My name is Ognyan Zahariev and I am a Senior Artist at Ubisoft Sofia. In this breakdown I’ll explain the approach to texturing my Dumbledore’s office UE4 project with Quixel Suite.
The goal of the project was to create a real-time depiction of Dumbledore’s office from the Harry Potter franchise. I gathered a lot of reference from the movies but I also relied on descriptions in the books. Naturally I had to add a lot of elements from imagination as I wanted to leave my mark on the environment.
I always start with a rough blockout of the environment which doesn’t just help me with overall proportions and composition but also makes it easier to make a decision on the texture resolution of the props in the scene.
When it came to texturing I had a very similar approach for most of the hero props in the scene.
- Establish scale by importing a blockout in Unreal
- Create a highpoly model and sculpt it in ZBrush if necessary
- Retopologize in Topogun
- Unwrap in the most optimal way by reusing texture space when possible
- Bake Normal map and AO
- Identify material IDs and bake/paint ID map
In the case of the cabinet I took a modular approach as it is used 10 times in a single room. It is fairly big so being smart about texture space is key. You don’t need unique textures for all the shelves, the back and sides of the cabinets.
I arranged the modules in a way that would make it more comfortable for texturing and imported it in DDO. The next step was to load the baked normal map, AO and ID map. I chose the UE4 RMA preset as this is an excellent way to save memory in Unreal.
I start texturing by taking a closer look at the surfaces I’ve already identified and figure out how much variation they need based on the environment the prop sits in and how long it’s been there. Old wood tends to get these darker spots through the accumulation of dirt and humidity and on the other side there are brighter areas where the surface has been scratched or worn. There are also painted areas (golden paint) that are shinier compared to the rest of the surface. On top of all that you have some dust and when combined, all of these elements tell the story of that prop.
- I chose a type of wood material preset that fits an old cabinet like that.
- I duplicate the base layer and alter the albedo and roughness values to get these darker areas caused by humidity and dirt over time. I use dynamask with the sand preset as a base for that layer. It is vital to do some hand painting after applying the dynamsk in order to get a truly natural looking result. These darker areas are also associated with lower texture intensity so you would get less of that wood texture in the albedo but something a bit closer to a solid color instead.
- I do the same thing to get the lighter areas where the wood is a bit worn and scratched. These need to be in logical places such as edges which are likely be in contact with other objects. The Light Edges dynamask preset works well as a base for this effect.
- I add a folder for the golden paint where I paint the top of the cabinet frames and the ornaments sitting above the cabinet doors. I apply a grunge texture in order to remove some of the paint and go in to manually paint some damage.
- It is extremely important to add enough roughness variation based on these different layers in order to get a convincing looking surface.
- Both the dark/dirty bits and the light/worn edges should have roughness values different from the generic wood surface. Same goes for the Golden paint which should really stand out on top of the wood surface.
- I constantly preview the results in Unreal. I use Quixel DDO to update the textures that I’ve imported in the engine so it literally takes a couple of clicks. This important habit can save a lot of time later on. Textures are adjusted based on the lighting and vice versa. A common issue is having an albedo that is too dark so lighting doesn’t work properly with it. It is a good idea to view the whole scene in albedo only to make sure that there is a good balance between all the different elements.
A tip on using the full potential of DDO
I often use materials that don’t necessarily fit the surface type of the prop. A good example is the dragon prop that needed more detail in its scales. I didn’t want to add this in ZBrush as it would have been much more flexible to generate it in NDO or use an existing normal map in DDO which is what I ended up doing. The Rough bronze material was a great candidate so I masked the creases using the rich occlusion dynamask preset and hand painted the rest which gave the scales a bumpier and more organic look. I decreased the albedo, roughness and metallic opacity value of the bronze to 0 and left just the normal map. I also let it spread outside the scales in order to get some surface imperfections for a more handmade feeling.
I get the appeal of creating unique textures for each prop but this is far from a memory friendly approach. Identifying surfaces that may benefit from high quality tiling textures isn’t just memory friendly but also saves time in the long run.
The type of environment had a lot of stone and plaster surfaces so I knew I could texture a big chunk of the scene by blending a couple of these textures together.
- For the first texture I blended a concrete material with rock in DDO which gave me a nice and relatively smooth surface with good variation.
- For the second texture I used a rough concrete material and increased the normal map intensity a bit as I intended to use this for the more damaged and worn out bits of the environment such as stairs and pillars edges.
- I tried to keep large and unique details to a minimum in order to avoid obvious tiling.
- After exporting the two sets of textures with the RMA preset I set up a basic vertex color blending shader in Unreal.
- I made sure that the environment elements that used this material had enough vertices in areas that required more detailed painting.
- Measure twice, cut once – blocking out props and other environment elements can save you tons of time and energy in the long run.
- Constantly preview your textures in the engine. 3DO is great for texturing and presenting single props but you will most likely get some surprises when you look at your work in engine – different lighting setup, different reflections, etc.
- Always try to tell a story through your textures. Think about the environment they are in, other props around that may influence them, etc.
Thank you and happy texturing!