The Staples of Hard Surface Material Design
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The Staples of Hard Surface Material Design
8 March, 2016

We’ve talked with Arthur Rodriguez about approaching hard surface material design. During his career he had a pleasure of contributing to some of the biggest games in the world, including GTA4, Mass Effect, Medal of Honor. In this interview Arthur was kind enough to talk about his work, the way he built textures and materials for his amazing Overwatch weapon skin.


I am freelancing at this time with my focus on creature design and hard surface modeling. After graduating college I was hired at a company called Eyetronics. They focused on film, video games and tv where I was a modeler and texture artist. A few others were Farsight Studios, Tigar Hare Studios, Dreamforge Entertainment. Some of the titles I have contributed to are – GTA4, Mass Effect, Medal of Honor, The Pinball Arcade, Heros the TV-show, Knight Rider, Blood the last vampire, Speed Racer, and various commercials. On all titles I was a modeler and texture artist, I recently was a part of the indie game Guardians Of Orion where I designed and created creatures for the title.


Hard Surface Design

With hard surface modeling it all depends on the object I need to create itself and the flow of the details. By flow of the details I look at where corners end up touching one another or how they mold into various parts of the design. I start modeling with a single poly and pull all the shapes together, I feel this allows me to have the best control during the entire modeling process. Allowing me to control the flow and shape to fit the design of the hard surface object. Not only does the vert placement itself matter for a quality model, but the actual flow of the geometry itself will give life to your model and make it believable.

The staple of a good material and or texture are dependent on the asset itself and what it has gone through or what it will go through. Has the object been in various battles? What will it be used for? Is this item used multiple times or once every few years? Has it been in the sun for a extended amount of time or outside in general where it will be battered by the elements? These are only a few of the many thoughts I have in my head while texturing an asset for a production. These will give life and help tell the story of the IP being created.


The Soldier 76 model

The Soldier 76 model was created with an image plane in 3DS Max where I focused on blocking in the whole rifle and shape first. Once I had all the parts of the rifle blocked out I then singled out each piece in order to refine and polish the parts of the gun. Doing it this way allows me to get placement, scale and proportions taken care of before I move on to the polish stage. Getting to this part in a rushed manner will only lead to pain in the later stages of the modeling process. As far as creating the skin I honestly just wing it…haha no real secret. I start out first by playing around with and trying various color combinations and keeping in mind what the gun is and how this weapon will be used. For this rifle, I wanted to show the rifle in a slightly used but in a more clean quality. So I went with solid colors with minimal damage and wear on the overall gun, since I was showing off a new skin I wanted to make sure my idea was clear and still cool. I came up with the final color after deciding this was going to be more of a assassin type weapon.


Adding the Details

The various maps and textures were all created using SubstancePainter, which is an incredible program. I honestly can’t say enough about it. It has streamlined the texture process in such a way I feel I can enjoy the creative process of texturing in such a straight forward interactive way. The main thing that makes this program stands out is the ability to paint all maps at the same time or choosing a specific map to really make unique. The options are really endless. After I have all the basic maps done, Albedo, metallic, roughness, and normal map I then create a custom layer of chip painting and scratches I usually do by hand depending on time frame. All the specific maps were created by using mask and filters before the hand painting took place. I lay down my ground work first before I do any detail oriented elements, that way I get the big strokes out of the way first. Might sound odd, but I treat my modeling the same way I treat my drawings.

For the bolts and emblems on the model, I used the stamping feature in Substance Painter. The bolts themselves are actually modeled while the emblems were stamped in using a layer in SubstancePainter that only affects the height information. This allows me to control the strength and depth of the logo. Again, an amazing program.

Textures and Materials

Substance Painter allows me to be very free and creative in the whole design process when it comes to textures. So, I simply made all uvs for this model knowing ahead of time which parts will share the same material type. Once I go into Substance Painter I can then apply texture and various surface details and see what works. I recommend having clean uvs so you can enjoy the texture process for your asset, fill up as much space to control the bleeding and always keep texture density in mind.


Useful Software

Software I would advise all developers to use and incorporate into the pipeline would be Substance Painter. I have had to paint by hand for film, console and mobile games. It can be a very long and tedious process. Substance Painter has really changed my workflow for the better, not only for high end content but for the mobile market. With the newly added Baked lighting shader there is really nothing you are not able to do with the software, I taught myself to use it in two days. Very easy to pick up and start creating quality work, as well as retain your own style of work.

Arthur Rodriguez, 3D Artist/Hardsurface/CreatureDesign





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