Hey Fernando, tell us a little bit more about yourself. What is your background?
Hello! I did a bachelor’s degree in animation in Mexico. While I was studying, I was more interested in 2D illustration, especially stylized and vector art, more than the realistic styles used for concept art. When I started to do 3D for personal projects, I tried to replicate the themes and colors of the artist I liked (mostly 2D artists) more than to achieve a game or animation finish. After almost a year and a half of doing renders nonstop, I started working as a professor, 3D generalist and Illustrator.
What do you do and what are your specialties?
My favorite job will always be illustrating or anything that is related. If I don’t have any external projects keeping me busy, I’m making something on my own or collaborating with other artists. My only two desk jobs right now are teaching as a 3D instructor in Escena, Mexico (and recently in Crehena via online courses), so I have lots of time for working on personal and commercial projects as an illustrator or 3D generalist.
Your art seems to be influenced by Mexican folklore and culture. Can you tell us more about this and what it brings to your work?
Mexican culture is really rich visually, and very different across regions of the country and periods of time. I have a lot of symbolism, stories and characters to choose from and study! I like the fact that lots of patterns, like the ones used in pre-Hispanic handicrafts, still look fresh today.
Your artwork is often very stylized and colorful: what motivates you to go in this direction?
Like I said, it was the result of admiring lots and lots of 2D artists and trying to implement their techniques in my textures and renders. Before I started to work in 3D, I tried to replicate the colorful style of Raul Urias, Sergi Brosa, Andrés Maquinita, Angel Plazola and Sakiroo Choi, just to mention a few. When I started using textures, I started to paint them as if they were a flat illustration.
"What I like about Substance is that I finally can paint knowing that what I have in the viewport is going to work the same way in Maya and in the final render."
How did you discover the Allegorithmic tools?
A colleague at my last job showed me a video of all the tools that Substance Painter had. The ones that really made me want to try it were the particle brushes and the mask builder for dirt and edge erosion. I researched a little more and found that Dan Cox, an artist I admire a lot, used the program and had some tutorials in Digital Tutors. I just fell in love with it.
How did Substance software change your approach to texturing?
Before, I needed to have two or three different programs open for texturing and mix the result in Photoshop. I never felt 100% sure if the texture I was making was going to look exactly the way I wanted, so I had to improvise a lot while painting and rendering. What I like about Substance is that I finally can paint knowing that what I have in the viewport is going to work the same way in Maya and in the final render. Now I work more in the texture process, one that I didn’t really gave the focus it needed in past illustrations, because of struggles and limitations with the software I used.
Tell us a bit more about what your typical workflow looks like. How does Substance integrate into it?
After I have the scene fully modeled and with UVs, I make a special scene for Substance with every object separated in Zbrush or Maya so that the bakes don’t have weird shadows in the ambient occlusion. Then I make all the bakes in Substance (AO, normals, world space normals, etc). After that, I change the current model to the one that has the final position of the objects and that is separated with materials so that Substance will organize the scene into different objects to paint and isolate. I like to paint the entire scene in one archive so I have a clear understanding of how the final colors are working; I even like to paint a fake background in a plane just for testing. After all the texturing is done, I normally pass the textures to Photoshop just to make the invert of the metal and roughness pass, merge all the textures into their current UV map and get an archive with all my passes.
What was your biggest challenge so far? How did you address it?
Quetzal was a render that had me afraid of texturing since I started modeling it. There were just too many objects to paint in one render so I wasn't entirely sure if it was a good idea to use textures for it. The thing that saved that work is the ability to save smart materials and use it efficiently across multiple objects. I ended up working on the material of the skull and making different versions with different colors.The thing is that the result didn’t feel like I was just putting a tile with different colors; every time I applied it to different objects it gave me a unique result. It worked perfectly in almost all of the objects since I was working with procedural masks more than with painted ones. In the end I painted a little more detail with some default brushes. The texturing for that object took less than a day of work.
Do you have any tips or tricks to share with the community or just some things you particularly like doing with Substance?
I just love to paint with the world space normal! The artists that I mentioned before use a lot Photoshop gradients to make shadows or speculars (please check the art of Sergi Brosa). Achieving that similar effect in 3D blew my mind. I normally use a grayscale conversion generator with the world space normal on it and select the channel where I want my gradient to be directed (it’s normally the green channel for up or down directions). I use the levels layer to make the mask more concentrated and add a mask builder on top for adding a little more noise to the gradient or a paint mask. I use it a lot to fake color shadows or speculars. The render where I used this technique a lot is Mr. Lemonade, as you can see in the red shadows in the skin and in the yellow speculars on the top.
What are your next projects?
I’m currently doing a collaboration with an artist I admire a lot, Jean Fraisse. I’m making one of his illustrations entirely in 3D. My goal is to make 13 new renders before March 2017 for my new demo reel of pure personal work. I’m currently working on number 5. Commercially, I’m freelancing as an illustrator for something that I really think is the biggest job in my life, but I still have to keep it low profile. If everything goes well, the final work will be published in August of this year.