Surfacing Props for VFX 1001

Learn the essentials of Surfacing to create a photoreal hero prop asset for VFX.

Course schedule
Jahirul Amin
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Learn how to create a photorealistic asset suitable for high-end VFX

Surfacing Props for VFX is an on-demand course where students will be taught the fundamentals of 3D Surfacing to create a photoreal, pipeline-ready prop for VFX. Through practical hands-on learning, we’ll cover a wide range of topics covering the asset surfacing process.

This course is the second of a series that will teach you how to build an asset and push it through the VFX pipeline to create a number of believable shots. You can enrol on this course as a standalone, or if you’d like to develop a wider skillset, you can do so by joining us on Modelling Props for VFX and Asset Integration for VFX.

Now you may be thinking that 12 lessons is a long course, especially when it comes to surfacing a single prop. However, we are aiming for quality and in order for you to absorb and apply the teaching, you’ll need time. Time to make mistakes and time to experiment, all of which will allow you to really grasp the tools, techniques, and the creative problem skills to become a successful surfacing artist.

We’ll also discuss other areas of the CG pipeline that are integral to the success of any project, such as Onset, Modelling, Lighting, Production, Bidding and Scheduling.

To underpin each stage lesson and to push your creative, technical and problem-solving skills, we’ll study the fundamentals and the theory behind Surfacing. This includes studying real-world materials, pushing our traditional skills, art, shape, function and form. This background research will directly feed into how we approach the creation of CG assets.

The outcome of the course is to provide you with a strong surfacing skillset enabling you to have a core understanding of the VFX surfacing pipeline and an ability to apply these skills to real-world projects.

Course Details

  • Type: On-demand
  • Level: Beginner
  • Lessons: 12
  • Duration: TBC
  • Format: Video on-demand
  • Assignments: 12
  • Tools: Maya, , Mari, Substance Painter, Nuke, ZBrush, Arnold
  • Prerequisites: Basic Knowledge of Maya, , Mari, Substance Painter, Nuke, ZBrush, Arnold
  • Course Access Time: Lifetime

Learn about light and matter in order to create believable textures and shaders.

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Lessons in this course

  • 01. Surfacing for VFX

    We’ll be kicking off the programme off with a breakdown of how Surfacing fits into the VFX pipeline. We’ll also discuss important topics such as what is Texturing, Look Development, Groom, Surfacing, briefs, LODs, naming conventions. Following on from this, we’ll focus on working within a Project Directory suitable for VFX. Following on from this we'll discuss the important topic of colour space and working within an ACEScg environment.
  • 02. Understanding Light and Matter

    In this lesson, we'll look at how light works and how materials respond to light. We'll then explore Physically Based Rendering and how this sets the stage for our Surfacing work. We will also study the differences between unpolarised, polarised and cross-polarised photography, and discuss how it can aid you for the purposes of data acquisition for texture and look development.
  • 03. The Importance of Calibration and Consistency

    Here we will look at the Grey ball, the Chrome ball, and the Macbeth chart, and explore how they can aid in texturing, look development and lighting. Following on from this, we'll explore a few different ways in which we can approach the Surfacing task.
  • 04. Look Development Setup

    It is important to ensure our assets are look devved in a manner that ensures they are suitable for multiple shots, each with different lighting conditions. Here, we will explore how best to do that. We will also prepare our primary look development environment, in which we'll carry out all our shader work, and in which we will use for all further reviews.
  • 05. Surfacing with Substance 3D Painter

    In this lesson, we will do a deep dive into Substance 3D Painter. We'll start with an initial overview of the application and how it can be used for Surfacing. We'll also test that we are able to export texture maps and apply them to our shader in Maya/Arnold.
  • 06. Surfacing with Mari

    Here we will dive into Mari. We wil start by getting familiar with the app, so you are comfortable working with the tool. Following on from this, we''ll explore a series of techniques to support our surfacing workflow, such as masking and camera projections.
  • 07. Introduction to Substance 3D Designer

    In this lesson, we'll explore Substance 3D Designer and also look at how we can integrate our Designer workflow with Painter and Mari. We’ll also dive into other useful tools, such as Substance 3D Sampler, Quixel Mixer and XNormals.
  • 08. Creating your Diffuse Map

    Here we will look at diffuse and specular reflection, so we have clarity on what we should visually be seeing for each texture map. At this stage, we should be comfortable using Substance Painter and Mari for texturing, and Maya/Arnold for shading, so let’s now focus on making sure our primary asset is good for Surfacing. We’ll also look at working with scan data and texture resolution for 4K rendering.
  • 09. Creating your Secondary Maps

    With our primary maps good to go, we’ll now look at creating our secondary maps, allowing us to achieve a higher degree of believability.
  • 10. Refining your Texture Maps

    This lesson, we’ll continue working on our textures to create a fully photoreal set of maps.
  • 11. Finalising your Shaders

    This week, we’ll look to finalise our shaders and look at creating and using masks to further enhance our control over our shader setup.As we come towards the final push, We will also want to ensure our asset texture maps and shaders are all named consistently.
  • 12. Creating your Surfacing Turntables

    With our studio renders good to go, let’s now test our asset under different lighting conditions to see how our textures and shaders respond.

Tutor: Jahirul Amin

CAVE Academy Founder | VFX Teacher

Jahirul Amin is a Computer Animation and Visual Effects Teacher and Consultant. He specialises in designing and delivering courses to create solid and diverse production ready skills in all 3D related departments and across a number of facilities worldwide. His background in academia feeds into his ongoing connections with Universities and Colleges which provide Computer Animation and Visual Effects courses. He is also involved in course and examination design as well as lecturing, running workshops and mentoring.


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