Infinity Ward Environment Artist Joshua Lynch discusses creating materials, environments and props for triple-A games, offering plenty of tips along the way...
3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
My name is Joshua Lynch and I am an Environment Artist at Infinity Ward. I have been in the industry for 7 years now. I specialize in materials, building environments, and prop creation. In 2008, I received my B.A from The University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, AZ. I live in Los Angeles, CA with my amazing wife and our pets.
"Tiling Ground Dirt & Pebbles”. Created entirely in bstance Designer and rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 2.
3dt: What made you want to become a 3D artist?
Growing up I always loved playing videogames and watching films. In high school I found out that I could go to college to study 3D art and that could be my career. I was fortunate enough to be able to take some "Digital Media” classes around the same time. This was great for me because it gave me a taste of what it was like create digital art. After that it was a matter of time. I knew I wanted to be a part of this industry and work with people that created the video games and films I enjoyed so much.
"Sloppy Brick Wall”. Created entirely in Substance Designer and rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 2.
3dt: What steps did you take to become the artist you are today?
It was very apparent to me in college that this industry is very, very competitive. With that in mind, I made it a goal to continually work to improve my skillset and update my portfolio even after I landed my first job. For me the goals have changed over the years, but the passion to improve has not.
I embraced networking early. I got a mentor, I became a mentor. Wasn't afraid to reach out to people that inspired me. I still talk to some of those very first people I reached out to when I was in college. I still talk to my mentors and people I have mentored. It's a small industry and making connections pays off in so many ways.
I am always seeking out new tools and workflows. One of my favorite things about this industry is that the tools and workflows are constantly changing. It is always worth it to take time to test out new tools and workflows. For me it keeps things interesting and I grow as an artist, it is win win.
"Terra Cotta Flooring”. Created entirely in Substance Designer and rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 2.
3dt: Do you have a favorite project you have worked on? What challenges did you face and what software was used?
JL: My favorite project I have worked on so far would have to be Defiance
, I learned so much as artist. The project was an open world MMO shooter on the PS3 / XBox 360 / PC hardware. Due to the type of game we were making and the target platforms there were a lot of limitations, the challenge I faced was learning to do a lot with as little as possible. This meant building props with heavy re-use and mirroring in mind, as well as creating texture sheets with elements that both props and structures would rely on.
The software packages that I used included ZBrush
, UV Layout
, and Quixel Suite 1.0. For organic sculpting I used ZBrush. When creating props and texture sheets I relied on Maya, UV Layout, Photoshop, and Quixel Suite 1.0.
"Wood Panel Flooring”. Created entirely in Substance Designer and rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 2.
3dt: Do you have a favorite piece of software, and any tips our readers could utilize?
My favorite piece of software is Substance Designer
. As far as general tips go I would say the program has a learning curve and may be confusing at first, but stick with it, it will pay dividends in the end.
Another thing I would like to mention is when you're creating materials in Substance Designer all of the nodes are inherently procedural, the trick is to use various nodes to avoid a procedural look. Try to avoid applying "noise” nodes over an entire texture. Doing this tends to flatten the read of the material and makes it look fake.
As well, I have written up a few quick tips on some nodes I think are essential when working in Substance Designer.
"Subway Wall Tiles”. Created entirely in Substance Designer and rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 2.
Slope Blur Grayscale - Great for adding detail to the edge or even surface of an area. Be careful not to overdo it or it will just look like uniform noisiness.
Histogram Scan - Very powerful node for gaining control over data by introducing a selective amount.
Directional Warp - This is a great way to break up the original noise pattern and make it feel more unique. Driven by a multi value grayscale map input, each section the grayscale input map acts a scatter to the original noise pattern.
3dt: What software would you like to learn in the future to expand your portfolio and skillset, and why?
Recently, I have been thinking about what software to learn next and SpeedTree came to mind. In the beginning of my career I was focusing on hard surface props and materials. Lately, I have had a growing interest in organics, particularly with organic materials, terrain sculpting, and creating foliage. SpeedTree seems like a natural fit in that whole mix.
"Ground Snow”. Created entirely in Substance Designer and rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 2.
3dt: What advice would you give to someone trying to follow in your footsteps?
Post your work online and seek out feedback from your peers. It may be painful at first but we all start somewhere. Polycount, Facebook groups, Twitter, are great places to share your work and get feedback.
It may take some time at first, but try to find what you're really passionate about and focus your time and energy on this. The industry is becoming more and more specialized with dedicated artists and teams for environment art, props, materials, foliage, weapons, lighting, animation, etc. Find where you fit and then flex your muscles.
Don't be afraid to know your comfort zone and push past it, and do it again, and again, and again. If you don't try new things, whether it's art related by doing a more challenging piece, or learning new software, you will become stuck in a rut.
Finally, this industry is very competitive. Be prepared to work hard, both at work and at home.
"Drying Ground Mud”. Created entirely in Substance Designer and rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 2.
3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
My artistic ambitions are to continue growing my skillset as a texture artist and eventually become a Lead Texture Artist. As well, I would like to become a teacher and help young artists on their way into the industry.
3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
This is a tough one; there are truly so many talented artists I am inspired by. Speaking about traditional artists, I am continually inspired by Hethe Srodawa, Fightpunch, and the team at Creature Box. Each piece of art from them oozes style and soul, it's incredible. They also remind me to think outside of the box and to not feel constrained.
For digital artist I would have to say Tor Frick, Paul Peppera, and Rogelio Olguin. I have looked to these artist for a long time for inspiration and they never disappoint. They produce effective and clean art. They also remind me to keep pushing my skills forward with each new piece of art they share.
3dt: How do you like to unwind?
I like to unwind by spending time with my wife and our pets. I really enjoy taking random road trips with my wife and our dog, and taking pictures along the way. I also enjoy watching TV shows, movies, and playing games.
"Industrial Glass Windows”. Created entirely in Substance Designer and rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 2.
3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?
Over the coming months I will be continuing my work with materials in Substance Designer. As well, I will be sharing more tutorials, and showing how I get along in SpeedTree.
Check out the work of Infinity Ward
Take a look at Josh Lynch's website
Download Substance Designer