Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Tortoise Character design and Digital Painting

At the moment my spaceman character is currently being rigged for animation by a rigger extraordinaire. I am really looking forward to moving him around and giving him some character! I hope to have the rig in my hands soon but in the mean time I thought I'd share a character design I painted up late last year with you. 

I initially designed him for a short film Idea that my wife and I came up with. I still may get back into developing our idea further but for the time being it has been put on a shelf until I have more time to devote to a larger more fully realised short film.

Tortoise Orthographic views.
I really like his shell, especially the dimension that the segmented shapes give it. Hopefully I can find the time to develop him a bit more and them translate him into the 3D world!

Take care,


Friday, 26 April 2013

Spaceman Texturing Complete

Hello everyone, texturing for my spaceman character is now complete! 

After an intense 28 hours, spread out over the last 6 days. I have finally completed the textures for all of his various bits and bobs. I am really happy with the result and I have learned heaps about how to make really high quality textures for a character.

The spaceman character ended up having a whopping 38 separate painted texture maps, each of them controlling a different aspect of of his separate materials. From the metal parts around his ears to the skin of his face, each distinct piece has to have a several texture map's to control how the material reacts to light and shadow and looks in the final render.

I have completed a turnaround render of the character in his default T-pose overnight, so that I can see how his textures react to movement. This allows me to tweak his textures a little further and adjust any problems that a still render does not reveal.

Textured Spaceman Turnaround from Geoff Ind on Vimeo.

Because of the turnaround render I could see that the specular of his fabric skullcap was reacting more like a reflective paint surface and did not have enough variation between the black nylon material and the white mesh material. As a result I have created a new specular map and fixed up the problem. 

I am also not really loving the way the glass of the helmet looks, so I think further research and tweaking is called for to finesse the material attributes a bit more.

Rigging is also now underway which means I should have be able to start injecting character into him very soon, I can't wait!


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Fresh eyes

Howdy everyone!

Today I wanted to say a few words about the importance of "Fresh Eyes". 

What I mean by fresh eyes is the phenomenon that most artists experience of becoming slowly blinded to the flaws and mistakes of a project over time. This usually happens when you have been spending long periods of time working on an image or, in my case model.

I recently experienced an acute case of "blindness" while I was painting the texture for the Chest pack of my spaceman character. Yesterday I posted my progress on the colour map of my model after painting heaps of detail around the edges of wear and tear. I was pretty pleased with it at the time and had become blinded to the (I realise now) pretty clear flaws in the texture. 

Fortunately a good mate sent me a message praising my efforts (you know who you are, thanks for the critique!), after he had done praising me, I ask for his frank appraisal of my work.....

I got back a 3 paragraph concise description of what was lacking in the render and therefore needed to do more work!

After I had, had a quick cry. I took another hard frank look at my render and I had to agree that all of the areas that my friend had pointed out where completely correct and on the money.

For those of you who have not yet seen yesterday's post, here is where it was; as of 5pm yesterday.

Yesterdays flawed render.
After a day of work to address the notes that I had recieved, here is where it is now.

New and vastly improved render.
The lighting in the image has not changed at all, all of the improvement in the colours and textures are a result of lots of tweaking to the shader and the texture maps.

And with out further ado here is a breakdown of the suggestions I received, the main areas of concern are marked in the origional image in green:

Areas where more work on the textures and shader where needed.
A - The collar that the helmet attaches to was a bit bland in the original render. Admittedly I had not yet started to think about it as I had been concentrating on getting the shell of the chest pack textured and had been pouring all of my efforts in that area.

As a result I have now separated the shell from the collar using a layered shader. Using the same method as the shading network for the body is set up. The Shell has a Blinn material and the Collar is using a Phong material with a tonne of facing ratio!

B - The feedback on this area of the render was;

"Taking some of the scratches towards the edge so that its not so uniform along all the the edges, currently goes, scratch marks > space of good paint > scratch marks." 

I had completely overlooked this. I had been working on the assumption that there was a groove running along the gap inbetween each of the panels of the shell. My thinking at the time was that the paint would have been protected in these areas resulting in less wear. Looking at it again this morning, I realised that my friend was right. It was far too uniform and needed more chaos and randomness around all of the edges.

C - The specular also needed some love, I received the following little tidbit;

"Breaking up your specular as well with some noise of some sort (not just with the bump) could be a bit of an extra tidbit. So the healthy texture has some irregular specular as well."

To get rid of the CG'ness of the specular I have broken it up using a custom painted texture that is a little more grainy than just a flat uniform colour. As my friend has suggested I have also added heaps of subtle bump information which I had not yet gotten to at the time. In the end I have used 3 bump maps, one for a nice grainey bump texture all over, one to raise the level of the stripes of paint and lastly one to create the groves for all of the main scratches and dings in the metal surface.

The last little bit of feedback I got was on the properties of the material itself;

"Not sure if the pack is metal or plastic? or metallyplastic? or plasticy metal? lol but if its more metally you could maybe reduce difffuse and push up spec a bit so theres more contrast. but sometimes alot of those properties are light driven."

Again I had glossed over the fact that my material really did not look like it was made of any definative element. All I had to do here was to tweak the specular sliders and bit and hey presto it was looking more like a painted metal surface.

I am lucky in that I have several people who I look up to and ask for criticism and advice on making my art better. 

If you don't have anyone like that then another good way of getting "Fresh Eyes" on a project is to down tools and get out and about for a few hours or even as long as overnight. When you do get back to the project you will find that you will be able to see most of the flaws in your work.

If you are working on a 2D piece of art then a handy trick I have learned is to flip you canvas around, or to look at your drawing from the back (through the page) this also has the effect of changing your perspective on the image and giving you those "Fresh Eyes".
I hope to have all of the texturing completed at some point tomorrow (I have a day off because it is ANZAC day here in NZ) so, yay I get to spend more time getting this guy looking even cooler!

Lastly I would like to say a big thank you to everyone (you know who you all are!) who has been giving me good constructive feedback and encouragement, it means heaps to me to be able to push myself beyond where I have gotten before and better myself at my craft.

As always thanks to everyone for reading, and keep your eyes peeled for more updates.

Take care,


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Texturing update, battle damage... lots and lots of battle damage!

Hi there just another update from the world of highly detailed texture maps. 

Currently I am painting a tonne of wear and tear on my characters space suit pack, my head hurts as a result! Here is where I am at the moment, still a few bits and pieces to go but I hope you will agree it starting to look good!

Chest pack of my Spaceman character, almost there with the wear and tear.
Now, back to the detailing...


Monday, 22 April 2013

Texturing nearly complete

Texturing for the spaceman is nearly complete, I was hard at work on the textures and shading network for his main body mesh all weekend which only leaves his chest pack and some small tweaks left to do on his helmet glass shader (I'm still not happy with the way the specular is rendering, I will probably have to paint a custom specular map to get them to look right).

Any who I thought I would give you a sneak peak at progress so far before I do a more comprehensive breakdown of the shaders and textures.

This is my current progress so far, showing my shading network for his layered shader.
His colour render pass is taking a bit too long at the moment it came in a t just over 5 minutes on my computer here at work! It renders heaps faster on my machine at home but it looks like I will still have to do some optimisation so that he renders a little more speedily.

Here is a more close up view.

Spaceman complete textures.

And the layered shader for his body mesh.

Layered shaders are fantastic, especially when texturing an object or character with multiple types of material.

Hope you enjoy, I'll be back soon with another update.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Painting a realistic eye texture

I just have time for a quick update on my progress working on my spaceman before I dive back into more texturing.

I thought I'd go over my process to paint a realistic eye texture and show you the result as rendered out of Maya. The result below is entirely using a painted colour map and I will continue to tweak the material a little but for all intents and purposes it is pretty much ready for use in a final render (I still need to poly tweak the edges of the pupil so that they are more of a round shape).

This is the final result as rendered from Maya.
Lets start by showing you the basic UV layout of the eye. The way the eye I'm working on has been unwrapped is a little bit unconventional, but it will work fine for my purposes.

Basic eye UV.
As you can see the eye has been unwrapped with the seam running around the hemisphere of the ball with the iris at the pole. The pupil is the small circle off to the top left of the UV. It was modelled as a separate piece of geometry extracted from the centre of the iris, then pushed back into the ball and scaled up slightly to ensure that none of the inside of ball is able to be seen through any gaps.

To paint the eye itself, I first started by blocking in the basic colours of the texture. White for the Sclera, blue for the Iris, and black for the Pupil. All pretty basic stuff, but I think this is a very important step to get the basic colour scheme nailed down so that you don't spend heaps of time painting detail only to find the basic colours you are using don't work together well.

Basic eye Blocking.
I always start any painting, illustration, texture this way so that I can quickly see if the overall scheme of colours are working well. I highly recommend this way of working, as it really does cut down on the amount of fix up work later in the process.

Alright once the basic colours are all blocked in and you are happy with the overall colour scheme, now begins the fun part! I mentioned an earlier post that I always use reference material when painting. For this particular character I had collected some really high resolution photographs of eyes and I wanted to include some of the really amazing detail that you can see when looking at the Iris up close.

To get more interest into the Iris rather than a plain flat blue colour. I painted in some variation to the colours using a soft edged brush, set to a low opacity. Painting using a low opacity setting on the brush (usually between 5% and 25%) allows for gradual blending and build up of colour, so that you don't get the nasty banding when painting at 100% opacity. Using the detail ideas I had got from my gathered reference, I added in a dark blue ring that runs around the Iris, a lighter more subtle blue/green band in the centre and several patches of very bright aqua/green to create little islands of colour in places around the Iris. 

When painting anything that is organic in origin you always need to try and paint randomly. This is easier said than done unfortunately. Practise is the only way to get good at this. The best you can do to start with is try and look for patterns in your brush stroke and eliminate them as they occur. As you get more practised at this you will find that the patternation will appear less and less often in the first place.

to get the filaments of the iris I painted several layers of squiggly lines that run from the centre out to the edges of the Iris in a spoke like pattern. Again when painting your need to keep these as random as you can so the best way to do that is to paint each filament by hand rather than painting a patch and copying and pasting the layer. It's a bit of a pain I know but spending the extra time here will pay dividends later to the overall effect.

Each of the layers of filament's where painted in a different colour and also had varying amounts of patchiness and size. The first two layers are pretty much uniform and are there to get as much coverage as possible. The next three are included to get a little more variation and randomness to the filaments. Its also interesting to note that the last layer of filaments that I painted was in a dark blue colour almost black. This layer helps to add depth to the eye creating the shadows between some of the lighter coloured filaments.

Lastly a layer with a dark blue ring around the outside of the Iris helps it to stand out a bit more from the Sclera by creating more contrast between the white and the blue.

The Pupil is basically a black splodge of colour with an extra layer that has been painted up using low opacity. The extra layer adds in more tones of green and dark blue and is basically there to vary up the black as I don't want any areas of flat colour in any of my textures. 

You don't find areas of flat colour with no variation in nature, so why have it when painting?

Lastly the Sclera needed some detail and variation, again using a soft edged brush set to a low opacity I built up a ring of blue around the iris that bleeds into the white of the eye. I had also noted in the reference material that the white part of the eye has areas of a blueish hue that indicate regions that are thinner and therefore allow the inner colour of the ball itself to show through to the surface. I tied to include a little of this feeling into my texture by painting a very low opacity layer of blue in a circular pattern over the front of the eye. Also present in the reference material was a network of spiderweb like veins, so I have painted a random pattern of veins of varying thickness and density across the front of the eye that all radiate out from the centre.

It is work noting that all of the layers of detail have been further blended in together in the final image through changing the opacity of each of the layers painted in Photshop.

Breakdown of paint layers from Photoshop, combined to create the finished texture map.
Here is the final painted colour texture map.

Final colour texture map.
I hope that you have found this post informative, as always I intend to continue to update my progress on my character as each of the stages get completed.

Take care, Geoff.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Using reference when planning texture and surfaces for a 3D character.

I have just completed the texture/material swatch sheet for the Spaceman. This sheet will be used to inform allot of my decisions regarding materials for each of the different areas of my character.

I will be using it to help incorporate more detail that I would not normally have thought to include if I there was not a sheet to look at to help guide the texturing process. I also like to use it to identify material attributes that help to distinguish one type of material from another, for example glass and scuffed painted metal. Both are a hard smooth surfaces but glass will have a sharper specular highlight than the metal surface.

Here is my swatch for the character, this version is way smaller than the original file. The idea with a texture/material swatch is that you can zoom right in close to the texture to observe as much of the detail as possible. Unfortunately this means that the actual file usually absolutely ginormous, this one is over 13,000 pixels wide and nearly 10,000 pixels high! Way too large to upload on my blog.

Texture and Surface material swatch sheet, FOR REFERENCE PURPOSES ONLY.
Just a quick word on using reference material.

I personally think using reference material to help inform your craft is a great thing.

Reference when used properly, can't help but make whatever it is you are drawing, painting, sculpting, etc more detailed and rooted in the real world. When used incorrectly however i.e. copied reference material can make your images look disjointed and muddled.

I mainly use reference as a tool to inform me about small details that often get over looked by the lay person. For example I keep a library of images and video files of a huge range of subjects so that if I'm designing or drawing anything from a deserted run down old street to a pristine street I can look at images of ruins, brickwork of varying ages and levels of decay so that I can accurately draw and place small details into my image to help root it in reality. for example where weeds usually start growing from or where dirt and debris usually accumulates. 

I also use reference to help me draw or paint things that I have never painted before, an artist rarely if ever has painted or drawn every single type of tree known to man so when drawing something new, I always use reference to help me get started. A recent example of this was when painting the underwater scene from an earlier post I had never drawn or painted light reflecting off of water before as caustics. So I had to get heaps of reference images of reflections of water to have a look at patterns etc so that my painted caustic patterns looked vaguely realistic and correct at a glance.

Looks like I'll be working on a commercial job for the next week, so I'll try and post more of my progress afterwards.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

3D Character design, creating UV's for the Spaceman

Hello everyone,

I thought I'd better write a quick update for my latest project so here goes. 

Character modelling is now complete. It took a little longer than I expected because of all of the extra little pieces of geometry that I had forgotten I would need around his arms and under the chest pack etc.

I have also just completed the UVing process which I actually quite enjoyed! 

The UV's for any model, be it a character or other object, after modelling usually look something like a crazy spaghetti monster on steroids, see below.

Spaghetti monster UV's in Maya.
For the non 3D user out there, the UVing process is where you take a three dimensional character or object and cut it up into smaller bits. So that you can lay it out flat, and then paint on the surface in a 2D paint program like Photoshop. 

Its pretty much like just like when you used to pull apart a box template when small, only way more complicated and inside a computer screen.

When approaching UV's for a character, a handy little way that I use to think about it. Is to imagine where all of the seams are on everyday clothing. Nine times out of ten the seams of a 3D character are in very similar spots. This really helps when planning where to cut a character up.

UV's now complete and laid out nicely ready for paint.
One of my favourite things about this UV map is his body in the bottom left of the UV space. It looks exactly like a baby romper suit! Hilarious when I had just done it and realised what it looked like.

As mentioned above, now that the Spaceman is fully UV'd I can bring his UV maps into a 2D paint program. I will be using Adobe Photoshop to paint up his textures and make him look way cooler than the default Lambert shader that he currently has applied.

My next task before painting him is to do some research into the materials that I want to use. I will need to get some good reference material for each. Google images is great for the more generic material types but I will also go running around with my camera for some of the more specific materials and details that I want to include.

So without further ado I'm am going to get stick in, I'll post another update again soon.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, 5 April 2013

Designing a 3D character from start to finish.

Firstly, sorry for the lack of posts of late. I have been completely consumed with teaching and a new project recently. 

I have recently been teaching my students at South Seas aspects of character design, and as part of the character design classes each student designed a character. As usual while my students are having fun drawing and designing it really gets my creative spark going, and of course I had to join in and design my own character!

This time I thought why not use the character I design to help me tackle character modelling in Maya. Something I have always wanted to get better at but not had the spare time required to really develop my skills.

Coincidentally I also needed to diversify my reel a little more with some new 3D work. So why not kill two birds with one stone.

I had a really clear idea of the type of character that I wanted to design right from the start. I wanted to design a spaceman character that has very short body proportions but at the same time not look like a child (often a problem when designing characters that are around the 3 head high mark). I also wanted him to have a space suit consisting of a breathing chest pack, air tanks and helmet.

As always I start my design on paper, working out the basic shapes and proportions of what I had in my mind.

First Concept Sketch.
As you can see my sketches start out very ruff and basic using simple shapes to get down on paper, what I have in my head really quickly. 

When designing like this I will go through a series of drawings where I play with shapes, proportion, detail, contrast, and appeal. Trying to polish and simplify the design but still keep the character interesting.

For the spaceman character I had something I was happy with really very quickly. I think I spent about 45 -50 minutes drawing all of the concepts and had my character ready for development stage.

Second Concept Sketch.
Last Concept Sketch with Final Character in pose.
With my final character concept in hand, I develop my character for as long as necessary to work out the kinks in my concept. Again, I already had pretty much what I wanted in the character as there was not much development required. However I did make one change to the character and that was to lift his heap up a little so that his mouth could be seen above the level of his space suit. 

I really liked this aspect of his character, but having his mouth out of view would have had ramifications for animation down the line. I would have had to compromise acting and animation to make shots where he is talking read properly.

My plan is to incorporate this back into him during the rigging stage. 

See you can have your cake and eat it too!
Developed character before and after head shift.

As you can see I have already started to think about colour. My ideas are kind of a mix of Apollo space program and Star War's Rebel pilot with the black and white skull cap and the orange flight suit. Later in the process once I have completed the modelling and UV's, I will create a swatch sheet with samples of textures, colours and material types that I want to incorporate into his design.

I also intend to use this project to learn and develop a pipeline to incorporate the use of Autodesk Mudbox into my work process. I want to use Mudbox to sculpt extra detail into the character's and export bump, normal and displacement maps for use in Maya. I will still use my existing process of painting the Colour, Translucence, and Specular maps in Photoshop.

With the design of my Spaceman now complete, to move on and start modelling I first need to draw him from as many angles as required to model his features. In the case of most characters you can get away with just drawing the front and the side orthographic views but, in my case because of his chest pack I needed to draw front, side, back and top views. I didn't use the posed character in Maya but I included it just to add a bit of character to my model sheet.

Orthographic views of my spaceman character.
The modelling process so far has taken about 2 days, which I have had to spread out over any spare time I have in between classes and also down time at home. 

This is where he is up to at the moment. I have mostly finished and all that is left is to figure out how his pack is connected to the body. At the moment its just floating there in space but my initial idea was to have a modelled piece of soft padding in between the hard metal shell of the pack and his fleshy soft bits, aren't I kind!

Modelled Spaceman.
I hope that you have enjoyed a breakdown of my process, I will update again later as more of the pipeline is completed.