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How to Texture Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine Van

Jordi Cortés showed us the texturing workflow behind the Scooby-Doo Chevy SuperVan project, explained how every detail of the Mystery Machine was made in Mari and Maya, and shared some tips for artists.

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My name is Jordi Cortés. I am a 3D artist from Barcelona, Spain who has always had a passion for cars and the automotive industry. I started learning 3D back in 2016 at school with the very basics: Maya, Substance 3D, etc. They were very generalist studies so I went over a bit of everything. 

As a kid, I always enjoyed building and painting cars from those kits you can buy at any store, and LEGOs as well, so I always had a passion for building stuff, and I found modeling quite interesting but really hard, like anything in the CG world. After getting some models, I went on to texture them, which was the most satisfying part for me, and I quickly fell in love with it, especially lookdev.

I love getting new techniques to make materials more realistic, blending textures into layers. So in 2020, after some internships and almost giving up on the 3D world, I enrolled in a very advanced texturing and lookdev course by Lightbox Academy, where I had an amazing teacher who taught me a lot about Mari, a software I really love. After that, my confidence was boosted and I started doing projects I was super proud of, which led to my very first job in the industry at Scanline VFX where I had the opportunity to work on The Flash, and there, ironically, I did the 3 hero vehicles in the film. You can check out my work on The Flash here.

The Scooby-Doo Chevy SuperVan Project

I was scrolling LinkedIn one morning before work as I always do and I saw a guy who posted an incredible van he modeled and I thought it looked amazing. The artist was Tim Blake, the lead modeler at Rodeo FX. So after admiring the model for a good 15 minutes, I decided to send him a message, explaining what I do, how I liked his model, and if he would be happy to collaborate, and he told me he would be delighted to do so.

My main inspiration for it was to work on an industry veteran asset. I could see it had a lot of detail, with the last bolt you would not ever see modeled, it had a lot of surface to improvise, not only the body but the interior, the exhaust/turbo area, etc. Everything was super fun to texture, mainly because I had super good references also provided with the model, so it was very easy to follow. Also, with Scooby-Doo being my childhood TV show, I thought it would be a great combination to mix both. I must thank the people who pushed me to do a more colorful project, specifically the Scooby van.


For the paint, I gathered a bunch of references to real Mystery Machines that people built on their own so I could analyze which was the better color that matched the show’s original van, and I started from there always using references. It’s a crucial part of any part of the process. After that, I found a very good stencil from the van design and adapted it to fit the new model, as it was made for the cartoony van featured on the show. So everything was projected onto the model. Then, I created ISO masks to later be able to control the color of the livery in the shader and additional dirt/rust masks.

For the smallest parts, as they didn’t have enough texel resolution, I textured them in the engine, Arnold in this case. I had some shot cameras set up by Tim already so I did it based on the shot. If I had a super close-up on one area, I would focus more on that part rather than another one that would hold up well from a distance, as I did not need the extra effort that would translate into longer render times. So at the end of the day, I treated the van as if it was a production hero asset to work on it as per the shot needs.

For this project, I decided to break it up into parts so I could focus more on spending time in specific areas and not make the Mari file extremely heavy. I separated the model into:

  • Body
  • Interior
  • Chassis and engine
  • Exhaust system
  • Wheels    

But I’ll focus on the exhaust part as it is a more interesting one.

I started with texturing the different elements of the exhaust system, each with its own material driven by masks that would, later on, serve as RGB masks to use in the lookdev stage.

You can see how I utilized the different components of the model as different outputs that would drive the shading part. I started by blocking out the bigger shapes:

  • Turbo
  • Exhaust
  • Air filter

After that, I created smaller masks for each part that would make my life easier in Maya, as I have limited slots for the layer node. I would divide each layer node into one of the sections I created in MSK_1, then I would go from there depending on the needs.

To add scratches and wear I helped myself with the power of masks. I had my previously shown base color for the body, and I created a material with very basic textures, just to see the feel of it. Then with the help of masks, I determined where it would be revealed. I made that for the rust and metal reveal for the van body panels.

You can see in the image above how rust appears in some areas, and some of it is still intact with a metal panel revealed. Also, I added a subtle bump effect on the paint as if it has detached from the panel, as seen in the image below:

Most of the time I would use the masks procedurally. This workflow allows me for quick changes, as in production a model can have a number of versions, you need to be prepared and agile for any change, whether it is a UV update or a model change. By working procedurally you can just update your support maps and update a whole mask on the fly, with very minor adjustments, then after that, I manually painted some damaged areas that I would find interesting to the story.

The rest of the car was pretty standard I would say. I had very good references for the tire rubber. I have a very nice texture library, so mixing those maps with some baked support maps did the trick. The trickiest part was the lettering on the tire, as that would require a high-quality stencil for it to work, not only on roughness and color but most importantly on the displacement. That’s what would create the illusion.

For the license plate, I found where the Scooby TV show is set and found that the location for it is somewhere in California (USA) so I found a really nice image of a California license plate and created the “Scooby-Doo” text using a displacement map.

Lighting & Rendering

For the lighting, as it is my weakest point, I used an HDRI from HDRI Haven that would give me soft but nice reflections and then sunlight to add this clear day feel with some hard shadows. I would have also liked to do a studio environment as well.

In my case, everything was raw rendered. I did not use any post-production tweaks as I am not very comfortable with it and it can ruin a shot very easily if you don’t really know what you are tweaking.


A piece of advice I got in the early stages was to always find a lot of references. If you think you have enough, gather some more and then study them. See where the mold is forming on a rock, the ground dirt on the facade of a building, and streaks of dirt falling from it because of the rain. Have you seen these famous copper statues that have a super shiny area from people rubbing it every day? That’s a perfect example of wear – an object that has been touched so much that it essentially creates a new material on it.

If you take a look at your floor right now, there is a high chance that there is a scratched patch on the wood from your chair rolling around for several years. That’s what you need to pay attention to, those details.

And that translates to a coffee pot, a table, a plane – there is dirt on it that you go over day-to-day because you don’t pay attention to it, but suddenly there is a rivet that is leaking oil because there is a component behind that panel and it escaped from there. That’s the story of the asset.

Something I would encourage upcoming artists to do is to not rely too much on smart masks. I see a lot of renders online from super cool assets with really nice textures being overworked by generic_wear_tear_mask_01. And that is really easy to spot. So my advice is, create your own masks, you’ll see that you become way more flexible because you are in control now. And then you can mix that with some manual paint here and there to help emphasize the effect.

But the most important tip I have for new artists is feedback. Ask for feedback. A lot. You have no idea how much a fresh pair of eyes can see. And if they can make some notes, even better. You’ll skyrocket after a while because it will push you and will also help you develop an eye. You’ve spent 4 hours looking at this asset? Nice, turn off your PC, go for a walk, grab a coffee, and come back 30 minutes later. You’ll see stuff that you went over and you can refresh your brain a bit. Also, it is good practice to try to give feedback to others yourself.

Jordi Cortés, Texture/Surfacing Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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