(Solved) What's this warping? Blender Mesh Issue

General / 09 July 2021

Had an issue with my work on the coaster car a couple of days ago where I was trying to figure out why my normals were all messed up. You can see the ugly distortion on the mesh below.

I asked for help.

Is there any obvious flaw with my topology that would cause these ugly warpings? This is the back of a seat that needs to be flat. I've flattened out components, lining them up with the same axis. I also ran a cleanup to remove stray components. I'm new to Blender and any help is appreciated.

Thank you to Daniel Lince (impressive new portfolio piece Daniel) on Discord, and to FrankPolygon and SnowInChina on the Polycount Mega Blender Thread

(The solution is at the bottom, it is fine to jump ahead.)

Daniel Lince had me check it out in another modeling program which is a good idea but showed it was still broken. The image below is a render in Arnold from Maya.

FrankPolygon really helped me further down the troubleshoot/educate-myself path. I'm quickly realizing the importance of the Blender docs. 

@Camille_Meehan Looks like inconsistencies in the mesh shading properties. Try recalculating the normals, marking the faces with shade smooth, clearing sharp edges and setting the per-object auto smooth value to something above 45°.

Below are some links to the official documentation that covers each operation:





The solution!

Courtesy of SnowInChina.

Smoothed end result below.

I had earlier smoothed and flattened my meshes to avoid subdividing, which in hindsight, was needless. In between that and the final high poly model, I deleted and filled faces, which resulted in the glorious nonsense above. Clearing the custom split normals data reset all that, which was what I needed.

Hope this helps you solve the issue, please let me know in the comments.

Argh, another delightful learning opportunity.

General / 06 July 2021

Do not UV the high poly 3D model when you are making artwork for games. *facepalm*

I'm grateful, that I have learned this, so now I will not repeat this mistake. Moving from 2D to 3D art is hilarious sometimes, I'm thankful for my and Richard Wecke's ability to find levity in disappointment. How he manages to keep his face straight when I ask for feedback, I'll never know. :D

I now direct you to this lovely speed sculpt by Autumn Davis which seems particularly well timed for my mistake.

God Pencil

General / 14 June 2021

I've just attained a new skill, God Pencil.

Which is to say that terrain creation in UE4 has me basking in absolute power. 



I missed you, Substance Designer.

General / 13 June 2021

With the full time focus on ZBrush, followed by the rapid switch to learning Blender...I neglected Substance Designer. It feels good to be back, just playing around with this moss/brick texture I made in April. I'm going to borrow and improve on it for my vegetation scene.

The brain is most creative within three hours of waking up.

General / 12 June 2021

It is not within three hours of waking up.

It is after midnight. I do a minimum of 30 minutes of modeling every day, and today has been scheduled poorly... so I'm up, getting the modeling in. It is like a daily run, except less sweaty.

I usually go to sleep at eight. 

Yes, eight.

 I cherish my sleep, and you should too for a variety of reasons which I won't go into in my current hypocritical state.  

I will however, point out that I set aside my floor plane homework which required some new skills and problem solving, and picked up these anthurium leaves thinking they'd be something I could manage in my dreadful state. I momentarily forgot how to scale them, finding the ztool took longer than it should have, and after finally laying these leaves out on a plane, I remembered why I hadn't baked the anthurium maps out yet. I need to make adjustments, add more variety...and a flower.

Which just goes to say, please get abundant of sleep. 

It is important.

Sweet dreams.

How can I get faster at modeling?

General / 11 June 2021


Yes, I know that. How can I get faster, faster though?

What slows me down? 

Because the frequent answer I get to, "How can I be faster?" is practice, and I am already practicing I must look at myself to improve.  I'd like to come up with some intentional practice or rules I follow that are specifically geared towards decreasing distraction and avoiding obstacles. Some of my personal challenges below.

Focusing on the details before the big shapes are in

In middle school when you drew the PERFECT eye, but never finished the portrait that the eye was a part of because the overall face was out of proportion?

  • Warm up exercises to loosen up
  • Work all around the piece / subject
  • Meditation (to improve mindfulness)

Over Researching

  • Establish a time limit
  • Come up with a list of what you need first and get that list first, everything else is icing

Lack of a clear key reference image or a strong key reference subject

  • Be a choice maker, choose one.

Avoiding the high priority difficult areas that would likely make the most difference towards project completion

  • The impediment to action, advances action. What stands in the way, becomes the way. ~ Marcus Aurelius
  • Run towards difficulty. (Yes, I know this stinks but it really does help.)

Videos playing in the background

We've all done it, we're searching for why our normals are reversed, or how to create dynamic double sided nCloth, and suddenly a 40 minute ad on the subject you are keenly interested in pops up. Oh no, how can I turn away from sleek abs with this doctor's one simple piece of advice? 

Media with words playing in the background

  • The parts of your brain that ask you questions about why you're doing what you are doing, disengage with the distraction of a podcast or discussion.
  • To be best in class, give 100% of your attention to the work at hand. Your brain will make new connections, prioritize the task.

Working late in the day

  • Your best work is usually in the three hours after waking up

Not knowing the software

  • Actively study the software, 
  • Write blog posts, and create videos on the commands.

Not knowing the pipeline 

  • Pick up a technical manual
  • Ask questions, you're not expected to know all the answers
  • Read

How can you speed up your 3d modeling? I suggest you do a similar journal of your own. You probably don't have the same challenges, and maybe you have less appealing 40 minute YouTube advertisements. What I would advise to my friends, is that you choose to improve with intention. Make the effort, pick what you're struggling with and focus on that. Don't do the same practice, you always do. Shake it up.

How can I get faster at modeling? Let me know if you have advice.

(Solved) UCX_ Subtool in my Unreal 4 to Zbrush Import

General / 09 June 2021


Turns out these are just other objects exported from the Unreal scene and it is very easy to avoid. Simply uncheck all the extra options in your FBX Export Options as in the image below. If you're exporting something large into Maya you might have to adjust your camera clipping to avoid pieces vanishing in the viewport, or turning black. 


Original Post

I exported my static meshes from Unreal, to use as a reference for sculpting my terrain in ZBrush. Along with the meshes of the trees and rocks came extra UCX_filename subtools. They look like shells, or boxes partially surrounding the necessary subtool with the regular filename.

MY QUICK FIX: I deleted the extra ucx subtool layers by using the 'Auto Reorder' button in the Subtools menu. The result of the reorder is that all of the UCX subtools will be arranged on top of each other and you won't have to search for them in the mass of other useful subtools.

This is what I mean by shells, or boxes around the meshes.

  This is a shot with the dreadful, no good, UCX shells removed.

I did a quick search online and there wasn't a fast answer. Despite my curiosity, I can't prioritize troubleshooting/researching what the cause of the extra imported UCX layers was right now. 

Do you know what I did wrong on export? Have you seen this?

Please let me know in the comments if you know how to avoid this in the future. Thank you.

Postcard from Unreal 4 (or why OBJ and FBX don't mix)

General / 07 June 2021

Hi there, turns out Unreal 4 is full of excitement. My scene erupted! Now, you might know, or you  might not...that Unreal says this on the subject of what format to import for your static meshes. 

Also, only certain file types that can be imported into UE4, FBX being the file format recommended for 3D objects. 

Well, my instructor used an OBJ, which seemed fine and dandy. I just rotated all my trees up from prone, and voila forest. Enter my book on Unreal 4, and I switched to recommended FBX. 

Here is an accurate portrayal of the results of switching my format from OBJ to FBX.

At the time I simply reset the pivot on all the trees rather than find out why this happened. It is easy to reset the mesh rotation.  Everything was off of alignment and I'd need to do a bundle of cleanup, but we're GOOD. 



I needed to reimport the newly improved rocks. I'd made some improvements to the rock, simplifying the faces and accentuating facets. As you can imagine, all of my cliffs vanishes, replaced by beautiful, rolling boulders. I tried to see if I could embrace this new reality of terrain, but realized I would instead need to figure out the issue or spend excessive time redoing my trees and my landscape.

First I tried transforming the reimported file (FBX) on import, various directions. I imported the old file to my updated mesh in Maya to ensure they were similar in position. Everything looked the same in my files, I was pretty irritated at this point. I did not want to redo my rocks.

See, they have this vertical majestic upward motion that is intentional. I didn't save a photo, but imagine the image below except with all the rocks having fallen on their side. :D

Eventually, I realized that perhaps...it was the file format? And it was! Something in engine must treat OBJ differently, such that it doesn't maintain the original positioning at the origin. Specific to my situation, the rotation changes.

My solution in this case was to keep the rocks as OBJs. It'll do, and next time I won't import them to begin with.

You can learn more (including optimization guidelines O.o) on the FBX Content Pipeline in Unreal Engine 4 on their wiki.

Progress in Tail-hating-dog Land

General / 05 June 2021

As mentioned in my last post the dog who is not mine, hates his tail. He's been at his new home for almost six months and this is the first time he has done this.

When he first showed up, he wanted to be on the couch with me. He would jump up, then immediately attack his tail. I put a gate around the couch so I could get some peaceful reading in. Over the six months he's very slowly improved, he still spends a lot of time in a cone of shame but he's gettin' a little better week by week.

The photo above is from today, and you can see the dogeared page of Unreal Engine for Visualization. So far I've found the book a challenging read, due to it's technical content. It isn't particularly funny, which really I expected since it is a technical manual. 

I'm grateful to be reading it. 

Today's CGMA Vegetation Q&A mentioned lightmaps in UE4 and I had just read the section in the book that talked about UVS, lightmaps, and UE4's handling of them. I'm pretty new to the technology behind 3D graphics and game engines, so what this book does for me, is give me the finer details along with the basics. At this point, my CGMA classes are intermediate level classes, they don't cover the basics. It means I'm constantly working overtime to understand things and this book seems to be the lynch pin to help make it all more manageable.

The check boxes in the UE4 material editor? Making more sense everyday.


The Heroine's Journal

General / 03 June 2021

I started my path to being an environment artist about a year ago. It has been a pretty steep learning curve, I at first thought I'd be able to pick up the skills in a few months. (Imagine the face of the environment art director as I was regaling him with my plan to get my first job in two months, hahaha, priceless....thank you for the graceful letdown Eric.)

It is often a fairytale like adventure, not always pleasant, but usually magical. I compare myself to a student at Hogwarts or a sorceress's apprentice because of the sheer amount of wondrous skill to acquire. I can make fireballs, carnivorous plants, forests full of chocolate chip cookie trees. Anything I can imagine, with planning, research, and work, I can create.

In April I started reducing my 2D art studies and redirected the energy into 3D art studies. To keep my friends and family from thinking I've died, or lost my hands in a terrible rock carving accident, I've been posting these small comics of my experiences along the way. 

I hope they provide some other 3D artists learning out there joy as well. Post your own and send me the link. 

George Lee, I know you're transitioning from bein' an amazing animal painter. What's your take on the move to 3D?

First Live Stream

Self Reflection - What is working, what isn't?

Don't worry, I am not dead. Tally ho!

He is a very good boy. 

He also hates his tail 

¯\_ (ツ)_/¯ 

You are probably asking yourself why this one is included in my journal. Here you go. His doggy gymnastics and adaptability to a difficult environment brought a smile to my lips, and reminded me that humans are successful not because they know their environment, but because they're skilled at adapting to it. We're even able to create the environment, that we then adapt to. So pup is stuck in a cone, gradually being taught that his tail is in fact, a part of his body and I'm intentionally creating an environment (cone???) that pushes me to become a more powerful artist and storyteller. I don't think this metaphor translates well. I'm posting it.