How to Get the Most Out of Your Textures with MARI
There are a lot of different options when it comes to creating textures for your 3D assets. You can use a more traditional texturing workflow with an application like Photoshop, or get a more direct representation with a 3D texture painting application like MARI. MARI has quickly become the go-to texture painting application in many studios today. If you like the freedom and familiarity of painting in 3D, then you'll be right at home with MARI.
MARI was created as a proprietary tool by WETA Digital during the production of Avatar. Since then, it has been released to the public for sale. Because of its birth in the production pipeline, MARI is a painting application with a very robust set of tools and features that'll allow you to create the best textures for your 3D models. Not only does it support a UV workflow, it also has Ptex integration, which means you can texture without the needing UVs. Whether you're brand new to MARI or not, this article covers tips and techniques you can apply to your workflow to create better textures inside of MARI.
Customize Your Interface
Being able to completely customize your interface is a fantastic feature in MARI. It gives you complete control over the application. You can customize it in any way that fits your needs. Being able to move different menus, tools and other features around means you can work even faster in the application, utilizing the tools you actually need.
It's also a great idea to create custom shortcuts and hotkeys in MARI to work more productively. If you've used a 3D application, like Maya or 3ds Max, you're probably familiar with utilizing hotkeys to get to certain tools or tasks you use frequently. Using hotkeys prevents you from having to skim through different menus and sub menus to get to the tool you want. One hotkey favorite is using the menu shelf to save colors or brushes you use often.
Create Custom Brushes
As you work more in MARI, you'll often find the need to create your own custom brushes to fit the particular need of a project or texture you're currently working on. In order to get the exact look you're going for, you'll need to create a brush for that certain task. MARI has an extremely powerful brush editing feature you can use to make your own custom brushes. If you're a Photoshop user, you'll be right at home with MARI's brush editing capabilities. Like Photoshop, you can edit things like noise, spacing, jitter, opacity and many other properties in MARI to create the brush you need.
If you're making the transition from Photoshop to MARI, you probably have a whole list of your own favorite custom brushes you created in Photoshop. Save tons of time by importing all your Photoshop brushes directly into the MARI brush palette. You can also easily create a custom brush by simply painting a new alpha onto the canvas and baking that new texture into its own brush.
Incorporate Real-World Detail
To create realistic textures, you can use real-world images in the texturing process. By bringing any image you need into the image manager of MARI, you can incorporate that image onto your texture by using the Paint Through tool to rub parts of the image onto the model. You can also paint over parts of the image or combine the image with other textures to build up effects. You can learn more about this technique in this 3D texturing tutorial: Combining Painted and Image Based Textures in MARI.
Use the MARI Adjustment Layers
Adjustment layers is a great feature introduced in MARI 2.0. These layers work similar to the way adjustment layers work in Photoshop. Once you've painted a texture, you may still need to make small adjustments to it. For instance, modify the hue, tweak the saturation, or even blur the texture. By making these simple changes with adjustment layers, you're very quickly and easily modifying the texture while making non-destructive changes to it.
Use Selection Groups
If you're using Ptex in your texture painting workflow, you may find that you can't select certain areas on your model, based off of patches, because there are no UVs. This can be a problem, especially if you have a very complex asset with lots of small parts, because you won't be able to isolate certain areas of the model to make it easier for you to get in there and paint the textures.
To get around this problem, you can create selection groups inside MARI to sections of certain areas of your model. Utilizing smart selection mode in the application will let you make selections based off of connection. So now you can go in and hide certain areas of the mesh you aren't painting on, and get a better line of site on the area of the model you need to texture.
Paint in 2D View
While it's great to be able to paint your textures in a 3D workspace, sometimes it would be beneficial to paint in 2D like you typically would in Photoshop. With MARI you can paint directly on your UVs in a 2D view just as you would in 3D, giving you a flattened version of the model. This is great if you have small areas on your mesh that are just too difficult to get to in the default 3D workspace. Not being restricted to either option gives you a great deal of flexibility in how you choose to paint your textures for certain tasks, because while 3D painting is great, painting in 2D can just be easier sometimes.
MARI is an extremely powerful and robust texture painting application that can take some time to get comfortable with. These basic tips will help you get the most out of your MARI texturing workflow so you can work faster and more productively. If you want to learn how to get started in MARI check out the Introduction to MARI 2.0 tutorial, the free Beginner's Guide to MARI, and more MARI tutorials.