Mixing Materials for Environment Design
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Mixing Materials for Environment Design
18 April, 2017
Interview
3d artist Pablo Artime talked about his material building process and showed some very cool things he can do with scanned textures.

Introduction

I am Pablo Artime, I am 22 years old and I live in Gijón, a city in the north of Spain. I studied Video Game Design and Development at ESNE, a university in Madrid. I have always loved nature, photography and outdoor sports, which has made me specialize in the creation of environments. My most outstanding achievements have been winning the award for most innovative video game by PlayStation Iberia 2016 and been a finalist in the program PlayStation First with the project I led after college, SteamForce.

Materials

To work on the materials I use two different workflows. For main or complex materials, I like to sculpt the base in ZBrush, to later texture it in Quixel. In this way, I make sure I have the absolute control of the shapes. I also usually sculpt in ZBrush those more “mechanical” materials that I can not find in the Megascans library.

When I need to create natural materials, Megascans is the perfect tool to do it in a fast, flexible and simple way. Among its strongest points is the huge library of scans it has, the ability to download the assets when you need them, and its possibilities to export the textures for each of the video game engines. Although I normally work with Unity and Unreal Engine, you can also export textures for Marmoset or V-Ray among others.

Using Megascans

Megascans Studio allows you to mix basic scanned materials, to obtain more complete ones. You can modify their colors, displacements, and how to mix one with another. Although at the moment only has “natural” materials, it will soon incorporate more complex materials to it library. They are also working on incorporating new biomes, and 3Ds elements such as trees and vegetation.

The large amount of materials available, coupled with the possibilities of combining them, makes megascans flexible enough to adjust to the development of the game with outstanding quality.

Megascans has a huge library of materials. The first step is to look for good references of what we want to achieve, and to download the surfaces that best fit our references. Once we have them downloaded, we are ready to work.

Megascans studio allows us to combine as many layers of materials as we need, besides being able to add solid layers and layers of liquid. These last two are great for simulating effects like snow, blood or puddles. To create my materials with Megascans Studio, I always follow the same steps, and I usually use between 3 and 6 materials with different layers until I reach the desired result.

When we start to create a new matter we have to select the resolution and the size. The size we select will depend a lot on the level of detail we need and the distance at which the tiles will be seen. For a game in first or third person, I usually use distances between 2 and 4 meters. To cinematics where the camera is very close to the ground we can use smaller sizes, and the farther the camera, larger sizes.

To begin, I usually use a base material. It should not have much detail or variations, and should work well without noticing the tiling too much. I always apply a Height Noise difference, with a low frequency and big amplitude. This creates pronounced gradients in the material, and gives you a more natural feel. We can also adjust the color to set the tone we want.

Subsequently, I usually add a sediment material, for the lower parts. This material will be masked from below , and will allow us to give more sense of “depth” to our project. In this case, I have used other soil material, since later we will add water above. Later, I will darken the tone of this second material, to give the impression that it is wet.

As a third layer, we can use a liquid . Although we can not always add it by the characteristics of the material, I like to moisten certain areas to enrich the material. Thus we will have areas with more reflection, and in a PBR engine will look very attractive. We can modify the color of liquid as well as several of its properties. As in my case the material underneath is mud, I will increase the value of moist.

As a fourth layer, I usually use a material masked from above . In this case some leaves, in the upper areas of the material. This will generate color contrast and bring more variety. Finally, in this case I have added another layer of soil over the top, to mix different shades of color, and get a more natural look.

The trick is to play a lot with mix values, turn on and off layers, and watch the result in real time. We can also test how our material works in different environments, and enable or disable the tiles option to check how tilemaking works.

Parameters 

From the Megascans export panel, we can export the textures we need from our material, with the channels and formats that we prefer. It also allows us to export the material to a different resolution to which we have worked.

Testing 

I like to test the materials in Marmoset before introducing them to my projects in Unity or Unreal Engine 4. In Marmoset, different lighting situations can be emulated, which ensures that the material will work in any situation in the engine. It is a quick way to check the tiles under different lighting. Tiling can also be done to check how they work in large areas. If I like the result, I incorporate the materials to my project in Unity or Unreal Engine.

Hope you guys will find it useful. If you have any questions – please contact us in the comments.

Pablo Artime, 3D Environment / 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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1 Comment on "Mixing Materials for Environment Design"

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floAr
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floAr

Thanks for the article, defintly a good read. I just started playing around with Megascans in Unity and can also recommend the megascan importer plugin. https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/70314

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