knowing when to sculpt and when to texture

Hi there,

In my modelling and texturing studies and experiments I have encountered a dilemma that I was hoping to get some feedback on. I have been constructing a scene for UE4 and have just finished the high poly modelling stage in 3ds Max, and I’m now ready to get into some finer detail sculpting in Zbrush. I love working in Zbrush, but I am unsure about how far to take the sculpting process for game assets. What I am curious about, is whether or not some of you have a end point in terms of detail for the normals map, that you try not to go beyond? How much detail should be included in the normals map and height map, and on the flip side, how much detail in the albedo and roughness maps? I know roughness has more to do with lighting, but I get the idea that there is some threshold of microdetail that you can achieve in the normals map. Take wood grain on an old piece of wood as an example. You can achieve some fantastic results sculpting your own wood grain in Zbrush, but perhaps it’s better and faster to use a texture? What process yields the best results? I have found that using software like the dDo kind of negates sculpting this kind of detail yourself, as applying a smart wood material from the dDo library to your mesh creates its own wood grain. If you sculpted the wood grain yourself you could remove the normals and height maps generated by dDo maybe and just use on the albedo and roughness? I know I’m still a ways off, but I’m trying as best as I can to find a workflow that achieves the most realistic results so any pointers would be greatly appreciated!

For some patterns in a material you can avoid sculpting them, you can use a tiled normal map to add extra small detail to something like small bumps or thread textures on clothing. In a material you can end up masking parts of the textures so that you can add tiled detail where you need it. That way you can have lower resolution textures for the main details and then use tiled maps for really small details.

thanks for you imput darthviper, that helps!