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Stylized textures with Procreate

Updated: Mar 28, 2022

With Procreate's latest update [5.2] that allows users to paint on 3D meshes, it gave me the perfect opportunity to try creating stylized textures and compare it with a Substance Painter workflow.

I have always been a fan of traditional 2D animation and wanted to incorporate it in 3D environments. However, hand painting UV maps in Photoshop lacks preview, efficiency, and on top of all that, I am not a painter. Hence for this project, I look to procedurally create painterly textures in Substance Painter, and compare it with the work of my illustrator friend using Procreate's 3D feature.

The instructions I gave to my friend was as follow: Using the dog statue as the mesh, create a Studio Ghibli style texture similar to the Dōsojin tatue in Spirited away.

I chose this dog statue for two reasons. Firstly, the statue has a lot of wrinkles and folds to its surface, and so it would be interesting to bake an ambient occlusion map as a mask for my textures. And secondly, I wanted to see how well does Procreate (and the iPad) handles geometry.

First Iteration

Procreate Substance

Bringing it into Unreal Engine, here is the first round of results. Haven't seen what hand painted details can achieve, I definitely went overboard with trying to make the textures look "painterly" in Substance. As a results, the colors appear more diluted and muddled together, and the overall statue lacks tactile texture.

In comparison, the patchy brush strokes in the Procreate texture mimics the tactile feeling of a stone statue, as well as individual patches of moss growing at different rates on the statue. I also felt that the highlights and shadows of this is more well defined.

Second Iteration

Procreate Substance

For my second attempt, I kept three things in mind: color variation, tactile texture, and definition. I relied less on the blur slope and blur direction filter that was the main driving force for the first one, and added a bit of sharpen on certain layers. Also, I multiplied most of the mask layers with the AO map and adjusted it with levels.

These two things helped to separate the layers from one another and made the color more interesting. The last thing I did was to "cheat" using a normal map. Instead of using a procedural color layer for the patchy stone like texture, I decided to take advantage of Substance and use actual bumps on the surface. This in my opinion, definitely made my statue more stone like but also pushed it a bit more towards realism.

Procreate Slight variation with strengthened normal

There certainly isn't a definitive way of creating stylized texture, as it is entirely down to how stylized or real the artist wants the narrative to be. But I do believe that procedural is the way to go for populating large scenes and meshes, while hand painted ones can shine on hero objects. Or perhaps, even a combination of the two with hand painted colors maps combined with procedural normal maps.

Overall, this was a very interesting project to see the capabilities of these software and a good introduction for me towards stylized work. And while my focus is still on photorealism, this is something that I would definitely visit again in the future.

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