Artomatix launches Materialize
New startup Artomatix has launched Materialize, a new cloud-based online service that pitches itself as the “first solution that automatically generates textures for artists”.
The platform, which can accessed inside the Chrome web browser, or via plugins for Photoshop, Unity or UE4, uses an AI-driven approach to automate common tasks like tiling textures and removing seams.
It can even ‘mutate’ a single source image into an entirely new, customisable seamless texture.
Automatically tile, mutate or extend textures to infinity
Users logging in to the Materialize service online are presented with three options: to remove seams, mutate a texture, or to extend it to infinity.
In the case of seam removal, you upload a source image, use a slider to set the width of the border Materialize will edit to make it tile, and wait for the job to process online.
When we tried the service ourselves, we found that processing typically took around 5 seconds.
Once calculation is complete, Materialize presents the original source image and the new seamlessly tiled texture side by side, either as a flat image, or a standard 3D preview.
You can flip the diffuse or normal map, adjust the displacement intensity via a slider, or make more subtle adjustments, like manually masking fine details that you want the calculation to preserve.
Once you’re happy with the result, you can download the newly tileable texture in TIFF, JPG, PNG or TGA format, complete with normal map.
For mutating textures or extending them to infinity, the process is similar, but you’re presented with six sliders controlling the relative intensity of different scales of detail in the processed texture.
You can see how this works in the video above: it shows the Unity plugin, but that essentially just launches the online service from within Unity.
Once processing is complete, you can choose the resolution at which you want to generate the new texture: there are presets ranging from 512 x 512px to 8,192 x 8,192px, but you can set custom sizes.
Sounds great – but isn’t it a tad expensive?
An Indie subscription to Materialize costs $29/month: around 50% more than a ‘rent-to-own’ subscription for the Indie editions of Substance Designer and Painter. So what does it do that Allegorithmic’s tools don’t?
Artomatix CTO Eric Risser likens Substance Painter to a “DIY toolbox while Artomatix is a handyman service”.
“[Allegorithmic]’s value proposition is that they sell you the tools to do things that would [otherwise] be impossible for you to do. Our value proposition is that we just … do the work for you.
“If you wanted to build a house from scratch, Substance would be like going to Home Depot and buying a set of tools, while Artomatix would be like hiring a contractor to build the basic house for you.”
Competing with human labour, not software
Risser compares the Artomatix service as being more like commissioning a human artist to produce textures, with only minimal, high-level user input required.
“It doesn’t make sense to compare our price point to Substance because we aren’t an alternative to Substance,” he said. “It only makes sense to compare our price point to human labour.”
Risser estimates that for a AAA title, the task of removing seams from textures can run to three man-years of work. “As we charge less than an artist’s salary per year, seam removal alone justifies the cost.”
He also points out that the company’s rental-only model “isn’t simply a ploy to get more money from our customers”: as all of the processing is done in the cloud, it really does have to be software as a service.
“Artomatix runs on high-performance servers that have Nvidia K80 GPUs taking the brunt of the work,” he said. “These servers are expensive and need to be maintained.”
Populate: an AI-driven system for generating variant 3D assets
Artomatix is also working on Populate, a separate product that extends its underlying technology to the process of generating 3D art assets, automatically creating variants from a source model.
Populate, which you can see in action in the video above, is intended to integrate with “all major art creation software (Photoshop, Maya, ZBrush, etc) and all major game engines (Unity, Unreal, Lumberyard)”.
The company says that it plans to “start testing the tech intensively” by the end of the year, with the aim of launching publicly at GDC 2017.
Pricing and availability
Artomatix Materialize is available now. The online service can be accessed via Google Chrome; the Photoshop, Unity and UE4 plugins are compatible with the current releases of the software.
An Indie account, intended for users with revenues under $100,000/year costs $29/month; a Pro account, for users with revenues under $1 million/year, costs $299/month.
Updated 7 July 2016: Artomatix has changed its pricing for Materialize to a credit-based system. The number of credits required to generate a texture varies according to its complexity and resolution.
Plans start at $9.90/month for 15 credits, limited to 2K maximum resolution and two maps per texture; or $19.90/month for 60 credits if you want 8K maximum resolution and unlimited maps.