Welcome to this introduction to the all-new DDO Painter. In this guide we’ll cover the basics of DDO and its features in order to get you started with it and your projects.
DDO Painter is built to enable CG artists to rapidly create very high quality materials in Photoshop, in 3D and fully PBR. Work with scan based Smart Materials for ultra realistic material definition, build advanced weathering & masking effects with the Dynamask Editor, calibrate your materials with Quick PBR values, paint in 3D at 8K resolution with hundreds of super-res scan based brushes, and much more, with a fully non-destructive workflow.
To get started, we’ll cover the Base Creator where you set up your inputs, the new GPU bakers, DDO’s tweaking interface, the all-new 3D Painting feature which allows you to paint directly on your mesh for great freedom and accuracy, the Dynamask Editor, and exporting your maps to your target engine.
With the introduction of the Auto Baking in DDO Painter the input process is made a lot easier as the Object Space Normal, AO map, Curvature and Position Gradient can all be automatically baked.
IMPORTANT: If you are inputting a Normal map, make sure it is 24-bit (has no alpha) and in TGA format. Auto-baking will currently halt otherwise. This is a known bug and will be fixed in the next upload.
Note: ID maps are not required for any type of project, but they do make it easier if you are working with several materials. If you have no ID map, you can always just paint your masks directly in 3DO when in Dynamask mode.
DDO will use these input maps to generate the various masks you can modify and work with in the Dynamask Editor. Again, the cleaner and better your input maps, the better the masks and final result.
Note: Before plugging in your mesh to your project, make sure it has been triangulated and exported as OBJ. If your mesh has different texture sets for different parts of the mesh, make sure to create a mesh group for each unique UV.
Tip: Name your mesh groups logically, for instance Torso, Armor instead of polySurface91923,polySurface2321213. Your DDO materials will be automatically linked to your mesh group names, so make sure to always keep your mesh group names intact if you update your mesh mid-project.
Setting up a project with DDO has really been streamlined with the latest release presenting you with a much more logical and clean interface. Let’s go over the different elements of the Base Creator interface now.
To the top-right of the Base Creator you’ll see the options menu. Here you can do a number of things. The first thing you can do is to load a previous project by specifying the Project.xml file located in your project folder. This will load all the associated maps and your mesh.
Next you have controls for loading your input maps. You can choose Quick-Load (Multi-Select) and Quick-Load (Single-Select).
Multi-Select allows you to select multiple input maps and DDO will assign them to their corresponding slots (if the naming convention is somewhat standard).
Single-Select allows you to select one input map and DDO will find and assign the other maps in that same folder to their corresponding slots automatically.
Clear Maps clears all the specified input maps.
Next you can choose Add Custom Material.
Under Advanced Options you can toggle Find Closest ID Match and Group All Base Layers. Find Closest ID Match will match a color to its closest ID Match if the color ID cannot be found.
Group All Base Layers creates a group for all Filler layers if they are created with the project. In these groups you can go ahead and add materials and details exclusive to its corresponding ID.
Note: As of SUITE 2.0, filler layers are currently disabled.
We will be going over the most commonly used next.
Click here to browse to and select your input mesh. NOTE:Occasionally the mesh can show up with holes in it. If this happens, triangulate and re-export.
Once the mesh has been specified in the Base Creator, the option to Bake in 3DO appears to the right of the AO, Object Space Normal, Curvature and Position Gradient inputs. By checking the checkboxes these maps will be automatically baked and used in the project.
ID maps can be generated in a wide variety of ways and will not be covered in depth in this article. Should you need some reference, check out this link for a short guide on one way how to bake color ID maps: Authoring ID maps
When plugging in a mesh you are instantly presented with the option to bake several of the input maps. By checking Bake In 3DO the corresponding map will be baked upon project generation. By unchecking it you are presented with the option to plug a manually baked map in instead.
If you check Bake In 3DO you don’t have to do anything. All the checked maps will be generated on the fly and available to you when the project has been generated. Should you want to bake an additional map you can do that at any time in 3DO by going into the Baking section.
As shown in the animated gif below, simply go into 3DO and press ‘Space’ to bring up the menu, go into baking and select the map you want to bake. There are several settings available such as Padding, Resolution and other map-specific options available. Once happy with the bake, click Save and you’re done!
Your tangent-space normal map, if you have one. This could either be a baked normal map from a high-poly, or for instance a detail normal made in NDO.
Note that if you plug in a normal map, DDO will use this information to generate its edge and cavity details. If your normal map is NOT baked from a highpoly and purely contains NDO made details (bolts, bevels, surface details etc), it is recommended that you check “Bake in 3DO” for the Curvature slot. Then, DDO will generate its edge and cavity details based on both the mesh geometry and the detail normals.
IMPORTANT: Make sure your input normal map is 24-bit (has no alpha) and in TGA format. Auto-baking will currently halt otherwise. This is a known bug and will be fixed in the next upload.
The spaceship without a normal compared to the ship with a normal.
For this project a lot of the finer details and bevels were sculpted using NDO in Photoshop. This is pretty much the industry standard way of adding details to already baked normals quickly and non-destructively.
It’s handy to build up a library of normal map “widgets” that can easily be stamped and resused across your projects. This is one such example.
In this case a new document the same size as the normal map was made, the UV wireframe was imported on top, and NDO was used to paint in some really quick custom details. The end result lines up perfectly with the broad normal map pass, and it means tons of time won’t have to be spent sculpting tiny details.
The Resolution is set by either checking Auto, which will create the project in the same resolution as your input maps or manually entering the resolution in the text box. It is possible to exceed the size of your inputs by entering a larger value.
Texel density refers to how many pixels per square meter your texture should have. You can leave this setting to “auto” if you are not familiar with this concept. Note that if you lower the texture density, materials that are loaded into 3DO will tile more times.
ID Preset allows you to load a ID Linking preset. You can create your own ID linking presets by creating a preset, linking colors to certain materials and save that as a preset, allowing you to use specific colors in your ID maps for certain materials. The standard ID linking is selected by default.
Workflow allows you to, already before the project is created, specify what your target engine is, simply select the engine of your choice and DDO will create the maps typical for that engine.
Here you can specify what maps you want created with your project. When selecting a workflow above a corresponding set of maps will be added to the list, but you can manually go in and remove or add maps that you want You add more maps by clicking ”Add more channels…”.
The checkbox labeled 16 bits per channel allows you to switch between 8 and 16-bit maps. It defaults to 8-bit. 16 bits are great if you need more accuracy, but are a lot heavier on the machine.
Before you create your project you have the chance to specify the save location. It defaults to the location of your inputs, but if you want to change it, simply click the ”…” button and navigate to where you want to save your project.
Once you’re happy with your set up click CREATE to get going!
The first thing you’ll be greeted by when a new project has been created is the Main DDO UI. Depending on what preset (if any) you’ve chosen you’ll have different material groups or layers in this UI. In the screenshot to the left you can see several groups already created. In each of these groups there are several layers and groups all helping to create material definition and details.
Each group has 5 elements which you can interact with, going from left to right.
Set ID Link
These groups can be re-organized by drag-dropping them in the list. These changes will be carried across all the maps of the project.
If you go into a group, by clicking the folder icon to the left, you’ll (depending on what smart material you’ve used) see other layers.
Scale allows you to change the tiling of the assigned textures. The lower the scale the more it tiles.
Texture Intensity controls the opacity of the assigned textures in the currently active map. Hold Ctrl to adjust the intensity across all maps.
Opacity controls the color value of the layer.
In the Gloss map there is an additional slider that controls the reflectance value. This ranges from 0 (black) to 255 (white), or simply from “Fully rough” to “Fully smooth”.
All layers in all maps have a reflectance swatch with which you can adjust the corresponding layer’s reflectance value using the color picker. You can also use the Quick-PBR dropdown to quickly assign a preset PBR value by right-clicking the reflectance swatch shown in the image above.
In order to edit the mask and go into the Dynamask Editor simply left-click the mask icon. If you right-click you will be presented with the ID Linker, allowing you to specify which IDs you want the group or layer to be associated with. You can also click the Color Dropdown to the right of the layer to assign a layer or group to an ID.
To link to an ID, left-click the desired ID color in the ID Map preview. You can also select several IDs by holding Ctrl when left-clicking. You can also quickly link the layer or group to an ID by clicking the ID linking icon to the far right of the layer. This presents you with a list of all the colors present in the ID map input with the project.
Another way of ID linking is to go into the Dynamask Editor and opening up the Material IDs tab and clicking “Links…”. This will open the ID Linker mentioned previously.
Note that, in 3DO, you can also hold Shift+C and left-click to assign a new material to the selected ID. Additionally, you can assign the currently selected layer or group to a Color ID by holding C while clicking the color ID you want it assigned to. By holding down Ctrl+C you can assign the layer to several color IDs by clicking on the IDs you want it assigned to.
In DDO Painter a Flatten feature was introduced, allowing you to speed up the workflow dramatically. Flatten, to put it simply, is a completely non-destructive Flatten. It flattens either all currently present layers or all layers beneath the currently selected one and places the layer structure in a PSD located in the project folder.
You can at any time unflatten your layers. To Flatten, right-click any layer in the DDO UI and select either “Flatten All Layers Below” or “Flatten All Layers”.
All layers flattened below the selected layer using “Flatten All Below”.
You can flatten any number of times during the course of a project to continuously free up memory and boost performance. When unflattening, you bring back all layers that have been flattened up to this point.
Smart materials are materials that use your project’s input maps to determine their final appearance. Like all materials, smart materials come with precisely tuned PBR values – everything is scanned, and reacts as accurately to its real world counterpart as possible. Smart materials are also often composed of several “layers”.
You might use a smart material that simulates worn paint on metal. Some of the layers you’ll see, would include: paint, scratches, scuffs, cavity dirt, etc… These can all be tuned to achieve the exact style you’re looking for.
The Smart Material shown to the right and below is called “Scratched Paint Metal”.
DDO Painter currently ships with nearly 300 Smart Materials and more are being added with every new release.
Animation showing the buildup of some of the different layers of the Smart Material “Scratched Paint Metal”.
This surface has a Smart Material applied. Note how the material changes when it encounters edges, and cavities. These definition are completely automated based on the input maps. It also presents you with a lot of material layers that can be tuned across all the channels (albedo, specular, gloss, and normal)
You can assign Smart Materials by holding down Shift + C and clicking an ID on the mesh in 3DO. This will open up the Smart Material Library allowing you to load any of the existing Smart Materials.
The Dynamask Editor is probably where you will spend most of your time. This is where you create, modify and tweak your masks, giving your materials your desired look. The possibilities of what you can do here are endless.
Depending on what input maps you have provided more or less options and parameters become available. The ones that are always available are Object Space Normals, Position Based Gradient, Curvature and Ambient Occlusion. Each of these inputs have a number of different parameters that can be tweaked, and we will go over a couple of these further down.
Other than being able to create your own masks, DDO comes packed with an array of pre-made mask presets. Simply click one and apply it, or you can modify it to your own liking, using it as a starting point.
You can also create and save your own presets that you can re-use at any time or share with your friends and/or collegues. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do with the Dynamask Editor!
There are two modes in which you can work with the Dynamask Edit – Simple and Advanced. By default the simple view is enabled. What this does is that it presents you with a condensed view, with only the most important parameters for your selected preset (see image above.). The two sliders being modified there adjusts the opacity of the AO map’s influence on the mask and the overall tightness of the mask.
In Advanced mode you’ll be presented with a list of all the input maps, each with its own set of parameters. We won’t be going over all of the settings for all the different inputs, but we’ll take a look at the things they all have in common so that you can get a good overview of how the Dynamask Editor works.
What they all have in common is (from left to right):
Let’s take a look at what’s under the hood when Expanding Parameters for the Ambient Occlusion map by clicking the Expand Parameters arrow to the right.
As we saw before, in Simple mode all you could do with the AO was to adjust its opacity. Now we have 3 parameters just for the AO – Blur, Contrast and Brightness, as well as the above mentioned settings all the maps share.
Blur is Gaussian Blur and its slider simply adjusts the intensity of the blur, contrast adjusts the contrast and brightness adjusts the overall brightness.
Before we move on, let’s take a look at another input map’s expanded parameters – the Curvature. Here we can see a lot of sliders and options. The first option is what mode you want to use. You can choose between Edges, Cavities, Dual and Unprocessed. It defaults to Edges. This changes what features of the curvature map are used.
The sliders below all control the intensity of the different features of the curvature map, ranging from Sharp to Huge. And just as with the AO map you have Brightness and Contrast sliders here as well.
By tweaking different input maps’ parameters and utilizing the different blending modes the possibilities of the masks are almost endless.
3D Painting is a feature in DDO that allows you to modify and paint your masks directly onto your model in a fashion very similar Photoshop. You can add your own custom brushes, change the fill, opacity, rotation, size and so on. You can mask the Dynamask masks or paint your own entirely from scratch using the 3D Painting brushes.
Not only does painting directly on your model increase the speed at which you can texture, but it also makes it so much easier to work across seams. You can completely disregard seams and trying to patch things together as DDO takes care of that for you.
One thing 3D Painting is great for is to adjust where the masking occurs. Let’s say a great Dynamask is created. It looks great and it’s just the way you want it, however, it also affects a couple of areas where it’s not desired. All you need to do then is to paint it out. You don’t have to find the areas in the texture – just locate the area on the mesh and paint away!
Brush Size: B key + RMB (Mudbox standard).
Rotate Brush: B key + LMB (Mudbox standard).
Adjust Opacity: B key + LMB + RMB (3DO standard).
Shift Painting: you can stamp out a brush and then by holding shift and clicking on another area of the mesh, you will get a stroke between the first stamp and the second. Similarly, you can hold down shift to get a straight stroke. To make the deal even sweeter you can also, at any time, release shift to free-hand draw and then press shift again to continue with a straight stroke.
Pressing 1 to 5 on the keyboard lets you preview the different maps isolated. You can also change what map to preview through the dropdown as shown in the gif below.
Working with 3D Painting is very similar to the workflow of Photoshop, so if you are familiar with using the brush tool in Photoshop you should feel right at home.
To access NDO Painter Mode, you need to create a Multi-Normal layer (the icon that looks like two stacked documents). Then you’ll see a “NDO Painter Mode” checkbox. Click this or press Shift+Ctrl+D to toggle. A paint layer will be added to your layer stack, and you will be able to paint in 3DO. To generate a normal from your brush stroke at any time, press Shift+Space or the refresh icon in NDO. You can tweak the normal settings at any time in the NDO UI.
You can add an unlimited amount of paint layers in the same multi-normal. Simply exit paint mode, add a new empty layer in Photoshop, and enter paint mode again. A new paint layer will be created. NOTE: exiting paint mode currently has a small bug where the normals will look a bit faint. Just hit the refresh button again and it will be fine. We’re fixing this for the next build. If you want a new normal layer with completely different normal settings, simply click the multi-normal button again. You can stack as many of these as you want.
A new feature is C-Click Assign. What this does is that it allows you to assign the currently selected layer or group to a Color ID by holding C while clicking the color ID you want it assigned to. By holding down Ctrl+C you can assign the layer to several color IDs by clicking on the IDs you want it assigned to.
When in Paint Mode, please note that the controls for rotating the Skybox is changed. Instead of Shift-Left-Click drag you use Shift-Right-Click drag.
There are several parameters you can change, such as:
Fill: Adjusts the fill value of the brush.
PaintValue: Slider ranges from 0 (black) to 1 (white)
Opacity: Adjusts the opacity of the brush. Allows you to layer brushes up to 100% opacity.
Roundness: Squishes the brush from a very elongated shape to it’s 1:1 ratio. You can adjust its X and Y axis as well.
Size: Adjusts the size of the brush.
Spacing: Determines how much spacing between the brush in a stroke. Lower value = less spacing.
Brush Angle: Adjusts the rotation of the brush.
A quick demonstration of the Brush menu found in DDO Painter.
Other than the brush controls above you can toggle between regular brush mode and Air Brush mode, use eraser mode, toggle between material preview mode and mask mode.
A very powerful feature that you can toggle on and off is the Normal Aligned mode, which allows you to align your brush to the normals of the model. This can be great for some details, but if you don’t want it aligned, simply toggle it off and you’ll be able to paint along a camera aligned plane.
You can also flip the brush along X and Y, as well as jitter it.
3D Painting isn’t a trade-off. You can work with both 3D Painting AND the Dynamask. You can work with both in parallel. You can also edit the layer settings (reflectance, material, opacity, texture scale etc.). This goes for all layers – not just the one you are working with.
Above you can see the mask being edited by both 3D Painting, erasing and editing via the Dynamask editor.
To make painting and previewing your work even easier there is now an Orthographic view in 3DO. Simply press P to toggle between perspective and orthographic view.
Once in Orthographic View, navigate through the different views using I, J, K and L.
You can also navigate freely in Orthographic view, just like in Perspective view using the mouse. By pressing F the camera automatically snaps to the closest axis.
Demonstration of the Ortho Focus feature. Pressing ‘F’ snaps the camera to the closest axis.
The Exporter is a very simple but powerful feature of DDO. It contains several options that make it much easier to take it from Photoshop to your engine. First you can specify our output path as well as the prefix, such as ”Spaceship_Alien” or ”Cave_Troll” and suffix, adding for example the map typ as the suffix, making the final name something in the lines of ”Spaceship_Alien_Normal.tga”.
You can also specify what bit-depth, resolution and post-effect you want. And finally you can specify what calibration you want, making it look as good as it can in your target engine.
Welcome to your suite! The new Quixel Suite gives you a tremendous amount of power and customization. We’ve only scratched the surface in this quick primer. Take the time to experiment and learn… Advanced masking with dynamasks, saving and sharing your own smart materials, creating document presets, creating NDO custom normal map styles… The list goes on, and in time, the wiki will do it’s best to cover every aspect of the suite. Take some old models you have kicking around, or create a new project. You’ll be suprised how much time Quixel suite will save you.
Hopefully you have a better idea of how DDO works now after reading this guide. If you want to know more, please check out the other sections of the wiki, as well as the tutorials available.