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I recently completed my first sculpted game character including rigging and animation. I am still desperately trying to find reasons to do PBR texture paint in blender 2.8 rather than substance but I am still on the fence. For the time being I used only blender cycles.

The steps I took:

  1. Sculpted a very high poly character.
  2. Created a retopologised (low-poly) version of this character.
  3. Baked a normal-map from the high-poly sculpt onto the low-poly mesh.
  4. Added the normal-map to the low-poly mesh and then painted that in texture painter.

My question is "Is it better in general to paint the high-poly sculpt and then bake all the textures (diffuse/albedo, roughness & normal-map) afterwards?"

The upside I can see to that approach might be that if I need to adjust the resulting tri-count of the low poly model I don't need to repaint - I can just make now low-poly mesh and then re-bake accordingly.

I see some quite conflicting information online.

One thing I noticed in painting the low -poly mesh with normal-map applied is that occasionally the paint landed slightly off the target I was aiming for because of the real topology underneath.

The efficacy of workflows can be subjective but I am interested to know if my suggested workflow is better than the one I used or not.

Thanks in advance.

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The upside I can see to that approach might be that if I need to adjust the resulting tri-count of the low poly model I don't need to repaint - I can just make now low-poly mesh and then re-bake accordingly.

Well, you could totally keep your old low poly and bake diffuse onto the new one, which would be basically the same.

To answer you question I would prefer to paint directly on the low poly, for the simple reason that what I see when painting will be the end result, and I don't have to unwrap my high poly. Any texturing software like substance painter is made in order to paint directly on the low poly for this reasons, and others (performance!). Baking diffuse from high to low poly is useful though, in case where you didn't think you'd need a low poly version, but you find out that you actually do after painting your 'high poly' version.

Another reason might be if you want a very low poly version with lots of normal map details (typically, a robot or mech model with lots of screws and small parts). In this case you would texture every parts and bake normal and diffuse, and then do another painting pass to tie it all together and correct baking issues. You DON'T want to manually paint the diffuse of your normal details when they are already baked.

Substance painter is able to generate masks based on normal details 'geometry', which allows to texture normal details (I think it's called 'micro-details' in the software) but Blender don't.

One thing I noticed in painting the low -poly mesh with normal-map applied is that occasionally the paint landed slightly off the target I was aiming for because of the real topology underneath

I see what you mean, but this might be due to some stretching in your UVs, or worst: overlapping (but you'd know). Or perhaps your texture resolution is too low compared to the details you want to paint.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks very much for these response. Seems to make sense. I gathered that substance painter prefers to paint the low poly as we have the option for it to bake to normal for us, so that makes sense. I am still fairly new to blender and 3d art in general. Still trying to get my head around texturing with masks and things. It has been fun to play around with nodes to create PBR textures but I am wondering if I should just get a substance license as it seems like the workflow could be massively faster. $\endgroup$ – gezinspace Oct 15 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ If you are serious about 3D go for it, get a license! But if it's just a hobby and not a job you can do A LOT in Blender. I find that baking is just as fast, same for painting, but substance has a lot of user made procedural textures that adapt to your mesh so you don't have to worry about seams and that's a big time saver and will improve the quality of your models if you are going for realism. But for stylistic, hand painted texturing Blender is just fine. Edit: don't forget to mark my answer as one if it helped. $\endgroup$ – Arthur Blaquart Oct 15 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ Ok good feedback thanks. I am serious about it but I am on the beginning of a long journey. I am surprised how quickly I am improving. I find just simple things like creating layers with node editor is a bit cumbersome but I think I will persevere as I am not going for photo-realism, just believable stylized. And robots. Thanks. I'll mark as answered. $\endgroup$ – gezinspace Oct 15 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ If you need a tutorial on creating layers in node editor I actually made one that is going strong on youtube youtube.com/watch?v=nSByASy15-4 $\endgroup$ – Arthur Blaquart Oct 15 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ Ah you legend! I have used it. I left a comment a few days ago that said "Thank you so much. There are some nice blender 2.8 PBR texturing videos by Jayanam which are also really good and I still use them, however....they just didn't show how it is possible to create extra layers that use multiple colours, only a mask to paint one colour in a second layer. This is what I needed. As you say... "fucking awesome" :D"! haha that's brilliant. I was actually the last person to comment. Hello again! $\endgroup$ – gezinspace Oct 15 at 14:17

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