Art Spotlight: Sea Lurker

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Hi Everyone! My name is Jaime (Jager)! I’m a Character Artist, who focuses mainly on stylized designs. World of Warcraft and the Darksider’s Franchise are two art-styles that continue to inspire my work. In my current job, I use a traditional Photoshop technique for creating my textures. But, I felt that I needed to finally take the time to learn Substance Painter. The purpose of this project was to teach myself a couple new skills and programs.

First off, I’ll start by mentioning that Baldi Konijn came up with this awesome creature design. I saw it awhile back on his Facebook page and added it to my little wishlist folder. I strongly recommend everyone go check out his work. All of his designs are crazy-awesome.

Now, I’ll explain a couple key techniques I used and acquired while working on this project.

I start by getting my concept art and also by gathering some “target” images. The target images help guide the sculpting/translating phase. I mainly use them to help me match existing styles I favor.


Sculpt Target:

My main goal is to make the top image and give it the detail and finish of the bottom one. Keep in mind that you have to strike a balance. You want to give the sculpt enough detail, so that it feels like your target image. But, you don’t want to push it so far that it feels like a completely different concept image was used.

Midway into my sculpt, ZBrush 4R8 was released and it couldn’t have shown up at a better time. I had finished sculpting most of the Lurker, but was dreading having to sculpt all the suckers on his tail. Luckily, 4R8 came out with VDMs. Basically, I only had to sculpt two variations of the sucker and then the brush did the rest. Best thing I never knew I needed.

Renders of the Final Sculpt here.

Substance Painter Tips

Before I give you any of my advice, this playlist really helped me crunch out the basics: 

Having a good ID Map is crucial when working in Substance Painter. I baked out a Vertex Color Map using the quick Polypaint I made in ZBrush.

You want to separate the different materials into different colors. For this character I only had to organize the skin, gums, metals, leather, and bone (nails & teeth). You then use these ID Colors to create your masks and then add a Paint Effect to do any editing if needed.

All the orange, hardened parts of the Lurker were hand-painted using the Paint Effect method. This is what the layer setup looks like:

And this is what the mask looks like on the model:

  • Press Alt on the mask to display it this way. (best way to make tweaks)

The secret to texturing in Substance Painter is learning to make really good masks. Understanding this technique(below) can offer you a ton of different results:

  1. First you create a Fill Layer and choose your desired color for it(keep in mind the color you choose depends on whether this layer is for shadows or highlights.
  2. Then add a Black Mask to the layer and add a Generator to that.
  3. Now it’ll ask you to select your generator type; choose MG Mask Editor
  4. Alt+click your mask so you can see what you’re changing.
  5. You can then get a number of different effects using the sliders they have inside the Mask Editor(I focused mainly on the AO and Curvature settings).
  6. The Levels Effect is to grow or shrink the white or black on the mask; or invert them if you need that.
  7. The Paint Effect is for custom tweaks you might want to add yourself

This is what the mask from the above image looks like on the model:

The white is what will be filled with color, so my crevices will be darkened as well as adding some softer shadows underneath the model. You can also tweak this technique so your mask can add a top-lit effect or some strong highlights on the edges. It’s your party.

A general rule for working in Substance: Keep your materials organized(I figured this out half way into texturing). Sounds simple enough, but just in case here’s the exact method I learned to use:

  • Separate your Materials into Folders and add your ID selection as a base for the mask (Edit the folder’s mask when adding or removing a certain material from the model)
  • Make your color changes in these folders. For example the shift from green skin to yellow underbelly is inside my skin folder.
  • Above the folder you’ve created, we’re going to add a “Material Layer”. I only call it that because this layer will be in charge of Metalness/Roughness or Spec/Gloss. It can’t be inside the Material Folder because of the way Substance layers work. It should look like this:
  • Go into the Fill Effect of the layer and turn off color, height, and normal under Material; we don’t want to mess with any of that. You should only see two sliders now. Tweak those to fit your needs.

Roughness: 0= Super Glossy/ 1=Matte

Metalness: 0= Non-metal/ 1= Really reflective metal

Those are all the tricks/tips I got for now. Hopefully, this helps improve your textures the next time you mess around in Substance.

After finishing my textures, I needed to set things up in Sketchfab to share my model online. I added a Sketchfab viewer to my Artstation post, just in case anyone wanted to get a closer look at the skin details and material shifts on the model. I like that the Sketchfab Editor sets you up with three-point lighting by “default”, so all you have to do is worry about intensities and color. I still messed around with the distances of the lights to get a moodier feel for my model. I also know that Sketchfab allows for animations and sounds. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of that in the future. This project is for learning and the next couple skills I’m looking to acquire are rigging and maybe play with animations a little. I have plans to make a scene for this character, have him doing an idle animation, and figuring out how to add the sound effects in Sketchfab. Right now, I’m working on painting my skin weights. Here’s a WIP as proof that I’m still working towards finishing my rig. I tend to pose him to check for imperfections: (haven’t added the armor yet)

You can check out renders of the finished model or the rest of my work on my Artstation.

About the author

Jaime A Garcia

I'm a character artist with a focus on stylized characters. I can create a character from concept to in-game model. I'm currently working as a freelance artist, but I crave being part of a studio with other like-minded artists. I'm really looking forward to getting back to that collaborative environment. I look forward to growing as an artist and creating the most interesting and captivating characters possible. I'm always ready to fly out to wherever is needed to make my dream a reality. I'm also currently available for freelance, full-time or contract work.

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