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Up and running with Texturing - Stefan Klosterkötter

Up and running with Texturing - Stefan Klosterkötter

Hi everyone, thanks for checking out my entry for this year's Rookie Award. I want to share with you the way I approach texturing. I'm currently at the homestretch of my 15-month student program at PIXL VISN media arts academy, working on my Demo Reel.

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I made the following work as end-term-projects, assignments for class, and my first demo project.

This is not a “how-to guide”, it's more like a collection of things which helped me the most to tackle texturing.

Project 1: The Cuvier's dwarf caiman

- He might be small, but he is quite snappy. This is my end-term 3 Project, where I tried to replicate a caiman in a photorealistic manner.

I found texturing the Caiman to be a very good exercise because it checks all the boxes for an organic creature pipeline - complex hard surface elements, subsurface scattering in some regions and also transparent features. 

-modeling. texturing, shading

Project 2: Alien

- He looks scary but is actually a friendly fellow. I created this as an Assignment for texturing class.

I was very happy to find this great Zbrush-sculpt from “Soto”. It was so much fun to come up with an idea for the texturing. I really like especially the planning phase when you go over hundreds of reference images before you finally come up with an idea for the texturing - it's a very creative process. 

-texturing, shading

Project 3: Cute Little Creature/Mine Adventures

- these guys are down for epic adventures. A team project with Anna Kottenhan (modeling) and Ivan Pechalin (lighting, comp,anim - check out his cool entry as well!).  I was responsible for the texturing and shading of the Hero character.

It was a fun little project and a great opportunity to exercise the whole production pipeline of a short film on a miniature scale within a team.

The Characters are actual figures created by Amanda Louise Spayd. Anna Kottenhan sculpted them in Zbrush using photo references from Amandas Artwork.

-texturing, shading

Project 4: The Firefly

- "Home is now behind you...The world is ahead"*. For this one, I teamed up with Ivan Pechalin (lighting,comp) and Miria Kutzner  (rigging, check out her cool entry as well) to create this homage the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

-modeling (firefly), texturing, shading

* J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Reference is King!*

Having references always at hand is the most vital thing when it comes to creating believable CGI. Without this connection to the real world, it's tough to finally come up with something which looks pleasing to the eye.

I usually do an extended web search and have a look in books and watch documentaries and movies. If there's time, I also like to speak to experts on the given topic. Even if they have nothing to do with CGI, I appreciate their knowledge as a great source of inspiration.

When it comes to collecting references, I use PureRef to gather and organize the material. It's a perfect piece of software that gives you an unlimited canvas on which you can organize, group, and label images.

*This is actually a Quote by Michael Wilde

Texture Planning

Before starting with the texturing process, I like to do a detailed plan to break down all the tasks and try to foresee any upcoming issues.

In these examples, I am analyzing the object's surface nature and trying to associate different texture maps to specific regions of the model. I like to start with the displacement maps because they will define the shape of the model. I find it very impressive how modeling and texturing are so close to each other -painting displacement maps are actually like sculpting the surface.

Model Review & Preparation

In this step, I take a closer look at the given model. Even if I modeled it by myself, I now look at it from a texturing perspective

First of all, I scale the model in real-world dimensions. This is important because scaling it later down the line could be complicated, and it’s important for the renderer.

The next steps are the UV layout and sometimes a Retopology of the model as well because it’s quite beneficial to have a good Topology when it comes to texturing (e.g., having asymmetrical mesh enables you to work much faster by mirroring your texture painting). I like to layout the UVs in a way that the texture painting can be mirrored over to the other side easily. This will save you a lot of time.

Caiman UVs

Alien UVs 

Cute Little Creature UVs

Firefly UVs

- symmetrized Zbrush Sculpt

Displacement Painting & Detail Sculpting

Now it's time for Displacement Painting. The Displacement Map is usually the first map that I create, and it's also the most important because all the other maps depend on it, and it enables you to achieve a stunning amount of detail.

I paint the displacement maps in Mari utilizing a non destructive node-based workflow. This gives you so much flexibility and the possibility for quick look iterations.

- But please be careful. Keep your node trees organized at all times or you will find yourself in trouble later on - guaranteed!

- Mari Displacement Maps

-Displacement Painting using Texturing XYZ Scans

Sometimes I also use a different approach by sculpting the surface detail directly in Zbrush and exporting them in a displacement map.

-  Displacement using Zbrushs modeling tools

Over sculpt

The over sculpt is a process where the surface detail created via the displacement map gets even more complex by an additional layer of sculpting. This is achieved by applying the displacement map in Zbrush on a layer and making the details created by the map even more prominent. One could find over sculpting tedious, but it’s quite enjoyable for me when I see the surface come to life. 

Displacement Lookdev

Then I export the resulting over sculpt displacement map and the standard Zbrush displacement and the one out of Mari and combine them in Maya. Here I then do a displacement Lookdevpass using a simple Clay render.


Once I'm happy with the look of the displacement, I start gathering as much information about the surface as possible in the form of Utility maps and finally bring them into Mari again.

- Ambient Occlusion Map Created with Arnold

You can use quite a few software packages to generate these Utility maps. I usually go with Zbrush, Arnold in Maya, Substance Designer, Mudbox, and Knald to create all kinds of Utility maps like Ambient Occlusion or Curvature. The more variety, the better because you will have even more information at hand for the upcoming texturing steps.

Base Color Creation

After all this groundwork, the coloring in Mari is a fairly straightforward and enjoyable process. Once again, I like to utilize a Node-based procedural workflow. Using the variety of Utility maps as masks for different base colors, you can achieve a unique coloring of the surface. On top of this, an additional pass of Hand Painting can be added to get even more breakup and detail.

Shading & Asset Turntable

After all the maps are exported out of Mari, it's time to bring everything into Maya and do the shading of the model. The final step for me as "the texturing department" is to do an Asset Turntable. This Turntable should be in a way that it's texturing features could easily be reviewed by others. Usually, I show the model in an indoor lighting situation as well as outdoors to see how the shading reacts to different lighting scenarios.

Now the Asset can be handed over to the Shot department.

You can see how my texturing and shading looks in a lighting scene by checking out the cool entry of Ivan Pechalin where he presents a detailed shot breakdown.

For example, for presentation purposes, a pedestal for the Asset, I like to use Quixel Megascans, which gives you very lovely out-of-the-box scanned Assets. The HDRIs for Turntable lighting always come from hdrihaven.

thank you so much for reading! 

Also a big thanks to all the people who support me along the way!

Thank you!

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