for my newsletter below.

Additions from 80.lv

So after the publicatio, we’ve received some comments from the readers, which I belive should be mentioned here.

Fatih Gurdal: ‘Maya users should look into UV Delux‘.

Simone Lombardo: ‘For 3ds Max users a small plugin called Xray Unwrap should work as well.

Hope you’ll find these tips useful.

Paul H. Paulino, Texture Painter and LookDev Artist

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4 Comments on "6 TIPS TO IMPROVE UV MAPPING WORKFLOW"

avatar
Paul Paulino
Guest
Paul Paulino

Hey Guest, thanks for your comment.

Depending on your necessity, making more cuts will be a hassle to deal in Texturing later on.

And also, This tecnique should be applied specially if you’re working on hard surface models (for film). In this case, you probably already have bevel edges to support the sharpness of the corners, so it is just a matter of making the right selection. (Choosing tbe seam in the middle, for example)

Hope it helps 🙂

Thanks,

Paul

Mohsen
Member
Mohsen

very interesting topic in modeling is laying out the best UV as possible. I’m still dealing with it everyday and every time I learn something new out of my layouts. well, the best tools I found for my UV workflow is Headus UV Layout tool. I love it. I wouldn’t imagine that one of my demonstration for installing UVDeluxe will be appeared here. I remembered When I was looking for video guide for this useful script, I couldn’t find a single guide so I decided to do trial and error and record my process for installing this script. awesome.

Guest
Guest
Guest

Can you elaborate more on the part when reinforcing the edge with more edge loops to prevent warping? I’m not quite understanding the logic of adding more geometry just to keep the uvs from warping. Wouldnt you simply need to add more uv seams to split the parts out to make sure its laying flat in the uv space with as little warping as possible? If there is persisting distortion then us a tool like max’s pelt or modos relax?

Bogdan Suprun
Guest
Bogdan Suprun

1 TIPS TO IMPROVE UV MAPPING WORKFLOW – USE UV LAYOUT )))))

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