baking

Animating a Stylized Breakfast Scene in Marmoset Toolbag with Aender Lara

Interview conducted by Mira Karouta

We had the pleasure of talking to Aender Lara about presenting tasty breakfast scenes in Toolbag 3. Aender discusses the importance of visual aesthetics and gives some insight on how he modeled, animated and set up the shaders for his breakfast scene.

Who is Aender Lara and what does he do?

I am a 3D Artist, solo Game Developer, and digital nomad and I can cook excellent vegan pancakes.

In the last 10 years, I have worked as a graphic, web, social networks and UX/UI designer. 3D art and games are my passion and I really love to create and constantly learn about them.

What’s your ideal breakfast spread?

Dear lord! Pancakes, toast, jam, cheese, butter and fruit all over the table with a spectacular latte.

Waffles or pancakes?

Waffles have too many corners. But I really think the holes are great at preserving the integrity of the toppings. But for now, I prefer pancakes.

What came first, the chicken or the scrambled egg?

I’m pretty sure it was the pan.

Does hot sauce belong on breakfast food?

It’s not my thing but I cannot judge anyone’s breakfast preference. Maybe somewhere an excellent breakfast with hot sauce is waiting to be tasted.

When we were working on the baker we thought about using bacon for the icon and introducing bacon-themed puns into our marketing material. In the end, we went with bread. How does this make you feel on an emotional level?

You can ask my girlfriend (awesome human companion, fantastic children book illustrator and master pie maker) about my reaction. I cried next to her the first time I saw it. It was the perfect pun, and I love puns and baking real bread. So it was just a beautiful, emotional and personal experience for me.

What was your inspiration behind creating this tasty work of art?

It began with the intention of creating a really fluffy, bouncy pancake. Things expanded after that, like “maybe toppings” and next came the plate because it was needed. And before I realized it, I had a table. Thank God I stopped. I almost created a room and kitchen for it.

Could you give us a brief breakdown of your favorite asset on the table?

I think it is the Italian coffee maker (Moka Pot). It was the last object I created. I really wanted it there because I have a similar one that actually travelled with me through 6 countries during 2 years as a digital nomad and survived every breakfast.

During the process, I decided that I wanted to use as few materials as possible to have better control of the scene given the number of assets, for that I decided that I would create a single material for multiple objects that possibly had a close relationship, this would make the task of editing textures simple and would reduce the amount of shaders in scene to 5 for 21 objects.

How did you make the pancakes look so fluffy?

Scale and love. Actually, it’s a little hard get a perfect combination. But I also took inspiration from the pancakes created with rice cookers. I did not taste one yet, but they look really spongy and soft, nobody can hate that shape.

How did you animate the breakfast beauties?

This is the only complex animation I’ve created so far. Usually, I just create turntable animations or small camera movements to show my art, but I decided to go further with this one.

I know some of the tools for 3D animation in Maya and learned a few tricks in the last few years. But I like to think my actual principles for animating the pancakes came from working with motion graphics in After Effects (yes, the fancy 2D transition application for infographic videos). A couple of years ago, I had a lot of jobs for this line of work and I learned the basics from Youtube. Now, I use the same principles in Maya. After all, the tools are almost the same.

Featured art by Jama Jurabaev

Basically, every object has a fluffy reaction no matter if it looks like glass, metal or wood. Also, I had a vision of classic toon characters serving the table.

Could you tell us a bit about your honey shader?

The honey shader looked great and the process for creating it was the result of something I learned a couple of years ago.The honey is composed of a refraction shader applied to the glass jar and the mesh for the honey liquid doesn’t have the exact shape of the container. For best results, the liquid must be a little bigger than the inside of the container.

Presentation seems to be one of your strongest suits. What advice do you have to other artists on creating robust presentation?

It’s necessary to study how to constantly improve your portfolio and find a perfect social network strategy for your work, just like you do with your art every day. This will be the cover of your book, so makes sure it is impressive.

A really good way to improve your portfolio is to look at other artists. But above all, watch how they manage their social networks and how they communicate with their audience. Think of what artist you want to be and project yourself there.

Also, I love doing unconventional presentations for my art. I look at photographers, 2D artists, food porn presentation and how others sell their work and maybe I can create something cool from that. I recently launched a reel, which is something that is apparently really unconventional for a modeler who does not make animations. There are people who say don’t waste your time with that. Instead, I asked my brother for a song (which I love) and based my decisions for the presentation around it. I spent a month collecting all the sequences and re-rendering everything to work with it. It was amazing and people really loved it. So never stop trying to present your work in unconventional ways. If you do it well, it will delight anyone.

These days, I’m leaning a lot from talks by Seth Godin and Simon Sinek. Perhaps a friend tried showing you these talks in the last 10 years but you never found them relevant. Well, this year I realized that even though they don’t talk specifically about video games, they do talk about how to sell a product and how to understand the market. If we extrapolate that knowledge, our art will reach more people.

In a nutshell, create awesome art and impressive presentations. Maybe with an unconventional twist. These days, I cannot upload anything without showing a turntable gif. It’s amazing. It’s just a looped image that it doesn’t need a play button and it shows every side of my 3D work on any device really quickly. If you’re looking to promote your work on social networks, I think Instagram and Twitter are really essential today.

You seem to excel with visual aesthetics, do you have any for creating appealing presentations?

Learning photography skills is essential for understanding overall composition. Because I’ve never worked with food, I studied how professionals do it. For this piece in particular, I studied a lot of compositions of real breakfast on Pinterest and Instagram. Everybody loves those photographs, they are too gorgeous to be real. And with that, I’ll try to create the same feeling. This is also one of the reasons why I created the table; to help the composition. I saw some pictures with an overhead perspective and decided I wanted the same for my pancakes. It was at that point that I started working on all the tableware.

Besides putting together the best three dimensional breakfast the internet has seen, what else do you like to create?

Indie games. I really love creating my own games. For my 3D modeling, I like creating good ideas, my small obsessions or make great pictures. I don’t think I have a decided theme. Sometimes I create regular objects, regular objects with rockets (I love flying things), food or weird tech. But maybe tomorrow I’ll start working on characters because I found an idea I like. I never know what comes next.

We’ve noticed you’re living the dream and created a pancake game entitled “Pancake Tuesday”. What’s the objective of this delicious looking game?

The goal was to celebrate Pancake Day every day of the year.

It was born as an 8 hour game dev project to celebrate Pancake Day 2018, the idea expanded and is now a little project I update every month with new items and more fun ideas.

Also it fulfilled a dream I had 5 years ago when I decided to start creating video games that will be on the App Store. I’m really proud of that and I’ll be working everyday to create the best yummy experiences.

You seem to be very generous with sharing your knowledge. Where can we learn more about your process?

I’ll be using Patreon as a hub for my art, blog and dev blog. You don’t really need to support me to receive awesome things like scene models and timelapse videos of my process. You can read about my work and ask me anything by following my Patreon account, subscribing to my newsletter or following me on my social network pages. I really like sharing my work so everybody can learn and grow.


You can get a taste of Aender’s work on Artstation and learn how to assemble your own breakfast beauties using Toolbag.

 

Creating Realistic Skin in Toolbag with Saurabh Jethani

Character Artist Saurabh Jethani shared his approach to skin material creation and setup for his Mass Effect Pathfinder bust.

Greetings, everyone! This article will show you how I approach creating faces for real-time characters and present them using Marmoset Toolbag 3. I hope this article helps those who are looking to learn how to create skin materials inside Toolbag.

Sculpt

The focus of the article is aimed towards texturing and setting up shaders, but there are a few things I want to cover beforehand which I think help a lot in the final result.

I start sculpting using a custom made base mesh which has correct topology and UV’s that can be used for the low poly mesh. This cuts down a lot of time. The sculpting process is straightforward; find good reference, have a strong foundation in anatomy and go crazy until it looks good.

Lately, I’ve been using texturing.xyz for my pore details. Sculpting pores by hand (dragging alpha) is easier and it doesn’t make much of a difference for games/ real-time character creation unless you zoom in real close. The choice is yours.

Tip: Adding subtle noise in skin helps to breakup the “perfect” feeling and makes it look more organic.

Textures

The texture maps I used were:

Normal, Detail Normal, Detail Weight, Roughness (inverted Gloss), Albedo, Translucency, AO, Cavity, Noise, Specular (Optional) and Scatter (Optional).

Albedo: Albedo is color information. For this project, I projected albedo data from texturing.xyz. Below is my process for how I projected my albedo map. Another option to achieve a similar result would be hand painting your textures (Magdalena Dadela’s GDC tutorial demonstrates this really well). While hand painting is fun, it’s more time consuming compared to working with scan data.

One useful tip to help enhance the feeling of subsurface scattering in your albedo map is to paint veins and redness around high blood flow areas like the nose, ears and cheeks. Make sure to keep the color shifts subtle. Multiplying your cavity map down as a red color helps fake the subsurface effect and helps align the pores in both the normal and albedo maps.

Cavity: Cavity maps can be used in multiple maps, such as Albedo, Specular and Roughness. It’s simply a black and white map where the pores are completely black. Marmoset have added Cavity maps to Toolbag 3’s baker which works really well. The method I personally like to use is extracting cavity detail from ZBrush since it’s faster than baking. However, for this you’ll need to have the same UV’s for both low and high poly meshes.

In ZBrush, fill your mesh with a pure white color then go to Tools > Masking > Mask by Cavity. The default values should work just fine. If not, play with the curve profile to get better results. Lower the blur values a bit, since ZBrush’s default values are too intense. You can change this under Preference > Transpose > Mask blur strength. Invert the mask and fill it with black, create a texture and export.

Normal: Bake down your high poly mesh onto the low poly mesh.

Translucency: This defines how much light scatters through the surface. Brighter values on the map define thinner areas such as the ears, tip of the nose, nostrils, eyelids and lips. The map can be derived by inverting the thickness map baked from the high poly. I tweak the nose area on the map to make it more intense and give it a more fleshy look.

Roughness: Personally, I feel this is the most artistic map in terms of how they’re constructed. Every artist has their own methods, but the basic principles remain the same.

  1. Have a base grey value that defines how rough/glossy the face is in general.
  2. Paint different values in specific areas of the face that are rougher or smoother.
  3. Pore details should be rougher, they shouldn’t appear shiny in engine.
  4. Have big breakups in value which are really subtle. This isn’t realistic, but it looks good when the light moves.
  5. Paint different roughness values for scars, wounds, dirt, sweat, etc.

1 and 2 are the major points. I’ve seen people only use 1 for stylized faces. 1, 2 and 3 work really well and 4 is an experimental one I’ve seen people do, but it looks good when lights move. 5 is subjective to the project you’re working on. And this is what I meant by the Roughness being the most artistic map, you use your own creative judgements and make it look good.

Below is an example of how I usually construct my roughness maps. This map used all the methods above and the new face was created with A and B. The construction of Roughness maps vary from project to project. In Toolbag, a value of 0.45 Roughness value works well as a starting point.

Scatter: Scatter maps describe the color which bleeds at the transition point from light to shadow. A flat peach color works pretty well for realistic skin, and it can be obtained by fully saturating the albedo map. The texturing.xyz data I used is extracted from the subsurface value of skin, so saturating that gave me realistic values.

Detail Normal: This tiny, tileable normal map helps make your textures look more detailed than they actually are. Substance Painter includes a few detail maps in their library that can be imported into Toolbag. For this project, I used Skin_bumpy. If you don’t own Substance Painter, you can find a good detail map by Yuri Alexander available for download from Marmoset’s Character Setup page.

Detail Weight: This is a black and white map which determines where the detail normal map will be applied. Black being the place where there is no effect. The lips have specific pore information, so you don’t want tiled pores there. You can have some of this applied to the tip of the nose and the bottom of the eyelids.

Noise: This map is used to help the fuzz look better.

Skin Material


download icon Download Toolbag Scene

Toolbag 3 handles skin shading like a champ. The material is easy to construct and looks amazing. There are no exact values for skin that make it look realistic as it varies from project to project. With that said, there are a few values that work really well as a starting point.

  1. Specular: 0.027
  2. Roughness: 0.45

Before starting anything in Toolbag, make sure the scene scale is properly set. Use Show Scale Reference to ask a gentleman for help and match the scene scale. Below is a demo of how I set my up skin material inside Toolbag.

There are three important aspects to keep in mind for skin shading:

  • Specular
  • Subsurface Scattering
  • Global Illumination

All of these components are key to setting up a good skin shader. A common problem for skin in CG is the lack of light bounceback from different parts of the skin. GI helps to achieve that effect and gets rid of the AO created by the engine around the corners of the nose, lips and fat above the eyelids. It also helps with translucency.

AO helps ground the eyeball on the face. A high strength setting and small size generally works. For GI, start with a low brightness and adjust upwards. You want to get rid of the extra AO and darkness around the eyes, corners of the nose and where lips meet. Make sure not to make the GI too intense, as it makes the skin look emissive.

SSS in Marmoset is composed of Scatter Depth and Translucency. Scatter Depth describes how fleshy or waxy the surface is. A flat peach color works fine for realistic skin. You should look for a subtle transition from your shadow areas to skin. Translucency defines how much light scatters through the surface. Place a light behind the ears and the side of the nose and tweak the values that work for your scene. The effect should be subtle with light passing through the skin.

A specular value of 0.027 is a good start for skin. Skin has two specular layers instead of one, which makes for better rendering. The Secondary Reflection helps achieve extra spec and gloss around the highlights to mimic the oily surface of the skin (Image 01).

Adding a cavity map helps remove specular reflections inside pores non-destructively. It can be baked into the specular map, but having a slider is much more flexible. It also helps salvage any pore details that are blurred by the SSS (Image 02).

Skin is all about subtleties. Find good references and try your best to match them while making sure it looks good under every lighting condition.

Eyes

The window to the soul.

One thing I care a lot about and try to constantly improve is eyes and how the eyelids interact with the eyeball. Make sure they are thick and hugging the eyeballs in both the high and low poly meshes. This helps make the eyeball feel more integrated.

Marmoset have recently added Refraction to Toolbag, but it does break on occasion and is not as complex as Unreal’s (Unreal has the prettiest CG eyes I’ve seen yet). But don’t sweat it, I have you covered. There’s a simple yet effective way to make realistic eyes in Toolbag. The method was originally developed by Peter Zoppi in his tutorial for eye creation, which I would highly recommend getting if you want more detailed instructions.

Geometry and Baking

The best way to fake refraction is to bake the geometry of the eyeball. To do so, make sure your low poly has a cornea bulge that’s duplicated and convexed inwards to form the pupil. Smooth the high poly mesh and bake it down to the low poly. The cornea and eyeball are part of the same low poly mesh and share the same UVs, but they will have different maps.

Maps

After baking, the process becomes straightforward and you can texture the eye however you want. One thing that will help make your refraction better is adding a parallax map. It’s a flat white map and a black colored pupil with gradient borders.

  1. Eyeball Normal
  2. Eyeball Gloss
  3. Parallax
  4. Eyeball Albedo
  5. Eyeball Spec
  6. Cornea Normal

The normal map for the eyeball should have the iris details and the albedo should include the color of the iris, eyeballs and the veins. The normal information of the veins should come from the cornea’s normal map with noise applied to give it a more wet look. However, make sure not to include any noise in the in the cornea bulge. Specular and gloss maps vary from project to project.

Eye Material

Tip: I’ve seen people use Photoshop to enhance the contrast in the eyes on the opposite side of where the light is hitting the eyes. The same effect can be achieve using secondary reflection. It can make eyes more attractive, but it can look overly stylized. Use your own judgement and apply it if it works for your project.

Lashes and Wet Line

The lashes are hair cards that are placed by hand and the wet line is a mesh blending the eyelid and the eyeball together with additive transparency applied. Setting the reflection to Anisotropic instead of GGX helps sell the effect. Change the direction so the highlight follows the direction of the geometry when the light moves. The wet line is something I’m still experimenting with and I haven’t found a good medium which works in every situation.

Lashes Occluding the Spec

While writing this article, I realized something was missing from my eye setup. It’s a minor change that makes a major difference; lashes and lids occluding the spec in the eyes. This is a common problem for real-time rendering, as the lashes are composed of cards and neither GI nor AO help to achieve this effect. Again, don’t sweat it, I have you covered. It does feel like something might break when the eyes are animated, but for still images, this works fine.

Lighting and Presentation

Lighting

A skill I’ve neglected, and now I regret it. You can create an awesome sculpt, perfect texture maps, but if you’re not able to showcase your model properly, none of those things are going to matter. Although I’m training myself in this area, lighting is still my weakest link. If you’re like me and blank during the lighting process, I have a lighting setup for you which works great for portrait presentation.

Presentation

Nothing is perfect in real life. Adding imperfections helps sell the believability of your character. For this project, I wanted a vignette effect and to rotate my camera in the Z axis by 2-3 degrees to make it look straight after by manually moving it.

Adding Bloom and Depth of Field can also add realism to your scene, while Chromatic Aberration can mimic the effect of a camera shot. Fog can be added to give the viewport space a sense of depth. Whatever you do, make sure it’s done with taste and compliments your piece rather than take away from it.

Tip: Renders will look different across multiple screens. My monitors have different colors and my renders generally look different on each screen. Changing the Tone Mapping setting to Filmic and tweaking the Exposure to a value of 2.2 is generally a good point for my renders to look decent on a wide variety of monitors .

Thanks to the people at Marmoset for giving me the opportunity to write this article. Thanks to the people who read it and made it this far since the article is much longer than what I wanted it to be. I hope it helps 🙂


You can check out more of Saurabh’s work on Artstation and learn more about Toolbag 3’s skin shader in Episode 6 of Getting to Know Toolbag 3.

Free Update: Toolbag 3.04

We’re thrilled to announce the release of Marmoset Toolbag 3.04, a free update for all Toolbag 3 users. 3.04 brings a number of exciting new features and enhancements to both Toolbag and Viewer. New baker outputs and workflow improvements, animation support for Viewer, and improved shadows headline the release.

Download the installer from the Toolbag 3 product page, or by launching Toolbag 3 and clicking on the auto-update prompt. See the full change log on the Toolbag History section.

Baker Updates

Interface and Workflow Improvements

New Baker Interface

The baker UI has been updated with a focus on functionality. We’ve added a map configurator to customize which maps types are active. You can define the default maps (and their settings), as well as save and load presets for different projects. We’ve also added a master tangent space setting, a custom pixel padding size option and user definable map suffixes.

New Map Outputs



Toolbag 3.04 bakes all the maps, so you can do all the things! Here’s a list of the new map types:

  • Thickness
  • Concavity
  • Convexity
  • Bent Normals
  • Bent Normals (Object)
  • Complete Lighting
  • Diffuse Lighting
  • Specular Lighting
  • Albedo (Metalness)
  • Metalness
  • Roughness
  • UV ID
  • Group ID
  • Object ID
  • Wireframe
  • Alpha
  • Emissive
  • Transparency

Texture Set Support

Texture Set Support

Featured art by Charles Metze III.

Multiple texture/material sets are now supported. You can easily bake assets with more than one UV layout in a single Baker object. For instance, a character with a texture set for the body and clothes or a gun with additional sets for the attachments.

Texture sets work by reading the materials assigned to the low poly mesh(es). For each unique material, a new set of images will be baked. Resolution can be controlled per set as well.

Image Quality Improvements

A dithering option has been added for the Ambient Occlusion output, which reduces banding by a considerable amount. AO bakes look better with fewer rays now, which means faster bakes with similar or better quality in most cases when dithering is enabled.


Curvature maps have been updated with a new Normalize setting (which is enabled by default). The Normalize setting maximizes the value range, which makes curvature maps work better with applications such as Substance Painter.

Bake Normal Mapped Material from High to Low
Normal map detail from the high poly material now transfers to the baked normal map output. This can be useful if you’ve added additional high frequency detail to your high poly material or if you’re baking from one low poly mesh to another.


Shiny New Viewer Features


Viewer has received a facelift, sporting a host of new features. Headlining the additions is animation support. Now you can bring your artwork to life with the magic of motion. We’ve also added support for refractive materials, shadowed fog, and the shadow catcher object. Rounding out the update are reduced file sizes, high DPI support, and a high-resolution thumbnail option.

Stand Alone Viewer Application

Viewer Stand Alone Application

Featured art by Baj Singh.

In addition to the new features, we’ve developed an application for viewing .mview files. Now reviewing local content is much easier for you and your client. Simply double click an .mview file to launch the stand alone viewer. The new Viewer app is included with the Toolbag 3.04 installer, and can be downloaded independently as well and works on Mac and Windows.


Improved Shadows

Volumetric Fog

Add atmosphere to your scene with our updated fog effect. Direct lights now cast shadows through fog, creating a volumetric effect that adds depth and realism to your renders.

Cascaded Shadow Maps


Directional lights now have the option to use Cascaded Shadow Maps, which prioritize shadow detail for areas near to the camera. CSM is especially useful for environments and larger scenes.

Ludicrous Shadow Resolution

Ludicrous Shadow Resolution

If you’re looking for less pixelation, a new extra-high resolution shadow option can be found in the render settings. This setting can reduce performance significantly, so it’s best used in relatively simple scenes or by those who have high-end GPUs.

Better Shadow Quality

Reduced Shadow Acne

Shadow acne artifacts have been significantly reduced, and shadow coverage is improved as well.


Optimized Animations

Featured art by Peter Vechkasov.

Along with animation support in Viewer, we’ve improved and optimized the animation system. Animated meshes are now stored directly in the .tbscene file and animation performance is significantly improved in some cases. We’ve added support for the 2018 version of the FBX format as well, which means better compatibility with the latest 3D apps.


Speedy Viewport Mode

Featured art by Juan Manuel Cervilla and Natalia P. Gutiérrez.

We’ve added a new mode to the viewport which temporarily disables advanced rendering features to make navigating in Toolbag easier. Say goodbye to juggling render settings while you work, simply click the rocket ship icon to blast your frame rate to the moon! Speedy mode doesn’t affect the render settings for captured images, which means you can enable it for maximum responsiveness while rendering out high quality images with GPU hungry effects like Global Illumination, Local Reflections and Depth Of Field.


Image Quality Improvements

Smooth Depth of Field Transitions


We’ve updated the DOF effect. Now the transition from in to out of focus is smooth. The DOF shown in the viewport matches the rendered DOF much more accurately now as well, which means no more trial and error to get your DOF looking right. The new DOF can look slightly different in existing scenes, so you may need to adjust your settings.

Beautiful Bloom

Featured art by Jose Lázaro.

The bloom effect has gotten some love as well. We’ve improved the quality greatly when using size values over 0.05.


Try Today

Artwork by Blair Armitage

Featured art by Blair Armitage.

Give the latest and greatest version of Toolbag a spin by downloading the free 30-day trial. If you’ve previously had a trial but it ran out, good news! We’ve reset all trials, so download the installer and give it a go.

Toolbag Artist Highlight | Ep. 181

Enjoy a new set of real-time artwork rendered in Toolbag.

  1. Georgian Avasilcutei crafted a sublime render of his character, Vi.
  2. Jaco Herbst forged a fantastic football girl.
  3. Vlad Costin created a creepy post apocalyptic style rat for Warhammer Total War.
  4. Victor-Emmanuel Pancrazi developed a stylized character based on a concept by Max Kostenko.

Thanks for checking out the latest featured artwork rendered in Toolbag. Stay tuned for more next week.

Skin, Cloth, and Lighting Setup with Chong Zhang

Chong Zhang is a character artist who was kind enough to give us a thorough breakdown of how he set up his character, Mina, in Marmoset Toolbag 3.

“Marmoset Toolbag 3: A Pocket Camera With DSLR Quality!” – Chong Zhang

Motivation

I’ve recently resigned from my position at Virtuos, a great outsourcing company where I spent 10 years learning most of my industry knowledge. This finally gave me a big chunk of free time to do some hands on artwork, which I’m always eager to do because most of my job at Virtuos was on the management side.

Now I needed a subject. I can’t write stories or invent characters, so I tend to choose one from the movies I like. I’ve always liked Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While it’s not a perfect movie, Winona Ryder’s beauty, Gary Oldman’s performance and Annie Lennox’s song make the movie shine. Since I’m not a musician and Gary Oldman just received an Oscar, I thought I would represent Winona Ryder’s beauty. Finally, my strong love of the story, character and emotion is what helped me get through the long production period.

Why Marmoset Toolbag 3 (MT3)?

The answer: the engine is specifically designed for individual artists. For that to work, it must have certain qualities.

Ease of Use

I’m an artist without a technical background and do not have a team of technical artists to help me solve my problems. Marmoset Toolbag 3 makes it easy to pick it up and go. When I do have a technical concern, the community on MT3’s Facebook user group are there to help. On the few occasions where I was facing issues, I asked my questions and received responses instantly. There are no complicated shaders and not much optimization is needed. Everything is well placed and the focus is on what an individual artist really cares about, leaving time for creativity and boosting quality. This leads us to the next point, quality.

High-Quality

MT3 is one of the best engines for visual quality because Marmoset understands the needs of an individual artist and have designed Toolbag to make their work look as good as possible. Although, you still have room to adjust the balance between quality and performance. But we don’t care about performance too much since we’re not using MT3 to present an open world game, right? 🙂 So everything has been set everything to high-quality by default. But do we need a super machine to run it? This leads us to the next topic, performance.

Good-Performance

The scene I’m about to show is roughly 200k tris and includes 800MB textures. I know I could have optimized a lot, however I did use .psd files to save time. It runs smoothly on my 3 year old Dell T7910.

Okay, let’s talk about how MT3 helped me complete the production of my character.

Baking

I’ve tried baking in several programs and they all have their advantages. However, the reason I chose MT3’s baker is because it provided me with the opportunity to adjust my baking cage’s offset by painting weights on the UVs. The offset information is stored in my MT3 file as a map, which means that every time the high poly or low poly meshes are updated, the offset map remains unaffected. Another handy feature is the ability to re-paint weights and see the result update instantly with no rebake necessary. To make this possible, MT3 stores the updated map in the cache. Once you’re satisfied with your results, you can bake to save the maps on your hard drive.

The general process I use for baking is:

  1. Import the low poly and high poly meshes into MT3 and set up the baking groups in the correct hierarchy
  2. Bake a test version of the normal map on the low poly mesh. At this stage, I don’t refine my baking cage’s offset, so my first bake will likely produce many errors.
  3. Select the lowpoly sub-group and adjust the Min/Max Offset values until you have a fairly good result with most of the errors removed. A few errors will remain here and there.
  4. Click the Paint Offset button and begin to paint out the errors. Painting with a high value pulls the cage out and painting with a low value pushes the cage in. The point remains: you won’t need to rebake the map at all and the result updates instantly.
  5. Once I have the perfect result, I start baking the rest of the maps. (AO, Thickness, Curvature…etc.)

It’s a very effective process when you become familiar with it. The best part is when you want to make significant changes to the model, you can simply re-import your high and low poly meshes and bake again without needing to go through the process again. The offset information has been stored in the MT3 file. There is a more in-depth tutorial created by the MT3 team to cover the basics of baking, however I simply wanted to emphasize how you can benefit from using it.

Silk Material

I simplified the silk material to be a highly reflective material with a fuzz and anisotropy effect. MT3’s shader has all I need to represent this. Here’s the shader breakdown:

Nothing fancy. The important part is to change the Diffusion shader from Lambertian to Microfiber for the fuzz effect. I’ve also changed the Reflection shader from GGX to Anisotropic.

Skin Material

I based my skin shader on the tutorial video provided by the MT3 team. Here’s the breakdown:

I want to emphasize that it is actually the Gloss and Cavity maps that make the skin look more detailed, so don’t hesitate when creating them. And don’t forget to take advantage of the Detail Normal Map.

Eyes

Eyes are difficult for me and I haven’t found the best process for them, but this is my breakdown:

The eyeball consists of three meshes:

A. Wet line (which exists between the eyeball and bottom eyelid)
B. Reflection/Refraction ball
C. Eyeball
D. I’ve applied a flat 2×2 px texture to enable the Displacement shader. The general idea is to make the Reflection ball slightly bigger than the eyeball since both meshes are the same. Alternatively, you can use a bigger mesh for the Reflection ball and avoid using the Displacement shader.
E. I’ve used a Displacement map to create a concave pupil.
F. The AO map simulates the subtle ambient occlusion caused on the eyelids. You’ll need a separate UV channel here.

 

There are a couple of things that make me unhappy with the current approach:

  1. I’ve assigned the Refraction shader to the whole Reflection/Refraction ball mesh. This is incorrect, as the cornea is the only part that has refraction and this causes some problems from certain angles.
  2. The AO effect is not strong enough and can’t be increased using the current approach. Because my AO map is in the AO channel, the AO effect weakens once the light hits it. This is natural to AO.

I’m hoping we can find a better way.

Animation


It’s worth mentioning that MT3 supports the Alembic format. This was perfect for my scene since my particle animation was generated in 3ds Max as a vertex animation. I’ve simply exported the particle asset and imported it into MT3. Camera animations can also be exported from any other 3D apps, or you can animate your cameras directly in MT3. In my case, I’ve animated my cameras inside of MT3. The animation tools are as intuitive as other features in the app, especially when you have some basic knowledge of keyframe animation.

Lighting

I almost forgot to mention lighting! This is my simple setup for lighting the scene. I‘ve added a dominant Spot light, two rim Spot lights behind the character and two Omni lights to light the face up a bit.

That is all. Thank you.

Find more of Chong’s work on Artstation and learn more about Toolbag 3.

Toolbag Artist Highlight | Ep. 178

Check out a curated selection of 3D renders by the Toolbag community.

  1. ArtVostok Studio created a fantastic real-time character entitled Jagre the Headhunter.
  2. Hans Kristian Andersen forged a character inspired by the inhabitants of the Dishonored universe.
  3. Orlando Jones crafted a render of a Pentax K1000.
  4. Jonfer Maia developed a stylized character based on Joe Madureira’s work and inspired by the Darksiders franchise.

Thanks for checking out the latest featured artwork rendered in Toolbag. Stay tuned for more next week.

Toolbag Artist Highlight | Ep. 176

Check out this week’s collection of wonderful renders!

  1. Alex Khaliman created a fantastic render of a 1911.
  2. Antoine De Lorenzo submitted the “Engineer of Light” to Cubebrush’s Art War challenge.
  3. Julien Desroy finalized “The Enlightened” for Cubebrush’s Art War challenge.
  4. Silvan Kerseboom developed an awesome mech character.

Thanks for checking out the latest featured artwork rendered in Toolbag. Stay tuned for more next week.