Interview conducted by Mira Karouta
Could you give us a brief look into how you came to be a character artist?
I actually started my career as an environment artist. I worked for about 2 years in this role on a hand-painted MMO. While I enjoyed it, I really wanted to do something different. I hit a harsh industry reality when the art style was reset and all the environment art I had built over a year was pretty much thrown out. It was at this time that one of the character artists asked me if I wanted to try characters. The timing was perfect and the transition was pretty smooth. I haven’t looked back since!
What’s your favorite and least favorite parts of creating characters?
There really isn’t a part of character creation that I don’t like. The retopology and UV creation is probably the least creative step in the process and therefore not quite as enjoyable. Still, I take pride in applying what I’ve learned to do these steps more efficiently with every character I make. The most enjoyable parts would have to be the high resolution sculpting and the texturing/materials phase. From simple shapes to fine detail, sculpting is incredibly fun and it’s hard to break away from and move on. Texturing and materials is where you get to really see your character start coming to life! This is also where I start using Toolbag heavily in my pipeline.
When did you start using Toolbag?
I started using Toolbag almost immediately when it first released. The first few normal mapped characters I ever did in my career were rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 1. I think this was back in 2009-2010.
How has your work and your use of Toolbag evolved over the years?
I think early on, I would use it mainly to render characters once they were completed at work or in my personal time but it wasn’t really in my pipeline. It felt like a tool to use at the very end to make my characters look better with lighting, etc. And I never used it at work. Now, with the upgrades to PBR and the integration to Substance and how easy both can be used together, it is pretty much a staple in my process both at home and at work. I use it to test my assets in multiple lighting scenarios, different material setups, etc. Now that I can bake all my base textures in TB3, it has also replaced the baking software I used for almost a decade.
How do you use Toolbag in the studio versus using it in your personal work?
My process for using TB3 is mostly the same at work and at home. Once I get to baking, I do all of that in TB3. Texturing is a mix of Substance Painter and TB3 to view my assets. I suppose the main difference is the rendering. At work, once I finish texturing, I have to put my asset into my game engine and tweak textures to adjust for a different lighting model. At home, i just stick with TB3 and set up all my lights and do all my rendering right there. With all the extra features like AO, subsurface scatter, refraction, anisotropic, high resolution shadows, and GI, you can make your characters look so much more high fidelity then in the past.
What’s your favorite feature in Toolbag 3?
I think my favorite feature has to be the subsurface scatter shader. I use it on pretty much every non metal/non hard-surface material. It has the perfect blend of features to make my materials feel more realistic. The way it has evolved has only made it stronger with every Toolbag update. I really enjoy using it in various ways and testing its limits and capabilities and seeing how it can be used to give me further variation in my materials.
What are you looking forward to seeing from future versions of Toolbag?
I honestly can’t ask for a lot more out of Marmoset for the type of work I use it for. I would love to see features like refraction, subsurface scatter, and shadows continue to improve. I use Marmoset in conjunction with Substance Painter so integrating the two further would be fantastic. The baker is now a key step in my pipeline so any future additions to that will also be greatly appreciated.
What is one piece of advice you would give for up and coming character artists?
I would say focus on making great art one piece at a time and start small. I think a lot of young artists feel the pressure of wanting to have amazing art in their portfolios right away and they strive for too much, too fast. The key is to build towards the next project and to get better/faster each time. Start with something manageable for your current skill base but make it look amazing. If it’s just a barrel, make it the best damn barrel out there!