General questions from a complete novice - Process of making clothing and armor

Hi, I’ve been making basic mechanics for a game for a couple of months and I’ve hit a point where I’m limited by the assets available to me. I’m going to start learning Blender, -to which I am completely new- and have a pretty general question: What is the order of operations, or workflow, for making a character model with clothing physics? Don’t worry, I’m not going to begin by making something like this, I’ve got plenty of simple things I want to make just to learn the program and work my way up, but eventually once I get there, I’d like to have a general idea of what order to do things in.

  1. I am going to have lots of knightly armor, and my game will have four different equipment slots (arms, legs, chest, head armor). I’m just curious if I should model each of those 4 parts separately, all connected, or if it even matters. If I can model the entire suit of armor at once and then “split” them apart into different parts to use independently of each other later, it wouldn’t matter. The answer might be blatantly obvious to someone who has modeled literally anything, but I haven’t.

  2. It seems really easy to make clothing physics look nice once within UE4, but how do I actually go about making the part which will become affected by physics (for example, a surcoat over a breastplate)? The clothing physics documentation mentions 3DSMax/Maya/Nvidia clothing tool. But could I also use Blender for this? And does modeling things which will be affected by physics require a different process, or is it just a file type to be exported?

My assumptions currently are that I should make the armor without anything related to clothing physics, and then add that on top at a later point. Please correct me if I’m wrong, and If anyone has any tutorials which target my questions here, I’m open to watching. That’s how I’ve gotten this far after all.
Thank you.

Character modeling is a huge subject for any game engine. The pipeline is the same basically. The goals of what do you want to achieve with your models and clothing must be set ahead or you might have huge headaches later. I will list bellow the steps, you will find a tutorial basically covering each step easily.

  • character modeling (Blender)
  • character modeling with added clothes later (Blender)
  • UV Mapping - preferably something done with the previous models (Blender) - hot topic, requires good study on techniques or all the end result will be poor.
  • Texture painting (Blender or you can find something with Substance Painter)
  • Character Rigging - preferably something done with previous models (Blender) - successful animations depend on a good rigging
  • Character Animation (Blender)
  • Cloth tutorial or NV Cloth tutorial - search with UE4 along to get specific examples
  • Hair - any tutorial focusing on this. This is another topic very hot and hard.

Once you study those or between each one, I would suggest for a research at Artstation for people who post their works and their detailed workflow. This helps you to see how far from the professionals you are.

I hope it helps!

Thank you, that does help me divide it all up into sections to focus on. I am still unsure on one thing though, character modeling with added clothes later. Does that mean I am correct in saying I should model an armor set, and then add the clothing parts later on in the process? For example if this is my goal, I’d make the metal armor pieces and whatnot, then come back later and add the black clothy parts?
​​​​​​​Thanks again!

Your question is good and with it I can imagine you want to swap clothes a lot. There are different ways on doing it and I will try to describe based on my experience.

Modeling characters:
Some artists like to make a nude model to make sure about the proportions, meaning how much muscles the model will have, how wide the shoulders or waist would be, the interspace at the legs,e tc. Basically defining this ahead is important, because metal armor can makeup huge or desproportional bodies if you dont take this into consideration. Basically they want a good shaped model using rags that will still look good using an Imperial armor.

Once the body is modeled, the artist sketches up all the possible equipment variations until he can find for each family type, the multiple bodies he will need to replicate, meaning: visible head and hands only, visible head and whole arm, visible head and arms and feet but no hands. This is important because the geometry which is covered by equipment is a waste of geometry that will take a tool on performance later, so dividing into several models will make possible to have less covered parts. These replicated and cut out bodies are all rigged already, since they were based on the first. This makes you experiment the animations later with the pieces of cloth/armor you made in the correct model.

Depending on the clothing being used, the model is switched to have the minimum covered parts possible.

Modeling clothes:
The cloth will be modeled on top of the model and will share the same skeleton and will be weighted similarly as the body so when you bend an arm, the cloth will follow the same bend as the arm.
How much stuff you will want into your clothing is another matter thou. Imagine a leather armor, which you can have it as is or with a plating covering the heart area. You might want to model a second piece or you can use attachments later. This is nice, because creates accessories that you can use to upgrade your equipment. In this case the accessories are modeled aditionally, does not need necessarily to follow the character skeleton unless it needs to bend aswell… still in this case depending on the amount of effort you may decide which is the best path to follow for better visual results or versatility.
Parts of the clothes that will move because of physics, there is an special tool for you to paint inside Unreal the amount of bend the cloth solver will use for that specific part. There are videos you can find for this too.

I hope this gives you a glimpse of the possibilities, since this is not a treaty about modeling, but just my experience on the matter. There are several ways to crack eggs.

From what I’m gathering, it is possible to add on “Attachments” as you call them later in the process, so to make just a cloak that goes over the armor is possible. I do plan to allow the player to equip armors much like in Dark Souls if you’ve played that, just switching out segments of the various armor sets, but not modifying how they look. My question about the clothing is probably confusing since I don’t really know what I’m talking about. From this page, you can see the “Cloth Painting Workflow” subheading, which shows the ClothPaint tab. He has an asset called OpenClothing2, and has just that selected. When I go into the same menu on a temporary model I’m using from Mixamo, I don’t have any assets in that tab nor can I figure out how to make them. Does that imply that the model and the coat that are used in the example are separate from each other, or did he somehow define just the coat as being “clothes physics”? This is probably the root of my confusion at this moment.

In other words, can I make the entire above knight into a model and then define which parts are clothing? Or do I need to have something like 2 separate files, the “Armor” and the “cloth”, which are then combined in UE4?

Thank you for the suggestion for having a model for consistency by the way, I will definitely use that. And thank you for answering my nooby questions in such detail, it has been very helpful.

The pieces that has cloth movement based on physics need to be separate. You can attach them the same way weapons are attached. Imagine a skirt. The part which touches the waist is rigid (that part has the attachment to the waist), so it will not be painted for cloth animation, the middle part will have a crescent gradient until it reaches 1 value (or near 1) at the edges, meaning they move more than the upper part.

So in essence, I’ll make one model which is the suit of armor, and I’ll make another model which would be the “skirt” for lack of a better word. Once I have both, I would combine them within UE4 and then add clothing physics to just the skirt using the Clothing Tool. That makes sense to me, then, because any time that armor would be used, it would have the cloth connected to it as a component.

Re-reading this documentation it seems to me that as long as the two are separate, I don’t need to do anything other than model the clothes; no special file types or anything, just adding it to the character model. I was reading the part about how you /used/ to need to use external programs specifically for clothing, which confused me, but now it looks like you simply select the part you want to move within UE4 and get painting. That’s why it needs to be separate, otherwise, you select the entire character.

Thank you Nilson, very helpful stuff. I really appreciate it.

I know there is another video very similar to this one, just for the cloth tool where they used with one character from Paragon (female one with a piece o cloth in front of her legs) but there is also this video at approx. 17min30sec where they have presented the cloth tool. there I think seeing it being used will end the doubts.

I found this one as well, yesterday, which kinda sparked the whole inquiry. I was wondering how they just selected the skirt/front thing on their model’s clothes, but now I know it’s a separate part. (warning: loud pop music)

Thanks again.

Btw there is one of our community members which is doing a blog/course about character development. Im not sure how long it will take, but I am sure you will find other related things regarding the engine to improve your understanding at least on the Unreal side of things, but he said he worked 5 hours in the begining of the course for explaining the workflow… I didnt have time yet to watch but I think anything will add.

The discussion in this post was helpful but I’m still not sure if I understand the workflow completely. This is what I currently have:

  • Avatar modeled and animated in Blender
  • Cloth modeled in Marvelous Designer

I imported both to Blender first combined them into a single FBX and then used the Clothing Tool as suggested here, but I’m not sure how to make that work with animations as the cloth never gets animated.
Am I missing something here?
Any help would be appreciated!

Did you enable Physics in the mesh or part you painted inside Unreal? Click on the mesh and in the details panel Physics are right there. Let me know what you got! (not inside the paint tool)

I did enable physics both in the Asset Details panel of the Mesh and the Cloth tab but it still results in the issue as you can see in the attached image. The moment I press “Deactivate Cloth Paint”, it does simulate cloth physics over the painted area but doesn’t actually “stick” to the animated body.

One thing that I might possibly be doing wrong is that both cloth and “body” mesh have the same physics asset. I also didn’t do the initial animation with the cloth attached.
Could any of this be resulting in the issue?

Thank you for your help!

The cloth with physics enabled must be attached to the animated skeletal mesh otherwise it will not receive the physics feedback from the movement. I was about to create a simple project so you could see the settings to compare, but then I found one here already installed into one machine and I went to find where it did came from, and there it is: in the video description there is a project link, just download it, and check the settings for that red flag cloth. The video is quite usefull too, I recommend it.

Thank you so much for your help! That video was indeed very useful and I’m on the right path now thanks to you!

Im glad to hear that!