Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 Posted by Jim Thacker

Dark Blender turns sculpts into low-poly game assets

Developer Danyl Bekhoucha has released Dark Blender, an interesting free Blender script and set of add-on tools designed to automate the process of converting high-res sculpts into a form usable inside game engines.

The script reduces the mesh to a target poly count, unwraps the model to maximise texel density, and sets up the new lo-res model ready for painting diffuse textures.

Automatically decimate a high-res mesh and generate texture maps for use in any game engine
To work, Dark Blender requires a hi-res source sculpt. Obviously, those created in Blender work well, but users can also import assets created in sculpting tools like ZBrush.

Once imported, users can set a new target poly count for the asset. Dark Blender will then automatically decimate the mesh, merging multiple source files into a single low-poly asset where necessary.

You can see the process around 05:00 in the introductory video tutorial above.

Dark Blender will also unfold the model, maximising texel space – if it’s located on the X-axis, it will automatically unfold only one half – to generate a greyscale map.

The map can be assigned to the albedo and/or specular slots of the preview shader provided.

It can then be colourised by painting directly onto the 3D model, or by assigning one of 20 readymade ColorRamp nodes designed to mimic the look of common Dota 2 asset types like grass, rocks or skin.

The workflow is geared towards static props, particularly stylised assets such as those in Dota 2, but Bekhoucha comments that the script can be used to generate content for any game engine.

The script also comes a set of accompanying tools and sculpting brushes to “generate the seams for your hard surface model; fix n-gons, normals and unnecessary edges; optimise the texels, or resymmetrise [in one click]”.

Dark Blender is available for Blender running on Windows, Linux or Mac OS X. It’s a free download.

The zip archive includes a text document explaining how to install the script and bonus tools, and you can find more information via the threads on Polycount and BlenderArtists.org below.

The script is being updated regularly, so it’s worth checking the BlenderArtists.org thread for news.

Download Dark Blender

Read more about Dark Blender in the thread on Polycount
(A good overview of the script’s current capabilities)

Visit the official Dark Blender thread on BlenderArtists.org
(News of the latest updates)