Reflection: Light and Shadow & Textile Design

Practice 1, Reflection, Research and Enquiry

Light and Shadow Retrospective

This week’s result is the most pleased I’ve been with a weekly project while being convinced that it’s not yet polished enough to add to my portfolio. In working on Morticia Addams, I was able to go through nearly the entire character art pipeline: designing clothing, posing and modifying a basemesh body, quick stylized hair, creating UVs, texturing, and setting up a lighting scene for final rendering. I had some familiarity with all of these steps except UV mapping and garment texturing, and by taking on only two brand new skillsets, I was able to keep the workload manageable. I also found that my familiarity with Photoshop (layer styles, brush settings) and generally how textiles behave in the real world helped me find my way around Substance Painter.

I did run into a few problems to resolve. I wanted to create the beaded trim around Morticia’s neckline, but Marvelous Designer doesn’t handle hard sculpts well (slows down the program and doesn’t have traditional sculpting tools). Instead, I went back to ZBrush and built the details there, simply baking them down to the low-poly version in the texturing stage; I just did a simplified test of a small section of trim to check if this technique would work beforehand. This opens up many possibilities for adding small, finicky details that would be difficult to properly UV. However, I did have issues baking high-res textures onto UV maps that weren’t consistently scaled (e.g. the threads on one panel of the garment were twice the size as on others of the same fabric). This is a rookie mistake, but reminded me of the importance of keeping UVs consistent.

The main area that still needs work is in Morticia’s hair and face. I was running into time crunch on both. I settled on modifying a basemesh from Marvelous Designer for her head and body rather than building them from scratch. My first inclination is to always start with a sphere and go through the steps of adding anatomy, but as it’s common practice even in industry to start with a basemesh, I felt like this was appropriate. For her hair, I initially wanted to create it in Maya’s XGen, as I’ve had practice with it before, but after a file-corrupting crash, I fell back on speed-sculpting stylized hair in ZBrush. Both her face and hair are rough, but don’t look proportionately bad for the time spent. I actually found it quite freeing to force myself to quickly produce the basic shapes without being bogged down in details!

That said, I was able to hide a lot of sins with harsh, strategically placed lighting. Since I’m happy with how the fabric turned out, I specifically pointed additional colored lighting at sections of her gown and beading, leaving her face and hair more shadowed. I’ve been frustrated with feeling like I have to create a complete, polished render of my progress each week (and the chunk of time that that always takes), but this further drives home that presentation is key.

Inspiration: Pauline Boiteux

This week I discovered an incredible textile artist, Pauline Boiteux on Artstation. She seems to be at the forefront of digital clothing, as she works for Substance showcasing ways to push the programs in terms of garment texturing. She does have a paid Substance Designer brocade creation tutorial that I plan to invest in, but in the meantime, there’s much to be learned from simply examining her portfolio.

Pauline Boiteux / Artstation

I was initially drawn to this piece from my prior practice in creating structured historical garments. It shows a wide range of techniques: ruffles, layers, structural corset and petticoats, transparency, and seam detailing; I now have a better grasp of what is possible within these programs. The comparison between the Marvelous Designer stage and textured piece gives good insight into which point she exports a garment between software and when she adds detail (stitching, ruffles, micro wrinkles). It’s clear that I’ve been trying to add too much complication within Marvelous. Rather, I should move to high-poly sculpting in ZBrush and texturing in Substance for those details.

Pauline Boiteux / Artstation

Some of her textile work is simply aspirational, as it’s mainly done in Substance Designer, a program I’m currently unfamiliar with. Still, I can appreciate the many layers of textures used here to really make the piece realistic. She starts with a matte base layer, has raised details with metallic and transparency maps, and even modified the underlying fabric to scrunch with the stitching on top. It’s small details like this that help achieve those near-photo-realistic results. I’m keen to play with SD in general, as I prefer programatically-generated work to freehand sculpting.


Boiteux, P. (2021). PortfolioPauline Boiteux. [Online]. Artstation. Available at: [Accessed: 4 November 2021].

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