ArtStation Masterclasses 2 Spotlight: Josh Lynch

The ArtStation Masterclasses 2 – Games Edition is starting August 6th and this is your unique opportunity to learn from and interact with 10 senior artists in the gaming industry and connect with other students in class forums. Available discounts for studios, educational institutions and students wanted to be a step ahead of their classmates before the fall semester begins!

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Josh Lynch is a Senior Environment Artist with close to 10 years of experience. He has contributed to multiple AAA projects including Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare & DLC, and Defiance. In his spare time, Josh is passionate about sharing his Substance Designer knowledge at various industry events and offers online mentorship, tutorials, and this brand new ArtStation Masterclass.

Masterclass – Creating Believable Stone Walls in Substance Designer

In this Masterclass, Josh will discuss workflows and techniques to create believable stone wall materials in Substance Designer. To start, he will discuss using key takeaways from reference photos to create a plan of attack. From there, he will harness the power of the Substance Designer workflow and the available out of the box nodes to create a realistic result. He will discuss keeping your graph organized and effective by using the power of subgraphs and exposed parameters. Additionally, he will provide tips on how to avoid a procedural look and achieve a believable organic result Though the class will focus primarily on stone walls, Josh’s use of workflows and techniques will give the artist a consistent, manageable and predictable way of using Substance Designer, which can then be used to create a wide variety of materials.

Tell us a bit about how it is like to work as a texture artist in the Video Games industry and your role? What are the qualities that a texture artist should aim for?

My role as a texture artist in the video game industry has been a multi-faceted one. Throughout production, I have to focus on understanding the technical tools at our disposal as well as facilitating and reinforcing communication with various team members through routine critique and documentation. For instance, I am constantly communicating and balancing tasks with the World Art, Lighting, and Tech Art teams, as well as helping the Art Director establish and maintain a material library for the game. When working with the World Art team I focus on creating materials/textures that are not only high quality but flexible for creating diverse and dynamic environments. I also regularly work with the lighting team, assessing and adjusting materials and textures to make sure they have a great surface and material response in the game engine’s lighting. With Tech Art I am making sure that the textures we produce are not only dynamic but efficient and budgeted to work well in the game. Lastly, with the Art Director, I am making sure each texture we create for our library meets the core Art Direction goals for the project.

Due to the diverse and unique art direction from game to game, defining a set list of qualities a texture needs to have can be difficult.  I feel that it is important that while making aesthetically dynamic textures, artists should focus on showcasing their skill and understanding of color, composition, and balance of detail in each texture. I would also recommend studying, exploring, and creating different man-made and organic materials referenced from around the world to gain a deeper understanding and ability to create any texture that a studio would need when creating a game.  For example, the last few projects I have worked on, I had the opportunity to create a variety of textures, such as cloth, rubber, metal, stone, and brick etc. While it can be tempting for an artist to primarily focus on creating variations of one material (Rocks and cliff walls), it is always important to remember that games like Call of Duty, Shadow of War, and The Division need artists to create a wider variety of textures than just rocks or cobblestone to make a world come to life.

Along with focusing on good color theory, composition, and working on various materials, I feel that it is important to remind artists that the ability to find, examine, and implement unique details and storytelling from quality reference into their tiling textures is an invaluable skill to have.

Remember that video games have a budget so keeping in mind that a single texture or set of textures may get a lot of mileage in game. Make sure that each texture you make is versatile and does its best to help reinforce the art direction and design of the game.

A Texture Artist needs to keep a big picture read in mind at all times. Making sets or families of textures and decals that all need to come together and sit well in a scene is extremely important.

What was one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced working in the industry?

I would say the biggest challenge to any artist is just getting your foot in the door is the toughest part. Once I got my foot in the door the other major challenge I have faced is the constantly shifting changes with tools and their related workflows and the expectation to keep up with that. From the time I was in college to present day I have seen 3 major shifts in tools and workflows.

With that change, there can be some expected resistance from some artists who don’t want to adjust. My advice to any artist of any level is be willing to adapt to these changes, better yet, seek them out and become an expert. Then turn around and help be a driving force for change on your team, because change is always just around the corner.

What are some problems or mistakes you often see beginners make when creating textures and do you have any advice for them?

One problem I continually see from beginners is focusing on the tool more than the art itself. They will put an emphasis on the tool they used as though that’s the important thing, but really the art quality and solid fundamentals is the focus. Regardless of whether Photoshop, ZBrush, Substance Painter or Designer, or Mari is used.

For example, I have seen some beginner artists making textures that clearly miss the mark on fundamentals and a sound understanding of the surface type they are trying to create, instead of putting the emphasis on the tool used to make the art. Don’t get hung up by or fool yourself into thinking using the tool is the successful part. As I mentioned the tools change but core principles and ideas rarely change.

Artists all too often will rush to add color when the height/ normal/roughness are painfully unfinished. Leaving the structure of the material feeling awkward and the color the last thing anyone is noticing.

Another mistake I see beginners is focusing on speed rather than the quality of art. Any successful texture artist is good at making work that feels polished and well balanced. You will never see them proudly state “made in 2 days” in the description of their project, it’s not the focus. The focus is usually artistic growth and exploring new challenges.

With all that said, my advice is to take your time and understand that art is about growth and development. Use the tools that work for you and find your path to success. Be open to critique from your peers and find good mentors to help you grow.

When presenting your work, turn on the lights!! I all too often see good work hiding in the dark and it’s a shame.

Josh Lynch was responsible for texture creation / application. World Arists Miguel Rodriguez, Elpidio Loveranes, Javier Perez, Mike Carlyle, and Matt Evans. Lighting by Ifedayo Ojomo.

Who are your biggest influencers and how have they shaped your career?

There are so many influencers that have helped to shape my career to what it is today.

For artists I want to give a huge shout out to Hugo Beyer, Rogelio Olguin, Genesis Prado, Fannie Vergne, and Michael “Orb” Vicente for being huge inspirations as Environment Texture Artist. When I sat down and decided I want to grow into an Environment Texture Artist, I sat down and looked at their work, their careers, and how they carried themselves in the community. 

In addition to studying their work online, most of the artists I mentioned were very accessible when I reached out to them which was incredibly kind. This was as important to me as the quality of the art because it taught me how I should act toward my fellow artists and students.

Find out more about ArtStation Masterclasses.

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