Texture workflow - What do you use, Allegorithmic's stuff and alternatives?

I use Allegorithmics free Mapzone2, it’s just amazing and mostly xNormals and GIMP.

Now Allegorithmic has introduced SUBSTANCE, which is a nice concept.
Smart materials, which you can buy as presets edit in their player, like a stony ground where you can add a waterlevel, freeze the water or add mud and export the accodring maps (diffuse, specular, bump, displace, normal, AO, emit, glossy and alpha - pfew)
You can check out their Substance “System” here:
Start the Unity player, select a substance from the list and you can play with it in the browser. I think it’s impressive stuff.

Quite nice. There’s also their new Substance Designer, which is pretty much like MapZone a nodebased procedural texure machine, but you can load your worlds, levels, models whatever and work on them in realtime and use all the Substances and as pretty much all is procedural you have a LOD system for your textures as well. The lite version is not too bad with ~400USD, the pro version with advanced math filters and stuff costs ~1000USD though.

What’s very nice is their Bitmap2Material editor. You can load a bitmap and make it a seamless (Y, X or XY offset or stamp with parameters, which also allows random seamless tile generation from one source) texture, generate all maps with an easy interface, have a lot of control over bump and normal map along with AO map and specular map, a preview window in software, dx9 and dx10, has various shaders including the Nvidia Displacement, various methods for normalmap storage and you can export the whole texture set with 1 click in different sizes. It also allows to load subimages for additional detail in the bump/normal map. It’s 150 USD which is really cheap IMO. It saves hours of texture work.

I also tried Photosculpt which is nice because with 2 images you took you can let it sculpt very detailed 3d models and you can bake them down to maps. Also supports 1 click export, but you have no tiling options, only XY-offset-tiling and you got no smoothing for high, mid and low detail in the normal and bumpmap and also no control over the pinch or any additional detail. All in all it’s not as flexible for creating maps from one single image and offers less control, however it makes excellent maps from 2 images. Cost 140 Euro.

Currently I fancy to buy Bitmap2Material. It’s “cheap” and has great results and shortens the workflow a lot and has a lot of features and is a pefect addition to Mapzone2.

So the question is, what do you use, are there any other great tools out there I am not aware of, be it commercial or free?

Shadermap pro is pretty cool to generate different kinds of map from pictures, and it’s very cheap.
The algorythm they use for normal map generation isn’t exceptionnal, you can compare it to the free addons for gimp or photoshop, but the whole interface works very well, it’s quick and easy, very tweakable, and does other types of maps.
In the same field, Crazy bump is more exepensive (300$), there aren’t taht many parameters to play with and the interface is minimalist, but it seems that they have a custom algorithm to guess volume from a flat image, and it works incredibly well most of the times (especially with bricks, gravel…). Basically with crazy bump you buy the quality of the maps outputed, (AO, Displacement, normal…).
I tried mapzone and it seems powerfull but I don’t know if I’m a fan of usings nodes to create textures, I like to edit pictures in gimp or photoshop, and make them seemless in one second thanks to resynthesizer (or content aware fill for photo users, which is integrated better in the UI).

Also I realized that photoshop student version is now 200$ and allows commercial use, so I may switch from gimp to photoshop. I love open source software but gimp development is too slow it’s driving my crazy.

Shadermap indeed is quite nice, I am just not convinced yet by it’s method to make texturest tileable, but that can be circumvented by making them tileable beforehand.

Personally I love procedural textures, especially the Substances. If you take the wet soil substance for instance, it’s just amazing using the snow, ice, more stones, less stones and water slider and you’re able to create very convincing textures for landscapes.

And I think crazybump is hopelessly overrated. It’s way to expensive for what it can do and it’s quite slow if you want to finetune your settings. Granted though, the results are always good.

Thanks for pointing out Shadermap though, I almost forgot about it, it’s really cheap and does a good job, might get this one for now :wink:

For texture painting I still use BodyPaint 3d (older v8.5 version) - quite fast, and painting in layers is easy and fast. Though I’ve been looking at Sculptris last week, which makes it easy to draw/export normal maps.

Another tool I like is nDo - I work with the free version (old link does not work anymore), but I am planning to get nDo2 at some point.

Though a bit older, sometimes Giles can be handy and easy to create lightmaps and stuff. http://www.frecle.net/index.php?show=giles.features

I also like Spiralgraphics Genetica, though I only sometimes use their free wood generator.

And this one: http://neotextureedit.sourceforge.net/

Sad, I actually know all and used most of the tools you guys list, and non is really it.
Giles’ great too yeh.

However, nothing’s as versatile as the Substance Designer when it comes to tileable procedural texture generation. Of cource I paint chars and stuff by hand, actually I mostly use texture paint inside Blender.
But let’s imagine you have to create environments, a cave setting, a sci-fi corridor or stuff like that.
Just look at the premades in MapZone2 for metal, or the soild and ruck stuff in Substance designer.

With a few clicks you can generate a truckload of tiling textures, or brushes for texture painting.
A true texture artist might find this offensive, but I don’t see why I should have to paint rocks or dirt, or how’s it often euphemically called: earth :slight_smile:
And just patching together phototextures often isn’t that sweet either.
And on top of that with procedurals you can randomize the textures and also render them out in various LODs.

And there seems to be no really good alternative to this tools. The closest thing really is blenders procedural node materials.

On the other hand, I find that automatic procedural textures will not always produce the best result - they often look generic. For example, on the Substances website “Forgotten memories” (new game) is brought forward as a user story; however, the textures look lackluster, and look lifeless, in my opinion. The tool can probably do much better, but I wonder - often a good looking texture can be painted/composited in Photoshop quickly and efficiently. With nDo I can create custom looking textures with depth the way I want them to look pretty quickly.

Then again, I know what you mean - at times one just wants a quick procedural texture. I am still looking for a (affordable!) tool that allows me to easily combine the power of nodal procedural texture generation with the power of texture painting such a Bodypaint 3d. Some kind of seamless integration between the two, and non-destructive.

… and the creation of networks like these to texture a simple cannon using Mapzone, seems much more work to me than painting/compositing those - neither does the end result look very convincing/realistic to my eyes (and we are talking a Maxwell render here!).


If realism is your goal, textures based on photographic base material still works best.

I mostly talk about game content creation.
If I need to make something photorealistic I usually bail out with the digicam and afterwards have a few gigs worth of reference images, which in the same time serve as texture bases :wink:
And I agree that this cannon looks very poor.

Another thing is that many just remix and sample cgexture and mayang texture stuff and barely anyone has his own texture bas anymore. By now I often think when playing a game… I know that part of the texture, it’s from cgtextures :wink:
Proceduraly bypass that.

But I think I’ll add shadermap pro to my weaponry. Along with GIMP, MapZone and Blenders Texturepaint it’ll be quite a pleasant experience.

I am really tempted too to get PS CS5 for 200USD, but… meh. dunnow.
Barely do print and need CYMK, seldom postpro digital images don’t know if I really need it.

I have to say, shadermap pro does look very interesting - I might get a license myself. Expensive it is not :slight_smile:

Photoshop is nice and all, but I keep hitting the ceiling these days, what with the old-fashioned layer system. Instead of getting a copy of Photoshop, why not try Krita? Free, and cmyk support. And mypaint brush engine integrated as well, I think (along with many others).

I like Krita. I got Sabayon KDE on my machine and a Sabayon KDE VM running in windows. I could also just have installed Krita for Windows but that’s too mainstream lol!

I was actually thinking about making a BlenderNormalMap plugin.
Creating a heightmap from a single bitmap can’t be rocketscience, at best a nice guesstimation.
From that to a normalmap can’t be too tough either.

Would be nice to apply a texture and have a button “generate maps” with a few sliders and the blender material gets a few new texture channels with the matching maps for spec, AO, normal, bump/displace.
Should be quite doable with python alone.

After many years using and supporting gimp, I give up. Development is too slow and while I love open source, I hate feeling limited by my tools.
THe brush engine is bad and gimp painter doesn’t seem to be alive and ready to follow 2.8…
The liquid tool is … unusable and photoshop cs6 anounced liquify tool running on gpu, result is impressive.
I’m sick of partial format implementation (canno’t save to .raw, canno’t save as multilayered TIFF…), and the window system on windows is horrible (all the time the interface won’t hide when another program steels the focus, it drives me crazy).
The resynthesizer tool is a pain to use (like three submenus then process is slower than photoshop).
So with the new cs6 features annouced and 80% off the non restricted student version, I’m in.
Also I’ll finally work with a software supported actively by most game engines, like unity and cryengine.

nDo for photoshop seems incredibly good, I really need to do some research about it. It’s a bit pricy though, hm…

I’ll definitely have a look at substance if it does what you say.

But for now, CgTextures + Mayang + other texture banks used with resynthesizer or content aware features seems to be a decent and really efficient solution.
For normal map and others, I haven’t made any choice though, still thinking actively of what could be my workflow.
I hesitate between painting by hand or using pictures for my game, I want to have a relaxed look (like… hm, dungeon defenders for example) but not cartoony like a mario game. But until now I haven’t paid much attention to the textures on these types of games.
Maybe pictures with artistic filters (which I otherwise rarely use…) could be a base for painting (like paint over these, instead of starting from scratch, I may waste less time, not really sure).

On the other hand, you might think Photoshop has evolved a lot since version 4/5, but really it has not (at least in my opinion). Last month I used Gimp to do all the graphics for one of my website projects (instead of Photoshop cs5), just for the heck of it.

Yes, some things are very frustrating in Gimp. However, I did like the basic marquee select tool a lot. In photoshop I always have to deal with the fact that even a basic selection frame is an bitmap alpha channel based thing, so just transforming the selection (select->transform) will introduce blurry edges when scaling up. This is just one of the many many idiotic legacy issues I encounter on a daily basis in Photoshop.

-Another is rotating b&w lines - Photoshop just can’t do it right. Any other app can.

  • only one bitmap mask per layer? A joke.
  • the layer system has not seen an update in ten years.
  • the slice function is a joke
  • filters are destructive - unless you create a smart object first
  • …which cannot be edited in place, and you have to open it in a separate window. Can be handy, but often I just want to edit in place. Smart objects feel like a hack on top of a very old code base.
  • existing filters have not been updated in a long, long time (well, 90% of them still use MODAL dialog boxes! INSANE
  • a lot of archaic looking modal GUI elements still exist
  • and where new filters/elements are introduced, they do not match the rest of the GUI
  • levels and curve adjustment layer palette can not be scaled up to a reasonable size at all. (Gimp was a relief in this respect)
  • no option to mix different type of images in the same document (well, smart objects, I guess)
  • 3d tools are incredibly slow (compare to BodyPaint)
  • …and so much more that bugs me at this point.

So, I know what you mean, but Photoshop has its fair share of quirks as well. I thought Gimp had some more common sense compared to Photoshop - but overall Gimp started to irk me as well after a couple of days (no lab mode! Even more layer limitations?).

You know, I have been saying for years someone should come up with a complete new approach and a real Photoshop contender on the market. No competition, no innovation = Photoshop.

The current version allows you to import bitmaps and SVG images if you need a certain something you can’t or don’t know how to do with the other nodes.

MapZone hasn’t been updated in years, but it is still a pretty good program, too bad we can’t convince Allegorithmic to spin off MapZone to any group of people willing to continue its development as an open source project. I don’t think they would have to worry about it being competitive with their current projects due to their substance designer being way ahead technology-wise.

There was an open source program called Neo Texture Edit that looked promising at one point but now seems to be a dead project.

I like nDo2 personally.

Yep, me too.

The problem is, liking and buying are different things.

Freelancing as student: CS5: 299USD + nDo2: 99USD = 398 USD or ~400 Euro (with VAT)
Freelancing: CS5: 699USD + nDo2: 99USD = 798 USD or 800 Euro
Indie Developer: CS5: 699USD + nDo2: 299USD = 998 USD or 1000 Euro per seat.

Granted, 800 Euro’s not that bad for everyday tools but no bargain either.
Bodypaint 3D is nice too, but unless one already owns it I doubt many shell out 995 USD or 1000 Euro for it.

I bought ShaderMap Pro, it has an extraordinary price to performance ratio and is quite versatile. If you got to watch your budget you can’t be that picky and in the spirit of FOSS it’s Krita/GIMP/MyPaint + ShaderMap Pro + MapZone2 + Blenders Texture Paint for now.

It’s still a great thing that the free offer covers all the common needs, indeed.
I look into commercial software for a more efficient and more flexible workflow.
Does substance do full procedural or can you include some bitmaps in the generation? I will get the trial if there is one I guess…
Thanks for pointing out the quirks of photoshop. I’m still convinced it will be two times betters for the use I will make of it, from what I’ve tried of it, but it’s good to know.
THough I have to wait a few more months until cs6 is released (it would be stupid to pay a big amount of money if the new standard comes in 4/5 months, and they are now in a two years dev cycle), so I stick with gimp for now. (hopefully 2.8 very soon? …)

Okay it looks pretty good indeed, very good and simplified shader creation system (substance).
Sadly the price is… to high for me :wink:

The light version is not too expensive, however I got the feel that all the features I want are missing there :smiley:
I downloaded the light trial version and none of the samples can be opened, always says, this is not a Designer Light file…

If, like me, you already do own a license of PH, then nDo2 isn’t that expensive. I agree that it’s a much tougher pill to swallow when Photoshop is not yet part of your toolset. I still think PH is rather overpriced.