6th Century Stone…

•July 25, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Here’s a proper blog post for this month 😀

A year or two back, I visited the hillside ruins of a 6th century monastery in Cooley, on the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal, Ireland. It’s an overgrown graveyard now, and among the ruins there is a well-preserved 10 foot high cross and a few free-standing church walls. Perhaps most notable is a “Skull House”, fashioned after the Beehive huts of Ireland’s early monks, reported to contain the remains of saints, and up until recently human bones could be seen through a small aperture in the wall.  I respectfully set about making a scan of the Skull House, but my fully charged phone mysteriously died and wouldn’t turn back on. Back to the car to charge it and I manged to switch it back on, but the battery level had dropped by half, weird! There was enough charge left to take the photos I needed, hampered only by height and foliage on the sloped roof. Here’s how it looked:

As with every 3D scan like this, the textures are bound to the geometry created, but I wanted to create a material from the Skull House that I could use on any model, so to be practical it would need to tile and I’d also have to repair the occluded areas, mainly the grass and mossy clumps. As a starting point, I rendered off the raw geometry in 3DSMax as diffuse, normals, AO and z-depth (for height) for each side and combined each wall into a single texture, then ran it through Artomatix to mutate the missing areas. It became clear that I’d have to paint a structure guide to help the mutation process, as it seemed to produce weird melded stones rather than fully separated stones. A structure guide basically means painting an outline for each brick, which in this case was time-consuming and problematic due to the variation in stone size and years of moss growth. To fix this, I displaced a plane with the seamless height map from Artomatix in Mudbox and sculpted into the gaps while sharpening up stone edges. This broke the tiling from Artomatix but I was otherwise happy with the look. I also worked over the grassy clumps and overhangs in 3DSMax using both Max’s hair and fur modifier and some hand modelled grass blades. Some shadow removal and adjustments to the albedo and an eyeballed roughness map in Photoshop and here’s what I came up with:

The next part, was to test against some proper geometry, which would have be low poly but with even topology, as I would be using displacement and tessellation and with as few sharp corners as possible to avoid self-penetration when vertices were displaced. UVs are important too, orientation and continuity ensure that the grass and moss are properly placed. This is some quick low poly geometry I created that approximates the shape of the original Skull House

Here is the same scene with the tiling material applied, click on the image for higher res. The ground material in these shots was created with Quixel Mixer, based on Megascans

With daytime lighting 

So even though the texturing is now less specific, with far less moss and grass to see, it works around chamfered corners and on different models as long as the UVs are carefully laid out, every break in continuity can cause a model to crack along seams.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the stonework of the “Beehive hut” monastery on the Skelligs, also from the 6th century and location for Luke’s home on Ahch-To in the new Star Wars movies. For a further test I used a hemisphere primitive, cut a shape for the door and lintel and extruded a small piece at the side, again avoiding splits in the UV islands where possible. The more detailed geometry in the background below is just for decoration. Here is the scene without textures:

Here it is with the material applied:

And with a little more atmosphere, inspired by the movie Prometheus:

In motion with some rain effects added in After Effects:


Bonus content: I also scanned this at Cooley Graveyard:








Damp Moss…

•July 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Looks like I missed a blog post last month! Here’s a quick one as a tide over, not worthy of a breakdown really, it’s a 3D scan of some damp moss on a low stone wall. It was tricky enough to split out the moss shading from the paved stone, but was an interesting exercise nonetheless. Rendered in Toolbag 3 with Photoshop for textures.


The future of Content Creation….

•May 31, 2018 • Leave a Comment

… Maybe! 😀  I recently did an interview with 80 Level about my latest art experiments and my thoughts on the future of game art content creation, you can read about it here if you fancy it!


Seamless Stones…

•May 24, 2018 • Leave a Comment

In my last post I said I’d have to stop posting rock materials up here, but this is an old post that I’d forgotten to publish 🙂 I started this blog post on Thursday 1st March 2018, the evening when “Storm Emma” and “The Beast from the East” clashed over Ireland causing blizzard like conditions and Wintry landscapes not seen in this country since 1982. Public transport was suspended, many people were off or working remotely and the public were advised to stay indoors until the Red Weather Alert lifted later that week. So, with extra time indoors I had some time to process scans and create materials, and put Artomatix through it’s paces. As you may have seen on this blog, I’ve run a few scans through the software already, mainly for “texture mutation” which creates variations of a texture, or multiple textures simultaneously as part of a material and also for seam removal, making textures tile. These can be controlled somewhat by moving jitter sliders and painting ignore masks, which is very handy for getting rid of blurry areas or scan artifacts.

The first of these seamless materials from scans was some beach pebbles I shot on my phone in the shade of a cliff a few weeks back. The scan itself worked in places but is noisy throughout and needed a lot of filling in, which would usually have to be done manually in Photoshop or Substance Painter. I used 3dsmax to bake diffuse, normals, height and AO and hand painted roughness in Photoshop. Artomatix was used for seam removal and cleaning bits of seaweed and areas that hadn’t been captured well enough to use. Here is the result applied to a plane primitive in Toolbag 3:


Wireframe (with PN triangle tesselation, displaced from a plane primitive)


I took all 5 textures into Toolbag to test how they responded to PBR lighting





And here is the real-time material applied to a sphere in Sketchfab



Craggy cliffs…

•April 13, 2018 • 2 Comments

This material was scanned near Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point last week, on this beach near the “Wee House of Malin”

I brought the DSLR this time, and I there’s a healthy increase in quality over some of the phone stuff I’ve been doing lately. From 50 odd photos, I should be able to create three separate tiling materials, the first of which is a craggy cliff like material made seamless in Artomatix. Here’s the obligatory material sphere:

And the breakdown (roughness was constructed by hand and the height map was done in Knald, everything else was baked from 3DSMax)


The whole idea of making seamless materials from 3D scans is so that materials can be decoupled from geometry and used elsewhere arbitrarily, in different scenes and lighting conditions. Here’s an example of some simple geometry:

This is how that same geometry looks with tessellation and the material applied (rendered in Toolbag 3, as ever)

I really need to stop making rocks. 😀 Here’s a video, you’d be hard pressed to spot the seams.

Seamless Autumn Leaves Material…

•March 24, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This post is about further experiments with Artomatix and 3D scanning to create usable, seamless PBR materials. A few months back I was standing at a bus stop for what seemed like ages and got really bored, so I took out the phone and started taking photos of the ground around me. There were a lot of fallen leaves  around the bus stop, mixed with overgrown ivy and weeds. I took about 20 photos and loaded them into Reality Capture that evening just to see if anything could be made of them. I wasn’t expecting great things due to the small number of photos I had and the half-arsed nature of the shoot, and indeed results weren’t perfect, some leaves were nicely sharp but others were a blobby mess or missing completely. I still baked down the geometry to diffuse, normals, height and dropped the normal map into Knald for quick AO and cavity maps. There wasn’t enough usable info to make a square texture, I settled for bakes of 4096 x 2048. I stuck the assets in my “partial scans” folder and left it for months, until this week.

Artomatix came to the rescue, after duplicating the original textures and laying them out side by side in square 4K textures with very obvious repeats, I loaded them into Artomatix and was able to crudely mask out the problem areas and generate a tiling material from the 3DSMax bakes. I also saturated the diffuse to create a sub surface scattering map on the fresher leaves. Height could be better so I’ll revisit when time allows. This is the albedo input, the painted mask and the output from Artomatix:

Here are the results, all rendered in real-time in Toolbag 3:

Base geometry in Toolbag 3

Base geometry with material applied

Material Sphere

Material sphere texture breakdown

Lighting tests

Video (watch in 4k where available)





The 60 Minute Cave part II…

•March 8, 2018 • 5 Comments

Quick post – some time ago I made a post on here about making a simple cave in 3DSMax in an hour over lunch. This evening I did something similar! I’ve been playing with Artomatix, as per my last post and I was pleased with the results of an experiment tonight and thought I’d post the results here. I had a partial scan that hadn’t resolved well  it was wet rock on a very sunny day so large areas of detail were missed or were blurry. I baked out what I had in 3DSMAX, diffuse, normals, AO, height and a shadow map used to help with manual de-lighting in Photoshop. I ran these textures through Artomatix for seam removal and it tiled them quite nicely. After some tweaking, I applied the material to a sphere in Toolbag 3 and tested out some lighting environments, before applying the same material to the inside of a curved cylinder and tiling appropriately, to make the cavernous environment you see below. Not bad for a single material!


Seamless Materials from 3D Scans in Artomatix…

•March 2, 2018 • 7 Comments

I’m starting this blog post on Thursday 1st March 2018, the evening when “Storm Emma” and “The Beast from the East” clash over Ireland causing blizzard like conditions and Wintry landscapes not seen in this country since 1982. Public transport is suspended, many people are off or working from home, and the public have been advised to stay indoors until the Red Weather Alert lifts some time Friday evening.

With all this time indoors I’ve had some time to process scans and create materials, and put Artomatix through it’s paces. Based here in Dublin, the Artomatix app is currently in an alpha state, but already functional and promises to automate “the most time consuming, repetitive tasks creating time for artists to focus on what really matters,” – music to my ears. It’s not procedural, like Substance Designer, but uses a different approach, example-based creation. I’ve run a few scans through the software already, mainly for “texture mutation” which creates variations of a texture or multiple textures simultaneously as part of a material, and also for seam removal, making textures tile. These automatic processes can be controlled somewhat by moving jitter sliders and painting ignore masks, handy for removing blurry areas or scan artifacts. This could be really useful for making partial or unsuccessful scans usable as world textures.

The first of this series of materials from scans was some earthen rubble (blogged about previously here ) in a wheelbarrow I shot on my phone one afternoon. The scan itself worked quite well in places but needed a lot of filling in, and of course parts of the wheelbarrow removed. This would usually have to be done manually in Photoshop or Substance Painter. I imported the textures into Artomatix as a material and connected up Texture mutation and Seam Removal nodes and after a few minutes of communicating with the cloud, my textures were ready to preview. Here’s what Artomatix looks like right now, it’s still in alpha so this is likely to change, albedo input on the left, 3D preview on the right and node graph beneath:



Here are the input textures, and their Artomatix seamless versions:








Height (not apples to apples, as I used Knald in the end to generate height from normals)BarrowRubble_height


Here is the result, rendered in Toolbag 3




Another variation, same inputs


Finally, in realtime on Sketchfab, this one is tiled less than the Toolbag versions:



PS: Unrelated, but I couldn’t let this frozen weather pass without trying a bit of photogrammetry 😀 Quickly rendered in Toolbag 3 with some SSS for the snow.






Charred For Life…

•February 20, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This charred wood material is based off a burnt damp log I found in the garden, it had been partly used as fuel in a chiminea last summer. It was charred and ashen on one side, the side that was facing the ground, so it had some mud and bugs stuck on and looked great in the light of day – there was an almost iridescent effect on some surfaces of the flatter areas of the burnt “cells”. I tried to recreate it by firstly scanning the burnt end, no fancy setup, just my phone (a Samsung Galaxy S8) and an overcast day. I took about 80 photos and processed in Reality Capture, as usual. I baked down textures in 3dsmax, using Photoshop to clean up and Substance Painter to clone out missing detail. I layered in a hint of rainbow gradients in the albedo and painted a custom metalness map to help simulate the iridescent sheen on reflections. AO and cavity maps were created in Knald, which were useful in roughness and emissive textures later. The material is rendered below in real-time in Marmoset Toolbag 3 on the stock UV sphere.

To achieve the glowing embers look below, I inverted the ambient occlusion map and used it as emissive, tinting it ornage in the Toolbag shader. Some local bloom and post FX finished off the effect.

Texture breakdown below.

His Bark Materials…

•January 30, 2018 • 3 Comments

This year I’m going to try and blog every month. I was doing well for a while but got busier last year and didn’t get to it as often. So, here’s the first post of 2018, some material work. Specifically, phone captured scans of real world tree bark, conformed to be seamless, tileable and usable arbitrarily on game world models. There is some amazing material work being done in Substance Designer these days, and I’d like to incorporate that into my workflow at some point. The bark material below is a proof of concept, a number of 2k textures extracted from a 16k source image and a 20 million polygon model. These were derived from photos taken on my phone and processed in Reality Capture. Textures were baked in Toolbag 3, apart from the albedo which was baked in 3DSMax.  Here is the high poly model, the bark was splintered and raised away in places and it captured well for the most part. There is a lot of potential in this capture and I think a really good use case to give Artomatix a proper try.


Here is a breakdown of the textures, eyeballed for metalness PBR:

Here is the result when applied to a sphere in Toolbag 3