CG Artist Anton Tenitsky showed how 3DCoat's new feature of auto-exporting high poly textured meshes helped create the Modular Town project and explained how the Vox Hide, Blob, and Pose tools were used.
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3DCoat 2022 has a new incredible feature of auto-exporting high poly textured meshes. It is very useful for a quick look development of playable levels or quick 3D kitbashing for concept art. Now you can auto-decimate, auto-UV, auto-bake, auto-save every object and easily import to the 3D software of your choice. I used Blender in my case.
Here, I will show key tips and tricks from my tutorial that might provide enough guidance for self-learning.
The Blob Voxel Tool
The blob tool is instrumental for creating all walls, props, and elements. Changing the size of the brush changes the thickness of the surface. This allows the creation of modular elements on the fly like in 3D Photoshop. If you change the camera angle or use the “On plane” function, you can manipulate the positioning of the piece.
Below is an example of making a slightly more complex element – a balcony with the Blob tool. On the right side, you can see PureRef with the photo reference pack.
Another example is multiple planks done with the Blob tool and duplicated a few times.
This was the first building assembly done only using the Blob tool. Getting a high-quality mesh does come at a higher poly count. This building stands at 6 million triangles.
The Pose Tool
If you are unhappy with the proportions of your building, you can use the Pose tool to move parts up and down. Tick “Through All Volumes” in the top panel to transpose all layers up and down in any direction.
The same is true for the Move tool. You can affect all layers with any alpha that you have on your Move brush and modify everything at the same time. But beware, sometimes to revert one Move operation you’ll have to undo each layer individually and press Ctrl + Z fifty times.
You can freely hide parts of the voxel mesh creating windows, gaps, and holes. Pressing Ctrl + Vox Hide unhides voxels and allows you to retrieve hidden volume making it a non-destructive process.
Below, you can see me using a lasso for hiding and unhiding wood from different camera angles. It created realistic old wooden planks in seconds. You just need to point the viewport camera right.
Then it is easy to duplicate the same plank to build a staircase and slightly cut them using the Voxel Hide again to avoid repetition.
Voxel Hide on the Brush
If you activate Vox Hide on the brush and limit the depth of voxel hiding by “On Plane”, you can create incredibly interesting surface detail using different alphas.
When I was doing the concrete surface, it felt exactly as if I was smudging concrete on the surface. You can paint with multiple different alphas to create a layered look.
3DCoat has the most flexible symmetry I’ve seen across any other major software. You can pick a point on mesh and use that point as the start of your symmetry. In this case, I was creating a grill for the aircon using radial symmetry after clicking a point in the middle of the circle.
Easy Cloth Simulation
The Cloth tool creates a plane which you then drop on the surface. While the simulation is active, you can tweak and push the cloth around. As usual, the denser the plane, the higher quality sim you get but at a slower pace.
It is fun to drop cloth on complicated objects and interactively push it around.
You can project alphas as stencils on the surface for creating quick details. I used a lot of height maps from Textures.com. A lot of concrete, metal, and wood surfaces were done using different displacement textures.
Below, I applied different stencils to make the wood look corroded by weather and wood-eating worms.
3DCoat is an all-in-one solution. While the texturing tool set is not as robust as Substance 3D Painter or Marmoset Toolbag, you can texture right on the model without any UVs.
3DCoat also has its own free library of materials. It’ll allow you to use materials that haven’t been overused by other people and keep them fresh. The smart materials also have a bunch of options to change the final look.
The base materials were downloaded from the 3DCoat library, but I hand-painted the grunge, damage, and leaks on top.
It is very convenient that you can always go back to the Sculpt Room and move your objects around. Then go to the Paint Room and paint the props.
The Tree Generator
The software also has a tree generator. It’s somewhat of a gimmick at the moment but if you play around with its options, you can get something looking like a tree with roots, without leaves.
You can copy my settings from the screenshot to create the same result. I was trying to recreate mangrove trees common for hot climates and suitable for my environment.
Export to Blender
This is the final thing you need to do in 3DCoat. You can set up the desired poly count, I kept modular sections fairly heavy at around 8-15k triangles. If you optimize too much, it can get too blobby.
Then it will take a fair amount of time to go through each layer and create an OBJ with the layer name. But it is an automated process, so you can just leave your computer to let it run for an hour to export 20 meshes.
Material Adjustment in Blender
When you paint in 3DCoat, you can’t be sure how it’ll turn out in the end software. I routinely do adjustment nodes in Blender, Maya, or Unreal Engine for quick color tweaking without the need to re-texture and re-export the whole thing.
Scene Layout and Lighting in Blender
The layout is the final stage and is a separate skill in itself, it took me hours to do. I drew a lot from reference photo packs and my living experience in South East Asia.
I wanted to build a shanty town but without being recognized as Latin American, African, or Asian. Modern slums use a lot more plastic panels, bricks, and corrugated steel. I was keeping it down to concrete and wood with a little bit of metal and plastic infused in the design.
Also, I tried to have a small kitbash to start with. Later, I created extra props like poles, dirt piles, debris, and cables to dress the set. Having thin shapes like cables and metallic support structures really helps to offset bulky wall blocks and brings a lot of realism to the scene.
The oil rig came from an old video I did for my YouTube channel, and it fit in nicely with the overall dystopian theme of a polluted semi-abandoned town.
Images on the posters were easter eggs from my previous videos and tutorials.
I’m currently making a night scene and a different city layout for Unreal Engine 5. The narrated timelapse of the process will be published on my channel.
Meanwhile, if you want an in-depth understanding of 3DCoat, you are welcome to purchase the Modular Town Design tutorial with a special 80 Level 30% discount – 80LV30OFF (active for 2 weeks). Check it out on Gumroad.
Anton Tenitsky, CG Artist
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