Lets Talk Color Pickers - Part 2

General / 02 June 2019

Hey folks!

In my last blog post about color pickers, I was exploring a way to procedurally generate color charts based on an input color and exposing different variation sliders. Since then I got the chance to work on a Substance Source Signature Series which meant I got extensive time working with the node and I discovered some things I was not happy with.  Some revisions were made for the Source release, but these mainly related to removing the dependency on a px processor in order to work with the CPU engine better. What you see in that series is more of less the node I detailed in the previous blog, but CPU friendly. I do go through the inner workings of it during a live stream, so if your interested check that out or you can grab it directly from the .sbs files if you have a substance source subscription. https://youtu.be/jp2qOxJGzq8


Now however, I am doing another pass on the node. Giving it a big tidy up, making it more robust and reverting back to px processor based (A CPU friendly version is now on a switch, instead). Value and hue variance is done in two passes as before, except its now packaged with the node and inputs exposed. Additionally, there is a mask input to provide a way to blend back the input color, which is very helpful in making sure you don't stray from the original intention. I found I rarely used the saturation variation, so that's gone. Along with the seed offset sliders for each channel. In practice just having a single seed was more than enough and was barely used anyway.


The main problem I had was mostly to do with how I was generating samples. I was using the same value for both generating sample points with a tile generator and to dynamically control the output size of the color chart. This meant the sample counts grew exponentially and very quickly became noisy or nonsense data. So my first step was to fix this and generate a sensible number of samples points. This is now done with a 16x16 fx map so its super fast and much more understandable.

This did pose a new problem though, as when these samples upscale to full res, they were not interpolating correctly. So I also do my own linear interpolation during the upscale to ensure I get precise gradients between each value. Below are the sample points being linearly interpolated correctly.


Hopefully now the sample count is more understandable and intuitive. (Sorry for the .gif compression)


I was also unhappy with how the hue blending worked with low saturation colors. Previously I was forcing the Saturation to 1 with a HSL node in order to blend it back on top of the original color. While this does produce nice results, it had a weird side effect of brightening the overall values. Instead, I now convert to HSV, so when adding hue variance it will not affect the brightness. This is the default behavior for the node and means it will respect the original saturation correctly.


Of course, the hue variance slider remains. That is, how much to blend in the variation. And also the value variation and hue range sliders; How much to offset the value and hue respectfully. Except now that it is px processor based again, the hue offset is truly random, rather than a blend between two extremes.


As before, you can choose to blend the hue back on top instead of preserving Saturation, which now feels nicer with the HSV and sample changes. As you expect, some colors are better suited for this than others.


I also found soft light in particular has nice results, so that's available as well.


The graph independent seed also remains, which with the high hue values, allows for some really interesting colors!


Thanks for reading!

Optimize Graph Plugin

General / 04 May 2019

Hey folks,

I have recently been exploring Designer's Plugin API and working on a tool to automate some graph optimizations!


So far, the plugin is doing 3 main optimizations, the first of which is detecting, deleting and reconnecting any duplicate generators you have. Nodes like noises or tile samplers for example. It will also recognizes if you have any exposed parameters on the node and make sure not to delete those!


Next up uniform color nodes. The plugin will force the node to 16x16 (the optimal size for the Substance Engine) and set all connected nodes back to relative to parent, unless the given node already had manual edits to its output size


Finally, it will set a blend nodes' Alpha Blending mode to ignore alpha if it detects both inputs as grayscale.


The goal being to simply select an entire graph and let the plugin do its thing.


If you have any other ideas of what could be automated, let me know!
  

Substance Manager Tool - Part 2

General / 19 April 2019

Hey all,


I have been fairly busy recently so took a bit of a break from the Manager tool, but I now have a new update! 


I got myself setup with my own Perforce server so I can properly backup content and use version control, bringing me closer to how I am used to working in a studio. Following this, I wanted to learn a bit of PyQT ( a more robust GUI library for Python if you have not heard of it ),  so actually took a step back from the main app to develop some new things.


One of the issues I now have as my library grows and I do more projects is all the junk flooding designer. For example, if I search for a ground, I get wip files, renders, psd files, exported textures you name it.


This is because I had basically set up designer to point to some root path and recursively search everything inside there. And after my last foray into shuffling files around, I have all source files nested with the parent graph.


Thats pretty messy, so instead I wanted to path designer to specific directories and not do a recursive search. Thing is, that could be a lot of paths.


So I developed a project app, that will create a .sbsprj file with my perforce details and given a root directory, automatically locate child paths for designer to watch, with dark skin too ;)


It does this by looking for a shelf.ini file, which I place in each directory I want designer to read. If I want to add a new path or project, I simply add this file and re-save from within the tool.


So I created a project for all my personal work and set their related watched paths.


Since I don't always need content from older projects, I wrote a supplementary app to manage the installing of the projects.


This tool will write a config file with the projects selected and then tell designer to use that config file. Now everything is really easy to manage and the shelf is super clean!


At least for now.

Podcasting!

General / 04 April 2019

Hey all!


Alex Beddows was silly enough to invite me for a podcast. We have a nice chat about all things game development. I wonder if he regrets it now?

https://www.artstation.com/alexbeddows 



Stone Layering Series 50% off!

General / 01 January 2019

2019 is upon us and it has been incredible seeing the community grow over the last year, so lets continue improving and kick things off with a 50% discount! Make sure to use the discount code newyearsubstance or the links below!

https://www.artstation.com/benwilson/store/8yP/stone-layering-generator-tutorial-series

https://gumroad.com/l/TXDJC/newyearsubstance

Happy new year everyone!

Lets talk color pickers in Substance Designer!

General / 11 November 2018

A common problem I seem to have when building an albedo texture is finding the balance between material flexibility, user friendliness and uniqueness. 

I like using uniform color pickers instead of HSL nodes because I find visually choosing your color is more intuitive. It also means you can set up the color pickers in such a way that your albedo can have a primary, second and tertiary colors. The problem is, its very hard to get a good variety of colors when only using uniform colors.

The gradient node does a good job of solving the variety problem by letting you sample many colors at once from reference, but then you loose the color picker flexibily and it becomes very unstable if using the gradient dynamic node or building color variations. How many hours have you spent getting your colors to look good, only for it to fall apart when you change the random seed value of the graph or the overall color of the material. If your anything like me, a lot.

These problems are what iv tried to solve with this node. Lots of videos below, so keep scrolling!


At its core, it's a simple color picker with HSL variation sliders:


Whats neat is the HSL channels are totally independent from each other.


You can also adjust the number of samples that should be taken too


When you start to layer these up, you can get some nice variety of colors. Its still controlled by a simple color picker though, giving good reliable control over the material. In this example, there are two layers.


And the built in seed value will sample different colors.


The important feature here, is the node is totally independent from the graphs global random seed value. Meaning what ever colors you set, will remain consistent regardless of the input.

 

This decoupling from the random seed value is really powerful when you plug in a color chart to the color input slot. Here I sample some colors from a reference image and use that information to sample colors from instead.


Notice its still preserving color when changing the random seed and instead we use the internal seed value to sample different colors from the chart. As before, we can choose how many samples we should take too.


We still have access to the variation slider too!


That is as far as iv gotten for now, so let me know your thoughts!

4C: Prague Conference - See you there!

General / 21 September 2018

I am pleased to announce that I will be speaking about Environment Texturing in Wolfenstein 2 at this years 4C conference! Its a relatively new event hosted by Wargaming and this time its coming to Prague!


There is gonna be some really nice talks this year and starts on the 5th Oct

https://conf4c.com/en/


If your going to the event, be sure to swing by! Otherwise, I think you will be able to listen to me babble later online.

Substance Manager Tool - Progress

General / 01 September 2018

Over time my library of substance nodes and folder structure has grown into a mess. So iv been building a tool around the Automation Toolkit to manage this and organize everything from one place. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Automation Toolkit is a set of Python tools from Allegorithmic to manipulate substance files, and well, its pretty awesome.

My tool is still heavily wip and missing many features but here is my progress so far. On the left, it reads a project directory, listing all sbs and sbsar files in that directory. And then on the right, you can read and view the content of a file, displaying all the graphs, attributes, resources and dependencies

 I messed up the recordings a little and don't have a mouse cursor, but you get the idea.



The tool also lets me move any substance files from one location to another, bringing along any source data it finds with it as well as searching the entire project and updating any files which might have used the moved substance.

How does it know what source data to look for? Well at the start of this, most of my substance files were in folders like this.

I got all sorts of junk here, all in one folder, what a mess. So I wrote a converter to take all this stuff and organize it neatly, with _source folder for every substance. Thats what the tool looks for when moving files


The tool also allows for relocating of resources and dependencies. You can either manually search for the path, or have the tool try to automatically find the missing dependencies for you. If it finds more than one potential match, it will ask you to choose one.

You can also search through the entire project to find out where and which files are using a given substance

Hope you all like it so far!


Art Station Store!

General / 08 July 2018

Hi all,

My stone generator tutorial series is now up on the art station store, along with a 30% discount if you buy it here! The discount will run for next week, so pick it up if you havent yet!

https://www.artstation.com/benwilson/store/8yP/stone-layering-generator-tutorial-series


Samorost Fan Art Scene Progress #1

General / 25 June 2018

I started a small fan art piece quite some time ago (before art station blogs were even introduced) and I haven't worked on it for well over a year now, but I recently started back up again. I had been posting my progress on polycount, but I thought this blog would be a good place to update everyone as well. So this post will be a huge dump of the polycount thread + my latest update.

Hope you guys enjoy and please crit me!!! I am at a good point for feedback and would very much welcome it!

Post 1

I started by collecting reference from the game and some materials I thought were nice. I trimmed this down as I collected a lot!


Then I jumped into modo for a quick blockout.


From here I went straight into zbrush and high poly's, starting to build out form. I didn't take many screenshots at the start but these are the ones I have. I went through and pretty much built everything to a rough state, decimating them down and throwing it all into unreal on auto unwraps.


From here I started to explore some possible camera angels.


Now that I had a pretty good idea of what meshes I need, I started going back through them, finalizing the sculpt/ingame mesh and uv's. I also started looking at what I can do with lights. I still can make up my mind so you will see it change a lot =D I have been using a mix of substance source and my own substances so far.


The egg shell was my first substance and was very simple


Then I created a barnacle/coral material to blend with all the flora elements.


I had a bit of trouble with the larger coral flora at the back. My first attempt came out pretty weak.



But I went back and re-did them entirely. This time setting up a 3 material layer blend which I plan to use on all the assets.


I went a little overboard on the other flora bits, not sure if I like it or not.


But all that detail got lost anyway!


Continuing progress.




This was the point I started my mentorship with Josh and have been working on these three materials since, bringing me up to where I am currently.


My plan going forward is to finalize these materials and start to resolve the ground. I have been going slow lately so want to try and get everything in with textures to have the full scene to look at. I feel lighting is my weakest area so any advice about how to light the scene would be greatly appreciated. 

Post 2

Thank you for the kind words guys! I did a pass on the albedo for the first ground material and added some more foliage bits around.

Post 3

Hey all, its been a while as iv been super busy the last few weeks. But I found some time this weekend and made a start at addressing the ground. Touched up the sculpt and took it in a slightly different direction again, then put together the blend shader. Hoping to tie everything together with some foliage later but its a start for now!

Here is the sculpt for the ground



another ground blend material



and the progress ingame so far.

Post 4

Thanks all! Again its been a while, iv been a bit lazy recently but you were right @DInusty! I spent most of the day working on this again.
@Sirdelita I actually ended up making some alpha's from the warped rock substance material, that really helped tie the sculpt and texture together.

I implemented a bit of feedback iv had so far, darkening the ground a little and trying out some emissive mushrooms. I was trying to get them to light from the emissive channel itself and I think I may have gone a little overboard in the process. What do you all think? It might be better to try to light them manually instead. I also tried out the new megascan grasses, mushrooms. They seem really nice and really helped me speed up foliage part of this.

It was suggested to try a very soft lighting setup too but im totally unsure about the best way of doing this? Any suggestions would be great!

  
Post 5

A small lighting update tonight!

Post 6

Well.... Its been well over a year since I last worked on this, but I havent forgotten and I am back to it. I don't really have a good excuse for you, so instead some updates!

I set up a simple rig and first pass textures for one of the characters.


I plan to get all of the characters rigged, posed and with clean bakes, so I can work on all the textures together. Speaking of which, I also have finished the bake for the helicopter.


Thanks for the awesome feedback too! I will be looking to address that after all the art is in.