The strength of Marvelous Designer tends to lie in its ability to create near-photorealistic cloth simulation, and it can potentially save a lot of time and tedious effort if you learn to use it effectively. There are plenty of tutorials available online that explain how to use the software in a successful way for realistic creations.
As a program it can get you almost all the way there, but more often than not you will need to refine the mesh to suit your specific needs. This is where our tutorial comes in! There’s not a lot of information about how to make something into an asset that you can edit after leaving Marvelous Designer.
For me, Marvelous Designer serves as a great base, but I tend to think of it as more of the first pass rather than a final result. As a game artist, there are some modifications and tweaks I’ll need to do before the asset is ready for baking to a low-res mesh.
In this tutorial I’ll share my method for getting Marvelous objects into ZBrush and ready for the next round. Through these steps, you’ll learn to generate a clean, sculptable mesh while maintaining nearly all the detail from the original. You can use this technique for most kinds of clothing.
One of the nice things about this method is that you’ll be able to have your mesh separated at the seam lines. This allows for a greater flexibility for showing overlap like a garment would traditionally do. Additionally, depending on the complexity and detail of the asset, it provides the option to break the meshes out individually to help manage polycount and allow for a smoother and much quicker workflow.
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Step 01 – Import to ZBrush
Once your first round of Marvelous Designer gear is ready, proceed to export your OBJ and import it into ZBrush. The first thing we want to do is turn on Double, then Auto-Group our mesh by UVs. Double enables us to see the back side of our currently single-sided mesh. Marvelous Designer’s pattern layout is great for getting a clean set of UVs in the right areas that we can use to our advantage. Auto-Group by UV references this and creates PolyGroups corresponding to them. Note that they perfectly define our desired seam lines.
Step 02 – Add thickness
For sculpting pretty much anything, especially cloth, I like to have geometry with thickness to work with. One of the big reasons is the way ZBrush handles single-sided geometry and its edges, as meshes with added thickness are much more responsive, predictable and easier to work with. Panel Loops serve as a great way to utilise our clean PolyGroups to create this thickness on our mesh. Invert the Elevation to -100 so that it inflates inward, leaving the outer detail untouched. Adjust the thickness to suit the type of material you are emulating. Meshes that are too thin can end up giving you a headache by presenting problems like sculpting through to the back, or the back poking through to the front. This is another reason to make sure that the Double option is switched on. We want to be aware of any weird, difficult sculpting issues before it’s too late.
Step 03 – Adjust the folds
The thickness will bleed through the mesh in certain areas depending on how high you set the value and how intense the folds were from your Marvelous mesh. A simple Smooth job will help push the mesh back down. The Panel Loops functionality also creates new PolyGroups for the thickness we added. We can use this to mask the outside and vice versa to push and pull the inner and outer faces back into a proper position. Use the Move Topological brush to readjust the edges after. The fact that we have separate pieces of geometry makes it easy to utilise this brush and get the feeling of overlap very effectively. We also save a lot of resolution in the mesh this way, as opposed to sculpting the seams on a singular piece of geometry.
Step 04 – Use ZRemesher
ZRemesher is a great addition to ZBrush, making the process of generating new, better working topology without interruption better than ever. Personally, I like the freedom of having the lowest resolution base-level geometry as possible. This enables a series of large changes on broad scale. I particularly like to use the Move brush as well as the Smooth tool at low-subdivision levels to ensure the softness in my adjustments. From my experience and observation, cloth is all about subtlety. Marvelous Designer does a great job of this, so it’s important to maintain as much of that as we can. In this case, I duplicated the mesh, left the settings at default and hit ZRemesh. The result is great in that it conforms to some of the major folds, aiding that geometry without having to subdivide to extremely high levels.
Step 05 – Reproject details
Once the new mesh is created, we need to reproject the detail back. Use the Project functionality as you subdivide your model. I like to start from the lowest subdivision and as I add new subdivisions, I continually reproject the detail. This enables the mesh to slowly conform to the highest level of detail in a more gradual way. Experiment with Projection Distance in order to retain the detail as much as possible. At the end, in some cases, a simple smoothing will help to tidy it all up.
Step 06 – Polish the mesh
We’ve now got the mesh in a workable state, with subdivisions inside of ZBrush. I went ahead and continued to sculpt some more detail and refine the mesh. As mentioned in the introduction, Marvelous Designer does a great job at simulating reality, but sometimes we need more than that. Designing the specific flow and folds within a garment is something that usually requires that personal touch within ZBrush. At this point, we are in a place with plenty of flexibility and we have successfully managed to retain a lot of the original detail from Marvelous Designer. Where you take your mesh now is up to you!