The Art of Texturing: Breathing Life into 3D Projects

The Art of Texturing: Breathing Life into 3D Projects

Artline Institute student Arthur Monteil spent three months recreating the detailed interior of a grand house, focusing on textures that evoke modern Victorian vibes. Discover the texturing phase of this project for inspiration on your next interior environment.

Artline Institute student Arthur Monteil undertook a three-month project to recreate the internal spaces of a grand house, filled with detailed props. In particular, Arthur took a special interest in creating textures that would evoke modern Victorian vibes. Read on to learn about the texturing phase of this project and take inspiration for your next interior environment.

In a 3D project, every step is essential and interconnected to achieve a comprehensive and effective result. Each phase has its unique role: modeling lays the foundation, and poor modeling can jeopardise the entire project. Rigging is critical for proper animation setup, while animation itself is a complex stage where every detail counts, and even those without animation expertise can spot flaws due to our natural familiarity with movement. In short, every step is vital, deserving of full attention and respect. This article, however, will focus on the texturing stage and the intricate processes that surround it.

To illustrate my point, I will use my latest project, which is undoubtedly one of my most accomplished: my participation in the Rookies Awards 2024. I encourage you to take a look at it; you will find various renders and a detailed breakdown of all the production steps I followed.

Reference Gathering

First and foremost, as with all the previously mentioned steps, conducting reference research is crucial. Beyond that, it’s vital to understand how materials behave. How do they age, react to strong sunlight and UV rays, or, on the contrary, to the dim light of an old garage bulb. Additionally, understanding their manufacturing process and composition is important. Finally, I'll say that I like to create a detailed breakdown of each material I need to develop.

Here are some references I used for my project:

Modeling and UVs

Once this is done, it is important to quickly talk about the other steps that come before texturing. Modeling, for example, plays a crucial role as it partially determines the level of detail in the texturing. In my project, I could have opted to create the bricks on the wall using textures. However, knowing that there would be close-up shots of the wall, the outcome might not have been as good. Therefore, I decided to model them instead.

There is also the UV mapping step. It may not be the most enjoyable, but it is no less crucial. Having a UV layout that is consistent with the 3D model, anticipating the textures that will be applied, and even considering the grooming, can be complex. It's important to spend sufficient time on this to ensure clean UVs, so you don’t have to revisit them later.

At this point, we have several options. First, we need to consider the rendering software we will use. Personally, I have always used Arnold with Maya. However, for this project, it became too slow, and I had been wanting to explore Unreal Engine for a long time. So, I transitioned between the two. This transition is significant because the two software handles textures differently. Additionally, with Unreal's latest updates and the new shader system, Substrate, things have evolved further.

Next, we need to choose the software we will use to create the textures. This choice depends on the time available and the level of detail we want. If time is limited, it’s preferable to use Substance Sampler or Photoshop, which allow us to create high-quality textures from photos. However, if we can dedicate more time to this step, the combination of Substance 3D Painter and Designer is highly recommended.

For my part, I chose to use Substance Painter for creating all my textures.


Let's dive into the various examples from my Rookies Awards project.

Starting with the hero props, specifically the croissants. More precisely, the baked croissants. There is indeed a version that is still baking, but it is less interesting. The texture of these croissants began in ZBrush, where I sculpted all the baking details and the multiple layers of dough rolled over each other on a high-poly version of my model.

I then baked (a word that has rarely been more aptly used) this high-poly model onto a "middle-poly" version of the croissants, which allowed me to create a base height map and normal map.

For the base colour, I painted different layers of colour or used curvature and AO maps to highlight the edges and crevices.

I also worked on the roughness map, ensuring it was consistent with the applied colours and the previously created height map.

I like to create each map independently to have more control, but it's important to ensure they are coherent with each other.

And there you have it! Bon appétit!

To finish, let's take a more hard-surface example this time. I want to focus on the importance of details during the texturing stage. I love being able to imagine the life of each object that I work on in Substance 3D Painter. Every little imperfection, every stain, every scratch represents a moment in the life of that object. It's a subtle way to tell a story while bringing realism and depth to the production.

For instance, I could take the example of this tray, on which you can observe a stain.

It may seem basic and might go unnoticed, but it allows the imagination to run free! You can imagine that it’s there because every morning, the homeowner uses this tray to have coffee in the living room! Or maybe it’s from a glass being spilled during a lively party! In short, it lets you dream!

That’s a good example, but I want to take an even more detailed one. I am referring to the two appliances in the scene: the refrigerator and the stove.

Beyond the stains or small chips on these two objects, I wanted to push the realism further. To do this, I created a fictional brand of appliances. I drew inspiration from existing brands for all the features available on these two types of appliances.

Then, I created a logo and a name for this brand, as well as some branding elements, such as a "10-year warranty" sticker.

This typically means that the brand is confident in its products, implying high quality. Once again, a small detail can say a lot and suggest an entire world to the viewer's mind.

Check out the full project breakdown here!

To conclude, I want to say that this project has taught me a lot and I believe that there is no better school than practical experience. I hope you found my explanations interesting! Of course, I must mention that I am far from being an expert in the field; these are only the experiences of a passionate student.

Thank you for taking time to read! Once again, to see my complete project, I invite you to visit my profile. Also, feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss this article further.