Hello! I’m Piotr Zieliński, a character artist working at Flying Wild Hog in Kraków, Poland, and freelancing as a character asset artist at Aaron Sims Creative. In this breakdown, I would like to discuss how I textured my latest character in Toolbag 4, which I did under Georgian Avasilcutei’s guidance in his mentorship program. The character is based on a concept by Roman Kupriianov.
Preparing the High Poly
When creating the high poly mesh, I try to add as many details as possible for baking. It’s worth mentioning that while making the engraved patterns on the armor pieces, I polypainted the creases using a black color. This was done to bake it onto a texture map and use it as a mask while texturing.
Don’t be afraid to decimate your high poly for the baking process upon completing the sculpting process. In some cases, it’s better to have a clean high-resolution mesh, but when it comes to real-time character creation, we can get away with using a rough high poly mesh.
To texture efficiently, you’ll need to bake an ID map using a high poly mesh with different colors assigned to various parts. Toolbag’s new texture projects allow you to add a material ID Map under Input Maps and easily drag and drop materials to a mesh. I baked an ID map in ZBrush using different colors based on polygroups assigned to the meshes. This allowed for quick and easy material application and meant I didn’t have to paint masks manually.
Preparations for Texturing
I always use the Quick Loader in Toolbag’s bake projects to automatically create baking groups based on naming conventions. I didn’t learn until recently that Toolbag can load multiple high and low poly meshes that include a suffix (_01, _02, _03, etc.) and sort them into bake groups accordingly. This means that you can divide your high poly into multiple meshes to have a more manageable baking experience.
Preparing the scene didn’t involve much work. I chose the City Hall Balcony Sky from the Library, which provided good contrast to the scene, and I added supporting directional lights. I set up the Tone Mapping to Hejl to add more contrast and resemble the UE4 color profile.
Before starting to texture, check your Toolbag preferences (Edit>Preferences) and make sure Import Materials with Models is disabled to avoid unwanted importing of material color data from your modeling package. This is especially likely to happen when importing an .FBX mesh from 3ds Max.
Materials & Texture Projects
I divided my textures into a few sections based on different material types. I will only go over how I approached a few key areas, after which the same process can be assumed elsewhere. Please keep in mind that some of the materials I’m using (mostly fabrics and leathers) are taken from Substance Source and cannot be found in Toobag’s Library, as some material types were not available to me when I was creating this project. Since then, I have seen quite a few new materials added to the Library and I’m sure there will be more to come in Marmoset’s future Library asset drops.
Making Metal Materials
There is one part of the material library in which Toolbag is superior: metals. I started with the basic Steel material for a base and then layered in the Stainless Steel, Steel Hot Roll, and Steel Dirty to create the color variation found on used armor.
I added dirt into creases and brightened up some edges. To do this, I started with a Curvature layer, added a Dirt mask on top, and set its Blending to Multiply. I added a Levels adjustment layer to tone down the values a little, then smoothed the details slightly using a Blur adjustment layer.
On top of the Curvature layer, I added a Dirt layer and set its Blending to Add to help create convincing armor wear and grime.
Finally, I added a Paint layer, hand-painted some details, and added another Levels adjustment to bring it all together.
I created another dirt pass, starting with increasing the roughness on the pattern creases. To do this, I used the mask I baked from the polypaint for the creases. Then, I added a Curvature processor mask and layered a grunge scratches layer on top. I used the Magic Select tool as well as the Gradient tool to create a gradation of dirt coming out from inside the footplates.
Next, I added some dirt and AO around the pins to help show that they’re attached to the plates. I could have hand-painted this detail, but instead, I used a Color Selection mask. I blurred and increased its size using a Levels adjustment, multiplied the same Color Selection mask on top, and added Blur and Invert adjustments to create a halo-like effect around each pin.
Finally, I added a Fill layer with a series of dirt masks applied to darken and wear down the metal material.
Afterward, I made a brass border using the baked pattern I created in ZBrush. This way, I didn’t have to paint inside of the pattern creases. I could have probably achieved a similar setup using a curvature map, but my baked mask was more accurate.
Later I added the Steel Dirty material to the stack and applied a Dirt processor to create significant dirty spots of interest and make the armor look more believable. Finally, I added a small rust pass and added subtle dust on the lower part of the armor. The rust was manually hand-painted with Paint layers since I only wanted a few subtle areas of rust. I used Smart Masks to add the dust, then applied some noise variation using the Gradient tool. I masked out the top half of the legs, then clamped the values using a Levels adjustment and masked out the rest using a Dirty layer, leaving only a small amount of dust on top of the footplates.
I wanted to apply the same layer setup to other armor pieces for quick re-use with minimal adjustments, so I saved this layer stack as a Smart Material in Toolbag’s Library. To do so:
- Select the applicable layers in your stack
- Right-click and select ‘Save as Smart Material…’
- Enter a name, author, and tags (if desired), choose a category, and hit ‘Save’
I’d like to point out here that Toolbag has a few helpful features for painting masks. The first is the Wand Select tool, which allows you to select clusters on your mesh to mask out. Next is the Gradient tool, which lets you interactively drag out a gradient in any direction in the 3D viewport with no need to set up any parameters. I used these tools simultaneously while texturing the armor.
Creating Leathers and Belts
While texturing leathers I like to first choose a material for its color information, and then add another layer with normal/bump information to make my leather more interesting. I then added the backsides of the belts and included a finer detail pass.
As I mentioned previously, the belt had an ID map with different colors applied for each side based on Polygroups assigned in Zbrush. In my texture project, I added a new Group ID input map to set up different materials to the backside of the belts without needing to paint everything by hand. I also created a cracks/damage pass by stacking 2-3 layers that included different crack textures with various tiling and rotation values, with each layer’s Blending set to Add. Then, I used a Levels adjustment to reduce the contract and masked out most areas to keep the effect subtle. I used the same approach for texturing the pouch and other leather pieces. Here’s a video demonstration that breaks down how the pouch was textured.
Setting up Fabrics
This character had very few fabric materials involved, but I wanted to briefly discuss how I handled them. The fabric materials identified were velvet with silk and gold borders. So I created a base material and then added two layers to create a sheen variation for the velvet. On top of this, I applied a floral pattern I found on the internet. I had multiple layers for the golden thread on the border because I had to position the thread according to the position of my UVs. The silky effect of the shirt was achieved by adding the Canvas material and applying a Metalness value.
The base of the sword holster used the Bamboo Ply material. I added some color variation, directional scratches and did some color corrections. I found two interesting patterns on the internet that I used as a base for the mask. I started with the flower patterns, making them red and adding a Bump value to slightly raise them from the surface. Then I added a gold layer on top with another flower pattern mask applied, with its Blending set to Multiply. I inverted this layer, blurred, and adjusted the levels to create a golden border effect. I repeated the whole procedure with the blue dragons’ pattern, further inflating the Bump value for the pattern to add more depth into the holster. The final step included layering in some dirt and directional color wash-out that would occur if the sun was shining too long at the top of the holster. Throughout my texturing process, I was stacking as many masks as possible, and I think it’s one of the most powerful features of Toolbag 4’s texturing system so far.
For the ground, I used textures from Quixel’s Megascans that I applied onto a dense plane to make use of the height map and did some minor color correction in Toolbag. I masked out and blurred the ground borders slightly and included some rocks and grass clumps for interest.
I used the Portico Driveway Sky from the Library for the final presentation, turned the Brightness very low, and switched the Mode to Blurred Sky. Then I made a three-point lighting setup using Spot lights, while maintaining a minor influence from the Sky.
I have more lights in the scene, many of which were used only for specific areas to brighten up my character, e.g a rim light while the camera was rotating around. In general, I recommend including some basic camera animations as part of your final presentation, even if it’s a simple turntable. Things tend to look better while in motion, and the reflections in the scene really come to life.
I had a lot of fun while texturing in Toolbag. In my opinion, it’s a must to at least give it a try. The ability to texture and view your final materials directly in Toolbag without constantly re-exporting to a game engine is a very powerful feature. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Toolbag to increase in popularity as a texturing tool and to have a place in a studio environment, used in full-fledged production.
Thank you for your time and for reading my breakdown. Hopefully, this has given you a better understanding of how to texture in Toolbag. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Artstation.
We’d like to thank Piotr Zielinski for writing this breakdown. You can check out more of Piotr’s work on Artstation. Explore Toolbag’s new powerful texturing tools using the free 30-day trial available to all new users.
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