There are different ways to create materials for pre-rendered 3D content or videogames. You can use 3D painting applications to paint the textures, normal and metallic maps directly onto your 3D model, you can use 2D painting applications, procedural material generators, and a combination of all. For example, in Maya or UE4 you can import textures and then combine them with nodes to create very interesting materials, or you can just use the imported textures.
One of the tools I use a lot is Substance Designer, and while I am happy with it even if it’s an old version, I am always looking for alternatives or ways to improve my workflow. One of the tools that promises to do this is Material Maker, a free 3D material creator that looks very similar to Substance Designer or Maya’s Hypershade.
The app is a very small download, but it’s very versatile. Using Material Maker feels just like using Maya’s Hypershade (or any other node-based material editor you may have used). Basically, you can combine various types of nodes to create your textures.
You can either add new nodes by right-clicking on the canvas, or dragging them from the pane on the left. There are a lot of different nodes, but as you get familiar with the software you will learn to remember the names so you can quickly look for them.
Nodes are categorized by color, making them easier to recognize. For example, if you see the image above you can see there’s a Noise category with a purple line to its left, and another category above it with a yellow line. However, if you click on the buttons above the node list, you can actually filter node types, making it easier to find the one you need.
You can export the materials to Godot, Unity, Unreal, and others. I tried the Unity exporter, and I got a MAT file and all the required textures. Importing that into Unity imported the textures and the material asset ready for use.
The unreal exporter was different, though. The UE4 exported also exported the textures and another file, but when I imported that into UE4 all I got were the textures. Material Maker includes various UE4 material templates, so I imported one of them into UE4 and then I plugged the textures. While it worked, I am sad it was not as seamless as working with the Unity material.
There is one issue I experienced with the software, though. For some reason, when I was running the software, my keyboard began to work weird: I was unable to type, the Window button didn’t work, and sometimes I couldn’t even copy-paste. The first time, I had to restart the computer, and the other times the problem went away as soon as I closed the application. I don’t know if it’s an isolated issue, but if you experience that while using the app, you know it’s the app, not your computer.
While the app is very simple, it is very powerful and can help you produce nice results. It is not going to become a replacement for your main material creation software, but it can definitely be helpful, as long as you don’t experience keyboard issues like I did. On the other hand, since the creator has obtained an Epic Grant, so I’m sure development will improve now.
Get Material Maker: https://www.materialmaker.org/