Automotive Design: Car Texturing with Radu from Invisive
My name is Radu-Cosmin Teodorescu, also known under the brand-name “Invisive”. I'm 31 years old and I'm currently located in Bucharest, Romania. I’ve been involved in the automotive design industry for eight years now, and I specialize in Alias industrial design, concept surfacing, lighting, shading, and texturing.
My path has been quite unorthodox in the sense that I have been more or less in the pursuit of finding the best tool for my growing interest in digital art since the beginning. Coming from a 2D background such as drawing and painting on actual paper, I have lurked around the CG world since the early 2000s, trying to figure out if I should transition my work from two dimensions to three dimensions until finally deciding to try my hand at 3D; this happened around the year 2005. Stumbling upon Google Sketchup, I was immediately hooked on how satisfying it was to view my work from all possible angles—it was the spark that made me transition from pen and paper to mouse and keyboard for all my future projects.
Having arrived at the stage where I comfortably reached the software's limits, I began to search for new, more challenging applications such as ZBrush and then, after quite a few years of playing around, I stumbled upon Maya. For the vast majority of my professional career, Alias has been my champion, so I can work with both polygons and NURBS.
Currently, I am an Alias surface designer and visualization expert in the automotive design field for a large French-owned automotive conglomerate. The projects I work on range from concept cars to production vehicles and anything in between.
Inspiration and Passion for Automotive
I mainly get my inspiration from seeing other amazing work: it's captivating to see others and how far they push the envelope, as it is with any field, and I'm both fascinated by and drawn to participate in the never-ending race of self-improvement, as well as the common effort of pushing the envelope further and further.
As for my passion for automotive, and how it developed to its current point: it's a derivation of my curiosity for most things of a mechanical nature. I'm equally passionate about aircraft and ships, but cars can be more aesthetically explored in terms of designing them. That little bit of freedom drove me to pursue a career in automotive design.
I was browsing YouTube a couple of years ago and I stumbled upon Substance’s official YouTube channel and I got hooked. I immediately started to research Substance Painter, and my mind flooded with project ideas and musings about how it would dramatically enhance my workflow. Like reading a good book, I was enjoying every second of learning—and I still do, since there is so much to explore and to experiment with. It's like a game for the inquisitive.
Before Substance I was texturing my data the old-fashioned way, browsing Google for images I could apply to my UVs in Photoshop. It was very time consuming and not that fun, which was the part of my workflow that I didn't enjoy as much. Now, having the power to create realistic textures in such a short amount of time has made me crave finishing a project faster just so I can export it to Substance and play with the materials.
My workflow usually starts with a piece of paper: I do a rough design sketch as fast as possible and then I jump straight into Alias to create a curve network upon which I build my surfaces and assign shaders. Then the second step of my workflow comes into play; the stitched NURBS model gets tessellated and exported to Maya for UVs, and then Substance Painter comes into play for the penultimate stage of my workflow: the material creation.
After the model has been prepared and materials have been created I use Redshift for Maya to create the final image.
The Bugatti Type 103 Concept
For the same reason that a painter creates a new painting, the journey of creation figures prominently in my personal projects. I update my knowledge with new pieces of information and I crave an opportunity to put that newly found piece of information to good use, be it a new software, a new technique, or a new design idea: a showcase of what can be done by one person when multiple areas of expertise are cumulated.
I mainly use smart masks when it comes to texturing in Substance; I find it fun to play around with masks and normal maps to get the desired look, so it's all a matter of tweaking until I'm pleased.
I did a lot of experimenting while trying to get my materials to look right when rendering in Redshift. I finally found the Redshift Metal_Rough export preset, which made all my troubles go away.
Porsche 988R Rim and Michelin Tire
I used only the built-in stock smart materials that come with Substance to get the desired look and then just layering dirt, scratches, and imperfections using smart masks to give the tire that slightly worn/used look.
As can be seen from the screenshots, I work with a lot of layers, building up from a clean rubber base up to very fine scratches and dirt maps, all through the use of smart masks.
The main tip I would give is: learn from each project and do the next one better. Make it your aim to improve little by little and outdo your last work so that the design evolves instead of remaining stagnant.
I have quite a big aerospace project coming up and I'm eager to get to paint it in Substance Painter: it will certainly further my knowledge of Substance, as it will imply doing more advanced texturing.
All images courtesy of Invisive.