When it comes to thick armor some Marvelous Designer (MD) users turn to other software not realizing that the armor can be made in MD with simple patterns and an overlooked feature… cloth thickness. In fact, the cloth can look more like thick leather or metal with the right settings. As I covered in an earlier article ZBrush is a great tool for making armor, but I find the pattern method of MD to be superior for my workflow in some cases.
I have spent a lot more time in ZBrush than MD, so it was natural for me to turn to it for armor production… particularly complex armor which it still excels at. For simpler fare, I found it more efficient to draw out the patterns and paint the details in Substance Painter instead of sculpting them, so this method depends on your ability to texture with another application.
You do need to have your head wrapped around using sewing patterns to get anything done in MD but the great this is… some armor pieces can be drawn out as cloth in a manner of seconds. Apply the proper thickness and you have armor.
Another thing to keep in mind is polycount which is generally low in MD, but this method requires export with the “Thick” option which really ups the polys. Basically you need to be prepared to do a little optimizing if this is to be a real-time character and Character Creator 3 from Reallusion has my favorite decimator, InstaLOD, integrated directly into it so you can let it crunch those polys if that is part of your production pipeline.
It’s a simple process that starts with:
- Drawing out a single pattern, in this case, hip armor, then duplicating that pattern for the other side.
Next, use the cloth engine to sew up the cloth and position it according to your needs.
Now we go into the cloth properties menu with the cloth selected in the cloth panel… NOT the cloth on the avatar. From there we use the Thickness setting at the bottom of the menu.
Export the mesh (make sure your UV map is in the 0 to 1 square) in obj format to use in Substance Painter or the application of your choice.
That’s it. You are now ready to apply the custom maps to your model and enhance your new and thick leather armor. Below you can see the armor on the original Reallusion Character Creator character.
Below is another example of armor created with the same method. In fact, everything except the hair and battle-ax were made in MD.
The great thing about this method is how easy it is to draw the armor pattern then sew it up. In this case, it only took two different sewing areas at the front and back of the patterns. You could easily add things like another slimmer belt sewed to the top of the armor waist area for a more realistic buckle up type of armor but painting that detail saves a lot of polys.
Combined with other techniques like ZBrush you could easily add more detail via the GOZ route if you are using Character Creator to jump over into ZBrush. From there add detail to make the armor look like metal instead of leather. Again… texture painting can accomplish the same results with fewer polys.
Next time you are making belts or other items that need to be thicker then push up that cloth thickness slider to get a fuller, more realistic 3D asset.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects.