Art by Vincent Mayeur
Making a great 3D scene is hard. Fortunately, we’ve come up with some excellent tips to help you along the way. In no particular order, these are:
1: Don’t texture (yet)
The first texturing tip is to not texture.This may sound crazy, but there’s sound logic to justify this. When finishing the modeling phase, a common reflex is to jump directly into texturing. But this is ultimately counterproductive - if you’re working on a still image, lighting and composition will be key to achieving a final, high-quality result. Therefore, to start off with, try working with white or light gray materials (with normal maps), and set up your lighting: if you can achieve a good result in this mode, there’s a good chance that it you’ll be able to improve your work even further once you get into real texturing. Furthermore, you’ll be able to better calibrate your texturing choices to reinforce your lighting intentions.
2: In PBR we trust
PBR stands for Physically Based Rendering, and it’s the way to go if you want great and believable results, whether you’re aim for a realistic or stylized render. The main advantage of PBR is that the result of your render cannot be “wrong”, as it mimics physical rules (the most important being that a material cannot reflect more light than it receives). With the key principles of PBR firmly in mind, you’ll find you have a great deal more liberty to fully focus on your artwork. Substance software such as Substance Painter and Substance Designer have been built to work with PBR workflows, making it extremely easy to author and apply materials to your assets.
Art by Daniel Thiger
3: Keep a constant texel ratio
Texel ratio is a value that measures the precision of a texture, once applied to a 3D object. It’s generally expressed in pixels/meter. For example, if you want to have a texel ratio of 1024, you will make sure that a 2 meters will get a texture around 2048 pixel (1024 x 2 meters). Different elements will affect the texel ratio (objects & textures size, UVs setup, material tiling…). The most important thing is to keep a consistent texel ratio across your objects, in order to keep things believable. This is especially important if the assets are close together in the scene: if an asset is closer or further away in the scene you may wish to consider increasing or decreasing the texel ratio.
Bad texel ratio:
Good texel ratio:
4: Tweak in context
Thanks to the Substance engine, you have the ability to apply and tweak your materials directly in your favorite 3D application (most of them are already supported). This can be a great time saver, as it will save you lots of time unnecessarily switching between different software tools. If you are using Unreal Engine or Unity, you can also rely on the Livelink that is provided for free with the plugins. Finally, I would recommend Ymmanuel Martin’s plugins that create a live link with many other 3D apps.
Here is a scene tweaked directly within Unreal engine:
5: Check Substance Source
Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel: Substance Source, our online Substance material library, contains more than 1000 highly customizable materials that will cover most of your needs. Using these whenever possible will ultimately give you more time to create your own unique assets, should the need arise. Furthermore, we provide free content specifically for the Mars Home Planet: we can’t wait to see how you use it!
We hope that these tips will be useful in your projects to come. Good luck with your future scene-crafting!