Working Hard – 3D Illustration

by Louis March 23, 2018

It’s been mostly animation that’s been going through the studio so I thought it would be fun to put together a 3D illustration. It started off as a quick mock up experimenting with some volumetric atmospherics and ended up being very handy in getting a solid workflow from Lightwave 3D to Substance Painter and back to Lightwave and Blender for rendering.

After creating the 3D mock up I started modelling individual higher quality versions of the hard surfaces with sub-divided surfaces. I UV unwrapped them using PLG UV tools, interpolated the UV space as linear corners and froze the geometry for export.

Eager to start painting surfaces I fired up Substance Painter 2017.3 and sent across a few items via OBJ (which retains the UV layout without a texture in place).¬† I built up some surfaces and exported the textures back to Lightwave to build up the surfaces, which is mostly just plugging in images into there matching BSDF shader channels. After putting together a quick video tutorial on RGB mattes using the assets I lost some of my drive and wasn’t feeling the creative flow so went back to the drawing board and drew over the initial 3D mock up including a character to complete the scene and get a better picture of the completed image.

Shortly after I’d finished up the character modelling I created a morph shape to better align with the sketch, taking full advantage of the new ‘Layout’ view in modeller. With all geometry and UV’s in place it was time to send back over to Substance Painter and start building up materials again, so I also took advantage of UDIM texture spaces by creating a 1-10 numbered PNG sequence with suffix _1001, _1002 etc, loading them into the UV viewport as a guide and re-positioning the current item UV’s to fill the new spaces.

A quick export and I was again in Substance Painter, but now with all the elements needed for the scene and lovely texture sets. I settled on using 2k textures in 9 texture sets as I had previously come across performance issues with the Nvidia GTX 970, this, as it turns out, was because of the slower portion of VRAM on the card causing lags, having replaced that card with a GTX 1080 I’m now thinking I could of pushed that to 4k as it seems that being able to solo texture sets also helps with performance.

With texture painting completed I exported all the texture sets, having to create a custom export profile that ensured the UDIM¬† (1001, 1002) was placed at the very end of the filename. I started building up the materials in Lightwave again but was not overly happy with the result, instead preferring the render coming out of IRAY, the built-in render engine Substance Painter uses. I think this may of been due to a more complex studio environment map in Substance Painter so I decided to capture an HDRI environment of the studio. The image was capture with a Ricoh Theta S with HDR mode, that captures a high dynamic range image in a single compressed 8bit image that I then process in photoshop into a 32bit hdr image closely matching the luma values of similar HDRI’s captured with 5+ stop exposure bracketing.

With all the materials, cameras and lights in place I thought it would be interesting to see how Lightwave 2018 and Blender Cycles renderer’s compare, given a now very similar Principled BSDF shader setup. Lightwave was setup with an environment light, area lights to emit blue from the screens, a spherical light for the desk lamp on no GI. Blender using emissive surfaces and a textured environment, with all render elements as default apart from increasing the pathtracing samples to 400 (I’m new to Cycles rendering). The Lightwave 2018 render took ~30mins on a stock i7 4930k restricted to 8 cores as did the GPU compute render from Cycles on a single GTX 1080. However, I’m aware this is not a apples to apples comparison as, amoung many other things, Lightwave isn’t using any multi bounce GI.

Lightwave 2018 // i7 4930K (8 cores)

Blender Cycles // GTX 1080

IRAY in Substance Painter (with more post processing)