How to make BORDERLANDS style CHARACTERS : a texture creation tutorial!

How to make BORDERLANDS style  CHARACTERS : a texture creation tutorial!

I’m James Taylor – let’s make some BORDERLANDS-y textures! so the Borderlands series has an interesting art direction style. And I’m going to recreatewith this guy here. So this tutorial is primarily about texture creatuinm because that’s what defines the overall Borderlands look. I will start off by using photo reference to create a base texture that I can paint on top of. So I’m in Mudbox right now, I’m using the stencil, and I am editing that stencil, under the Edit>Edit Stencil option, to match my object better I’ll project that information on to new paint layer, and we see that Edit>Edit Stencil again, here on the side view, and I’ll match that up to my object and use my Projection Paintbrush. And for every projection I do want to have a separate texture layer. This lets me go back and edit them later, as I’m doing right here. I can make changes to the stencil and reproject it again, to get an effect that I like better. Here we also see the other reason we project on to layers: it’s because the projection process is usually pretty sloppy, we get some overlap. If I don’t have the projections on separate layers, I’ll undo some of my hard work, by projecting the side view onto the front view, for example. Here I’m on the back view, I’m projecting a detailed shotof the back of the knee, so I can get some more detailed wrinkles on the back of the knee. In this case, I will turn mirroring on for my Projection Paintbrush and edit the projection after the fact. I’ll do the same thing for the torso, I have a leather jacket that I’m using as a stencil, I’ll use my Grab Brush with symmetry: that’ll make it easier to fit to the body. I can also use the Grab Brush in the Edit Stencil to add a little bit of asymmetry to the texture. That adds a little bit of interest to it. Again: every projection I’m doing goes on its own separate layer. Before I even turned on the stencil for the back view, I had already created a new paint layer, We need those paint layers to make this projection painting work. So, this projection painting is really quick and easy, I don’t need very detailed textures, because I’ll be painting over them in Photoshop, to create Borderlands- style textures.So the results of my projection painting is here, now we need to take it over into Photoshop, and start to customize it to look like this. This is what my pants texture looks like in Photoshop. The first thing I do is go to the Filter>Other>High Pass option, and High Pass isolates out the high frequency detail. That will help focus my attention, so that I can draw on top of it, and we’ll see the lines I already have drawn, they match up with the High Pass version. It’s time to start drawing our lines. We need to make sure that we set Shape Dynamics ON, for whatever brush we use. Shape Dynamics means pressure sensitivity is turned ON, and we won’t get thick, clumsy lines like we have there. The middle 2 brushes of our Brush Palette have Shape Dynamic. I’ll start to paint with that brush around the wrinkles in the knee area. In general when painting big structural lines for the Borderlands style, I use a brush with a radius of 2 pixels. The other really important aspect is having tapered ends – this is why we want Shape Dynamics on our brush. We want nice bold strokes in the middle of each lines, and we want to taper them off at the ends. If you don’t have a pressure sensitive stylus, you can use the Eraser tool, and manually sharpen each end point. THIS IS VERY TEDIOUS DON’T DO IT THAT WAY!!!! The other big aspect of the Borderlands look is cross hatching, I’ll add a little bit here, we will go more in-depth later. I’m going to add more big, structural lines, to define the wrinkles on the back of the knee now. This is why I created that projection with the detail texture on the back of the knee when I was in Mudbox.. because I want to see a lot of wrinkles in this area, and having that detail texture will make it really easy to draw in a lot of lines. I’ll just loosely following the pattern of wrinkles as defined by the photo reference. This is the Borderlands style, we’re not going for photoreal. Let’s go back to cross hatching. When I paint in cross hatching, I usually do it in shaded areas. And the brush I use for this is a 1 pixel radius brush. We have a thicker brush for the structural lines, and a lighter brush for crosshatching. Similarly, we also have a areas of heavy detail vs. areas of light detail. If the entire character is covered with cross hatching and lines everywhere, we won’t be able to read anything, it will look like nonsense. That means that if I have a lot of wrinkles in the knee, then in the thigh, I’m not going to have a lot of detail. I’m constantly juxtaposing areas of high detail against areas of low detail. Now I turn my attention to the jacket. I start the jacket by laying down some very little structural lines. The jacket has a lot more in the way of panels and seams, than the pants do. When I finally draw those lines, we see what it looks like over a gray background. I’ve just divided it into different panels of cloth. I’ll use of small white brush to create highlights along the edges of the panels, amd use my Filter>Blur>Gaussian blur to make them less solid. I end up with something like this, these brighter areas just sit on top of the surface of the jacket. Next I start to add structural wrinkles. This is essentially the same thing I did with the pants a moment ago. This is where we’re defining all the fabric stretching, and all the other details that we didn’t get with the big structural panel lines. I end up with these wrinkles, we see there is a bit more detail, but things aren’t quite as wrinkly as the pants. Next I add cross hatching. Again, the cross hatching is a lighter brush, and the cross hatching goes into shadowed areas. When I’m trying to darken things, I add cross hatching in there. Now I have a cross hatch creating shadows, and those bright white lines creat some highlights. I want to continue creating more shading. I use a soft white air brush, and paint in highlight areas. So: areas where wrinkles are bulging up, or where the light is catching and I want to create a soft effect here. When I’m done, it will be very blurry, and it will only affect raised areas. I’ll do something with a darker airbrush. Basically the opposite, painting into darker, shadowed areas, and the light brush and the dark brush combine to create a more solid form for each of the wrinkles. This makes the object look a bit more 3D. We can paint our Borderlands style in 3D, we don’t have to rely on Photoshop. I have my character head in Mudbox, and I’m laying down a base coat of color, and darkening recessed areas with the Burn Brush, and brightening raised areas with the Dodge Tool. Then I want to start to paint in Borderlands lines. I start with the structural lines, I want a high res paint layer; a black Paint Brush, that is 100% percent opaque, and I use small brush size. I’ll trace around surface features, generally looking for recessed areas, almost creating outlines. In some cases, we wind up painting dotted lines instead of solid lines. If that’s the case, set the brush’s Stamp Spacing to -1 and that should resolve that problem. I’ll paint in to recessed areas, creating outlines. I want to ensure that my lines have tapered ends, that is VERY important for this style. I can also create cross hatching in Mudbox. I do my cross hatching and the structural lines on different layers so I can control them. Here’s the base texture in Photoshop. It does have color and shading, we don’t just rely on the Borderlands lines to create detail. Here we see I’m duplicating the Borderlands lines layer, to darken them and make sure that the effect is strong enough. Now, there is one other aspect of Borderlands that we haven’t talked about: everything in Borderlands is extremely, extremely, dirty. What I’ve done, is to find some noisy watercolor textures, and I just apply these as an Overlay on to different areas of my clothing o create that dirty feel. When my character’s textures are done, we end up with something that looks like this. And we see that when I add that black outline, that really helps sell it as Borderlands. So the question is: how we do that in Maya? In the Borderlands games, it looks like it’s a post-process effect. We’re going to do something much more old school. I take my character back to his base pose, I select every piece of the character, I’ll put the character on its own layer, then I duplicate every piece, and put the duplicates on their own layer. Then I assign a black Lambert material to the duplicated objects. Next step, I go to the Normals menu, and Reverse my normal, so my guy is inside out. And if I make my original visible, we can’t see anything. We must make sure that we have Backface Culling turned on in our viewport’s Shading menu, otherwise this won’t work. So, we need outlines. We need these to stick out around the guy’s body. If I select the geometry of my duplicated black objects, and use my Transform Component tool, I can push it out, to create that outline. I do have to adjust one more thing. I have to go to the Attributes of my object, and turn off Casts Shadows and Receives Shadows. For each object, I have to select them, go to Face mode, use Transform Component to puff those out. Now they outline the objects they correspond to. Once I get that done, I go to the Attributes for each object, go to the Shape node, I open up Render Stats, and turn off Cast Shadows and Receive Shadow. I must do it manually for each object. Naturally we’ll have problem areas. On this guy it’s the eyes. I’ll open the UV Editor to just quickly select the UVs on the eyes and the mouth, and Convert the selection to Face mode.Sometimes using the UV Editor is quicker than selecting the hard way, then I can just delete those faces, and now we’ll see that the black is gone from the eye area. Next, let’s set this guy up. I’ll take my duplicated objects and bind them, using Skin>Smooth Bind to the skeleton, so that all my duplicate objects are bound to the same skeleton as the main guy, and then I need to Copy Weights from the main guy onto the duplicated parts. This means that whatever the main guy does, the duplicated black outline envelope will also do. We see that once we start moving our guy around to different poses, the black outline follows around him. It’s not perfect, but it gives a really good approximation for the Borderlands style, and works very very quick in Maya. All right! That’s it for this tutorial. I’m James Taylor, subscribe to my channel or go to for more. Thanks for watching!

Comments (69)

  1. that's too good! great explanations as well thanks so much!

  2. A very interesting look at the art style used in the Borderlands games. 

  3. Soooo good! 😀 Great explanation.

  4. Very cool. I really don't like the Borderlands art style. But this is a very nice tutorial.

  5. That was insanely cool. Your step-by-step explanations were great.

  6. Dude, I'd mod this character into Borderlands in a heartbeat.

  7. That was awesome, man. I watched this the entire way through. Very impressed.

  8. Great tutorial!
    Really cool approach to a more illustrative look in 3D.

  9. Great tutorial. But for the outline part, why not just use Maya's default Toon outline? Which has both the painteffects silhouette & the offset mesh.

  10. Cool workflow. Came out really great.

  11. F-f-f-f-hell yea. Can't wait to use this!

  12. Amazing tutorial…

  13. lol i love this tutorial wow!!! thanks.. how do you export the maps to photoshop so you can paint textures? im new to mudbox/

  14. found this on the polycounts wicked stuff

  15. Thanx for making this dude!

  16. Are there any ways in which you can do this in zbrush?

  17. I wish you'd make a tutorial on how painted the hair and the beard 🙂

  18. This is so epic! Just one question: What do I do when I want to view this in mental ray rendering? Currently the model is all black (save for the deleted eye areas from the silhouette). 

  19. I just watched you create something that I couldn't even create in 10 hours in like under 20 minutes.. 😐 It looks sooo nice without the black edge!

  20. if you make the outline using the duplicate, wont that cost more memory as there is twice the model?

  21. Oh my. What a nice tutorial. Subscribing so quickly it'll make your head spin.

  22. That is so cool have you ever thought about making a game like this 🙂

  23. your should work for digital tutors , you have a better level than most of the guys there !

  24. This would be an awesome Borderlands character. 😀

  25. Thank you so much James that was amazing!

  26. I think they used this technique in RWBY

  27. I was wondering what rendering settings you use. When I rendered out the model I had it was completely black because of the outline. how do you solve this problem?

  28. Why you don't go to do a digital tutors tutorials!!!!!!!

    Your tutorial are very amazing.

  29. awesome tutorial.  thank you so much! I'll do this for my next character.

  30. Oh god I got this I am search for like this process in  lot of days now I got this

  31. Great tutorial but i'm having some rendering issues. After I reversed the normals of the copied mesh and scaled it to make my outline. I also turned of cast and receive shadows in the render stats. But my render still displays it as a soild material that covers my character. Is there something I'm messing or a setting I have to adjust for my model or maya?

  32. So for the outline of the model, does it only work for the view port or can you render it out? I tried it with mental ray and only my base mesh shows.

  33. Amazing tutorial, thank you !!

  34. Wow really good man, I didn't realise you modeled the character at the start, I thought it was a screenshot from borderlands :p
    Do you know if this style is sort of copyrighted or anything? Just wondering if I could use it for a game or if it would be sued :s

  35. Hi James this is a really good tutorial, thanks, what material are you using for the character a Lambert or surfaceShader?

  36. Hey! i have followed everything, but when i try and render it, the black outline does not show, instead all i see is the geometry used for outline and not the main mesh. Could you please guide me

  37. This is amazing, thankyou

  38. I guess the secret to the Borderlands style is getting you used to the thick lines on all the edges, and then TRICKING YOU into THINKING that there are edges by PUTTING THICK LINES.

  39. Thank you very much! this tutorial and the result is great!

  40. thank you so much for this tutorial! i'm wanting to do a rwby style animation but i didn't know how to make that black outline on the character. you just made my life easier! XD

  41. Great tut, but more importantly, your voice is amazing.
    Like a less whiny Jesse Pinkman. Bitch. 😀

  42. Dude, you're a genius. Thank you.

  43. veri gud tutorial my friend

    keep it up proud of u

  44. Can this be done in Blender?

  45. hey i have a question. can you do a tutorial about renders passes in maya2016? and ptex textures in mudbox and maya with the hipershade ??? like this but in maya 2016???

  46. I am having a very odd issue with the out lines I did everything you said to do even disabled the double sided part but my textures come out darker then they do without the outlines.

  47. So before i do the work in mudbox with projections…Should i already have a character made?

  48. Great Tutorial! but when i tried this and proceeded to render, the whole thing is seen in black. is there a way to fix this? or was this made not to be renderable?

  49. I love you man. I've been subbed for about a year now, and refer your videos to classmates when I am trying to help them with Maya. Today I start working on a concept for a new project, I want to make this style of material, google it, click on the first video, and I hear your voice. I dont even need to watch this to know it's going to be solid information.

  50. This is great! Would you be able to show us how to make Telltale Games style textures/characters?

    What do you think about this? think this could be a faster and easier way to get simillar results.

  52. Could you do a video where you do a Guilty Gear Xrd style of cel-shading?

  53. This is aweseome! Is there any way to do that same projection with the clothes in another program, like Substance Painter, or 3d Coat?

  54. how can it be done in 3ds max. thank you 🙂

  55. can you please create something like …..

  56. Good stuff! I've wanted to do something like this since I started 3-D modeling. I'm a Blender user, so the small technicalities don't really apply, but the broad strokes (ha ha) were quite useful. Thanks again for the awesome tutorial!

  57. HI James Taylor! what maps using for render final character? Looks like you baked only diffuse map…

  58. I love your tutorials so much!!! They're not too long like digital tutors' tutorials, straight to the point and easy to understand too. Thank you so much for making these videos.

  59. that´s an zinger 😉 , i am still looking for a special look for my future animation movie and I choosed the borderland style, I have experimented in earlier days to achieve this effekt with filters but your handcrafted method is surely the most convenient.
    That´s right you should work for digital tutors… work……Can you reviel me, if you are working professional, because this artwork is extremly well done….

  60. SUCH a great tutorial dude! Thanks!

  61. So, I didn't quite follow all of it, but I got a good idea of how you did it. If you duplicated the mesh to get the outline, then doesn't that mean the polycount was doubled as well? If I wanted this kind of outline on a high poly model, wouldn't it be a little taxing/ slow everything down too much?
    Still I didn't completely follow, so I may have missed something that fixes that.

  62. How do you get textures like the clothes? New to 3D modeling and am struggling to find anything.

  63. Hmm, I cant find a tutorial that does it correctly on blender. But then again I'm a complete dumbass in blender.

  64. Great tutorial James. I was wondering why you used the method you used for the black outline really than using the Toon Shader outline?

  65. Do you do special requests?

  66. So cool and useful, thanks!

  67. This is a very good tutorial however one small thing is that at 8:12 you called it cross hatching, but it’s just hatching, common misconception. Cross-hatching is basically when you cross the lines to make a shading, basically looking like a grid or a bunch of X’s, hatching is what you’re doing there, and honestly I like the look of hatching better than cross-hatching

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