Take a look behind the scenes of a texturing department and how they source and create new textures and materials…
In this unorthodox behind the scenes, the team behind Textures.com go through what it takes to make pretty materials for the most demanding professionals worldwide. Making materials for AAA studios and highly acclaimed artists is undoubtedly a big responsibility that they undertake with pride, but also with a "seriousness and psychotic attention to detail.”
The industry of premium assets is very small though difficult, but highly fulfilling once the final product is nailed. Not only pride and joy is need. The path for a successful material is made of persistence and foremost, passion.
For the team, the day usually starts with black coffee (very important), and a quick tour over the ArtStation feed to get inspired. They basically never start a texture inside Substance Designer, instead the first step is making sure the camera has enough battery for a quick trip around the neighborhood.
Their mission today is to create some checkerboard material textures. What's the best way to study something like that? Hint: scanning the reference, of course!
Their European crew is blessed with this task, finding the perfect floor so they can craft the perfect procedural sibling. They shoot in raw: reference images with a x-rite color checker along with the photogrammetry data, when applicable.
People will eventually look at them and raise eyebrows: "Why does this guy keep taking pictures of the floor?
" And they're probably right, this is bizarre. They keep shooting the floor though, because this is art. The social pressure is high, only a minor portion of the population can remain solvent after shooting bricks and sidewalks of neighbors with a Star Wars
shirt for a couple hours.
Back at the office, 11:48 AM. It's time to process the data and start the fun part. They have multiple computers at their offices, so can leave Photoscan thinking while the other workstation is free for other tasks. Substance Designer is basically a node-based Photoshop: every node performs like a filter or action. Blur, Emboss, Curves, Levels… you name it. The mindset is not too different from the one the team had when working on previous-gen texturing tasks. The difference is that the quality bar now is magnitudes higher.
You're probably wondering why they do not simply use the scan data and call it a day there. The biggest advantage of procedural materials is that they're not limited to the source material. After replicating the surface, you'll be able to change colors, age, roughness, and size on the fly, for studios with strict art-direction and fast pacing turnarounds, this is truly special.
First step? Nail the height. The team usually start with simple blocky shapes that are enough to tell if we're on the right track.
While it's far from final, this tells us we can proceed with the detailing. If something starts looking off, they step back and re-evaluate what can be done to improve the look and overall shapes, while it's early and easy to adjust.
The scan data helps here with the understanding of finer details. Things like grout are very hard to "get it right" just from photos, no matter how good they are. That's why they scanned it here. The normal map extracted from the scan does wonders in showing how the surface should really look.
The process repeats for the color map. They often de-light their references to get the best values for our materials. (They have a library of de-lit albedo bitmaps.)
But in some cases, the team simply use the non-delighted albedo mixed with their artist's expertise and artistic freedom to build on top of that, for maximum visual impact.
Photos at grazing angles help with the Roughness part as well, along with feedback from other senior artists on the team for an unbiased take on the final results.
07:45 PM, the material is sent for revision. And they can order another coffee, call it final! (And now you're able to change color, age, roughness, and size on the fly!)
Procedural material crafting is an art, of which the team at Textures.com are very proud of. Their goal is to make your images better, while saving precious time, so you can spend more time making quality coffee rather than gathering references and tweaking node layouts from 8:26 AM to 07:45 PM. Making a better world, one texture at time