Image Courtesy of Tuan Nguyen

Modeling and texturing race cars with Tuan Nguyen

Pierre Maheut on July 5 2016 | News, Stories, Game, Design

Who are you?
Tuan Nguyen

Where are you based/Where do you come from?
I am based in Dortmund, Germany, but I was born in Hai Phong, Vietnam.


What do you do?
Currently I am a freelance 3D artist. I have various projects consisting of freelance work, content creation, and work for my personal projects. I am now just enjoying the freedom of being freelance for the first time.

Where can we find your work?

What is your background?

In 2006, I was a fresh high school graduate in Germany and was spending time with a friend in a living community. At the time, he was a freelance artist and playing around with Softimage XSI. He suggested that I learn XSI. At that time, I was aiming to study Graphic Design at HAW Hamburg after being accepted. I thought why not give it a try, so I chose a McLaren Honda MP4-4 as my first 3D model, and modeled it. The result was good (even if I wouldn't have managed the workflow the same way today). After that I became addicted to modeling and worked on my first portfolio instead of studying graphic design.

I landed a first job in 2007 as a junior artist in Hamburg with Schoenheitsfarm, who was specialized in TV commercials. After one year there, I started studying game design at the Design School Schwerin with the aim of getting more into games. I worked for Virgin Lands GmbH as a 3D artist after I graduated in 2011, an outsourcing studio for games, animation movies and trailers. I’ve now been a freelance artist for one year and I really enjoy it.

What are your specialties?

I specialize in hard surface modeling, and everything what has to do with science fiction excites me. But I modeled a lot of race cars for clients over the past few years. I think it has something to do with me being a fan of Formula One, so I’ve seen a lot of different forms and shapes over the years.

What are your sources of inspiration?

I have seen many sci-fi movies over the years, especially since the Blu-ray disc came out. But I like to get inspired by the good old movies: Robocop, Terminator or the Alien series. Simple and straight design combined with real props, nothing too over the top. Also the designs from Ron Cobb for all the movies he worked on are awesome. And of course all the cool stuff on Artstation.

How did you discover the Allegorithmic tools? Which ones have you used on this project?

I first heard about Substance Painter from a junior artist back at the days at Virgin Lands, who shared a link to a video of Substance Painter on YouTube. It was exciting to see the speed and texturing abilities of Substance Painter, but it took nearly a year before I bought a copy from Steam. A few months after purchasing it, I textured my first model with Substance Painter.


I still have to connect new programs and tools to current projects I’m working on – I guess I’m not really an experimenting kind of guy. I have owned Substance Designer, Bitmap2Material and even Zbrush for a year now, but never really got into it. I hope I can change that fact in the next couple of projects. On all the race cars I used only Substance Painter.

Tell us more about the some of your latest projects.

The BMW M6 GTLM was a car for a client who makes professional paid mods and mods for Simulation Games like Assetto Corsa and also for real racing teams.

I was commissioned to build the GTLM Version of the BMW M6, but I just have fun with modeling, so I also built the GT3 Version of the car, since there were only some minor changes between the two versions. If there are two versions, I always tend to model both of them for my personal portfolio.

What was your biggest challenge on this project?

Generally, I am used to modeling cars in all different forms and shapes, so there was no big deal to model them. But there are always difficult areas to model on all cars, especially when there are not enough reference photos or blueprints. Also, there are different variations of cars: the race version, the test version, or the presentation version – so it’s always time-consuming to compare the references and model them. The client generally provides me many reference photos from the exterior car and some shots from the cockpit. But it's often 100 exterior photos against 5 cockpit shots for all cars. Even if the cockpit photos are in high quality, they often lack of different angles, so I have to guess the forms in some areas.

What are the different tools you use?

I use Softimage as my first modelling tool, 3DS Max, Cinema 4D Prime, Substance Painter, Other PBR texturing tools (Quixel Suite), Marmoset Toolbag 2 and Photoshop.

What was your production pipeline on this project and how did Substance integrate into it?

There was a bunch of race car models on my hard disc I did for clients and i just wanted to texture them for my portfolio. Substance Painter was ideal to texture them quickly with smart materials sharing between the cars, mesh and UV island masking for material definition was a big plus. Also the ability to quickly stamp all the brands and logos of the cars over different UV islands are a big time reducer. After modeling was completed, I used Substance Painter for texturing, Photoshop for preparing the logo stamps and Marmoset Toolbag 2 for the renders. Nothing special; the goal was to quickly do the texturing and shading process. I’m thinking about getting Substance Painter 2. The Iray Render looks very cool, but I will wait until you guys implement full 8K support in SP ;)

Do you have some techniques with Substance to share with the community?

I've just scratched the surface of Substance Painter and am just clean materials with a little dirt for the cars. I haven't test the brush and generator filters extensively yet. At the moment I am using the bake function a lot for baking low polygon models, even for other PBR texturing tools. I just found out that the average normal function is similar to baking with a cage. It gets very good results on round edge high polygon to low polygon hard edges. The only problem on baking with a cage is that it produces some areas with crooked offset normals. So I tended to render one pass with average normals enabled and one without. Then I just layer both of them over each other and paint a mask with areas where I want to use the none average normals to avoid the offset. I can completely ignore the UV Layout from the model when painting the mask. Once the mask is finished I plug in all the other maps like curvature, color id to comp these also. The end result is the best from both normal bakes. Without Substance Painter you have to bake the two normal workflows in a 3D tool, comp them blindly in Photoshop, and save the map for review in Marmoset. Sometimes saving uncompressed maps can take long time in Photoshop.

How did your use of Substance change your approach to texturing?

I was using Photoshop for texturing before Substance Painter, but it was always very time intensive, especially when you had to texture a lot of the same content. Now you only need a couple of Smart Materials to get the same result. What I really love on Substance Painter is that it is not only limited to only the color id to define the materials. On the cars I used a lot of the masking function with the mesh, polygon and the UV island picker. It is a big advantage over the other PBR texturing tools.
What I do not want to miss is the bake functions in Substance Painter. Render only by mesh name, average normals, and ignore backface are just one mouse click away. And of course Substance Share and Substance Live content you get monthly.

Tell us more about your next projects.

For this year I’m planning to finish up my portfolio, bringing all my concepts and pure 3D models that were stored over the years to be textured and shaded. But what I’m really looking forward to next year, when I will have completed my portfolio, is to have my mood and mind free for a small racing game for PC and iOS. I started scripting and designing this game back in 2011. But between now and then, there is still a long way to go.



Check out all of Tuan Nguyen's projects here:

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