Using Unity LookDev Studio for Character Art Development

Senior Character Artist Anton Kozlov has shared an overview of Unity LookDev Studio, talked about the tool's capabilities, and explained why it is great for character art. In this article, he will explain his workflow using the newest release of the LookDev Studio prototype.

Introduction

Hello, my name is Anton and I am a Character Artist with roughly 9 years of experience in the games industry, and an additional 2 years as a Generalist 3D Artist. I started my career working for indie and mobile studios, such as Lukewarm Media and Gameloft, working on titles like Primal Carnage and Spiderman Unlimited (the mobile free runner). Eventually, I broke out into AAA where I worked for IO Interactive on the Hitman franchise, helping release Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2 (2018). Today, I am a Senior Character Artist at Unity Technologies, working on multiple projects, one being LookDev Studio.

Unity LookDev Studio

LookDev Studio is Unity’s initiative to lower the barrier of entry for 3D Artists, as well as provide an easy and accessible environment to display their artwork with the highest fidelity Unity lighting and rendering can provide. This can be presenting portfolio art, or pieces created for an outsourcing partner, as well as just being able to visualize 3D art in a real-time environment with lighting consistent with the project the art is being built for. This could be for game, film, architectural or automotive projects, etc. I mainly touch on HDRP features here, however, LookDev Studio is available for Unity’s High-Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) as well as Universal Render Pipeline (URP). Right now, the LookDev Studio is a prototype and the team is looking for feedback to help make it better.

Importing/Exporting Assets

LookDev provides users with 3 different methods of importing assets. One is to simply drag their asset from their explorer window straight into LookDev:

This will initiate a “Texture Allocator” window, where they will be able to assign textures to their asset’s materials:

The second is to use the “Import” button, located on the top-right of the LookDev UI:

Lastly, users are always able to exit LookDev Studio and import assets in exactly the same manner as they would in Unity regularly:

Working With Materials

The toolkit allows users to generate materials for their assets on import, through the texture allocator, and assign textures there. They can also create materials using a dropdown next to the “Import” button, which will allow them to choose from a list of materials to start with based on their selected Render Pipeline:

They are then able to tweak values and parameters just like they would in a regular Unity environment:

Importing textures from Substance 3D Painter is the same as in regular Unity, as long as SP is exporting to the correct textures folder. In the case of LookDev, it is : (...\Assets\LookDev\Textures), the textures will update automatically. Users are able to use advanced material features just the same as they can in standard Unity.

If, for example, they need a feature like SSS, they can simply start by creating a skin material from the preset dropdown next to the “Import” button. Alternatively, they can also start with a standard lit material and choose “Subsurface Scattering” from the dropdown in the material type parameter under the surface options of the material.

Backgrounds and HDRIs

LookDev provides users with a set of HDRI environments in HDRP and Skyboxes in URP to start with out of the box, which can be accessed through a “Lighting Preset” dropdown on the top right of the LookDev window:

Users can use these presets to start building their own lighting environments which they can later save as a custom preset by right-clicking on the Hierarchy window on the left and choosing “Create Lighting Preset” from the pop-up menu:

This will add a new preset to the dropdown menu on the top right. There is also an option to create a light prefab from the lights existing in the scene. Simply select the lights, then right-click and select “Create Lighting Prefab” from the pop-up menu:

This will add a new light group under the “Light” tab:

Users are able to use this menu to drag new lights into the scene, modify them by selecting the asset in the Hierarchy window, positioning them, and saving out new presets.

Cameras and Post-Process

LookDev comes with a camera in the scene which users can manipulate the position of, FOV, etc. The setting for it can be found in the hierarchy window on the left-hand side of the toolkit, under Cameras>Lens:

The FOV of the camera can be adjusted through the Scene Camera dropdown in the top right of the viewport window:

Users are able to save camera positions by using the camera buttons at the top of the LookDev window:

Simply click one of the camera icons, position the camera to where you’d like to save it, and click on “Save Cam”. The post-processing effects all live inside the post-process volume and can be adjusted from there. 

Almost all of them are visible in the scene view, apart from very few exceptions like depth of field, which can only be viewed in the game window.

Unity LookDev Studio for Character Art

LookDev is great for character art because it provides an easy environment to preview work in without the hassle of setting up all of the “under the hood” things, related to getting features like HDRP to work or spending a lot of time getting the right lighting. Oftentimes as an artist trying to display my work in an engine environment, I have to bounce around trying to figure out if it’s my assets that are not correctly authored, or if there is something wrong with the light/material or scene values that are not giving me the results I want. LookDev tries to solve the setup issue for the artist so that they only need to worry about building their assets.

What is great is that this toolset exists inside Unity, which means if the artist is working on a Unity project, they now have the ability to render their art with lighting consistent with the final output. There will be less of a question around, ”Will this asset I previewed in another 3D environment still look just as good in Unity?”. In addition, LookDev provides a tool for users to very quickly preview their animations by dragging the animation asset from the “Animation” tab in the LookDev menu straight into the scene and seeing it play:

All of this, in combination with orbiting the camera, rendering turntables, and the screenshot option makes it very easy for artists in general (not just Character Artists) to preview and showcase their work using Unity lighting and rendering environment.

Thank you for reading. If you want to try the project and give the team feedback, you can find the download instructions here.

Anton Kozlov, Senior Character Artist at Unity

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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Comments 1

  • Testure .

    wtf is the point of all of this if you can't make a game that actually looks like this and runs at 60fps? I guess it's great for portfolios, but then we have marmoset.... sooooo?

    0

    Testure .

    ·a month ago·

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