3D Artist Manuel Rondon covers how to light an interior scene in Toolbag 3 using an HDRI in a new video tutorial. Manuel gives a step by step demonstration of setting up a directional light to emulate the sun, tweaking global illumination and shadow controls.
In this video, Manuel starts off with a single HDRI light as the directional light and continues to add secondary lights to help illuminate his hospital scene. To enhance the ambience of the scene, Manuel made use of some of Toolbag 3’s post FX settings such as Tone Mapping and Bloom. For the final touches, Manuel uses Fog to reveal subtle hints of light shafts beaming through the windows.
Check out Manuel’s previous video tutorial on how to light an environment using emissive maps and Global Illumination. Learn more about how you can use Toolbag 3 to create fantastic beauty renders.
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.
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.
We sat down (virtually speaking!) with industry veteran Satoshi Arakawa to discuss his career as a Character Artist in the games industry and experience using Marmoset Toolbag throughout the years.
Could you give us a brief look into how you came to be a character artist?
I actually started my career as an environment artist. I worked for about 2 years in this role on a hand-painted MMO. While I enjoyed it, I really wanted to do something different. I hit a harsh industry reality when the art style was reset and all the environment art I had built over a year was pretty much thrown out. It was at this time that one of the character artists asked me if I wanted to try characters. The timing was perfect and the transition was pretty smooth. I haven’t looked back since!
What’s your favorite and least favorite parts of creating characters?
There really isn’t a part of character creation that I don’t like. The retopology and UV creation is probably the least creative step in the process and therefore not quite as enjoyable. Still, I take pride in applying what I’ve learned to do these steps more efficiently with every character I make. The most enjoyable parts would have to be the high resolution sculpting and the texturing/materials phase. From simple shapes to fine detail, sculpting is incredibly fun and it’s hard to break away from and move on. Texturing and materials is where you get to really see your character start coming to life! This is also where I start using Toolbag heavily in my pipeline.
When did you start using Toolbag?
I started using Toolbag almost immediately when it first released. The first few normal mapped characters I ever did in my career were rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 1. I think this was back in 2009-2010.
How has your work and your use of Toolbag evolved over the years?
I think early on, I would use it mainly to render characters once they were completed at work or in my personal time but it wasn’t really in my pipeline. It felt like a tool to use at the very end to make my characters look better with lighting, etc. And I never used it at work. Now, with the upgrades to PBR and the integration to Substance and how easy both can be used together, it is pretty much a staple in my process both at home and at work. I use it to test my assets in multiple lighting scenarios, different material setups, etc. Now that I can bake all my base textures in TB3, it has also replaced the baking software I used for almost a decade.
How do you use Toolbag in the studio versus using it in your personal work?
My process for using TB3 is mostly the same at work and at home. Once I get to baking, I do all of that in TB3. Texturing is a mix of Substance Painter and TB3 to view my assets. I suppose the main difference is the rendering. At work, once I finish texturing, I have to put my asset into my game engine and tweak textures to adjust for a different lighting model. At home, i just stick with TB3 and set up all my lights and do all my rendering right there. With all the extra features like AO, subsurface scatter, refraction, anisotropic, high resolution shadows, and GI, you can make your characters look so much more high fidelity then in the past.
What’s your favorite feature in Toolbag 3?
I think my favorite feature has to be the subsurface scatter shader. I use it on pretty much every non metal/non hard-surface material. It has the perfect blend of features to make my materials feel more realistic. The way it has evolved has only made it stronger with every Toolbag update. I really enjoy using it in various ways and testing its limits and capabilities and seeing how it can be used to give me further variation in my materials.
What are you looking forward to seeing from future versions of Toolbag?
I honestly can’t ask for a lot more out of Marmoset for the type of work I use it for. I would love to see features like refraction, subsurface scatter, and shadows continue to improve. I use Marmoset in conjunction with Substance Painter so integrating the two further would be fantastic. The baker is now a key step in my pipeline so any future additions to that will also be greatly appreciated.
What is one piece of advice you would give for up and coming character artists?
I would say focus on making great art one piece at a time and start small. I think a lot of young artists feel the pressure of wanting to have amazing art in their portfolios right away and they strive for too much, too fast. The key is to build towards the next project and to get better/faster each time. Start with something manageable for your current skill base but make it look amazing. If it’s just a barrel, make it the best damn barrel out there!
Check out more of Satoshi’s work on Artstation and learn more about how you can create stellar renders using Toolbag 3.
Anthony Trujillo was kind to give a breakdown of his award-winning stylized environment. Great look at the sculpting, texturing and the beautiful lighting setup.
Hello! My name is Anthony Trujillo and I am a 3D environment artist from Los Angeles, CA. I graduated from the Art Institute in Santa Monica in 2009. My passion for 3D art began in college and I have loved creating props and worlds ever since. One of my first jobs was at WayForward Technologies and I helped work on DuckTales: Remastered, which was awesome, as the original was very special to me. I’m currently at WhiteMoon Dreams where we just released StarBlood Arena on PSVR.
My main goal with the ArtStation Civilizations: Lost and Found challenge was to actually finish. I didn’t want be overly ambitious and not finish on time, so I focused on finding a relatively small scene that I knew I could finish with the polish that it needed. I decided on this awesome concept by Lena Doronina.
Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm were my main inspirations going into this challenge. I would always be referencing the Blizzard style throughout the process.
For my blockouts, I like to get my models in engine as soon as possible so I can start setting up basic lighting and find some nice camera angles. This helps me visualize the scene better and I can start adjusting scale and proportions. As you can see, my initial scale of my scene was off. The shrine prop was too small on the platform.
Modeling and Sculpting
My main goal with modeling was to keep everything chunky and to try to avoid any straight lines. This meant tapering everything I could. I do a lot of the modeling in 3ds Max. Once the models are ready to Zbrush, I use the “double turbosmooth” method or Sub-D it to get a really clean, smooth model to sculpt on. Once in ZBrush, I apply an inflate 1 to the whole model, then a polish from the Deformation tab. I learned this from Michael “Orb” Vicente’s talk at a ZBrush summit–it helps smooth any sharp edges and keeps things chunky. From there, I use Trim Dynamic, Orb_Cracks, a slash brush, and clay tubes to add detail.
For the floor and the front plate, where it has an intricate flower pattern, I use another one of Orb’s techniques found here. I created the 2D design in Photoshop and convert it into an alpha to use in ZBrush. This method usually works really well.
The biggest challenge for me was trying to keep everything chunky and to really push the silhouettes.
The grass is fairly simple. I am not using any normal map for it. I start by painting two grass clumps in black and white, then add a gradient map adjustment layer to get my colors. In the alpha, I have the grass fade to transparent as it meets the floor to make the transition not so harsh.
My texturing method for stylized work is very heavily influenced by Fanny Vergne‘s technique, which I first saw a couple of years ago in Vertex Magazine. I rely on my bake maps to get a really good base that I can then take into 3d coat and polish off. I use Knald or Marmoset 3 as my choice in Baker, and bake a Object space normal, Curvature, and AO. Sometimes I use a Heightmap depending on how much depth my sculpt has. Here is an example of my workflow. A lot of it comes down to playing with blending modes and opacity per asset.
I have been a really big fan of Toolbag since it first came out; I love how user-friendly it is. When I saw Toolbag 3 had added Fog and Global Illumination, I wanted to use this challenge to test them out. One of my favorite features of Toolbag is being able to load in PSDs that auto update when I make changes. This makes for really quick experimenting and iterations.
For the lighting, I picked a random sky and set it to a really low brightness, just so everything wasn’t pitch black. I started adding spot and fill lights. I knew I wanted to have the god rays coming through the ceiling, but when I started the project I wasn’t sure how I would achieve them in Toolbag. My first thought was to have planes with alpha to fake the god rays. But after adding fog to the scene, I found it kind of just turned my spot lights into god rays, as well as adding some great atmosphere. This worked great for the camera angles I was using. The only problem I had with this method was when all the lights started overlapping in certain views. The result was an extremely blown-out light source. Another problem I had was that you could see the rays were cone-shaped. I solved this by duplicating the spotlights and staggering them further upward from the beam to force it to stay thicker.
Overall, I am really happy with this project. I wanted to create a beautiful scene with great shapes while keeping it simple. I tried to remember to always be checking my silhouettes, not overdoing the textures, and keep everything chunky.