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Painting a 3D Model

We’ve worked with a lot of different 3D paint packages over the years and wanted to give our fellow artists some tips on what we see as the top product in the business. One that has really stood out for us and that we feel offers the best result is  The Foundry’s MARI. We use this 3D paint software for the majority of our projects and highly recommend it. The Foundry offers a 15 day trial to test it out, or you can even rent MARI if you don’t want to purchase the software.

MARI software

The Foundry’s sample of their Painting feature.

MARI features:

  • Painting Out Seams
  • 8K Texturing Capability
  • Advanced Layering
  • Realistic Interactive Preview
  • Geometry Handling
  • Color Management
  • Texturing Outside the 0,1 UV Space

Check out their article that delves into the features and what MARI has to offer.

MARI software

The Foundry’s sample of their Advanced Layering feature.

MARI software

The Foundry’s sample of their Geometry Handling feature.


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Texturing Today

Texturing has come a long way over the past two decades. At first almost an afterthought, texturing now regularly holds its own position in the pipeline of VFX and animation and is considered a critical part of the process – as it should be.

In the days of the SGI, I started on Amazon 3D to paint textures along with Photoshop (yes, Photoshop was supported for the SGIs for a bit, for those of us old enough to remember) and it painted 16 bit Tiff’s but was sludgy and difficult. Studio Paint on the SGI was a huge improvement, but it was slow with larger textures. We gave up bit-depth for speed with Deep Paint, as we moved to PCs with Linux. Between projecting pictures from photos, shaders with subsurface maps, and the elevation of expectations of computer graphics, the world of CG was looking mighty pretty.


Now we are at a unique point in history for Texturing Software. Several different software programs are vying for prominence as the 3D Paint Program from Body Paint by Maxon to Mari. Body Paint was quick to take up the throne on Deep Paint’s exit, as it was already developing with the aid of Sony Imageworks during Deep Paint’s reign. Foundry’s Mari has been gaining acceptance as the texture program of choice with its ability to work with multiple large textures and its Photoshop friendliness. Its not a done deal, however, as sculpting programs have entered the arena with their own texturing capabilities. Mudbox and ZPaint have jumped into the foray, and Photoshop has included 3D capabilities in its last versions. Never before have we had so many options.

full body 3d scan of Elvis

So which do I think will reign supreme? Well I would have to say, that depends. Texturing needs depend on the medium of which it is going to be seen. Will it be for film? TV? Game cinematics? Real-time engines? Mobile? Are you dealing with sets? Digital doubles? Animals? Props? You can see that the variety of detail and needs are far different between each. Ergo, I believe there is now room for more than just one monarch of 3D Paint. There is one thing I CAN say — you WILL need a 3D paint package. Trying to get by with just Photoshop may have flown in the 80’s and 90’s, but the sophistication required for today’s textures demand a 3D paint package. So let’s sit back and watch the show, this should be interesting.


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