Big Unreal Engine aficionado and Quixel SUITE lover Alessa Baker talked about his most recent UE4 tutorial, that describes the way you can use Quixel’s tools more efficiently in your production pipeline.
Hey! I’m Alessa Baker, I’m a technical artist working with Unreal Engine and Quixel SUITE for the last 5 years. I spent two years in Architectural Visualization and started working at Quixel as a 3D Artist & Web Developer in the last year.
What is Quixel SUITE?
Quixel offers a SUITE of three tools. NDO Painter, DDO Painter, 3DO Baker.
NDO Painter is a normal mapping tool that lets you to paint normal maps in real time with 3DO. You can also convert paint strokes, shapes, text – even images to a normal and control all of its details such as bevel shape, softness, and the curve of the normal right in Photoshop.
DDO Painter is the texturing side, allowing you to paint in real-time. It’s got quite a few powerful features: Smart Materials, which make it quick and easy to store definitions of different surfaces for reuse later on any other projects, the DynaMask editor which allows for precise control over how all masks are created. The dynamask editor can let you mask different details such as scratches or grime by the curvature, ambient occlusion, object space normal direction and more – this becomes incredibly powerful with painting, allowing for realistic wear with the control of the human touch.
3DO is an insanely powerful viewer with built in GPU Baker. It offers all features of the current generation of real-time PBR, and supports a plethora of post processing effects (Screen-space Ambient Occlusion, Depth of Field, physically accurate camera values and more!) The GPU baker can bake Curvature, AO, Object space normals and XYZ Gradients, everything you need to get full control over everything SUITE has to offer.
Textures and Materials
I guess to put it simply (this can be as simple or complex to talk about), textures are the individual layers that make up a material. Usually there are a minimum of four textures in a standard Physically Based Renderer (PBR), in the case of Unreal Engine it uses the Metallic (GGX) workflow: Albedo, Metallic, Roughness and Normal.
Each of these textures offer different values a material will take into account, the Albedo offers color, Metallic changes how the surface looks (plastic-y or metallic), Roughness tells us how diffuse the specular highlight is over the surface, and Normal offers detail.
All of these combined give you your final material/shader, you’ll hear those terms being used interchangeably, they’re effectively the same thing.
SUITE is used in the texturing process, and allows you to define, design and generate all of these textures simultaneously. 3DO, the real-time previewer allows you to see these results literally as your painting them, giving you a fully accurate representation of your final material.
SUITE has a plethora of export presets that will make sure all of the maps are calibrated to the correct software you choose to use them in.
Working with UE4 & Quixel SUITE
The recent tutorial I helped to create is quite in-depth, and shows how to create an advanced master material setup inside of Unreal Engine 4 from your DDO Painter project. In the tutorial, we split up our project into masks and tileables, allowing for full customization of our DDO Material inside UE4 with material instances. Some good use case scenarios are characters where you would like detailed tiling fabrics with grime and scratches overlaid or large scale environment pieces.
The environment team at Epic Games used SUITE with this method in Unreal Tournament to achieve the highly detailed environment of Outpost 23. This tutorial largely covers its process.
Using Quixel SUITE in Unreal Engine 4 can be as simple as plugging three nodes into their respective slots (using the RMA Packed export preset), this is the easiest way of setting up a material and takes a matter of seconds.
Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can use an awesome feature in DDO Painter that allows you to right-click and export up to 4 layers as RGBA channels to use as masks.
This is incredibly powerful if you’d like to export out your dirt maps and overlay them over a parameterized material, allowing for real-time control in a material instance.
Quixel SUITE is built upon making texture creation a fast, enjoyable and easy process for everyone. One of the key features is the Smart Material library, it allows artists to build up a library of material definitions that they can save, so when they open up their next asset in DDO Painter they can quickly apply the material and all of its definitions.
This makes it powerful for artists to predetermine their material library so they can quickly pass assets into DDO and already have a start to their materials and how they look within the project’s aethetic.
Quixel SUITE also uses an ID Map system, which allows you to predefine colors of your UV islands to designated materials. Using the same colors will result in the same materials over each project.
Different Ways to Use Materials
Materials can be used in a number of ways, parameter values allow you to change values in game, in real-time and can be used to show when an enemy has been hit, or when an object can be picked up.
They do serve a large portion of a game, and are essential to the final aesthetic of the project. The key is to make sure your materials are as efficient as they are flexible, as shaders take up quite a large portion of GPU usage.
You want to make your materials open to the other designers of your team, this is where a master material comes in handy. It let’s them customize values you’ve parameterized. But also make sure you don’t exceed your draw call budget for the project.
The best advice I can give is spend a lot of time planning your master material, and making sure it aligns with the final aesthetic you want to achieve.
Why Choose Quixel Suite 2.0?
Quixel SUITE 2.0 is out now and everyone could use it. What were the main features you really should pay attention to? And , we get this question a lot – does Quixel work steadier now? Have you solved the crashing problem?
So many new features! Quixel SUITE has had a massive overhaul since 1.8, with new features such as GPU Baking, 3D Painting in both NDO and DDO, and a much larger library of scan-based materials.
There is an overall 10x speed increase over its predecessor, Quixel has pushed for the highest stability possible with 2.0’s release, and every day we are pushing that level even higher.
We’ve also built up a team of dedicated community staff members, along with every member of the Quixel dev team, who assist users every day with their questions through our two facebook groups – Quixel Tools Group and Quixel Live Support.
On our Quixel Tools group we offer the chance for the community to take part in seeing the latest features we have to offer, and have their direct input on what we can do as a company to better Quixel SUITE 2.