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Maxon Computer’s BodyPaint 3D R2 Review

Former Weta senior animator Jason Schleifer reviews the digital art book, EXPOS1.

BodyPaint 3D R2 makes painting 3D models with 2D applications a breeze. © Maxon. Screen captures by Robin Konieczny.

BodyPaint 3D R2 makes painting 3D models with 2D applications a breeze. © Maxon. Screen captures by Robin Konieczny.

BodyPaint 3D is a paint package for painting onto 3D models and making them look rather spiffy, so your 3D colleagues will bow to your every mouse move, the boss will invite you out for expensive business lunches and all sexes and species will find you instantly attractive. Of course, fame, fortune and awards will then follow and you will be deemed the greatest 3D guru ever to have lived (phew).


Why use BodyPaint 3D? Well, painting 3D models with 2D applications is a pain, and if you want to speed up your workflow and get superior results, then this is the way to go.


Right here, right now possibly on your computer and definitely at or at your local friendly computer software emporium.

How Much?

Well, its priceless no, hang on actually, its about $745.

The Wilderness Years

So, lets get a little background info out the way, so that we can have a good look at this rarified creature. Well, I came across BodyPaint 3D about two to three years ago when I was working professionally as a texture artist (doing a lot of work for Passion Pictures) Up until then, I had been unwrapping my meshes and doing all the work in Photoshop, which is effective up to a point, but there were problems:

  • Painting seamlessly across surfaces was challenging/impossible
  • Texture stretching

The solution to these problems seemed to be to paint in 3D and at about this time, Deepaint 3D appeared on the scene.


Well, at the time I was on the Mac, so I couldnt get Deepaint (Deepaint is PC only). BodyPaint came out for both PC and Mac, so I got BodyPaint, which had tons of features and loads of potential, but didnt quite cut the mustard; in fact, it couldnt actually manage to paint across textures, and this turned out to be a major shortcoming, so I moved over to PCs and bought Deepaint, which has projection painting (magic fairy dust inside the software) that allows you to paint across surface seams. I felt exhilarated and kinda dirty at the same time it was like cheating suddenly my life became a bit easier, and so poor neglected BodyPaint lay idle on my hard drive, and Deepaint became my texture buddy until


I have to come clean here. I am a BodyPaint Beta tester. Although I like to think I have no allegiances when it comes to software, I am a freelance artist and also have my own company, Asylum3D, so, naturally, I try to use the best tools for the job at hand.

So last year Maxon released BodyPaint 3D version 2 (or R2). This time, Maxon got it right (in my opinion). BodyPaint 3D R2 has an improved interface, so the powerful tools that were always lurking there can now be easily accessed and used. It still has projection paint, but like, on steroids. Raybrush mode, which was always cool, and you can use this to paint on a rendered version of your model and see what it will look like. You can paint on several material channels at one time (e.g. Color, Bump and Specular). Its brushes are second to none and you can save them as preset brushes. Its color picking is pretty smart too. It uses layers, as in Photoshop, and can utilize all of Photoshops filters.

BodyPaint also has a good set of UV tools with which to edit your pre-existing UV maps. I like to map in LW then tweak them in BP using the magnet tool and the fit to canvas command. Also, if you wish, you can re-project your UV maps. BP has Sphere, Cylinder, Frontal, Flat, Cubic, Cubic2, Box and shrink. It also has optimal and realign functions, which are worth checking out, because as you click on a projection type you can see the texture update in realtime in the 3D view. This is something that cant be done in LW, so its handy. Plus LW has this quirk where you have to un-weld and re-weld points on cylindrical maps, but you can move all your points and polys around in BP without going through the un-weld process. All these changes transfer back into LW without any problems, but I dont know whether this is true for other software such as Maya.

BodyPaint 3D currently has plug-ins for LightWave, Maya, 3ds max, Maxons Cinema 4D and, hopefully, will support XSI in the future. I use it in conjunction with LightWave (my main 3D tool) and the connection between the two applications is solid and transparent; in fact, BodyPaint R2 is a stable program all around and a joy to use. I must congratulate Maxon here because they really listened to the criticism from their Beta team and in so doing have produced a very nice piece of software that, well, works. You can paint in 3D, but thats not all

body01_Fig_01.jpgbody02_Fig_02.jpg[Figures 1 & 2] LightWave head model (left) to be textured in BodyPaint. Making the UV map in LightWave (right), using the morph technique.

At Last in Action

OK, lets see this baby in action. Im going to push it to the limits so now I shall texture a human-like head before your very eyes, without the aid of a safety net or the harming of any small fluffy animals.

1. Preparing Your ModelBefore you can paint a model in BodyPaint, there are some things you will have to do, so open LightWave and bring in your model assign surfaces (Figure 1). The way I surface a head is to start off with a face, head and neck surface. Each of these will have its own UV map. Now, the way I go about creating my UVs in LW is to make a morph and then try to match the mapping option Im going to apply such as Planar or cylindrical. So, make your morph, label it face Z and flatten your face in the Z-axis. You want all parts of you model to be perpendicular to the axis that youre mapping.


I use the Smooth tool a lot for this. Ramp it up to 25 and apply liberally and drag points around till you have a flat face (Figure 2). One of the features of BodyPaint 3D is that its very forgiving of bad UV maps, but its still better to optimize your maps as much as possible. So, when you have finished pulling points around, create your UV map Planar on the Z-axis and label it FaceZplanar. Now go ahead and do similar things for your head and neck. I used Cylindrical Mapping for these so make a morph for the neck and one for the head (and ears) and try to shape these into cylinders, then name the UV maps appropriately (Figure 3).

Now open Photoshop (yes, its still needed, although you could make the bitmaps in BodyPaint). I made three maps: FaceZplanar, Head Cylindrical and Neck Cylindrical all 1024 x1024 pixels, RGB and 72 pixels per inch. These can be as big or as small as you like, but this is a good all-round size.

2. Apply Existing Maps To Base ModelsOK, jump back to LW and go to your base model and apply your new maps. If you want, you can delete your UV morphs but I tend to hang onto them (I get so attached to the little chaps;they dont need much attention and eventually you can release them back into the wild ). Now your model is ready be sent to BodyPaint. One point to bear in mind is that no matter what software you use, you have to sort your UVs out and apply maps ready for painting. That done, hit your relevant hot key: (Ive set up F3 to launch the good ship BodyPaint) and, as if by magic, you are in.

3. Importing Useful MorphsBodyPaint is very clever at sending models from LW. It can send your base model, or just selected polys and this is the cool thing it can send over LWs morphs so that if you are texturing a head and you cant get at the eyelids, you can just bring in your eyes closed morph and paint away. On the downside, BP doesnt automatically center your object (like Deepaint does), so it can be a pain orbiting while painting. One way around this is to select the polys or model you want (once you are happy with your UV map in LW), copy them to a new layer then center them (F2) and send that to BP. Then do your painting and bring it back to LW, where you can just copy the texture onto your original Polys/Model.

4. Setting up BodyPaint R2This is how I set up BodyPaint R2 (Figure 4). First, I want as large an area to paint in as I can (and so I arrange my settings to maximize my screen space). To the right are my palettes, at the top is the color picker, next down is the brush selector and active tool tabs (same as info in Photoshop). There are a huge array of different settings and blend types you can apply to a brush, and they really come into their own when used with a Wacom Tablet and the brush dynamics.

[Figure 4] General BodyPaint interface.

[Figure 4] General BodyPaint interface.

Below the brushes I have the Material Tab. This shows all the surfaces, what channels are active (Color, Bump, etc.) and also what channel you are painting on. If you click on the icon in a channel, it will bring up the texture window with the relevant bitmap in it, and you will see that the icons border gets highlighted to let you know what map and channel you are currently working on (very handy).

It is here that you can add, merge and copy layers; however, for some unfathomable reason Maxon have decided to call their layers texture rather than layers. Anyway, these layers act just as they do in Photoshop with opacity and blending modes.

end to bring in one set of maps at a time, and always place these in the color channel of my model. So, first, I paint all the color maps, then I replace them with the bump, paint them, replace them with the Specular maps and so on. I find that this is a more streamlined way of working, and it keeps the number of maps down, which increases the speed with which you can navigate round BP. This is because a model with a lot of maps and lots of layers will considerably slow down BP, so keep it light and focused.

5. TexturingHaving prepped our head, the next thing to do is to texture it in a realistic way, and the best way to get realistic results is to use Photo reference (the photos I used for this project are from, which is a good resource for human textures) During this stage, I copy and paste bits of photos onto the head model. I use Projection Paint, and have no need of a safety net, sticky paper or highly trained fruit bats, though sometimes the fruit bats come in handy.

So, import some reference photos into BP, go to file dropdown and open texture. Then, in the 3D view, select Camera and choose Front. (To ensure you are in Projection Paint mode, look for a light green border round the edge of the 3D view).

body05_Fig_05.jpgbody06_Fig_06.jpg[Figures 5 & 6] Copying a texture in Projection Paint (left). Pasting the copied image onto your model (right).

Now go back to your Texture view and select a texture and then an area from that to copy (Figure 5). Copy this area, then go to your 3D view and paste, but make sure you have added a new layer on your face map to paste into before pasting or painting any new bits (this makes it easier to edit later). When you copy using the various Lasso and Marquee tools, there are options to feather your selection. This is always a good idea, as it makes it easier for you to blend the various layers together.

Once you have pasted (Figure 6), you will be able to move, scale and rotate with the Transform tool until you have the image where you want; then hit Apply. Carry on doing this until youre happy or at least slightly contented then in the 3D view go to Cameras and choose Side (left and right, Figure 7). Continue to copy your reference photos onto your head, each time into a new layer, until the task in hand is done.

body07_Fig_07.jpgbody08_Fig_08.jpg[Figures 7 & 8] More copying and pasting in the side window (left). BodyPaint texture and 3D views (right).

6. BlendingOnce you have given your model a good pasting, you can use the Eraser and the Clone tools to blend the varying layers in to one seamless map (Figure 8). There. Before your coffee is cold, youre done. All the painting and cloning tools have a wide range of available options although one tool notably absent from BPs arsenal is a blur tool.

When your completely finished, hit the sending back to your host application button (top left of the interface) and voila! You now have a textured head. Go back to your native 3D package, save and your work is done (Figure 9). Really, its as simple as that.

body09_Fig_09.jpgbody10_Fig_10.jpg[Figure 9] The model exported back into LightWave (left). The final rendered model (right) with BodyPaint textures.

Overall, BodyPaint is a very well rounded, powerful piece of software. The range of applications and commands mean that it will take some time to master, but Maxon does supply training videos and the manual tells you everything you need to know, so it doesnt take too long to get up to speed.

This application will change the way you work, cutting down the time it takes to map and paint complex models. Its very stable and works like a charm with LightWave, though I havent used it with the others yet. If you are serious about texturing, then you should really consider BodyPaint 3D, since it makes life so much easier. Ive heard people who texture using Photoshop say, Its impossible to edit and paint the map in Photoshop when it was developed using BodyPaint. This is true (a face can look more like an abstract expressionist masterpiece than a face); however, this misses the point you wont need to edit in Photoshop because you can do it all in BodyPaint. Trust me: you will see what I mean.

Robin Konieczny, born the son of a Polish cobbler, likes his wife, Sarah, his son, Jules, and too many other things to mention. A 3D artist and former illustrator, he freelances mainly for Passion Pictures. He is also co-founder (with Matt Westrupp) of the vfx studio Asylum3D.