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Texturing a Realistic Sofa with Quixel Suite

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Hi. My name is Aidin Salsabili. I am a 3D character, creature and prop artist. In this tutorial, I want to share my workflow of how I made a realistic sofa using Quixel Suite 2. 

At first, I want to talk about the project “Our Heritage” and the work I did for it.

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“Our Heritage” is a story by me and Ehsan Ebrahimzadeh about the future of the world and human beings. The story happens in New York City, year 2050, where the people are fighting with horrific climate change and its effects. A massive company called “The Answer” has made sanctuary cities with special technologies that people can live in. Adrian, our main character, is a scientist working on clean water and food in the Answer Company. During his research, Adrian finds out the company had a very decisive impact on the world’s climate and that they have genetically modified both plants and humans. Adrian decides to get out of the sanctuary city and find the truth. Thus, he ends up in part of New York City which has been abandoned and overgrown by foliage.

This environment is the first part of the series we have planned for since we have a full story with characters and environments. This room is his safe house where he studies about the truth and works on evolved creatures.

This sofa is one of the props I made for “Our Heritage” project.

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I go over three steps to create objects for any scene:

1. Props usage in the scene

I think props in any scene should serve the story and the beauty of that scene both individually and with the combination of other objects. In addition, it is important to make sure they are correct compositionally.

2. Reference and concepts

It is crucial to put enough time finding good references. You can create awesome concepts based on the story you have and the references you gather.

3. Execution

I choose my software based on my needs, polygon budget, texture size and all the other technical and artist style of a project. For this project, I used Quixel Suite 2.

 

Here are some references I used for the sofa.

Based on our story, I needed a worn out, old leather sofa. Thus, I gathered many references that served my purpose. In addition, I looked at many detail references to create my model materials and textures.

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  • Gathered references for shapes, materials, and textures like Albedo, Roughness.
  • Made a blockout mesh to ensure correct proportions.
  • Based on my block mesh I sculpted the high poly in Zbrush.
  • Made the low-poly in Topogun and unwrapped it in Maya.
  • Used Knald for texture baking. It is fast and easy to use.
  • For material IDs, I poly paint my mesh in Zbrush and use Knald to bake them into the texture map. For me, it is the best way since I can have many details in my ID maps like the worn leather on the sofa or the small metal parts.

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To start your project in Quixel Suite 2 you should have a normal map, and AO. An ID map is also useful but not necessary. You can also import Object Space Normal Map, Curvature map, and Position map or simply bake them In DDO using 3DO Baker.

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Some tips on importing your object and textures into DDO

  • Make sure your smoothing groups are ok.
  • Your normals might be Y up or down depending on the software you have used. Use the Flip Y checkbox if you’re importing a Y- normal map. If it’s Y+, leave it unchecked.
  • I use RMA-packed since it is easier to work with and more optimized.
  • Always keep your project and layers organize since you might have many layers.
  • Make sure you have a few padding pixels in ID map to avoid seams in your textures.
  • Depending on the engine you want to use for your prop, you can add the maps you need for it by using the DDO menu → Add New Map.
  • You can always make two or more textures for your object. If it’s a hero object and you want high-quality textures. I textured the blanket in a different texture.

After creating my projects in DDO, I use 3DO to check my maps and make sure all the maps works fine. Hold C key on your keyboard to see your ID map. Since I had three material IDs, I made three folders and named them as the materials. I created a base layer with a color the get the sense of my object. I like DDO because you can achieve a great result in a very short amount of time. You can create great Smart Materials by combining materials from the DDO library and Megascans library. The key is to find good references and use them to define your materials.

Some tips on making awesome materials in DDO:

  • When you want to have an old worn out material like leather, you must study the material’s unused new condition too.
  • There are many reasons why an object gets damage. Sometimes you see some scratches or paint peels also, weather condition may cause rust etc… You must analyze the object you want to create and look at references. In this sofa, I found two kinds of decay and damages. One was the obsolescence and effects of humidity and dust which I textured the and the other was accidents, age, and over usage. I modeled this kind of damage in Zbrush and used masks in DDO’s DynaMask to achieve what I wanted.  

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The leather material has five layers:

  1. Basic leather material with some variations in roughness.
  2. This layer was for big damaged parts that had an effect on albedo and roughness.
  3. I added another leather material for the parts that had been overused, like some parts of seats and backs. These areas have lighter leather color and get rougher in time.   
  4. I needed some scratches on the leather so I created this layer for it. It affected albedo, roughness and the normal.
  5. I added wood and metal parts in this layer

You need to make the perfect mask for each layer to get as close as possible to your references. Usually after I select a DynaMask, I play with the brightness and contrast, then I use my own custom brushes to paint in 3DO and get the look I want.

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Some tips on creating masks:

  • I work in grayscale mask mode at the start. Then I go back to the shaded mode and see the results.
  • You can change the mask tiles, try to use this feature but make sure the tilling is not obvious on your object.
  • DDO’s DynaMasks can give you a good starting point, but it might look computer generated. Therefore, I always use my own custom brushes to get the look I want.
  • There is not a rule of thumb for making a mask. You have to test different masks and compare them.
  • Look at your references throughout your texturing process.

Roughness is as important as albedo or normal map. Make sure you put enough time for your roughness values.

 

Some tips on creating great roughness:

  • Roughness variations can give a great look when light moves in your scene.
  • I exaggerate on some areas in my roughness values. Contrast can give you more interesting look.
  • Think about your objects story and where they belong. You might want to add a story via roughness.

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I added a slight amount of dust at the end. It can help your materials blend with each other and gives you more natural look.

When you use DDO’s scanned data, it is easy to have accurate albedos and roughness values. However, remember to look precisely to your references when you want to add your own materials. For example, there are many greens and blues in a brown leather. I added those colors by hand to get a more natural look.

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Presentation

I used Marmoset Toolbag 3 for my presentation. You can export your object and its textures easily and import them into Marmoset. I used Metalness since our scene was in UE4 and UE uses metalness approach.

Some tips on presenting your props:

  • Use RMA packed textures since it is easier to use and more optimized.
  • Try different environments and lighting conditions and see what is best for you.
  • Rotate the camera and move lighting to see how your roughness reacts to them. You might want to change some values in Quixel Suite to get the look you want.
  • Check your Normal map Y channel. UE4 uses Y down Normal maps so if you export your maps with UE4 presets you have to flip your Green channel to get the correct result in Toolbag 3.
  • Closing 3DO in Photoshop can boost your frame rate in Toolbag.

 

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Final word

I use a specific set of software throughout my project depending on my project. This helps the harmony and consistency between props and other parts of the final environment. Always keep your project organized. Name your materials and textures by a rule. Gather lots of references for shapes, models, textures etc.

Thank you for reading, and good luck!