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How to Create Game Character Hair: Medieval Braid

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Introduction

My name is Calvin Verhoolen. I am a Senior Character Artist working in Berlin/Germany.

I started 3D in the year 2000, working at Eurocom Development Ltd. UK on titles like James Bond – TWINE, Nightfire and Pirates of the Caribbean. After working for Climax Ltd. on Silent Hill Origins, I moved back to Germany to join Yager Development for cool projects like Spec Ops – The Line and Dead Island 2. I also worked on some interesting mobile games at Wooga.

I am self-taught and enjoy learning something new in anything I do. The fastest way to learn, of course, is by having a good mentor. This led me to CGMA, who has a great selection of courses and mentors to choose from. When I saw that Johan Lithvall was presenting his course Hair Creation for Games, I did not hesitate to enroll.

Reference is key

Hair in games is both interesting and challenging, since there is a lot to consider and execute correctly.

It is an enormous time commitment, and I have yet to see someone create hair fast. As with everything in art: Reference is key!

Hair is one of the best tools to create personality in a character, since it shows a lot of attitude.

Which hair style do I want? Is the character well-kempt or does he/she/it not bother with hair?

How does it frame the face? Does it hide the face? What colour does it have?

All those decisions will shape the way people will perceive the character's personality and goals.

Once your reference is collected and represents what you want to express, you need to understand the hair you want to achieve in its physicality. Where are the roots? What is the growth direction and how does the hairline separate hair from skin? How is it structured and what are the details?

Workflow

Planning:

Armed with all this information about the hair to be created, you hit the technical limitations of the real-time world, forcing you to plan out your hair to be efficient in polycount as much as texture and space.

Start planning out your texture with painting a quick map of it in Photoshop. This is a good chance to study the reference more in-depth. For long hair, it is best to lay out the texture in a 2:1 aspect ratio, keeping in mind to leave some space for any additional hair you want to create later when needed. The hair becomes less dense from right to left.

Texture:

XGen will be your next stop to create the texture you need for the final asset. Map the planning texture onto a ground plane that has the same aspect ratio as the texture.

Then extrude the top edge upwards to create planes to spawn your hair from. After this base setup is done, you can spawn some spline curves by painting them into the ground plane in top view, while using the planning texture for reference. Those splines will then be converted to XGen guides. XGen can be used to define the amount of hair per card, clumping, noise and other attributes of hair.

Once this is done, the hair is converted into geometry and baked down to the ground plane. This way you can create all texture maps used by the shader in Unreal. There will be a height map, alpha, some gradients and an ID map. You can cut the plane into your final hair cards afterwards.

Mesh:

With the hair cards and textures created, the actual process of creating the hair mesh can start.

The most dense cards are used to create the block-out hair, which will define the main look. It is important at this stage to make sure you cannot see through the hair onto the skull or through to the other side. Once this is blocked out, the second and third layer of hair will be created on top, leaving some negative spaces to give the hair depth. As with most assets in art, we go from large to small detail. The later is created at the end and the most fun bit since it will give the assets its final volume, flow and shape. Finishing with flyaway hair will tie up the silhouette and finalize the mesh.

Engine:

With the mesh done, it is almost ready to be exported into the engine. To enhance the depth and control it in the shader, ambient occlusion is going to be baked down into the vertices, and then the asset can be exported. The engine stage has finally been reached and the mesh and textures can be imported. The shader used in this asset is the hair shader Epic provides in their character benchmark scene. Once this is set up, it is all about careful tweaking of the attributes in the shader.

This hair asset has about 40K polygons, which is quite heavy for hair. There is still a lot that can be cut down, especially on the Base Layer of hair, since it is the most covered layer. Apart from that, the top layer with flyaway-hair can be switched off in the first LOD pretty quickly and Simplygon can be used for the rest of the hair afterwards.

Final words

Hair in real-time is still a very complicated matter. The creation of hair simply takes time, even on an expert level. It cannot be scanned or automatically built at this stage. Research, planning, baking, texturing and mesh creation, as well as integration into the engine and also animation preparation make it a costly matter for every production.

Animating a hair asset shows its own challenges, since using physics on these hair cards can lead to intersections which will break the illusion instantly.

But if this is done right, it pays off well by making your characters stand out, giving them and your project a lot more depth.

One strategy I keep being reminded of in my career, and also here by Johan, is that it is important to be able to kill your darlings early, or trim the unnecessary. So keep iterating every step of the way, but do it quickly to stay on schedule. Block-out your work to answer the most important questions of your task first, but also plan carefully to stay within budget/time.

I hope this general overview of the workflow was helpful to you as a reader. I can only recommend taking the course for more detail. I feel really lucky to have had the chance to be part of the CGMA Hair Creation for Games course by Johan Lithvall.

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.

Learn more about the "Hair Creation for Games" CGMA class here.

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How to Create a Modular Environment Design: Abandoned Soviet Warehouse

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Intro

Hi everyone! My name is Vitaly Zhdanov and I am working as 3D Environment Artist at Anvio VR in Moscow. I graduated from Graphic Design Faculty of International Academy of Business and Management. For the past 7 years, I have been working as a graphic/web-designer. 3 years ago, driven by a long-held dream, I decided to move to the game industry and enrolled at the Game Art faculty in Scream School in Moscow. After a year of education, I found my first job in game industry.

In order to move forward and keep learning, I entered the CGMA class: UE4 Modular Environments taught by Clinton Crumpler, where I learned lots of interesting techniques and approaches, which I will speak of below.

References

During the first week of the class, I had to define the theme of my final scene, which didn't have to be massive, but at the same time, was a big project for a 2 months class. I started with searching for ideas and references on Google and Pinterest and I was lucky to find nice photos of abandoned soviet bunker warehouse.

In those references, I got exactly what I was looking for: relatively small scene, modular elements, interesting lighting and gloomy atmosphere of abandonment.

I began to deconstruct the references, and this approach helped me decide which objects I needed and how many of them I needed. It also helped me to plan the modularity.

I made my Trello Board to collect different references of objects for the scene, textures, decals and materials, which I wanted to create. With help of Trello, I was able to follow the progress and control the amount of work to be done.

Blockout

After checking my references, I made a basic blockout of large and medium objects to quickly fill the space of the whole scene. I used Maya for modeling and compiling the draft blockout, where I could easily check the connectivity of modular assets between each other.

Then I imported those objects into Unreal Engine 4 and made a blockout in engine. At this stage, I realized that I could make my scene even more interesting by adding the second floor, which required some additional modular elements. During this blockout stage, I also positioned the cameras for future beauty shots.

At that time, I hadn't concentrated my efforts on lighting too much, but I still placed several local light sources to better understand the overall look.

Modeling & Texturing

After I was satisfied with the blockout, I began model low polys and high polys of other objects and I unwrapped UVs. I tried to use trim sheets where it was possible to avoid a great number of unique textures.

For most textures, I used Substance Painter, and because I had quite strict deadlines I used tile textures made from photos and Substance Share content. I was trying not to be obsessive with high texturing quality of each and every object because my prime goal was the quality of the whole scene's overall look. It was a relatively fast stage of the project for me and this was what I got:

I imported objects and textures into the scene and replaced the block meshes with them.

At a certain point, I understood that the scene lacked some kind of main object which would draw enough attention. I went back to references in Pinterest and searched for an interesting wall drawing. I was lucky to find the photo with high enough resolution to make a decal from it.

With this drawing, my scene started to look more alive and sharp.

Lighting and Post-process

When the objects were ready, I began setting up the light and spent about two days on this lighting process. First, I added a subtle fog to give some depth and atmosphere. After experimenting with a few variants, I realized that the light looks quite simple with any of them. So, once again, I returned to my references to inspect them closely with regard to the lights and shadows and this time I detected this purple (violet) hint in the shadow color. That was a good starting point for adjusting the skylight and exponential height fog parameters.

I always tried to check the overall look from different cameras and different camera angles. As written before, my main vision was determined at the beginning, so I could experiment with light sources to enforce that visual impression. I tried moving the point light behind the door and noticed an interesting shadow of the chain-link on the column. Even though I understood that such effect would be unrealistic, I have still decided to leave it at that because it brings more artistic interest to the composition.

After all the lights had been established, I moved to post-process set up. At the end I opened the screenshot of the scene in Photoshop where I finally tonemapped it for the desired look and imported the LUT texture into post process.

Details and polishing

I continued to detail the scene. At the end of the class my scene looked like this:

It looked quite nice but it still lacked some additional details and there were still plenty of things to work on. I decided to spend two more weeks to push the piece to its completion. During the first week, I fixed certain bugs and problems with lightmaps, made a few new objects such as cloth, mines, gas masks, bullets, holders for wires and etc. Below is my final result:

The second week was to prepare the work for publication on Artstation. I made several beauty shots and set up camera flythrough for future video.

With help of guide by Clinton Crumpler I also made some 360 screenshots.

Conclusion

The whole project took me about two and a half months. I usually worked on it after the designated weekday hours and throughout my weekends.

Apart from lots of new interesting approaches and techniques of modular assets creation that I learned, this class gave me the opportunity to make a full-fledged scene for my portfolio in a limited period of time, with deadlines each week. I’d like to thank Clinton Crumpler for his feedback, advice and Q&A sessions.

I have also completed two other classes from CGMA, which are Vegetation and Plants for Games by Jeremy Huxley and Texturing and Shading for Games by Kurt Kupser. I really enjoyed these classes also and soon you can see the result of my work on my Artstation profile.

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.

Learn more about the "UE4 Modular Environments" CGMA class here.

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Fall 2016 Student Gallery

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Since 2017 has now come around, CGMA has been looking to work on self-improvement via recently minted resolutions. For a lot of students, this means becoming a better artist while for others, this means something else entirely. CGMA believes students won’t understand where they’re headed until they’re first reminded of how far they’ve come so it’s only fitting to display some of their student gallery from the last term of 2016.

“As each and every one of our students made their way through curated industry programs, rigorous instruction from top artists, and/or acquiring completely new techniques, we witnessed just how much our students enjoyed our approach to quality instruction. And for us, this has made all the difference”, said Manny Fragelus, Program Director for CGMA.

Environment Design


Fundamentals of Environment Design
Environment Design 1
Intro to Environment Sketching
Environment Design 2
Environment Sketching for Production
Intro to Environment Sketching

Anatomy

Analytical Figure Drawing
Head Drawing and Construction
Animal Drawing

Character Design

Character Design for Film and Games
Creature Design for Film and Games
Costume Design
Fundamentals of Character Design
Storyboarding for Animation
Character Design for Animation
Character Design for Production

Foundation & Design

Perspective
Dynamic Sketching 1
Dynamic Sketching 2
Fundamentals of Design
Digital Painting
Fundamentals of Architecture Design
Anatomy of Clothing
Art of Color and Light

3D Character Arts Program

Program Page
Elective Classes

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5 Proven Ways to Get a Job as a Digital Artist

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Whether you’re a digital artist professional wanting to advance your career, a digital arts student getting ready to graduate, or a hobbyist hoping to turn your passion into a new career, you need to take specific and deliberate actions to get noticed and hired.

These five tips for getting a job as a digital artist are being used successfully right now by other digital artists to get noticed by recruiters and potential employers.

1. Showcase your digital art online.

There is a very active digital arts community online of portfolio platform websites like CG Society, ArtStation and forums like Polycount where artists discuss issues, ask for advice, and get to know other artists. If you’re serious about getting a job in the industry, you need to be visible as an active online artist. You never know who may be reviewing your portfolio. You never know when a forum participant might contact you about an job opening months after having a spirited conversation with you about line art techniques.

2. Present a high-quality portfolio.

You need put together a well-constructed, clear portfolio which focuses on quality rather than quantity and is accompanied with a well-written, concise CV (Curriculum Vitae). The CV should contain details about your strengths, accomplishments, and job history (if applicable). Make it as easy as possible for a recruiter or potential employer who has already looked at hundreds of job applications to notice you. If you are called for an interview and the interviewer recognizes your work, you can leave a positive, lasting impression.

3. Network and form relationships with industry professionals.

Breaking into the industry isn’t necessarily about being the most talented artist, it’s about being in the right place at the right time. The way to find the most opportunities is to be first in the mind of those already working in the industry.

4. Go to the digital firms where you hope to work.

Ask to be hired for a digital arts position in their firm. Ask for feedback on your portfolio. If they are not currently hiring, ask them for the names of other companies that are hiring. Show how sincere and motivated you are to work on their team. Employers appreciate assertiveness and passion in a potential employee.

5. Stay optimistic and never give up!

Being rejected is a fundamental part of job hunting in the digital arts industry. Even if your top choice of companies rejects you, don’t let it discourage you. Instead, keep looking. Get your foot in the door with any digital arts positions and opportunities that come your way. Keep pushing yourself every day because if you never give up, you’ll never lose.

CG Master Academy is a leading provider of online digital art education for professionals and art students. Through our CG Master Classes in 2D digital art and 3D character art, we provide comprehensive instruction by the industry’s top digital art professionals in Concept Art, Illustration, Entertainment Design, and 3D Character Design. CGMA’s digital experience facilitates artistic growth and achievement through a very simple and intuitive program distributed across weekly master classes.

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5 Tips from Top Digital Artists for Staying Inspired

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How to Stay Inspired as a Digital Artist

Just like you, digital artists—professionals and students—sometimes feel like they are on an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes you’re bursting with confidence and great ideas. Other times, you’re stuck and can’t break through a creative block. Experienced artists have been through it all, and along the way, they have discovered effective ways to stay inspired and blast through those inevitable “frozen in time“ moments. These are five key ways they continue to gain inspiration from the world around them.

1. Build Up Your Visual Library

Stimulate your creativity by traveling to new places. Enjoy endless vistas as a passenger on a train or a bus. Experience the tranquility of a long walk in a park or the visual stimulation of the bustling nightlife in a trendy neighborhood. Learn from the best by watching movies and TV shows with top-notch art direction, special effects, and animation.

2. Showcase Your Digital Art Online

Build up digital collages of your best pieces on websites like Pinterest and Instagram. Share your art with fellow digital arts and students on portfolio platforms like ArtStation and CG Society. Stimulate your creative juices browsing through other artists’ portfolios, noticing their unique styles and approaches. Gain inspiration from artists who are also working in your field of interest such as digital character design, environment design, anatomical drawing, or creature design.

3. Take a Digital Art Class

The top digital artists never stop learning—that’s how they become the best in their field. Whether digital art is a hobby or a career for you, signing up for an online class or an offline class near you can help you climb out of your slump and move from frustration to artistic creation. Remember, inspiration is always out there as long as you keep looking for it.

4. Study Existing Artwork and Games

Visit galleries and museums and come away with new ideas of expression. Inspiration can come from anywhere—an ancient Egyptian mural, a medieval battle scene, or a theatrical costume exhibit. Experience the top games like Call of Duty, Uncharted 4 and Titan Fall and notice the details that impress you most about them.

5. Tell a Story With Everything You Create

Take your time, and think about the mood and story that will involve your audience, no matter how mundane the particular project may be. When you design as many details as possible, it can help you to create a convincing project that results in enthusiastic responses from decision makers.

CG Master Academy is a leading provider of online digital art education for professionals and art students. Through our CG Master Classes in 2D, 3D and VFX, we provide comprehensive instruction by the industry’s top digital art professionals. CCGMA’s digital experience facilitates artistic growth and achievement through a very simple and intuitive program distributed across weekly master classes. To view our full programs and course list visit us here.

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5 Tips for Getting Your Art Noticed

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How to Stand Out as a Digital Artist

How do you stand out in the crowd as a talented digital artist and get the attention you deserve and the challenging jobs you desire? We asked a pool of our amazing instructors and talented artists for their professional advice:

1. Choose One Skill and Master It

Ben Keeling (Environment Artist at Creative Assembly) shares that his most important tip for aspiring artists is to “pick one area of expertise and just become the best you can be at that one area,” whether it’s procedural texturing, high-poly modeling, or character design. “Be an expert in your field,” Keeling emphasized, “and you will be recognized for that skill.”

2. Send a Clear Message to CG Studios

When you market a particular skill, you are directly communicating to studios that need your skill. “If a studio is looking into a particular pipeline or wants skills using certain programs such as Unreal, this can be a really good selling point for securing a job,” said Keeling. “All the most popular artists on websites like ArtStation and CG Society showcase their key CG skill.”

3. Showcase Your “WOW” Piece

“Have a polished “wow” piece that boggles the mind and tickles the soul!” said Michael Pavlovich (Principal Artist at Certain Affinity). Your “wow” piece will get more attention and more reactions from teachers, peers, and other pros than a dozen adequate examples.

4. Create Good Work

Consistent examples of your talents and creativity are the foundation of “a clear online presence and message” to industry professionals about you and your abilities, said Brett Bean (Freelance Digital Artist). It all adds up to the way you create your professional “brand” and get attention from fellow digital artists, job recruiters, and potential employers.

5. Network With Other CG Artists

Networking online is the most important element of getting noticed by the CG community, said Patrick Raines (Concept Artist for FireForge Games). “Posting both professional and personal work on sites like ArtStation and CG Society, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest can quickly grow your reputation worldwide.” Take advantage of the global reach of the Internet to build your reputation and your career.

Many thanks to our CG Master Academy Instructors: Michael Pavlovich (Introduction to ZBrush), Ben Keeling (Introduction to Substance for Environment Art), Brett Bean (Fundamentals of Character Design), and Patrick Raines (Environment Sketching for Production).

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Summer 2016 Student Gallery

2016 Summer Gallery

They say “the proof is in the pudding,” and it certainly is with CGMA. That proof is in the amazing artwork that their students create while in class with their mentors. Over the last 8-10 weeks, CGMA’s community of artists has been working hard to grow and develop their arsenal of skills. From professional artists looking to brush up on their technique, to budding artists starting the road to pursuing their dreams, to hobbyists looking to pick up a class on 3D printing for a personal project, their student body consists of an array of students who prove their talent and dedication on a daily basis.

The best part? The online platform allows CGMA to cater to a global network of artists that has helped build the camaraderie that their community is known for. Students from Canada are collaborating and swapping feedback with students in Angola or Mexico. It’s truly amazing.

CGMA offers a comprehensive variety of classes geared towards the VFX, Game and Film industries. Courses range from 2D Foundation & Design to the more advanced/technical options for Rigging and FX.

CGMA’s new “Installment Plans” payment option allows students to pay 50% up front and 50% at a later date, making the courses more accessible to anyone on a budget.

Installment Plan

Be sure to check out the art from CGMA’s Summer Term students and, while you’re at it, check out their course list for the upcoming Fall Term – classes start in 2 weeks! Courses are offered through 2D Academy, 3D Academy and CG Workshops.

The deadline for registration is Friday, October 14th 2016.

Environment Design

Environment Design

Fundamentals of Environment Design
Environment Design 1
Intro to Environment Sketching
Environment Design 2
Environment Sketching for Production
Intro to Environment Sketching

Anatomy

Anatomy

Analytical Figure Drawing
Head Drawing and Construction
Animal Drawing

Character Design

Character Design

Character Design 2

Character Design for Film and Games
Creature Design for Film and Games
Costume Design
Fundamentals of Character Design
Storyboarding for Animation
Character Design for Animation
Character Design for Production

Foundation & Design

Dynamic Sketching

Architecture Design

Perspective
Dynamic Sketching 1
Dynamic Sketching 2
Fundamentals of Design
Digital Painting
Fundamentals of Architecture Design
Anatomy of Clothing
Art of Color and Light

3D Character Arts Program

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2016_fall_studentgallery_collage_charactercreationfilmgames

2016_fall_studentgallery_collage_charactercasting

Program Page
Elective Classes

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