In this breakdown, I will explain how I light and render my assets in Marmoset Toolbag 3 and cover a few important settings. For this article, I will use my MAC 10 as an example, which you can download here to follow along.
Preparing the scene
My first step in Toolbag was to select a Material Preset which matches my asset’s texture type. In this case, it was the Unreal 4 Template. After creating the Material, I added my maps to their slots on the right and imported my asset to the scene using Ctrl + I or going to File -> Import Model. Afterward, I tried to find a good camera angle for the render. For my primary Camera, I sometimes lower the Field of View to a value between 20-25. With this small FOV, we’re able to create a semi-orthogonal shot and can capture the asset in a full format/compressed perspective similar to a portrait lens. In this case, I chose 20. Enabling the Safe Frame option gives a preview of your final render area.
HDRI Sky Setup
At this stage, I began with the lighting setup. For starters, I added an Image to my Sky Light setting and decreased the Brightness to 0. I made sure to have the Child-Light Brightness set to a value of 1 or higher in order to have a good base for lighting the asset.
To create a light, I simply click-dragged a Child-Light into the Light Editor window and found a good position and angle. Child-Lights will appear under the Sky object in the Scene Outliner.
I started with a rim light which created a really nice contour around the object that accentuated the silhouette. You can do this by creating a Child-Light and moving it around in the Light Editor until a contour line is visible. This light helps to separate the object from the background. I changed the Length (X) of the Light Shape to stretch out the light source horizontally and expand the rim light. Later on, I added another rim light to further highlight the shape of the grip.
After locking down the position and angle of the lights, I adjusted the Brightness value to 1. Be aware that selecting and moving a light in the Light Editor would reset its Brightness value, so I would recommend tweaking this value after you’ve locked down its placement.
Using the Light Editor again, I set up a strong key light to highlight the form and dimension of the asset. The key light should function as your main light and create high contrast.
I’ve set up a fill light to brighten up the pitch-black areas in order to make the gun more visible. Keep in mind that you will have to keep this light subtle and not have it overpower the key light. This light will help show any plane changes and makes the object readable.
Adding an overhead light gives our round shaped surfaces better readability. This is demonstrated with the gun barrel or the end of the stock.
This is the final view of the Light Editor which includes all of the added lights. Now that they were in their final positions, I started tweaking their Brightness values.
For the final stages of lighting the scene, I checked the Contact Refinement option for every light except for the key light. This option improves and fills in the shadows where objects intersect and overlap. Be aware that it can sometimes cause strange shadow artefacts. I also moved all of the Child-Lights into their own Group. This is done because if you change your Sky Preset, it will delete all of the Child-Lights that were created and resets the Sky settings.
I added a Shadow Catcher in the scene to quickly generate a ground plane that displays object shadows and bounces light when Global Illumination is turned on. I scaled the Transforms of the Shadow Catcher up to a value of 100 on both the X and Z scales. I would recommend playing with the scale values and enabling Show Voxel in the Global Illumination settings and find out how it affects the scene.
I set the Sky Backdrop Mode to Color and chose a very dark value, but made sure not to set it to a pure black. At this stage, I moved the lights outside of the Sky object so that they are no longer child lights and grouped them separately in order to retain their settings. To wrap things up, I chose a Sky which is slightly brighter and has some color information to produce interesting colors and reflections in our object.
I would recommend trying a variation of Sky Presets and Brightness values.
I selected my Camera and tweaked the Lens settings. In Distortion, I used a value of 0.04 for Barrel/Pincushion to simulate a bit of lens distortion. In Post Effects, I selected Heji for Tone Mapping. You can also go into the Curves section and play with the Curve Editor to adjust your overall values. I added a little bit of Sharpen but was very careful with the value here because it can easily create a noisy and unnatural look.
To get a preview of how my final render will look, or the final stage of my process, I started tweaking the Render settings. I doubled up my Viewport Resolution to 2:1, increased the Anti-Aliasing to 4x Temporal, and checked High DPI. In the Lighting tab, I checked Local Reflections and set my Shadows to Ludicrous.
Now to the interesting part, Global Illumination. Once I enabled GI, I checked Secondary Bounces as well as the Diffuse and Specular options. It’s important to tweak the Brightness and Voxel Scene Fit sliders to work with your asset and lighting. You can also try increasing the Voxel Resolution to High and Occlusion Detail to 4x. You can enable Ambient Occlusion and try to find a good value for your scene. I always keep it my Occlusion Strength and Occlusion Size set to low values.
To capture the render, I went to the Capture > Settings menu (or press Ctrl+P), changed my image size to 3840×2160, set my Sampling to 400x, Format to PNG, and checked Mip Correction. After this, I hit F11 to create my final render.
Here is my end result of the MAC-10 rendered out in Marmoset Toolbag 3. I hope this article was useful!
We’d like to thank Emre Karaback for writing this breakdown article. You can check out more of Emre’s work on Artstation.
Follow along with Emre’s breakdown using the 30-day trial of Toolbag.