This week's 80 Level Digest serves as a beginner introduction to proceduralism, giving an overview of the most commonly used procedural tools for 3D art and featuring some comprehensive tutorials that will help you learn more about the topic.
With proceduralism becoming more and more frequently used nowadays, many aspiring 3D Artists are starting to implement procedural techniques into their workflows to a certain extent. Be it modeling, texturing, visual effects, animation, or something else entirely, procedural systems can help any artist simplify their workflow without ruining the initial idea behind a project.
However, despite proceduralism having been introduced to the world of 3D art quite some time ago, many beginners still struggle with it due to deeming its techniques to be sophisticated, high learning curve, the complexity of proceduralism-focused software, or all of the above.
To help aspiring artists get the hang of the topic, for this week's 80 Level Digest, we prepared an overview of some of the most common tools that provide access to procedural systems and collected some comprehensive tutorials that will help you learn more about proceduralism in 3D art.
To kick things off, it's very important to understand what proceduralism is, how it works, and how it can be used for your projects. To do so, we highly recommend checking out a massive and comprehensive tutorial shared by 3D Artist Rohan Dalvi and SideFX, the developer of Houdini, all the way back in 2017.
The tutorial explains what proceduralism is, discusses its advantages, and demonstrates some basic techniques that can be utilized to set up a procedural system. Additionally, Rohan spoke about Houdini's procedural nature and how the software uses it to its advantage. Overall, an absolute must-watch for every beginner.
Speaking of SideFX, it would be absolutely fair to put their legendary software Houdini at the top of today's list due to its being a primary go-to tool for the majority of Procedural Artists. Featuring a procedural node-based workflow, Houdini lets you create content faster and provides enhanced flexibility in all your creative tasks. Houdini is ideal for Modelers, Lighters, Character Riggers, and Animators.
Here are some great tutorials on procedural workflows in Houdini:
And here are some great breakdowns shared by our readers:
The next great tool that you can dive into to learn more about proceduralism is Blender, or to be more specific, its Geometry Nodes toolset. The system was first introduced with Blender 3.0, and it allows you to modify the geometry of an object with node-based operations. Geometry Nodes are capable of modifying different types of geometry, including Meshes, Curves, Point Clouds, Volumes, and Instances.
To get the hang of Geometry Nodes, we recommend checking out these tutorials made by various Blender Artists:
And to motivate you some more, here are a few mind-blowing generators made by various artists using Geometry Nodes:
Up next, we've got yet another familiar software that almost every single Material Artist holds close to heart – Substance 3D Designer and its Substance model graph, introduced to SD back in Summer 2021.
The Substance model graph brought the ability to play around with basic shapes, merge them in a KitBash manner, and expose different parameters to make your models completely parametric. What's more, it's also possible to import your own models and add in the details with procedural geometry, using a variety of nodes.
And here are some interesting tutorials to assist you on your way of comprehending the Substance model graph:
Last year, we also conducted an interview on the topic with an amazing 3D Material Artist Kelly Recco. In this interview, Kelly shared a thorough breakdown of the Substance model graph, commented on its advantages and limitations, and showed how to create a cute little procedural bridge using the graph.
You can check out the full interview here.
If modeling smaller assets is not your cup of tea and you would prefer creating entire landscapes instead, the software you should pay attention to would be QuadSpinner Gaea. Powered by an efficient and flexible procedural workflow, Gaea provides nodes that will allow you to set up realistic AAA-quality game worlds in a matter of minutes.
What's more, Gaea can be used to create stunning visual effects thanks to its time-saving features, versatile procedural pipeline, and bridge to some of the key applications.
If you find Gaea to be a procedural tool that would suit all of your artistic needs, we also recommend checking out the QuadSpinner team's official YouTube channel, which features tons of useful tutorials and breakdowns designed to drastically simplify the learning process.
And here are some mesmerizing environments made by various artists using a combination of Gaea and other tools:
One more software for procedural terrain generation that you should most certainly check out is World Machine, a powerful and flexible tool that combines procedural terrain creation, simulations of nature, and interactive editing to produce realistic-looking terrain quickly and easily. With this tool, you can build and export high-resolution heightfields, textures, and meshes for your game or rendering software.
If you want to learn more about the software, we highly recommend checking out a massive series of tutorials uploaded by 3D Designer and World Machine guru Hylke Sebus, a.k.a. HYLK. Having over ten years of experience with the tool, HYLK is the person who knows literally everything there is to know about it, and luckily for us, shared this knowledge and some extremely useful techniques in his in-depth tutorial videos.
And here are some useful breakdowns on using World Machine for your projects, written by our readers:
For those looking to implement proceduralism into their texturing pipelines, Quixel Mixer would definitely be a great software to learn. Equipped with procedural masks, as well as sculpting and texturing tools, Mixer serves as a jack-of-all-trades type of software, offering an enormous toolset that will allow you to create any material imaginable without even exiting the program.
What's more, being a part of the Quixel family, Mixer is easily compatible with Megascans, Bridge, as well as Unreal Engine, giving you the opportunity to center your entire working process around using these free tools.
Here are some of Quixel's comprehensive tutorials on procedural texturing with Mixer:
And if you are wondering how Mixer can be added to your workflow, we also recommend checking out an absolutely enormous breakdown shared by Jonathan Holmes. In this 2-part breakdown, the artist spoke about using Quixel Mixer for hard-surface texturing, shared the workflow behind LearJet 24 project, showed multiple useful techniques, and commented on the software's procedural masking system.
And finally, we'd like to introduce you to a lesser-known, recently-released program called Threedee, a procedural 3D modeling software with tons of neat features designed to increase productivity and reduce production costs when creating large 3D scenes. The software boasts advanced patented technology, which allows its users to create multiple unique models out of one model in just a few clicks.
The highlight of Threedee is its Responsive Geometry feature, which allows you to reshape or resize your models with all of the model's materials and details automatically adapting to its new size. This can also be applied to architectural attributes of buildings, for example, doors, windows, roofs, and columns, making Threedee one of the best procedural modeling tools for Environment Artists.
And here are some demos shared by Threedee's developers:
For a more in-depth look at the software, we also recommend checking out our interview with Threedee's Founder and CTO Emilio Santos, who told us about the unique technology the software utilizes to create high-quality 3D worlds, explained how Responsive Geometry works, and discussed the main strengths of the toolkit.
You can read the full interview here.