Character Project: Round Five-Texturing

Work In Progress / 22 September 2020

Started texturing today and learned the value of having good id color maps. 🙃

Here are a couple WIP pics:

Character Project: Round Four-Beginning Texturing

Work In Progress / 21 September 2020

Got all of the normal and AO map baking done. Now I can get to texturing in Substance Painter. I've used Painter before several times but I use it sparingly so when I do open it up for a project I have to relearn some of the same stuff I've learned before. 🤷‍♂️

I'm really happy with the normal and AO maps of the character. They came out very clean because I went through methodically piece by piece baking out the maps and then combining them in Affinity Painter. The gun maps were a bit more rough and I believe its because the hi-poly models I used to bake the maps from was dynamesh and had some rough edges to it in places and contributed to the creation of artifacts. I'll have to keep that in mind on my next character build.

 I've noticed online there is a method of combining normal map layers by simply changing them to "overlay". But that crushes the blue channel which will affect the details of the final normal map. You need to duplicate each map you import and fill the red and green channel of the duplicated layer with white(leaving the blue unchanged), change that layer to "multiply" and then fill the blue channel of the original layer to absolute middle gray(leaving the red and green unchanged) and change that layer to overlay to properly combine the normal maps.

I love using RizomUV to handle my uv work as it makes it super easy to manage them. Especially if you're OCD. 😁

Here's a shot of my UV's and an updated marmoset viewer file with my WIP so far.


Character Project: Round Three-Retop

Work In Progress / 16 September 2020

I've got most of the retopologizing completed and some of the normal/AO maps baked. For years Ive used MightyBake for normal maps since I'm on a Mac my limitations are somewhat limited-or so I thought. I always heard about Substance Painter having the capability to bake maps but never really considered using it. Well with macOS Catalina, Mightybake tends to crash a lot so I had to find something else. I checked out a SP tutorial on normal map baking and found its quite easy to use and it makes incredibly clean normal maps. This will save loads of clean up time on the maps.

I tossed the model and maps into Marmoset Toolbag to take a look and I'm really happy with the result. Just need to finish up the retop then I can work on UV's, texturing, posing and rendering.

Should be fun!

Here is the WIP Marmoset viewer you can check out:

Character Project: Round Two Notes

General / 04 September 2020

So here is an update to my character project. I removed the bio-mechanical arm she had because I didn't like any of the designs I had for it. Hard surface modeling isn't my thing yet. But my focus on female anatomy and accessories I think is paying off. I really like what I have so far and am looking for anymore accessory ideas to add. Then I'll look to retopologize and get her ready as a game mesh and texturing her.

Character Project: Round One Notes

Work In Progress / 15 August 2020

So I'm working on a new personal project that I will take to completion. Too many I have started and never finished but this one will be. Working on the high poly version now and will create a game asset from it and pose it. My portfolio is full of busts which I enjoy making as I like facial anatomy but I need more character work that's taken to completion.

So I'm creating a Mars pirate named Side Effect. Several hundred years into the future, humans have colonized Mars and even terraformed it to the extent that we can live on the surface but not completely without some air assistance. At least not yet. Side Effect who has suffered from the results of extensive surface living, as surface living isn't recommended, but she is a pirate and pirates do as they please. While civility does reside on mars in the human colonies, it exist little elsewhere. Our lady pirate here lives between the colonies stealing from humans who travel between colonies and from those like herself, who live between them.

At this point I'm working on accessories to add some interest as well as layers of clothing to add story depth. Mars can get quite cold when you're in the wrong part at the wrong time of day. But during the summer months in the sun it's quite hot. Not sure if that's true or not, but in this universe, it is. ;)

I spent much more time on her anatomy than I have before because I really want to improve in that area. So I hope it looks more natural and feminine. I'm going to make notations as I continue to work through the project before I post the final renders.

Give Me My Infinity

General / 06 April 2020

So lately I was reminded of just how good the simple programs we use can be so much better than the monolithic ones(*ahem Corel Painter *ahem). As an artist I love finding new tools for my tool belt that will allow me to be creative quickly and efficiently where I don't have to think about the technicalities of the application or hardware that I'm using. Once such application is "Mischief". Or perhaps "Made With Mischief"? I'm not sure which is the proper name of this wonderful application.

I came across it a few years ago and was instantly drawn to its simple interface and brush palette. And the quick brush strokes that kept up with my hand as I made gestures both big and small across the canvas on my tablet. And of the course the best part--the infinite canvas, oh the infinite canvas. Is this not every digital artists dream? Of course I know you can always resize the canvas in the other digital painting apps but there is something about knowing that you can pan and pan and pan and pan and pan until infinity when creating. As well as zooming in til your hearts content.

The original mind behind the software is Sarah Frisken who worked on the technology behind Mischief (again, or is it Made With Mischief?) for 15 or so years before we saw the release of the app. Now back in 2014, Mischief was purchased by our friends at The Foundry. Unfortunately in 2016  updates on the software essentially stopped and the community was left to wonder why The Foundry was dragging its feet.

Well last summer we found out--the Foundry was discontinuing the product. As a user and artist I was saddened by this as were others but was left with the hope that the technology behind Mischief would find its way into a new 2d drawing app from The Foundry. I still have hope but haven't heard anything through the grapevine as of yet.

As an artist I need, we need, these simplistic applications for our creative needs, If I, if we, are left only with the Adobe's, Autodesk's and The Foundry's of the world to provide us with bloated software that require subscriptions then I, we, may just have to revert back to good ole Microsoft Paint.

Ok, that may be a bit extreme and maybe dramatic. 😝

*Side note: A new app I discovered is called Krita and is an open source digital painting app. Although it doesn't employ the same technology as Mischief, it is very responsive for me and I truly enjoy working in it. It is worthy of a quick check.

Just Can't Do Corel Painter

General / 05 April 2020

With the purchase of my new Mac I decided it was time to upgrade my copy of Corel Painter. After all I was still using Painter 2012 and at this point will it even run on macOS Catalina? I went ahead and paid the upgrade cost and installed it and began to “play”. I wanted to see how it ran. Being on the latest and greatest Apple machine it should run quite well, right?

Well, not exactly. I honestly got as far as using a few of the canvas commands and a bit of painting when I realized it wasn’t going to work for me. If remedial functions such as panning or rotating the canvas cause severe stuttering and lag on a machine like this then I know it’s time to look elsewhere. Remember this machine has a 32GB workstation video card.

I really want to use Painter but I can’t stand software that is laggy. As a digital artist one of the most important elements of any software is responsiveness. If I have to unnecessarily wait for the software to perform some task and it disrupts my flow then I will quickly toss it aside(or in the case of ZBrush, upgrade my storage speed. I can’t rid of ZBrush).

I know there are many artists out there that use Corel Painter and create wonderful works of art with it so I am interested to see if there is a work around for this issue or if I am experiencing a unique performance anomaly.

Side note, when opening Painter, you are asked to run a performance test to see if Painter will run well on your machine. On this new Mac Pro I would expect it should run at a very high level, or at least get test results that specify such. So I’m not sure what to make of the result below. The results came back "Good"? What do I need to get "Fantastic?" or "Awesome?" I'd even take "Gooder".

New Addition To My Studio

News / 05 April 2020

So my new Mac Pro just arrived and I am stoked! I purchased the 2013 Mac Pro back in 2015 after I watched The Foundry give a presentation for their new Mari for Mac software on the 2013 Mac Pro and how wonderful it ran. At the time I was struggling to use Mari on my 2011 iMac and I needed something with more power. So when I saw the demo it immediately got my attention. It took me a couple of years but I ended up buying the fully loaded Mac Pro with the expectations that all of my Mari problems would magically go away.

2013 Mac Pro specs

  • 12 Core CPU
  • 64 GB’s ram
  • 1 TB ssd
  • Dual AMD D700’s

Alas, I was disappointed. For modeling and ZBrush sculpting the Pro did just fine for me. But I cringed at the thought of having to open up Mari and texture one of my projects. I even tried Substance Painter hoping it would perform better but in the end, neither did. And I really began to shy away from texturing altogether. Which was unfortunate because I really needed to improve my texturing skills—which I still do.

Anyway, fast forward to 2020 and I made the jump to the new Mac Pro, particularly now that you can upgrade it as needed. I was disappointed that Apple still didn’t work well will Nvidia because I would have loved to have an Nvidia card as it seems most software packages tend to support them better than AMD(Of course that may be changing now that AMD has stepped up their game lately).

So I ordered and received this week my new Mac Pro with:

  • 12 Core CPU
  • 32 GB’s ram(I added an additional 32 GB’s for a total of 64)
  • 256 GB SSD
  • Radeon Pro Vega II

I really looked into getting the Vega Duo but when I read that the system would see two gpu’s rather than a single I opted against it because some software(ex. Substance Painter) won’t play nice with them. And if that’s the case then it’s a waste of money unless you work a lot in Final Cut Pro or maybe Davinci Resolve for video work. Earlier versions of Mari didn’t work well with dual GPU’s and I played it safe and stuck with a single GPU with the option of upgrading later if I needed to. Not sure if The Foundry’s newer version of Mari likes dual GPU’s or not though.

I also purchased the XDR Display as well. I’m not much of a colorist so I don’t need it as a reference monitor but I did want the 6k, the HDR capabilities and the fact that it’s an Apple monitor. I had the Thunderbolt monitors before Apple discontinued them and when they announced the XDR I jumped at the opportunity. It is a beautiful monitor, as is the Mac, and while I will hopefully get years of glorious usage out of it, I’m not entirely sure I’ll get $5000 worth of usage, but we’ll see.

I also added an Amfeltec pci-e nvme card that allows me to install 6 nvme blades. I’ll use them to create a RAID 0 configuration for mind-blowing speeds of hopefully over 12GB/sec read and write which is utterly insane. But when you’re working on files that are gigabytes in size, it sure does help from sitting and watching the spinning pinwheel for 10 seconds+ while ZBrush autosaves.

I also upgraded my Wacom tablet from the Cintiq 24HD Touch to the newer Cintiq Pro 24 but I’ll save that experience for another post.

I’m still in the process of setting my new workstation up so I haven’t truly tested the new Mac with any of my software but I will soon and am anxious to either be pleased or disappointed in what I find.

*Fingers crossed*