The new knife brushes in Brush 2021.7 are amazing. No more we get the strange uneven surface when cutting in. This can now be used as a true modeling tool and the resulting cute geometry is also very good and even.

This works especially well when using it in conjunction with dynamesh or retopology.

Quick modeling using knife brushes and Dynamesh in 2021.7

I was able to created this engine piece very quickly by using the knife brushes and booleans.

Quick materials in Substance Painter

Throwing the model to Substance Painter with some fast automatic UVs gave me this piece.

Along with many other features, knife brushes are a must have. It is amazing to have decade worth of free upgrades.

Year-end sale now in my Gumroad store, site wide. Use code “newyear2021” to get 30% off everything.

Now also business and studio licenses are available for which the discount also applies.

It might be good idea to back up AppData/Local/Autodesk/ENU folder.

More than once 3ds Max has became weird with loss of shortcuts and similar. Always the remedy has been resetting Max by removing the settings files. Having to set up everything again from scratch is a pain.

I asked this from Autodesk forums and they said it’s basically a fine practice, so I assume nothing should go haywire if I was just to move the folder back if something happens.

Especially losing shortcuts in UV editor window has been a nuisance in 3ds Max 2020.

So the old VRayHDRI node which was heavily used for all kinds of (also sdr) bitmap loading was now replaced with VRayBitmap. I suppose this is to signify that it is not only be used for floating point maps.

Whats really unbelievably fantastic about this is that it seems to support environment variables now for the file paths, in the form of ${VAR_NAME} syntax. This should help to transfer models with tons of materials to client for example.

Since VRayHDRI never supported 3ds Max asset tracking, defining non-absolute file paths for the texture files was impossible. So the absolute file path was always present and the client would get the whole local path of my computer which of course never matches client’s one. There are various scripts to address the issue, but still annoyance.

If I understood right it should be that one can simply define one path and this should be populated to all paths, which is a huge one.

I have been needing a laptop for a while now to accompany my AMD desktop machine, mainly because I need to visit clients in Tokyo and have something I can demo stuff.

I have used Late 2013 MacBook Pro for music and casual tasks for a while now but it starts to show it’s age, and I need something with a decent graphics in it.

Of course I looked at Windows machines such as ones from Razer and so on. But something always stopped me, they just don’t have the appeal, plus I feel unsure about their support as I have never owned a PC notebook.

Now, I can’t think of anyone in their right mind who would recommend a Mac for a CG creator. The hardware lacks the muscle, machines are expensive and there is no Nvidia and neither the plugins. 3dsMax doesn’t even exist on the platform, neither does most of the CAD software.

I know that I won’t be doing any heavy lifting CG in a coffee shop or client’s office, but I might create a substance graph, rig a model or set-up projects in Unity or Unreal Engine.

In my previous job I used HP Omen 17 inch and while it was a total monster what comes to performance, it was so clumsy to carry with a 300W power brick that was sized like a Mac mini. More than once I noticed the performance in Unreal Engine started tanking since somehow the power plug had de-attached itself from the brick. This of course while trying to show stuff to customer. It seemed that the machine had a two power settings, frigging 300W hyper speed and a crawling notepad mode. (Or I wasn’t clever enough to change the power mode in the settings, possible.)

MacBook Pro is so light and portable. What I lose in the raw horsepower I gain in portability and battery life. And I know how good the Apple support is because I have used it before. This all is, of course a tradeoff and I lose all the benefit of RTX baking, real time lighting in Unreal Engine or VR. But I suspect that of the tasks I did with the Omen, actually 99% I could have done with the Mac.

So – finally I bought 2019 MacBook Pro 16 inch with Intel Core i9 and 1TB graphics. This is the slightly upgraded model of the base one.

I have tried running Substance Designer, Unity, Marmoset Toolbag and Maya with heavy scenes. All of these do work under MacOSX. The machine is very snappy, almost surprisingly so. Especially CPU based software such as Zbrush should run completely fine.

Now I did install Windows 10 with Bootcamp. Substance Designer’s iRay renderer ran much faster in Bootcamp but also made the machine much more hot. It could be that macOS is doing some very good thermal management, which Windows has no clue about.

However general 3d modeling tasks with 3dsMax or such might run just fine. Need to test it.

I must say, so far I am really happy I decided to go with this machine. Even though most CG artists are quick to dismiss Mac as a hipster gimmick, this can be a valuable mobile tool for some CG tasks, at least for me.

HDRI Render Studio
Grab this free HDRI Studio Interior

This is a HDRI I created years back in Blender. Since then I have kept using this for several professional projects in V-Ray, Marmoset, Arnold and even Substance Painter.

HDRI such as this is really useful for making not only reflections look great but as a image based lighting. And they work in virtually all major 3D packages.

This is now free in my Gumroad, so please grab it. I have also made a collection of HDRI environments.

Skull Ring game asset

I revisited old 3D asset I created, around ten years ago, and created some modern materials for it in Substance. I created the render in Marmoset Toolbag.

Sometimes it’s fun to create something quickly.

I created this HDRI Environments Pack recently. This is a huge collection of 14 high quality HDRI environments I have created over the years. These are in 11K-8K resolution.

They include several high altitude aerial HDRI, several landscapes and even interior render studio that I have used over the years for my projects. This HDRI pack is a must have tool for any CG artist. Get HDRI Environments Pack

This is my experience on using Ryzen 2700x on Asus B350 Prime motherboard. It’s been a bit over a year since I built my AMD workstation. This machine has been my everyday tool for creating 3D graphics, doing video and photo editing, and also some gaming.

Actually it was not my intention to use this motherboard. My Asus B350 Prime was emergency replacement to my Asrock X470 board which died due to a power surge. I just grabbed first cheap AM4 board that I could find so that I could test if my other components were okay (they werent, my m.2 drive also got fried, ouch). But I was able to get my system back up.

Ryzen 2700x on Asus B350 Prime in modded case
2700x on Asus B350 Prime. Here is a look inside the case.

However the question has been in my mind, is a petty B350 Asus board limiting a Ryzen 2700x somehow? Am I bottlenecking my processor? Am I missing out? Now I am quite sure the answer is no, but read on.

There are couple of things I have learned over the year. One is that it is best to check and BIOS settings one by one. I had set PBO to “Auto” in BIOS assuming that it defaults to ON as well; who wouldn’t want to enable it, right? Well in ASUS B350 Prime case, that was not the case. Changing the setting to Enable, now I actually can see PBO in action. My Cinebench 20 score is now over 4000. I remember reading somewhere that PBO is considered as a warranty voiding overclock so that’s why ”auto” means it’s turned off. With water cooling I try to think this is not an issue though but maybe only a time will tell.

The side panel fan mount was interesting to make. I however messed up the transparent plastic so I covered it with a cheap vinyl wrap. It doesn’t look horrible in my opinion and is less flashy.

The other one is about memory. My 2x 8GB G.Skill TridentZ CL16 kit was never stable over 2800Mhz even though it was rated at 3200. As I was very much in need of more memory as I often work with memory intensive graphics files, I replaced my kit with Sniper X 16×2 kit which runs in it’s native 3000Mhz speed. I got really nice deal on that actually, which is the reason why I settled with ”just” 3000Mhz.

I also noticed is that I can quite happily undervolt the processor. Before Windows 2019 May update I kept the processor at -0.08 volts from BIOS setting which resulted over ten degree less in CPU tdie temperatures. It had no impact on performance at all. For reasons unknown, May update didn’t accept this value, but demanded me to up the voltage to -0.05. When I tried to update, the video signal got lost. Quite confusing really.

I don’t know the reason for this, it might be something to do with the fact that Windows is now aware of Ryzen topology.

I use Up Here AIO cooling, it’s a kind of Japanese brand it seems. It is quiet and slightly more powerful than the default CPU cooler that came with the processor. I also have a several case fans and also side panel fan which I modded to the case by myself to cool down the motherboard, VRM. Overkill, you might say, having so many fans. But the fans I use are modern and quiet ones, I don’t even notice them for the most part.

Other components I use are Samsung EVO 970 500GB m.2 drive as a boot drive and Asus GTX 1070ti.

I have had no issues whatsoever with this system. This has been a great work machine. Maya LT, Substance Designer & Painter, Blender, and other apps all run fast, as fast as a latest and greatest Intel machine with RTX 2080 I used in the company I used to work.

Memory compatibility is still what it is with Ryzen, but definitely the situation is better than it was a year ago, and with right kit you can definitely get satisfying memory speeds.

I know that X470 and then X570 boards would enable upgrades such as XFR2, although I don’t know exactly how that differs from XFR1. Comparing my benchmarks with 2700x systems in X470 boards I can’t see any difference.

2700x on Asus B350 Prime
2700x on Asus B350 Prime. Here is the close up of the UpHere AIO

What comes to other motherboard features, I can’t think of what I would be missing. I use my Blue YETI as my audio mostly and I haven’t ever even plugged anything to the case audio jacks. When I need audio things I always use external sound cards. StoreMI would be interesting feature but I can’t think of using it. I am glad the board has m.2 slot, and one is most certainly enough for me.

It also appears that Asus B350 Prime will happily accept 3700x processor; even 3900x(!). In the case of the latter some attention should be paid to the VRM cooling, it seems. I definitely like to keep my side panel fan mounted for this possible future upgrade.

However, for now I am not having any issues related to the performance or stability of the machine; and I don’t like the idea of upgrading my machine just for the satisfaction of getting higher performance numbers. 3700x is attractive processor but costs a lot here in Japan; it’s just the way how it is with buying PC parts in Japan.

Now that new generation of Ryzen processors are out, it might be possible to find good deals on earlier CPUs such as 2700x. Pairing these with boards like the Asus Prime might offer excellent value.

Note about AIO in Zalman Z9 case; I used a hand saw to get rid of the plastic shell on top of the case, exposing the radiator fully. This improved temperatures more than five degrees, more closer to ten. Zalman had removable transparent plastic rim that helped a bit but not enough in my opinion. Without it, dust will get in, but heat gets out.

Also make sure you get the latest chipset drivers from AMD.

Recently I created this lake ice substance in Substance Designer. I have been doing a lot of these kinds of icy/snow surfaces recently. I miss Finland..

Frozen Lake Substance in Substance Designer

Material Blend node and especially Material Height Blend are very powerful tools for blending several materials.

For example in the lake ice material I was able to re-use my existing snow material. I didn’t have to go through the trouble of creating new snow from scratch, I just blend this with the lake surface material using a mask.

By hitting 3 in the keyboard we can enter the “green noodle mode” which allows us to connect material nodes with one line, no need to plug each channel individually. These can be masked, blended, manipulated transformed tiled and so forth. We can even use a great to create material atlases.

If you are Substance Designer artist and have not yet tried blending whole materials, I really recommend to give it a try. It is very powerful way to create new materials using existing graphs.

Check out my Youtube video about using Material Blend node.

I have created collection of seven different wood substances that I use on regular basis in my projects, both in Substance Painter and Unreal Engine. These are versatile materials that you can use in your projects or build upon. All of the substances come in .sbs and .sbsar formats and are all completely procedural.

The collection includes following:

  • Medieval Wood
  • Aged Wood Planks
  • Dark Fine Wood
  • Worn Wood Floor
  • White Painted Wood
  • Wood Floor Substance
  • Rough Cheap Wood
Wood Substance Collection (7 different wood substances) is now available in my Gumroad.

I have carefully crafted these and updated the materials over the years to take advantage of new nodes in Substance Designer.

Example of Substance source graph in of Aged Wood Planks substance which is also part of the Wood Substance Collection.
Example of nodes in Aged Wood Planks Substance file included in the Wood Substance collection.

I have looked over several real wood samples and felt and touched them to try to analyze their properties.

To create material from from scratch in Substance Designer can offer more accurate and clean result than a photo scan or even worse a bitmap image conversion.

Substance Designer offers so flexible workflow with materials that can be adjusted easily after the creation, and parts of the graph can also be used in other projects. Having a solid substance source library is very handy indeed.

Medieval Wood is one of the Substances in my collection.

All of the substances are also tested in Substance Painter to work accurately and flawlessly.

The popular wood floor Substance is included as well in both .sbs and .sbsar formats.

The popular wood floor substance is also part of the collection.

Substances are also being used in VFX and CG film industry, not only in games. Blade Runner 2049 featured Oscar winning texture pipeline that is based on Substance is something to look at.

I have used some of the flood materials in commercial architecture renders as well.

I used my PBR substances in some of the interior renders I created in Blender Cycles.
Some interior renders I created using Substance

Substance offers great flexibility over traditional texture workflow.

Someone bought my substance from my Gumroad, and shortly after I got this message:

“This is not how it looks like in photo.  This is disrespect to other people work. I ll never buy something from you”

This happens in approximately every in every 100 purchase. Mostly I get complaints that the substance seems “low resolution” or “blurred” and sometimes vague comment like this.

Now, I can guess why this happens; this got to do with Output Size. The default parent size is 256*256px in Substance Designer. I save and publish my substances relative to the parent as this is the correct way to do it. Check out this page in Allegorithmic’s site.

Now the above statement is vague at best. In order to get the substance look like in the preview render one would need to adjust render settings. The person does not explain what is wrong with it, just that it is disrespectful somehow.

I do give refunds sometimes but user not knowing how to use Substance Designer is not basis for a refund.