Five Time-Saving Tips for Working Smarter, Not Harder in MARI

Whether you're working for a studio or freelancing, as a texture artist you should always be looking for ways to speed up the texturing process without sacrificing quality. It's a double-edged sword that can require a delicate balance between painting textures that are good enough and the time it takes you to create them. This is where the software comes in. MARI in particular provides a number of different features that can help to speed up the texture painting process. Keep reading and see if you can pick up some tips for speeding up your process using MARI.

Start with a Solid UV Layout

image1 This first tip isn't really a tip that involves the MARI software so much as the step in the pipeline immediately preceding it. If your pipeline uses a UV-based approach to creating textures, starting with a solid, well-thought-out layout is crucial. As the name implies a UV layout is just that: a layout. Not every UV layout is created equal when it comes to using them for texturing. When you take the time to think out how you want to texture an asset you can greatly affect the creation of optimal UVs for the asset. If you've spent any time at all painting textures in MARI on someone else's UV layout, you've probably also caught yourself thinking at least once that you would've laid them out differently. For example, maybe you could save time by overlapping some shells or creating separate patches with the UV's so you could link them together. If you don't create your own layout, you'll be at the mercy of another artist and their layout. If you need to have another artist lay out the UVs for any reason, try sitting down with the artist and the asset before they lay out the UVs. Make sure you identify some areas of concern beforehand so you can come prepared to help them create a strategy for the layout.

Use a Layer-Based Painting Workflow

image2 For some artists this tip may be a given but for many, depending on the application they have been working in, paint layers may not be something that they are used to. Layers allow you to create pieces of the texture separately while the transparent nature of each layer allows them to blend together in the final texture. MARI received it's layer system with the 2.0 release and it's been smooth sailing ever since. A texture that is split into layers inside of MARI allows for flexibility. Maybe the situation calls for you having to repaint a specific part of the texture like dirt. Maybe you'd like to re-purpose a layer from your diffuse map when creating a specular or bump map. In either situation, having your texture split into layers will prevent you from having to repaint that particular part of the texture.

Paint with Images When You Can

image3 When you're creating textures for assets, the word "paint" isn't always going to refer to using a solid color and a brush. Painting with photographs can not only save you time but it can allow for a greater degree of detail than you could've captured by hand when working on a short deadline. MARI allows you to paint with a photograph by using its Paint Through Tool. With support for a large number of file formats, including PSD, you'll be able to spend more time looking for the right image instead of trying to capture that same level of detail painting as a texture from scratch. If the image you have is tileable, you could also use a Tiled Procedural layer. No matter which option you choose, it's much quicker to blend your photographic textures with the hand-painted ones instead of trying to do everything by hand.

Use Mask Stacks and Adjustment Stacks Creatively

image4 At first glance, mask stacks and adjustment stacks inside of MARI might appear to be simply extensions of the layer mask and adjustment layer features. Instead, try to view these as just another type of layer stack that's devoted to either masking or adjusting. Don't be afraid to start experimenting and be creative with the way you use them. These different types of stacks can often times begin to overlap which is where the magic truly begins to happen. Let's say you are working on a mutli-layered mask inside a mask stack. Why not add an adjustment layer or even an adjustment stack inside your mask stack to help you fine tune that mask? Let's look at this another way. Maybe you have an adjustment stack that has multiple adjustments inside of it and you want to apply each to a different part of the texture the stack is attached to. Why not add a layer mask or even a mask stack to each adjustment, dictating where it is applied? The options here are amazing and exponentially increase the flexibility of the traditional layer-based approach to texturing.

Share Your Layers

image5 When creating certain textures, sometimes the need arises to use the same texture in different maps. If that particular texture is very large then, depending on your computer, MARI might begin to slow down. If you choose to copy and paste your texture into the next map you may think you need to start caching your layers. Instead, consider sharing the layer that your texture lives on into the layer stack for the second map. This can be accomplished a number of ways but one of the quickest is to simply hold Ctrl+Shift and drag the desired layer from one stack to another. Once this has been done, a link is created between the two layers. Changes made to one appear on the shared version. Not only is this more efficient because remembering to copy and paste the layer after changes have been made isn't a concern, but it's also easier on your system. Working smarter and not harder in any application is often times simply a matter of understanding the tools and features that application offers. As you can see, MARI has plenty of goodies to help you create those amazing textures on a short deadline. If you'd like to learn more tips and tricks for working efficiently in MARI, make sure and check out the Your First Day with MARI or Introduction to MARI 2.0 tutorials.