Schoolism Color and Light with Nathan Fowkes Week 5

Week 5 goes through demonstrations of painting quick thumbnails. An emphasis is put on using the fundamentals of combining warm versus cold/hue, value variations and saturation variations to create abstracts of emotional beats.

Focus on principles over tools and techniques. Tools quickly become outdated but the principles will stay the same. Create your own process for working quickly. Photoshop tool presets and actions can speed up your workflow.

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Nathan Fowkes process

Fowkes knows that he’ll have cool light filtering in so he starts with a warm background.

A neutral on a warm feels very cool.

Paint abstractions with the feel of real light and an interesting color palette.

Everything is kept very neutral apart from some select areas of contrast.

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Nathan Fowkes thumbnail painting.

Pay attention to the flow of lines in your painting.

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Nathan Fowkes thumbnail painting.

Look at your scenes in relation to each other. Your painting might not be as bright and vibrant as you thought it was. Use adjustments to correct contrast and vibrancy and to create more variety in the context of the color script.

Week 05 Homework

Create a finished painting to this level:

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Start by roughing out an idea in simple values.

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Think of the relationships between cool and warm. Where are your light sources? Paint with lost and found edges.Screen Shot 05-20-17 at 11.52 AM

James Gurney Gamut Masking

Gamut Masking (2011) James Gurney

I haven’t fully understood the use of a gamut mask before beyond simply choosing a palette. The same color scheme, as perceived by our eyes, can be cast into warm or cool light depending on the gamut mask which is chosen. The gamut mask will shift the colors within the frame towards less/more saturated depending on how warm/cold they are. E.g. an intensely saturated yellow will become quite grey under colder/bluer light.

I have potentially a lot of illustrations to paint over the coming weeks so this basic concept will be helpful.

Gnomon Creating a Sci-Fi Alleyway

Creating a Sci-fi Alleyway. Detailed Environment Techniques with Devon Fay  – great inspirational tutorial on the gnomon workshop.

What a beautiful piece of art Fay’s “Sci-fi Alleyway” is. I love this feeling of rain-slick, beaten up alleyways filled with old tech and Japanese references. The image has really stuck with me and I can’t help but think of it when I look down narrow alleys in Belfast. Even during the weekend, I saw a poster in The Ramen Bar in Dublin and immediately thought, sci-fi alleyway!

This is the VR (or AR?) dream.


Summary of my notes from the tutorial:

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Introduction to Substance Painter

Week 06/07

After finally getting Substance Painter to work on my laptop, I watched this tutorial on digital tutors Introduction to Substance Painter. I felt like I got a lot out of this tutorial as I haven’t painted using channels like this before (at least knowingly haha). Hopefully now I can test to see if Substance Painter is good for our needs.

These are my notes for reference.

02 Creating and Saving a Project

A texture set is created from a material I.D. Apply different materials to the sections of the creature/object which you need to isolate for ease of painting. This will create separate texture sets for exporting which can be combined in Photoshop. When importing maps, make sure that the root name is the same as the corresponding texture set name. e.g. textureSetName_mapType. You can manually plug in maps in the document settings. For the normal map settings, make sure you’ve chosen the right one by checking if your detail is moving in the correct direction.

03 Getting around in substance painter’s interface.

In the document setting: base color, height, roughness and metallic is a basic pbr set-up. ‘Viewer settings’ pertain to the viewport. The image based lighting can be changed from here. The environment can be hidden through ‘opacity’ but still display lighting information. Height force applies to intensity of normal map.

04 Overview of the painting workflow.

The brush uses an alpha: like a hole which the paint gets pushed through. Choose a brush shape and then the material to paint with. The material will be painted into all 4 channels by default. The channels e.g. height can be remapped to e.g. base colour. You can view each channel separately by clicking solo in the view settings. Use ‘c’ to cycle between views. You can remove the material from your brush (under the material tab) and go into substance material mode to make a custom material. You can use ‘shift’ to rotate the lighting sphere and see how the shifting light behaves on the material. Right click on the brush preview to save your tool, brush or material settings. Look at layers as containers for channel information; base color, height, roughness and metallic. You can change the opacity of each channel on each layer from the dropdown.

05 Painting the worm’s mouth.

Create and name a new layer. Is is a metal? If for example not, set the slider to black. Will it be rough? Will this layer have height information? Start with a darker value and gradually layer in the lighter values. Don’t jump into high contrast too soon.

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06 Painting additional roughness in the worm’s mouth.

Enable pressure sensitivity with the little circle beside flow.

Create a new layer for painting roughness. Under the material tab, turn off the color, height and metal channels so that you’re only painting into the rough channel. You can adjust the slider from black to white to adjust the degree of roughness. By not painting into all the channels, the data can never be recorded. Instead, for the layer settings, disable the channels that will not be used.  This way the strokes will be recorded in all channels but will not be visible. Use roughness to make a shiny surface appear less wet. Preview your strokes on the solo viewer/’c’.

07 Projection painting and the worm’s body

M key for material view. The projection tool is found next to the brush on the upper tool bar. Start by thinking of the channel properties that you want your material to have. Choose an image for your base colour. Crop the image into a square before importing. Go to file>import image and load the image into base colour. Cycle to the solo base colour. Hold down the ‘s’ key to modify the stencil image.  Keep a look out for texture stretching when you paint near borders. Add a white mask to your layer and paint in black with a hard brush for cleaning up edges that transition to different colours/materials.

08 Painting and masking the worm’s body.

09 Colour correcting textures.

Click on the bubble icon above the layers to add a substance effect/filter of a levels adjustment.

10 Adding additional height information for the body.

To add more height, first create a fill layer with black to cover what’s underneath, ‘heightReset’. Create a new fill layer above and fill it with a material.

11 Painting additional roughness for the body.

You can copy layer masks using the pencil icon.

12 Painting textures for eyes.

The brush is 1 and the eraser is 2. Eyes are very wet and therefore you want your roughness to be smooth. Black = less of a strength. White = more. Therefore use a blacker roughness value for the eyes to make them appear wetter.

13 Finishing the eye textures.

The geometry decal tool can be used to fill areas. Select the colour to be black. Select the selection mode and then e.g. select the UV shell from the 2D viewer. You can also create a mask by using the decal tool to make a quick selection of faces.

14 Adding texture to the teeth.

You can add a substance effect to a mask to reveal an underlying material with a textured shape. You can then plug a map into the position to only have the masked texture appear in certain areas.

15 Adding texture to the sewer platform.

Think of a material in terms of layers e.g. the base material, the paint overlay and rust. Think about where the wear would occur. Create selections of faces, etc and fill.

Note: To create a traditional paint effect, how could we use layering of materials and masks to create textured reveals?

Experiment with the different brushes and also their settings. Remember to watch out for paint stretching on borders. You may be able to use one of your maps as a mask. This mask can be adjusted e.g. with levels and inversion. Remember that each channel’s opacity can be adjusted in the layers panel.

17 Texturing the sewer grate.

18 Texturing the bolts

For revealing paint underneath a rust layer you have two options. You can reveal the underlying paint by masking the rust above. Or you can paint rust above by, but change the height map from the underlying height to something like roughness.

19 Adding wear to the platform with particles.

Emiters and receivers are included in the particle brush. In the tool panel, look at the physics rollout so see the emitter and receiver. Paint into the mask of a fill layer. Expand physics with advanced settings. These are good for weathered/aged effects. The particles will naturally pool in crevices so this can be useful when combined with a rust mask on a fill layer.

20 Baking texture maps out of Substance Painter.

Go to file>export. You can upscale the size of your texture map without loosing quality. Uncheck the maps for height, all PBR diffuse.., Unity 4 and Unity 5. Set the export path. Png 16 bit max. In photshop, combine similar files into one using masking e.g. all the base colours.

Le Gouffre: Painterly Camera Projection

Week 05

Sorcha found this short film from Lightning Boy Studio, Le Gouffre (2014). Molly, Aidan, Sorcha and I have been discussing for a while how we would like to create a painterly look, especially since our visit to the Ulster Museum and seeing Rembrandt’s self-portrait. We agreed that Le Gouffre is a good example of the direction that we would want the painterly look to take.

Le Gouffre from Lightning Boy Studio on Vimeo.

I found this blog post, Week 55 – Camera Projection Technique,  which goes into detail about how Lightning Boy Studio create the textures for Le Gouffre. They create a scene with low detailed textures, create a new camera which covers all of the the views from the shot camera and then use this for creating a render which is painted over in Photoshop. This painting is then projected on top of the scene.

They use this technique so that their computers aren’t overloaded with large texture sets. This method also gives them control over the amount of detail in fore, mid and back-ground.

I’m not sure if we should try and use this technique for the pitch video or try and create a similar solution which will work in real time.

Landscape Sketching with Nathan Fowkes

Colour and light design will of course be very important in the user experience. The quick colour and light that I painted over my 3D renders still feels very unnatural and doesn’t capture the best mood and quality of light that the scene could have. I saw the video above on Bobby Chiu’s channel and really love the quality of light that Fowkes creates by layering of textured light over less saturated hues.

  • Primarily in nature the beauty is in the greys – warm and cool greys.
  • Paint the colours in the way that they really exist e.g. lay down the warm local colours and then paint over with the cool shadows.
  • The deep shadows are almost always a deep warm colour e.g. the crevice in a log.

For this scene with backlighting and a warm sunset:

  1. Start with vibrant warm tones.
  2. Start to apply greys, letting the highlights and brightest tones shine through.
  3. Add subtleties to the darker tones.
  4. Apply light over the forms.


Image from Fowkes’ DeviantArt journal: