Artwork by Eric Kim

The Substance Art of Eric Kim

Allegorithmic on September 20 2016 | News, Software, Stories, Game, Film/VFX

Who are you?

Eric Kim 



Where are you based?

Toronto, Canada

What do you do?

I have worked for the game industry as a 3D artist and am working as a freelancer for Japanese and Korean game companies. 


Where can we find you online?

Hi Eric, could you introduce yourself to the community? What is your background and what are your specialties? 


I'm a 3D artist working in the game industry. Based on my portfolio, I would describe myself as a 3D character artist. I started doing traditional art at a very young age and as I got older, I branched off into digital art. My career started in Japan as a 3D artist, where I worked for Koei Tecmo Games for six years. There are a lot of console game companies in Japan, so I got experience in PBR texturing in the earlier days of its existence. Recently, I moved to Toronto. 


Artistically speaking, sculpting in ZBrush is one of my specialties. In my spare time, I keep practicing on ZBrush sculpting. ZBrushing is one of my hobbies, and I strive to improve my skills by learning from other professional ZBrush artists via YouTube or CG books. I also have a lot of knowledge about human anatomy. So I would love to make human or hard surface characters with ZBrush. 

You entry for The Journey Art Challenge on ArtStation has won an honourable mention. How would you describe your work?


I wanted to create a portfolio that people want to see. Design elements like helmets with goggles, scarves, and ragged cloak material is already a common style. But a robot wearing a leather motorcycle jacket is something I haven't seen very much. Moreover, leather and metal are excellent materials for expressing through PBR texturing, so choosing a robot rider seemed natural. I'm very interested in the expression of metal weathering. Too much weathering makes a sharp metal dull, so I used weathering on the lower part of the body.

Tell us more about Queen's Punk. What's important in making highly realistic characters? 


Every element is important in expressing realistic female characters: hair, eyes, shading, proportions...everything. In places where the modeling looks very artificial, you get a kind of "Uncanny Valley" feeling. Using less artificial parts means that the character will be more realistic. These days, using a high quality scanner is a widespread practice in the game/film industry. Even if I make a truly realistic human model, it can't be compared with real scanned data. But I don't focus on making only realistic characters. My focus is also on making characters attractive. When I make a realistic character, my first priority is to make the face attractive.

What are your sources of inspiration both on these projects and in general? 


When I produce a piece, I add 20% new on 80% familiar material. Queen's Punk was made based on that ratio. I find inspiration in different sources. One example might be the Penny Dreadful TV series that was made into action games, or Anne Hathaway in a shooting game wearing a Victorian style corset. That kind of imagination is the start of my work, and it's the approach I used in my work "The Journey". 




How do you generally approach texturing and how have you integrated Substance into your workflow?


My texturing workflow is separated into two parts. The first is creating weathering effects with a curvature map and the second is without a curvature map. As you know, these kinds of texturing tools use a curvature map for making weathering effects. Sometimes I don't have enough time to make a high-res model. I finally realized that making high-res models (normal map) and using curvature maps are very important things in making a weathered texture. So I essentially make a normal map and a curvature map. 



After studying Substance Painter, almost all of my texturing workflow is based on the Substance Painter. At the beginning, I sometimes used Substance Designer to make specific materials. But these days, there is a huge library on Substance Store or Substance Share. I don't make materials from scratch. I just choose a material in the library and focus on making cool things to modify it. I can use the time I save to concentrate on modeling, and Substance Painter has helped me save time on that part of my work. The materials I made can be used in other projects as a material (or smart material) library. The Export function of Substance Painter is very useful for various rendering modes. I rendered those projects with V-ray, and Substance Painter was very helpful.



Using Substance Painter saved me a world of time. I used to use Mudbox, Mari, and Photoshop before. At that time, making a roughness map or metallic map was a bit complicated. But after I studied Substance Painter, it became easier.
If I just have a clean curvature map, I can make whole textures semi-automatically. This allows me to spend more time creating unique concepts and concentrating on getting the modeling right. When I participated in ArtStation's "The Journey" art challenge, it only took 6 hours to make the texture. It was fast and perfectly matched for my work process.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you address it?


Going back to the ArtStation challenge, I got a very late start, as I decided to participate only 4 weeks before the deadline. I was not sure that I could complete it on time, so I managed my work time with my other projects. Time management skills are one of the most important things for this job. I made a rule and tracked my time using a stop watch. There was no email and no answered messages during this time so that I could focus on work. 




Do you have any tips and tricks to share or just some things you particularly like doing with Substance? 


As I said above, I prefer the way using a curvature map. If the low model has a clean curvature map, the texturing speed can be faster.


Here is a very useful tip: I sometimes use a ZBrush plug-in called Dynamesh Master by Joseph Drust and Nick Miller. Even if I don't have a high-res model for making normal map, it's okay. It's a particularly matched workflow for hard surfaces in 3ds Max. Here's how to use it: 


  1. Set up "smoothing group" at low poly model in 3ds Max.    

  2. Add "Turbosmooth" to your low poly model.

  3. Import that model in Zbrush, and use the plug-in "Dynamesh Master"

  4. Use the Zbrush data for making normal maps and curvature maps as a high-res Model.


It's an irregular way to make a normal map, but it's very fast if you just need a curvature map for texturing.You can download the plug-in here



What are your next projects?

Professionally, I'm making several characters for some confidential VR content. Personally I'm doing some collaboration artwork with my artist friends. I also make these things with Allegorithmic's tools. Substance Painter's latest update was truly excellent. A UDIM import function of Substance Painter would be very useful for that workflow.

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