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A featured article by LearnMMD's Mae Blythe!How can I use Blender to make a model for MMD? How do I add seams to the model's UV map? How can I have two different views open at the same time?

Making Your First Model Part 13
Prepping the UV / AO Images for Texturing

This article is the reason that this series exists.

I wanted to make textures, but I couldn’t figure it out . . . until something just clicked. I tracked down the author of that article and told him how happy he had made me. He introduced me to the editor here, and now you’re reading this!

But, it wasn’t just that tutorial that helped me figure it out. Bandages is one of the smartest guys I know . . . so he forgets how big of dummies everyone else is!

So, this is a tutorial for the big dummies like me.

What are we doing?

So, does anyone remember The Sims? The only game I’ve ever “modded” was The Sims 2. . . but the only thing I ever learned to do was swap out textures!

When I first thought about texturing models, I thought it would be like The Sims. I was wrong. In The Sims, the texture maps make a lot of sense. They’re vaguely shaped like whatever part you’re coloring and you don’t have to do anything to make them that shape.

However, MMD is a whole ‘nother story.

My Starfire with UV Map in Blender

Can you make heads or tails of what’s up? I sure can’t!

Now here’s the thing – there’s a feature called “Smart UV Project”. If you’re interested in procedurally created textures, then it’s pretty awesome! It will project everything decently enough for you to paste something on top of it without too much warping. Now . . . here’s the problem.

It’s a mess.

Starfire with Smart UV Project

Oh, of course, it’s a lot better than the original one, but I have no idea what belongs where!  Instead of sharing some little tricks I learned to tell what is where on the Smart UV Projection, we’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist!

You can do this at any point.

You can do this at any point. However, exporting to PMX will mess with your model’s topology in a weird way. It will look virtually identical in Object Mode, but you won’t be able to select entire edgeloops with “Alt + Right Click”. This is a major problem just because selecting entire edgeloops makes life easier.

Why do we need edgeloops so badly? Seams!

I’m getting ahead of myself, though.

First, let’s select the braid in object mode. Once it’s selected, go into Edit mode.

It is possible to have two different views open at the same time. Throughout the work space, there are little triangles that you can pull out so that you have a split screen. In the bottom corner, there’s a button you can press to change the view. In 3D view, it looks like a cube. We want to have a window open with UV view, which looks a bit like a photograph.

What we want to do is to chop up the braid so that it’s both as continuous as possible and as flat as possible. To see what we’re working with, let’s first just select the part and press “U”. Once the menu pops up, select “Unwrap.”

UV Map without seams

UV Map without seams

Without doing anything, that’s what pops up. It’s pretty bad! What can we do to make it better?

Add seams! To access the menu with seams, press “Ctrl + E”. Once there, choose “Mark Seam”.

Let’s start by adding one seam to the bottom of her braid, and one seam at the base of her head.

UV Map with a few seams

UV Map with a few seams

Now . . .  Let’s think of a way to make it better. If we were to add a seam to the transition between each bump of the braid, we’d hopefully get little lumps that we could color one at a time . . . or, that we could copy and paste the same texture on to!

UV Map with More Seams

UV Map with More Seams

[13_005.png , alt text “UV Map with More Seams”]

Now, let’s start talking about some fun we can have to make the UV map look better.

The first is an amazing tool that syncs up your selection in UV view and 3D view. That way, you’ll be able to see exactly what part you’re working on.

Keep Selection in Sync Button

The second great feature in UV View is just “S” and “G”. Pressing S resizes the part. Pressing G moves the part. You can move the entire part, or just vertices or edges. The first thing I did was resize the UV map for the part of her hair that is mostly hidden and push it over to the side.

Another amazing tool is UV Sculpt. UV Sculpt allows you to work out the kinks in your UV maps without selecting every vertex.

Location of UV Sculpt tooll in Blender

After playing around quite a bit, I got something that makes sense!

Edited UV Map for Braid

Edited UV Map for Braid

The first section (marked “1” in that image) is the island of hidden faces.  I can, for the most part, just ignore those.

The second (“2”) is the top of the head.
Three is the end of the braid. I’m actually hoping to try and improve it with transparent areas of the texture.
The fourth and final section is the braid itself. I was pretty sloppy and ended up with some pretty bad looking UV maps. But, hey, we’re n00bs here!

Alright, now that we got that out of the way, let’s mash “New Image” and just blindly click ok.

Location of 'New Image' button in Blender

Now your UV Map should have a nice black background!

Let’s start by exporting the UV map. Hover your mouse over the UV Map and press “A” to select all. Next to where you mashed the “New” button, there is a drop down menu option called “UV.” Choose that and then choose “Export UV Layout”. If you don’t have the faces selected, it will just export an empty image.

Now, let’s export something I didn’t think I needed when I started . . . But boy was the egg on my face once I realized what a good crutch it was!

In Bandages’s tutorial, he talks about exporting an AO map. He tells you so many details on how to set up everything . . . But he is making an AO map to use as part of a texture. If you’re going to hand paint your texture, you don’t need a fancy pants high quality AO render. The main reason I’m not all about getting high quality renders for AO maps is because my computer is old. I’ve been using this computer since high school!

If you want to use your AO map as a part of the texture and not a guideline, then you should read his tutorial. For me, an AO map is just a guideline to see where everything lines up.

Location of World Tab and Ambient Occlusion in Blender

First, go to the World tab and scroll down until you find “Ambient Occlusion.” Check the box.

Gather Settings

Then, set the “Gather” to approximate and change the number of passes to anything other than zero.

Location of 'Bake' in Blender

Open the render tab (it looks like a camera!) and scroll down until you see “Bake”. Expand that heading if it isn’t already. Select “Ambient Occlusion” from the drop down menu and press “Bake”.

. . .

So, I’ve done this before . . . And it wasn’t working. It would just stay at 0% and make my computer whir like something was going on. But nothing happened. And then I realized something. I had modifiers on! Maybe that was it!

Nope. Removing the modifiers did nothing.

And here’s the crazy thing. When I tried it on a cube that I edited, it worked perfectly.

An AO Map Working

An AO Map Working

But if, for the life of you, you cannot get AO maps to bake . . . There is an alternative. Texture paint mode.

Guideline for Texture painted on

Guideline for Texture painted on

While extremely clunky, this allows us to paint on guidelines. I painted the visible part of the hair directly on her head red, then painted the top of the braid red also. If the texture isn’t showing up on the UV image screen, switch to Object Mode then back to Texture Paint mode. Once you have it colored the way you want it, you can click on the image in the UV editor window and press “F3” to save the image.

I sent the model off to Bandages to see what’s up . . . Hopefully you guys at home aren’t having this problem!

I believe there is a chance that after importing the model into MMD, it will fix whatever is messing up the AO Bake. The only thing I really need to do before importing to MMD is take advantage of edgeloops to make seams.

I still have to fix all of the UV maps to make them usable! See you next time when we finally import the model into PMXe!

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