Material Interview

General / 24 May 2022

This year I have been almost 10 years in the games industry and wanted to share my ideas and answer questions that I have gotten over the years but didn't get to answer. Hopefully my blogpost will inspire you and help you find your way within the industry or maybe even help you find your niche?

How did you get into such a cool IP as Horizon? What sort of brought you in this direction?
Back in 2012 I was already an intern at the studio, a couple of years before I rejoined in 2014, however during my internship I did see some early concept art for this new IP now called Horizon. When I was about to join the team I didn't know for sure which project I'd be working on but, as you can imagine, I had my suspicions. Back then I was mostly working on assets or environment-art but was also looking into creating shaders and material expressions. This technical interest landed me the shader/texture artist position and started delving deeper into this area of expertise over the last couple of years.

What was your general approach to assets in this production? You’ve had quite a tricky task, building all those amazing materials. How did you decide to tackle this?
During the concept phase there were already a whole lot of reference images available (collected by our talented Concept-Artist and Directors) but also my Art-Director had specifications of what he was looking for. The target was to blend this look from the proposed Concept Art and the requirements of the Environment-team/Art-Director(s) and of course I had my own input. From these reference images I have created a huge reference sheet with everything I found interesting per image and from there we picked and chose which characteristics we liked and added callouts to highlight what we felt was necessary to sell the idea of the materials. This really helps to get everyone on board with the exact look we were going for.For any artist I'd suggest; always try to collect images to build your own material library, this can be Pinterest or snapshots on holiday. I do this and then after one or two years, I delete everything and refresh my entire collection.

Ref images

Ref images

You were using Photoshop and ZBrush to craft all those amazing textures. Could you talk in more detail how it all worked?
During the development of previous projects we worked with high poly sculpts in Zbrush to generate detailed heightmap information from those. But when we started implementing Substance with a few textures to get a feel of the program and its workflow. For example with a gravel texture, we generated tiny pebbles and added multiple stacks with offsets and a variety of scaling to make it look more interesting and finalize it with some photo overlays and color correction in Photoshop. 

No matter which program or tool we used, we always focused on getting the height information correct first, before diving into the Color and Roughness values too much. For some textures it felt more comfortable to generate the content in Zbrush as it gave me complete control per brick (or had to match with pre-existing assets/models), I was able to put each brick at an angle or give it height differences to give it some nice parallaxing effect. The downside was: it’s very time consuming. For texturing the albedo/diffuse we tried several approaches, for example: polypainting the bricks in zbrush but we had to keep such a high polycount that Zbrush became unworkable and too little poly density would result in a lack of detail. Then we used Photoshop but now that Substance expanded their libraries a lot is possible now, that wasn't before. I would've picked up a hybrid approach, generated high poly mesh and generated the diffuse and roughness in Substance.

You’ve mentioned that you choose Photoshop because of more control over the subtleties in color/height variation. Why was this more important to you? I mean you could have gotten very similar results Procedurally.
In hindsight I probably could have pulled off a similar result. As the height information was the most important to me, it really sold the textural details and state of the bricks and ultimately sold the believability of the material. In the reference images that were collected, it showed me the importance of all the states of decay that were having subtle tonal variety and height values.

Timelapse of focusing on the height information first.Before adding diffuse/roughness.

How did you make these materials tile in such a beautiful manner? Did you use some other tools to scatter the rocks here and other little things?

With a bit of planning and proper mesh setup, you can easily offset your subtools and align them so it’s tiling perfectly (especially now with Substance Designer in our arsenal). Getting the scale right versus the right amount of detail and uniqueness is tricky. Each brick was placed as a unique subtool, so it could easily get warped and moved around. We iterated many times on the brick layout to get the right feel before we proceeded with the Diffuse/Albedo/Roughness maps.

The scattering of rocks was a combination with custom Maya scripts where I could scatter kitbashed rocks or in Substance Designer. Scattering rocks with photo scanned data was interesting to familiarize yourself with generating procedural content and also match it with pre-existing photoreal content.

You’ve done some absolutely stunning work with the brick wall. It’s like the most favorite subject of every texture artist, but your material is something else. Can you tell us, how did you manage to build it in such a way that the brick wall actually has information about 3 types of bricks: old, worn down and new. 

Planning was very essential for this to succeed. First we started blocking out the intact version of the bricks and tested the look and feel of the layout in-game. We checked for scale, height variation, repeating elements - even a flat color in the albedo with some curvature and ambient occlusion information can help a lot visually to give a feel of the surface and readability over distance.

I then reworked the high poly sculpt and baked out maps for the first pass - I grab all the baked maps, e.g. Position to World Space Normals, custom mat caps in Zbrush. This gives me a wide variety of masking methods I can pick and choose from to create the tonal variety. Blending the Curvature map with the Position map and a random (brick) variation mask, created interesting variations. Next step is to apply more colors by adding photos, mask out bricks based on height or manually select them, add tonal gradients with the HSL slider/node for per brick subtle variations.

For the second material we used the exact same layout in Zbrush and started to replace bricks of the same size or used the well known Dam standard brush or Orb Crack brush combined with a custom alpha mask to split up the bricks or use the TrimSmoothBorder brush to soften the edges (as worn brick does over time). On certain bricks we would add some alpha stamps to make the brick look more damaged. Or by moving some bricks even lower and skewed which emphasized the aging process even more.

How did they help you to nail that beautiful hard surface stuff?

Maarten (Art Director) and I were looking for a way to speed up the texturing process but also maintain the quality that was pushed throughout the game. The two of us decided to delve deeper into the Substance packages and set up custom nodes and materials which also extended our internal Substance library. During this iteration process of creating nodes and testing them, we created a smart material that we could apply to almost all the assets. In 90% of the cases it would get us there and in some cases there were some tweaks needed but it sped up the art creation process quite a lot. Between the two of us we managed to export 45-ish component sets within two days with all the latest smart materials updated and correct masking for detail maps.

How did you work on those wonderful rusty elements in the production? How were these set up? What were the challenges in these assets?

The rusty element was an iterative process of creating custom Substance nodes. First, we started making generic materials with some light wear, tear and discoloration. In the second iteration, we started adding things like dust, dirt and rust. To get the realism we were looking for, we worked on custom mask generators, e.g. rust got stored into its own user-channel, which took Ambient Occlusion and Curvature in mind. With an additional custom node, we can generate streaks based on the rust mask user-channel, this gives us the drips and very long streaks.

Over all, to finalize, how did these materials help to tell the story in the environment? Why do you think they are even important for these humongous productions?

Material expressions are supposed to give the player the idea that they are in a believable world, that it becomes almost tangible. If a material looks ‘off’ it will break that illusion and snap the player right out of the immersion. The materials will tell the story the world is being lived in, it shows age and beauty. But also the interaction between materials, how water affects wood or metal for example or what erosion does to rocks or bricks. No matter how large the production environment is, you can do this kind of environmental storytelling in all sorts of ways.

Tips on Landing a Job as Technical Artist

General / 06 October 2023

As a child, I developed an interest in games, despite being limited to playing older games due to my outdated PC. This sparked my curiosity and I began exploring the world of gaming. I came across a book for modding and level design in Half-Life 2 which gave me insight of pursuing a career in this field. I made the decision to enroll in a game art course where I could further develop my skills and explore potential career paths.

I began my professional journey in the videogames industry as a 3D environment artist, initially focusing on texturing and shaders. As I progressed in my professional career, I learned the importance of understanding shaders, which sparked my interest in learning to code. This curiosity led me to explore the technical aspects of game development and delve into the world of technical art.

My passion for game development extends beyond a specific role or area of expertise. I have a broad interest in all aspects of game development, which has driven me to continuously expand my knowledge and skills. I am always eager to learn and understand how different processes work and I actively seek opportunities to deepen my understanding in areas where I may have knowledge gaps.

One of the key factors that has contributed to my success as a technical artist is my willingness to help others and make their lives easier. I strive to find ways to improve workflows, streamline processes and implement tools or techniques that enhance efficiency. By staying updated with the latest developments in technology, I can identify opportunities for innovation and contribute forward-thinking ideas to make development smoother, faster and more organized.

Securing my current position at Bend Studio (and my previous position at Guerrilla) involved a combination of factors. Apart from honing my technical art skills, I actively engaged in networking events, conferences and workshops. These platforms allowed me to connect with industry professionals and showcase my work, which in turn opened doors to new opportunities. Additionally, I maintained a portfolio that demonstrated my growth as an artist and effectively communicated my abilities to potential employers.

I think, my success as an artist in the game industry can be attributed to my continuous learning mindset, my dedication to technical art and my commitment to improving processes and assisting others. By staying curious, adaptable and proactive, I think, aspiring game artists can increase their chances of breaking into the industry and building successful careers.

Secrets of Success

For environment artists, it is essential to focus on developing traditional art skills such as composition, color theory and scale. These skills contribute to creating visually appealing and cohesive environments. Additionally, gaining a solid understanding of the technical workflows involved in environment creation, such as high-to-low poly modeling and baking and texturing assets is crucial. Building complete environments from start to finish helps getting familiarized with the entire process, even if in some studios, specific tasks may be assigned. It is important to comprehend how all the different parts work together and the significance of each component.

On the other hand, for technical artists, having a comprehensive understanding of various aspects is vital. This includes not only 3D-modeling and texturing assets but also importing them into the game engine. Learning to program small tasks or writing scripts is invaluable for automating repetitive processes and streamlining workflows. Basic programming knowledge in popular languages like Python or C can empower technical artists to accomplish a wide range of tasks, provided the engine or tools support it.

Regardless of the specific artistic discipline, it is beneficial for game industry artists to develop a deep understanding of the backend workings of their chosen game engine. This knowledge helps artists make informed decisions and optimize their work to achieve the desired visual and technical results.

Staying Up to Date

To stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and technologies in game art, I use a variety of strategies. One of my go-to resources is ArtStation, which offers a wealth of tutorials on its marketplace and it’s Learning section (with a subscription). These tutorials provide valuable insights into artists' workflows and processes, allowing me to gain inspiration and grow as an artist. Learning from the experiences and techniques of other artists is an effective way to improve our own skills.

Another valuable platform for staying informed is YouTube. There are numerous channels dedicated to game art that provide in-depth videos, tutorials and discussions. Additionally, in recent years, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) has made many of its sessions freely available on YouTube, featuring industry professionals sharing their expertise and insights.

For high-quality tutorials that are curated by professionals, Gumroad and Gnomon are excellent resources to consider. These platforms offer tutorials and courses that meet a certain quality standard, ensuring that you're learning from reputable sources.

Apart from these specific resources, I highly recommend actively participating in the game art community. Joining forums, engaging in discussions on social media platforms and attending industry events or conferences can provide valuable networking opportunities and expose you to the latest trends and advancements in the field. Connecting with other artists, sharing knowledge and seeking feedback can greatly contribute to your growth and relevance as a game artist.

Lastly, it's essential to keep an eye on industry publications, blogs and websites that focus on game art. These sources often publish articles, interviews and case studies that delve into the latest techniques, technologies and industry insights.

By leveraging these strategies and resources, aspiring game artists can stay informed, continuously improve their skills and remain relevant in the rapidly evolving field of game art.

Creating an Effective Portfolio

Creating a strong portfolio is crucial for aspiring game artists who want to impress game studios and secure a job in the industry. For technical artists, including completed tools in your portfolio is essential. It's better to have a simple but functional tool than a cluttered one that doesn't work properly. Be prepared to explain the purpose and functionality of your tools or scripts and demonstrate them effectively. The ability to showcase your problem-solving approach and the reasoning behind your design choices is important.

Demonstrate your growth in skill set. Showcasing your progression over time is valuable. Highlight new techniques, software proficiency, or artistic styles you have learned and implemented. This demonstrates your adaptability and dedication to continuous improvement.

Focus on quality over quantity. Curate your portfolio to showcase your best work. It's better to have a smaller selection of high-quality pieces than a large collection of mediocre ones. Pay attention to detail and ensure that your work is polished and professional.

Provide clear and concise documentation for your projects. This includes descriptions, breakdowns and explanations of your process. Effective documentation helps reviewers understand your work and the thought process behind it. Although it may be time-consuming, investing in thorough documentation is worthwhile in the long run. As time passes, it becomes easy to forget the specific details of your project, so it would be unfortunate if you couldn't demonstrate them anymore. Additionally, consider writing a reflection report to evaluate both the successes and challenges you encountered during the project.

Using Social Media

Personally, I have found the landscape of visibility for artists to have changed significantly over the years. While platforms like were popular in the past, I have found that being active on ArtStation, Twitter, LinkedIn and participating in select Discord channels has been most effective for me.

ArtStation is a dedicated platform for artists, allowing you to showcase your work and connect with other professionals in the industry. It offers a built-in audience that appreciates and understands the artistry behind game development. Twitter, on the other hand, provides a broader reach and allows you to engage with a wider gaming community, including developers, enthusiasts and potential employers. LinkedIn is useful for establishing a professional presence and connecting with industry professionals and recruiters.

Regularly share your artwork, progress and insights into your creative process. Engage with the community by following and interacting with other artists and game developers. Actively participate in discussions, share valuable resources and provide constructive feedback to others. Building a positive and supportive presence can help you gain visibility and establish meaningful connections.

Job Search Websites

To find job listings for game studios, it is advisable to check the websites of game developers as they are usually the most up-to-date source maintained by the recruitment teams. Additionally, websites like 80.LV and Artstation showcase numerous open positions in the industry. Another valuable resource is GameDev Discord channels, where you can connect with others to discover available opportunities and directly communicate with developers. It's worth noting that positions may become available through these channels before being officially posted online. 

Furthermore, consider sending out open applications to game studios to explore potential opportunities. By utilizing these websites and resources, staying proactive and maintaining a professional network within the game industry, you can increase your chances of finding job opportunities.


Breaking into the game industry and building a successful career as a game artist requires dedication, continuous learning and a few key principles that have helped me succeed. 

It is important to prioritize the development of a strong foundation in traditional art skills like drawing, composition, color theory, sculpting and/or anatomy. These skills will be fundamental to your artistic abilities and will play a crucial role in creating visually impressive game assets. Plus, they can be valuable when presenting and showcasing your ideas and pitches.

If you aspire to work for a specific game company and want to increase your chances, I would advise to research their current and past projects. Focus on creating a project that aligns with their game type or art style. By doing so, you can demonstrate your skills and abilities in a way that directly relates to the work the company is involved in. This not only helps you grow as an artist but also showcases to potential future employers that you are capable of handling the specific requirements of their ongoing projects.

The game industry is constantly evolving and it's crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest techniques, tools and technologies. Invest time in learning new software, studying industry trends and exploring different art styles. Attend workshops, conferences and the before mentioned online courses to expand your knowledge.

Actively seek feedback from fellow artists, mentors and industry professionals. Constructive criticism helps you grow and improve your work. Be open to feedback, iterate on your designs and constantly strive for excellence.

Embrace adaptability and problem-solving skills to overcome obstacles and find creative solutions. And accept the iterative nature of game development and be open to exploring different approaches to achieve the desired results.

Midjourney experiments pt.5

General / 20 July 2022

Midjourney experiments pt.4

General / 13 July 2022

Midjourney experiments pt.3

General / 09 July 2022

Generating stone walls in Houdini

Work In Progress / 15 June 2022

For a personal project I was trying to figure out an approach to upres my blockout mesh to high-res rocks (while learning Houdini). This process was rather heavy and didn't give me the desired result and control I needed. 

However the first iteration gave me inspiration and gave me this idea to paint a mask in Photoshop of the texture layout, convert the mask to geometry and use it as a base input for Zbrush and refine the detail. During the conversion process I'd still 'roughen' some edges and do local Transformations (rotational and depth offsetting) to get rid of the 2D converted feel.

This idea can be scaled up for larger productions where you can generate large amounts of variations, set parameters per rock or wall type, amount of wear, etc. I have worked on this over a month, did a few tweaks and finally decided to pick up my project again and show the progress.

Midjourney experiments pt.2

General / 11 June 2022

Midjourney experiments pt.1

General / 08 June 2022

Concept art

General / 16 March 2018
I've been working on a spare time project - however I haven't touched it in almost a year and finally decided to revisit it and finalize my project :) It's  somewhat inspired by the God of War reboot.

Photobash concept - by me

First blockout pass

Latest WIP shot in UE4

Horizon: Zero Dawn - Artstation Artblast

General / 09 May 2017