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Using photos as stencils and stamps is great. But what do you do when there are no photos of what you're trying to sculpt? Mudbox has a really great set of features that let you sculpt something once and then extract that sculpting as a 2D image. Then it can be used as a stamp or a stencil to recreate that exact sculpted shape or detail as many times as you want. Now you may be wondering what kind of sorcery allows 3D sculpting to be stored in a 2D image. Well, it's not magic at all but technology called Vector Displacement Maps.
Let's see how it works. In this video, we're going to be making some cornrow braided hair on a head. Now you could manually sculpt all those braids by hand, but that would take a lot of time. I can sculpt just one section of a single braid and then create a custom stamp from that sculpting. To make a Vector Displacement Map, you are going to want to start with a single plane. So let's open up the basic plane. Now on this surface you are going to want to subdivide it fairly high and just do some sculpting on it.
So you'll probably just want to turn off symmetry here and get your brushes whatever brush you want to use and just start sculpting. Let me set some properties here. I will increase the Strength a little bit. I am just going to make some braid type shapes. This could take a little while, so I am just going to skip ahead to where I've got a nice finished braid to work from. So I am just going to go to Open, I am going to go to Ch 2, and we are going to go to Custom Stamps, and let's open up cornrow.mud. No, don't need to save.
I want to turn off the Wireframe, Shift+F, and let's just take a look at this really quick. It's got some nice sculpted detail of a section of a cornrow braid. So we have got the cornrow braid over here in the object list, and it's called plane by default. So I am just going to click on that and right click, go to Rename Object, and I am just going to call this sculptedbraid and hit OK, and let's hit Ctrl+Shift+A to deselect that so it's not so annoyingly yellow.
Now we need to make a second plane. This will be a comparison object that Mudbox will use to calculate how much difference there is between a sculpted plane and a neutral flat plane. So I will just go to Create > Mesh > Plane. Let me hide the sculptedbraid really quick. Just make sure and confirm that it is there. Okay, great. Now let's make that 2D map. We will go up to Maps > Extract Texture Maps > New Operation, and I want to run on Vector Displacement Map. There's a lot to look at here.
Let's take it one step at a time. We need to tell Mudbox which model is the target model, or the low-resolution mesh, and which one is the source model or the one that we sculpted. So I'll just select plane as the Target model and click Add Selected. In Source Models, we could also go and select the sculptedbraid and then add it, or we can just do Add All, and then I am just going to remove the plane. Generally, the default settings work pretty well. I usually don't have to change too many of these other settings.
If you make a Vector Displacement Map, and it doesn't have enough detail, you might want to increase the resolution of it. You could also turn on Antialiasing if you want to have a little bit higher quality. We are going to leave this at Relative Tangent. If we were using PTEX--it's kind of an advanced feature--we will just leave it at Texture. So basically all we need to do now is just give it a File Name. So you can go and save it in--let's see. We'll go to Documents > Mudbox > version number > data > Stamps.
The folder that you want to go to on a Mac is quite different. If you're having any trouble here, please refer back to the movie in the Introduction chapter on user-made tools and then just go ahead and give it a name, cornrow, and then if you're saving a Vector Displacement Map, you always want to end the file name with _vdm for Vector Displacement Map. The basic TIFF 32 by default is pretty good. We will go with that. Now let's scroll down and hit Extract.
It should just take a second or two. Looks like it's done, say OK, let's close, and let's take a look in our Stamps and see what we have. Looks like it's not there yet. We might need to edit manually. So go ahead and click on the option arrow and Add Stamp. So now we can pick the cornrow_vdm from our Stamps folder and click Open. So it's added it right here. Now let's see what we can do with it. Let's go to your File > New Scene, don't need to worry about saving this, and we will just open up the Basic Head.
I am going to subdivide it a few times, Ctrl+D, up to about 2 million, and let's use this Stamp with the Repeat tool. So let's see. We'll select the cornrow stamp as our stamp. And well, let's just give it a try, see if we need to change any settings after we've done an experiment with it. Shrink the size of the brush a little bit. Looks like I need to turn off some of this randomize. I don't want it to spin it or anything, I just want it to be a straight line, and I might need to increase the Buildup a little bit-- get a stronger effect, yeah.
Cool, not too bad. Looks like it's stamping a little too close together. I am going to change the Stamp Spacing-- I don't know. Let's see, 70. Yeah, that looks pretty good. So you could go and just simply draw on these cornrows. That saves us so much time over doing all that sculpting manually. The ability to create my own stamps like this has saved me so much time and effort. You can use the resulting map as a stencil as well. So Vector Displacement Maps are really versatile.
Anytime that there's a particular sculpted feature or detail that needs to be repeated many times, creating a custom stamp can really be a timesaver.
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