Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Settings in Marmoset Toolbag for viewing Substances

For the last week I've been messing around a lot with Substance Designer spending most of my time watching videos and reading tutorials. I still have a lot to learn in figuring out how all of the nodes work together so I can get the effect I'm looking for, but the workflow is so much more fun and easier than trying to manage a Photoshop document with dozens of layers.

One issue I haven't really been able to get around is getting my Substance files to look right in Marmoset Toolbag. NicolasW was kind enough to share the setup he uses over on Polycount. For the sake of quickness I'll repost what he said below, but you can check the link above if you want to see his Substance work or want info on how he uses Substance (you really shouldn't miss it).

The setup is pretty simple:

  • I used a custom env map (corsica beach from SD)
  • I put a large bluish area light on the left side to get the highlight
  • Then just make sure you invert the normal Y channel (if you use a directX normal in SD/SP)
  • Invert the roughness to get a glossiness, set it to linear (by setting it to linear, he means uncheck  the sRGB Color Space box under options for that channel –V)
  • Use metallic instead of specular, set it to linear
  • use GGX instead of blinn/phong

Here's a comparison of a herringbone brick texture I'm working on. Substance Designer is on the left and Marmoset Toolbag is on the right. These are really close. The post processing in Toolbag definitely brings the texture out a bit more.

I did discover that if you are using Toolbag 2.06 and you create a new material using the Unreal 4 Template, most of the options above are already preselected. Here's a screenshot to see where to create the material template.

I also found a thread over on Allegorithmic's forums that talks about some of the settings in Marmoset Toolbag and what other people use to display Substances. You can check out that thread here.

I still have a lot to learn with Substance Designer. I don't fully understand what all of the nodes do and I'm having some trouble getting the normals and brick edges to really pop on this texture. It's about 75% there. My next post will most likely be some other Substances I'm working on. I hope this was useful.

Till next time,

Sunday, March 22, 2015

15 minutes in Bitmap2Material

I always wanted to paint directly on a mesh, but Mari is ridiculously expensive and I wasn't dropping that much cash. I figure I'll never use Mari unless I end up at a studio that uses it in their texturing pipeline. When a friend told me about Substance Painter and I saw Allegorithmic's Substance Indie Pack for only $160 last June I was instantly sold.

I've been messing around with both Designer and Painter ever since (more on both in future posts), but Bitmap2Material (B2M) was the red headed stepchild to me. It sat by the wayside as version 2 didn't output PBR materials and I was building all my assets for Unreal Engine 4. When version 3 was released it added support for PBR materials which was great. I upgraded, but still didn't try it out. I guess I didn't believe I could drop a bitmap into a program, tweak a few sliders, and come out with a decent material.

Today, the B2M 3 Walkthrough Tutorial came up on my YouTube feed. It was only 25 minutes long and I had a brick texture I downloaded still sitting on my desktop from another project. I figured I'd give it a shot fully thinking I'd end up frustrated by the end of it. Boy was I wrong. Here's the texture I came up with at the 15 minute mark while going through the video.

Now it isn't perfect and needs some tweaking (the grout on the base color needs some work for example and the height map isn't working quite right), but for 15 minutes of work I can't complain. I can drop this into a game for prototype purposes and instantly know if it works in the environment which is pretty amazing when you think about it. Below is the original texture I downloaded and the additional maps B2M generated (click on the thumbnails for a larger pic).

I wasn't planning on incorporating B2M into my workflow, but after this I'll definitely be using it more. Like any good 3D artist I have tons of reference pictures of bark, stone, wood, metal, rust, bricks, and such I've taken when out with the family (much to my wife's embarrassment, but to be fair I do get the occasional odd look when I'm standing with a camera pointed 2 inches away from a tree).  From here,I can output the initial maps from B2M and do any further tweaks in Designer and Painter.

If you haven't tried B2M yet, give it a shot. It's a handy piece of software that definitely has it's place alongside the other Substance programs.

Till next time,

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The best is yet to be

That's a pretty deep title for a first post, but without looking ahead to the next challenge I won't keep growing as an artist. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree from Full Sail University's Game Art program. The program was great and I learned a lot about the game industry and the pipeline used to create assets and games. While things do move fast in the video game industry, I went through the program during more of a transitional period where everything was moving from the last console generation to the current one. As a result, a lot of the skills I developed were outdated not long after I graduated.

The last two years in the video game industry brought a LOT of changes. Photogrammetry is enabling people to model and texture objects by taking pictures and never opening a modeling program or Photoshop. Unreal 4 and Unity 5 have moved to a Physically-Based Shading model which changed the entire texturing pipeline. Polycounts on models are a a lot higher than before. VR is about to go mainstream. Subscription-based MMOs are dead. AAA games are in a state of decline while Indie Publishers are on the rise. In any technology field you need to keep your knowledge current and that's my aim for this blog.

When it comes to blogs this isn't my first rodeo. I still occasionally post on DED 'ARD, a blog that focuses on the Warhammer 40K hobby. Writing about 40K helped me solidify my thoughts and become a better hobbyist. It's my hope that writing about 3D art and video games will similiarly help me brush up on my skills and become a better artist.

This isn't the first time I wanted to show work in progress or talk about the video game industry and I did have some of that content on my portfolio site. In hindsight, that was a really bad idea. Art Directors are super busy people that don't have the time to sort through all of that or read that the super rough environment you're showing off has only been worked on for a few hours. Inevitably, it's that so-so piece in your portfolio that can cost you a job opportunity. If you want to see my professional portfolio, you can head on over to: If you want to see the down and dirty process of what goes into making a 3D asset this is where you want to be.

I want this blog to be a place where people can read about my process of 3D asset creation and see my work before all the polish when everything comes together. This is also a learning experience for me as I get up to speed on newer software packages like Allegorithmic's Substance Designer and Epic's Unreal Engine 4. I'll keep the comments section open if you have questions and I'm also available to chat via Twitter as well.

Thanks for dropping by. I'll do my best to keep my posts informative and entertaining.