The texturing process of the pipeline definitely had its up and downs. It was mostly downs until I finally got to painting on the stylised texture I wanted. To get there, however, there were many setbacks in the process.
Firstly, I had to start with UV Mapping. This was a process of looking at the unwrapped map of the model and cutting seams for where each part's texture would change. So the skin is on one level, the hair on another, clothing, eyes etc. This was a relatively easy task, I had some great guidance from Kelly Clayton, advising me on things such as how the seams on the clothing parts of the model can just match how they would do on a normal item of clothing. This would then make things look more natural when the final textures were on there.
Baking the Model
After the UV mapping was complete and saved to different texture shaders according to what was going where it was then time to attempt to get the model into Adobe Substance Painter. This is where I had some trouble. You see in order to get the most out of the higher poly sculpted model you have to perform a step known as baking. This bakes the details of the High Poly onto the Low Poly model you have UV Mapped, therefore allowing you to paint your texture onto the right details and have a Normal Map of this you later plug into Maya. A Normal Map is a way of showing the bumps and dents in a 3D object with just a 2d texture.
This is where the setbacks started to raise as I had to spend a good long while figuring out why my model wouldn’t bake correctly. There were many possibilities I went through with the help of Kelly. The main idea was to separate all the main parts of the High Poly model so that it was on clearer geometry, so I got to work doing that. Luckily it wasn’t too difficult as I had a ZBrush file which still contained the parts of the model on separate sub-tools.
There was also another option to solve the baking issue by simply baking it in ZBrush, which did not turn out as simply as first thought though as it required the long repetition of baking each item separately rather than the quick way Substance Painter would get it to work. So I continued work on correcting the model in Maya with the separate High Poly parts from ZBrush. There was an issue here as there had been alternations correcting some positioning on the arms and a number of other corrections. After things had been lined up again and more work done on connecting inconsistencies between the High Poly and Low Poly model, I continued to try and bake the model again in Substance Painter and with the help of Kelly Clayton, it was finally able to be worked on!
We discovered the best way for the back to work was for both the hair and the eyeballs to be moved off the character to be in the air beside it. This made for a difficult time when working on the eyes as I wouldn’t quite be sure that the irises were the right size until I put them back on the model after texturing but at least it was able to work at all!
There were still a few issues that seemed to not line up however I had spent so much time on this stage that I made the decision to move on rather than waste more time fixing small details.
Texturing in Substance Painter
Finally getting to paint the model was so satisfying and it felt so good to get back to something I was a bit more experienced at with digital painting, however, I had never painted onto a 3D object before so getting to grips with that and the new software was definitely the most fun I have had so far in the modelling pipeline!
After a bit of experimenting to understand the tools, layers and masks with the help of multiple YouTube tutorials, I started with one fill layer to get the base colour down. I turn used a paint layer to start adding the variations of colours on the face. As I am going for a style similar to Arcane, stylistic with painterly shading based on real features, I wanted to start with a good base to keep the face looking natural enough through the painterly style.
I used these references to paint the base colour:
Adding these colours then adjusting the layer opacity and a blur filter to blend more with the general skin tone was a great point to start adding more colour to.
For the extra painterly shading I wanted to do I used these reference images as inspiration for shading positions and how far to push the stylisation.
I held back a little with this as it’s hard to say from these references what is texture on the model is and what its cleverly created lighting. I realised after completing this there may have been a way to find what the unlit models from Arcane looked like if I searched deep enough into Art Station, but I am still happy with the outcome and working from these references was working from something closer to what initially inspired me in the first place, so this felt more enjoyable.
The main areas I focused on were around the eyes. I knew this was an area I wanted to add a lot of stylistic texture shading as I feel it adds depth to the character, showing age and exhaustion. I wanted these bags under the eyes to show the strain this character goes through, it indicates his exhaustion before even starting the project. With this design, there’s already this sympathy and empathy some might have for a character who might work full time, be exhausted when they come home, too run down to do self-care acts of keeping their space clear and clean. This was an important aspect I wanted to get across in my character design, using the eye bags and hunched-over frame to indicate perhaps an office job or just a general depressed look.
As well as making use of the various brushes Substance Painter had available, I also used some of the filters to give more painterly looks. Amongst the brushes and textures they had available, there were specific materials that helped me give the clothing the right look. There was a knit texture that I used as a filter to draw on the jumper. There was also a brush that was able to create a seam line which is what I used for the jeans.
Other than the visual development process, this Substance Painter experience was by far my favourite part of the 3D pipeline so far. Despite the struggle with the baking initially, the gratification of finally seeing the model with the colour and style I have been imagining this whole time come together and work was worth it all.
Here is the model before a few changes:
Here is the final model texture with the Toon Shading effect: