Tarek Abdellatif Makes Photorealistic Train Interiors with Substance Painter
My name is Tarek Abdellatif. I’m a freelance 3D modeler and texture artist, from Egypt. I was raised in Assiut, Egypt, but I’m currently living in Cairo.
I graduated from the faculty of science at Assiut University, where I studied Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and Programming. But my biggest love was the 3D art in movies I’d seen and games I’d played, so I started to learn 3D from tutorials on the web.
My Start in the 3D Industry
I took an online game art course by Britt Briley from Uartsy, which helped me to model high- and low-poly game assets. Unfortunately, the game industry in Egypt is not as big as the VFX in commercials and film industry so, after that, I decided to travel to Cairo to start my career in TV commercials, first with a training course from Gemini VFX studio, and then by working for Monkeys VFX studio.
My dream is to work in one of the top game studios such as Ubisoft, Naughty Dog or EA games. Or, alternatively, in one of the studios that provide great quality cinematic VFX, like Blur, Blizzard or Digic Pictures.
Everything around me gives me inspiration. If I see something beautiful it inspires me. Similarly, old places, movies and video games are a source of inspiration. I like the subtle effects in materials that give them realistic feel.
I started my career at Monkeys Studio as a Junior 3D Generalist. Monkeys Studio is one of the top studios in Egypt, based in Cairo. My work was mostly 3D modeling, unwrapping, texturing for assets used in Egyptian TV commercials for Egyptian products, things like that. But the project that I most learned from was the Todo TV commercial, as it was my first use of Substance Painter.
On the Todo TV commercial, my task was to make a 3D model of a shipping container and texture it with realistic materials, but with a nice, commercial feel. I watched tutorials on the Allegorithmic YouTube channel and I liked how Substance Painter seemed very easy and fast, so I decided to use it in this project.
Railway Train and Metro Train Projects
These two projects have two different stories.
- Metro Train is based on an Egyptian Metro line. Two years ago, I found myself traveling alone on an empty metro train after staying late at work. I seized the moment to shoot a bunch of images with the camera of my phone. I ultimately used these as reference images, to help me with this project.
- In 2011/2012 I traveled on this train many times, while I was doing my military service. I decided to make a 3D version of the train; this is how I got the idea of the Railway Train project.
Workflow and Breakdown
I used 3ds Max for modeling and unwrapping, ZBrush for sculpting chair wrinkles, and Substance Painter for texturing. I used Substance Painter Iray to present some shots of the chairs, the door and the side parts. I used Vray for shading the materials and for rendering the final image.
At first, after finishing the model I unwrapped the chair parts and separated them into UV tiles. For example, every fabric part has its own UV tile, the plastic back part, the side part, etc. Then I export as an .obj file and import this into Substance Painter.
Now UDIM tiles are used as texture sets in Substance Painter.
To texture the fabric part, for example, first you have to bake mesh maps - from the Texture Set settings click ‘Bake mesh maps’; then, in the baking options click on, ‘Use low poly mesh as a high poly mesh’. Antialiasing subsampling 4x4 gives you a nice result.
I used a tileable diffuse and bump fabric texture I created in Photoshop.
In 3ds Max I used the ‘render to texture’ feature so I can get as many fabric tiles as I want and create these textures. After that, I created a diffuse and bump (used as height map) texture.
I imported these textures and created a fill layer, then dragged the diffuse to the base color, and the bump to the height slots. The next step was to control the opacity of the height so that it wasn’t so big, and gave the fabric a nice look.
I used the smart material ‘Dust Material’, which has two layers (Dust base and Dust details). I played with the settings and I added a paint layer so that I could manually add some subtle yellow dust in order to give the fabric some life.
Finally, for this part, I added a fabric dobby aged smart material and controlled it using an MG Fiberglass Edge Wear generator as a mask. This way, the wear appears more on the edges of the fabric with a paint layer, so I can add or remove details manually.
I used similar steps with different materials, smart materials, generators, filters and paint layers for the rest of the texture sets. After I finished texturing the chairs I used Iray to take some shots to present the chair before exporting the texture to Vray and using it in 3ds Max to make the final render shot with Vray.
I like everything about Substance Painter - especially Iray because it helps me to present the models easily with the post effects. I can correct color, do tone mapping, add glare, and so on, and it renders very quickly.
I wish Substance Painter had a camera control feature, and the ability to save a camera from a certain view. It would help when taking a render shot with Iray, to re-render without losing the view. It could be used to present the model and preview texture steps from a single viewpoint with different renders.
So far, I’ve mostly done hard surface modeling. I’m currently trying to focus more on 3D sculpting for assets or environment studies using software like ZBrush. I’m also planning to study software like Unreal Engine and focus more on game art.