Material Texture artist interested in VFX


I found this forum today, and wanted to ask a question of my own. I like materials and textures best, I especially like using Substance Designer. Would I fit any roles as VFX artist? I am comfortable with node based editors and photoshop. What would be another good software/ editor for me to learn? Haven’t done a lot of animated materials, but I am interested.

My background is in realtime 3d, primarily in environmental work, something that I kinda burned myself out of, but still have always loved creating textures, and now pbr materials.

Thanks for any insight or advice

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Most of the effects posted here use particles systems. So if you like what you see here, learning either the unity or unreal particle systems would be one of the first things to learn.

having a basic knowledge of a 3d modeling program like blender or maya is pretty important. you don’t necessarily need to know how to sculpt or retopologize or anything, just be able to make and unwrap simple meshes.

there are some vfx that crossover into environment work like water shaders or flags.

some vfx folks use houdini, I don’t use it personally so I can’t really say how useful it is.

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Hi and welcome! There are certainly roles that your specialization and interests would fit in, although in terms of a professional career, openings may be less numerous and limited to larger studios that use lots of specialized materials in their games, (Bungie and 343 come to mind). A broader position would be a Tech Artist, but there are a lot of things that can fall under that job description outside of materials.

Substance is a great tool to know, and although it’s slow going, vfx is moving to using it more because of its auto tiling and non-destructive workflow.

Like Cel mentioned, the most important piece of software to learn is just an engine. UE4 and the latest version of Unity both have node-based material editors, which fundamentally work just like Substance. There are tons of awesome effects you can make that are entirely material-based too. I’d check out this thread Tech Art Fundamentals tutorial series

For some resources on learning Unreal Materials (these same concepts can apply to Unity as well) I’d check out these:
Trinity3D - 3D Animation Software Source


Thanks Cel and Travis for the replies, both sounds like solid advice.

I have worked in Unreal 4 before, but didn’t get into particles so those links will help. I got a Udemy a Cascade for beginners course that I plan on going through.

How different is the material editor in UDK vs Unreal 4? I was interested in the Shader tutorial Travis suggested, but wasn’t sure how lost I would be with it. I read in the review that Cascade editor really didn’t change much between versions.

Makes sense that larger studios have more specific roles. UBI soft and Crystal Dynamics have just have Substance Designer staff, I had seen in some interviews about Odyssey, and the latest Tomb Raider. I want to learn some new things so that I will be more appealing to studios.

Thanks again!

There’s almost no difference between UDK and UE4’s material editor. 90% of what’s in those tutorials can be applied to both UE4 and Unity’s Amplify Shader. I think there may be a node or two missing or renamed, but all of the “bread and butter” nodes, so to speak, are unchanged.

That’s good to hear, it makes it a lot easier to find information and tutorials.

Thanks for the reply!

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Yes, you would fit greatly as a VFX Artist. Creating your own textures, at least basic shapes is a must. And you have a background as a Texture Artist so it’s a huge plus in that regard. Material-wise though, depending on the company you end up, you won’t have access directly to shaders. To make them i mean. Because of proprietary game engines in AAA companies where node based shaders are non-existant for some, or because they are handled by 3D Programmers. You could make some requests for shaders with feastures that would benefit the project.

With companies that uses UE4 or Unity, that’s another story tho.

Software-wise, besides those you mentionned, i recommand After Effects. Hands down. Great for creating shapes, apply filters, adding functions to automatize your workflow and making your own spritesheets by animating any properties you want.

Besides that, if you wanna go down the VFX path, you have to, at least, know your way through particle systems. Once you know them, like Shuriken (Unity) or Cacade/Niagara (UE4), you’ll be okay with any other engines because the core remains the same (Size over Lifetime, Gradients, Pojtn attractor, Velocity over Lifetime, etc). At the end of the day, you make particles.

Good luck out there!

Thanks Fenix,

I didn’t realise that aftereffects was used for vfx, but using it create animated effects would make sense. I just started with Cascade particle Editor today. Unreal has some good videos on YouTube for a intro, and I am glad to see they have good documentation for it as well. Hopefully I can get up to speed with some basic concepts soon.

Good to hear that my previous skills could be useful.

Thanks again!