Seasoned character artist looking into migrating to Blender, lots of questions and/or suggestions

Hi everyone!
As mentioned in the title, after 12 years in the gaming industry (mostly mobile) and working with both Maya and Max (and zbrush though that’s less relevant), i just started exploring Blender*.
So as you can guess, i am looking for a lot of features that exist in Max/Maya/Zbrush, especially when it comes to unwrapping. Made a list, bear with me:

3d viewport:

  • transparency of an object doesn’t do too well with the “in front” option (not too great for retopology)
  • “x-ray mode” and “select not only visible” (=backface selection in 3ds max) are linked options which doesn’t make much sense (saw this mentioned in another topic when googling, would need to dig it up, any news about that?)
  • 1/2/3 = vertex/edge/face mode + 4=island in UV - why not in the 3d viewport as well? (“element” in 3ds max - alternative: select linked (similar to “grow all” in zbrush, but yeah)

So fyi, unwrapping from seams is not really a thing when you really want to optimize your UVs (which is an absolute necessity for mobile - AAA can show off their 2K maps for an eyeball, but i have to work with a 256 for a whole character), so the way i work is mostly by projecting from view + aligning the borders as much as possible, then relaxing the inner parts - pretty much like those guys.
Considering that workflow i need to be able to go beyond “pick seams then click unwrap+pack then you’re done”, and i feel that unwrapping is always an aspect of 3d making that doesn’t get enough love:

  • Seen a topic about it, but that’s really a no-go for me: unable to see all UVs from a mesh in object mode or even in edit mode unless you have the whole mesh selected in face mode (which you might not wish)
    -> alternative: UV sync selection (selection in 3d space = selection in UV editor), but implications:

    you can’t select a UV vertex or edge without selecting the whole 3d space vertex, meaning you will select all the UV vertices connected to that vertex even if they’re split in the UV editor)
    most of Textools options won’t work (probably because of the previous point)

  • target weld? stitching shortcuts ?

    all the stitching possibilities are linked to just one menu, which means you can’t have shortcuts for different types of stitching (like stitching halfway, stitching to starting/ending point)

  • relax on selection only?

    brush relax (but lack of control, impossible to limit it to selected-only (and ignores pinning), slow for big chunks)
    minimize stretching (doesn’t affect borders, laggy)

  • relax on one axis would also be nice (similar to Maya), apparently existed in old versions of Magic UV (also, i can’t get it to work, “all UVs are not separated” error message)
  • distance sensitive welding?
    As of now, “welding” merges all selected vertices together as one vertex - forget about merging edges or distance sensitive vertex merging - although if they’re not actually linked geometry-wise, they won’t be merged but just all be stacked in one location.
  • lack of indications of what 3d vertex is shared by different UV vertices (in case of seams for instance); in Max, they’re indicated by being dark blue

Interesting Blender features:

  • split a mesh to elements (needs an add-on in 3ds max)
  • beautify faces: reorients tris so that they make more sense
  • for environment artists: add-on allows to easily built architect-like structures, another (?) shows measurements of a mesh at all times

If some of those features already exist and i missed them, please don’t hesitate to mention it; also if you know that a topic already exists for a feature, i’d be really grateful if you could share it with me;
we’re kind of looking at using Blender at my workplace so that would be incredibly helpful (i’m guessing if that ever happens, we would probably be hiring a tool programmer).
And while this is a lot of critics, that really is an amazing job what you guys did with Blender <3 (ok i’m still slightly annoyed that the move option would be linked to G and not W :P)
Looking forward to your feedbacks!

*again, actually, just realized i had an account from 2008, back when i was finishing school lol

You mean an object that has alpha in its texture or material? Can you show a screenshot?

Regarding retopology in general, though, there is a design task for implementing a better retopo workflow in Blender, including a new shader to deal with visibility issues related to backfaces and the retopo mesh + base mesh:

This will probably take a while to complete, though. It’s not their #1 priority.

In the meantime there are a number of great addons for retopo:
PolyQuilt by Sakana3 (highly recommend reading or at least skimming through that thread)
RetopoFlow by CG Cookie (not sure what the status of 3.0 is)
SpeedRetopo by Pitiwazou (forum thread here)

Poly Source might also be useful

I’m pretty sure I saw another good one on github somewhere but I can’t find it at the moment.

I HIGHLY recommend getting Cirno’s latest Box Select X-Ray addon so you can box select without being forced into x-ray or wireframe. It has a lot of custom options.

There’s a design task for getting some sort of select-through in Blender but it is not going anywhere fast even though it is a frequently, requested, feature.

Which keymap are you using? In the Industry Compatible keymap 1/2/3 in the 3d viewport switches directly to that mode. If you’re using one of the other keymaps you can edit your map to make it work the same way. (3D View > Object Non-modal; not sure if you need to change more than these 3 or not; the keymap editor is a mess)

It’s kind of a ‘known thing’ that the UV editor needs a lot of work to be up to snuff but there’s no design task for it. Hopefully that will come after 2.83.

I haven’t tried UV mapping in Blender yet but there’s an addon that ships with Blender but is disabled by default called UV Magic that has some extra tools.

There is also a forked version of TexTools for Blender 2.8x:

I think this is the download:
And here’s a discussion thread: TexTools for Blender
I hear it has a few issues (see the most recent posts in the discussion thread) but I think most of it works.

There are also some UV packing addons like UVShotMaster and UV Packmaster but I’m not sure if those are for your particular workflow.

Benjamin Sauder had a useful-looking UV tool for 2.79:

Branch for 2.8 compatibility seems abandoned, though:

Thank you so much for the extensive answer, i’ll be looking at it more in-depth tomorrow, but just to quickly answer to the 1/2/3 thing, it’s actually the 4th i’m wondering about, in the UV editor it switches to island mode, but the equivalent (“element” mode) doesn’t seem to exist in terms of 3d selection.
Another thing, i have Textools installed, and while i really enjoy its aligning features, i think that’s all it can bring me; and it doesn’t seem to work when Sync uv selection is on.
I’ll be sure to check out all the add-ons you mentioned!

There isn’t a dedicated selection mode for that, but you can use the L key to selected the linked vertices that are directly under your cursor (ctrl + L to select whats connected to your current selection).

You mean an object that has alpha in its texture or material? Can you show a screenshot?

Pretty much what’s explained in that topic you shared, if you reduce the alpha for the color setting, then you get transparency but you can see the whole wireframe through the high poly, even when it’s on the other side of it.

There isn’t a dedicated selection mode for that, but you can use the L key to selected the linked vertices that are directly under your cursor (ctrl + L to select whats connected to your current selection).

Yeah, that’s why i wrote “alternative: select linked” next to it.

There is also a forked version of TexTools for Blender 2.8x:

Yep, was already using this and MagicUV, although i just get error messages with MagicUV (most common being “all UVs aren’t separated”)
I noticed that unwrapping features seem to be very focused on packing optimization, while that’s actually what interests me the least, lol (i like packing everything myself).
But yeah, what i’m getting is that we’ll probably have to wait for a new release to get proper UV tools.
Is there an officiel thread dedicated to unwrapping development where i can add my suggestions? (or check others’)

I HIGHLY recommend getting Cirno’s latest Box Select X-Ray addon so you can box select without being forced into x-ray or wireframe. It has a lot of custom options.

Indeed very useful, thanks!

Those topics did not go well during 2.8 early state discussion.
Developers wanted to get rid of several stuff to optimize viewport. Users did not succeed to clearly explain what they needed with too much people involved saying contradictory things (confusing X-ray, material transparency, backface culling and hidden wireframe option).
So, situation was frozen with everybody expecting that retopology mode would solve that.
But that did not make sense to have retopology display mode without satisfying sculpt tools and retopology tools.
So, Sculpt mode and remeshing were improved until now.

1/2/3 are new shortcuts in 2.8. In previous versions, blender users were used to call a menu using Ctrl Tab. Select Linked is not really there as an alternative that is the Blender way to do that since 2.3x.
So, there is no 4 simply because new users wanting same shortcuts as in 3dsmax asked for 1/2/3 instead of 1/2/3/4.

I wished things went into that direction. But 2.8 went into opposite direction.
In 2.79, there was an option to see UVs of other selected objects that were not in edit mode.
But it was removed because in 2.8, you can have several objects in edit mode. So, now, you have to select all faces of all objects.

But to be honest, this is annoying but that does not make UV editing impossible.

That is false. UV Stitch is a unique operator. That is not a menu.
Snap at Midpoint and Snap Islands are options of this operator.
This operator has a pre-visualization. If default option is not wanted one, you can modify it by using a modal keymap before confirming action.
Anyways, you will have to click or press enter to confirm. Asking a Confirm on Release option for this operator would be a feature request.
But you can create several shortcuts to call operator with different defaults.

That is true. Pinning was added since start of Blender to control automatic unwrapping. UVSculpting only in 2.6x.
Those areas are ignoring each other and it is a pity.
You can limit UVSculpting to selection. You just have to limit UVfaces visible in UV Editor to desired selection by limiting selection in 3D View.
I know it is frustrating to not see other UV Islands and rest of edited Island but that is possible.

Minimize Stretch is laggy because of a bug that asks it to make randomly an insane amount of iterations. I suppose that most of people are not using this operator at all and are fine with output of basic automatic unwrap.
There was the idea to use a new SLIM algorithm for UV Unwrapping but that did not pass 2.8 hype.

When selection is synced with 3DView, selected vertex in 3DView selects all corresponding UV vertices in UV editor.
But it is true that when there is no selection, you have no indication except seams overlay in 3DView.

UV Editing is one of the most fundamental part of work and one of the most neglected.
I am repeating this since months, now that UV tools should be the priority of next release. I said that for 2.81,2.82 and 2.83 without being heard by developers.

So, I encourage you to revive an existing thread about that or to create your own into User Feedback section of forum.
You can also accompany it to detailed proposals on right-click select. Keeping a proposal focused on a specific point helps to improve its approval by community.

Didn’t see it mentioned yet, but this free addon is useful for better retopo visibilty - Thread: Draw Xray

DL link:

That’s the one that I couldn’t remember. Thank you!