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Asset Painter Tutorial
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[Tutorial] Learn to use Flow Asset Painter

Asset Painter is amazing tool, that allows user to literally paint the assets directly into the scene. What makes it different than any procedural scatters, is that it places specified objects precisely on the selected spots, but with little (and tweakable) randomization for the best looking effects. With it’s help you can very easily add tons of details into your scene, for example add some flowers, weeds or rocks on your grass. Follow this tutorial to learn how to use Flow Asset Painter from scratch to Pro.

Basic usage

Using the Asset Painter is very simple. Since Flow 3.0 it is located among the tools on the left side of the 3d Viewport. You can also quickly activate it by pressing [ key (square bracket key – located next to P key) on your keyboard.

New location of Asset Painter Tool

First thing you’ll see in the tool’s UI is the painting mode selection buttons – Selected Objects, Library and Collection. By default, the Library mode will be active, what means that you will be using one selected asset from your Flow library for painting. Let’s now stay with the default setting and let’s continue. I’ll describe the other modes later.

PROTIP!
You can now also use Asset Painter for adding regular assets to the 3d Cursor. Simply select the desired asset and click Place on 3d Cursor button. Asset will be placed on 3d Cursor without applying any Asset Painter randomizations.

Setting the painting target

Next, you would see an empty box named Target. This one is quite important, as setting the target can prevent from some unexpected painting results to happen, particularly in more complex scenes. Target locks the object, that you would be painting your assets into. Also, when some part of this object will be covered by some other one, it will be still visible for the addon, so you would be able to paint some more bushes into the ground, even if it is covered by lots of forest trees.

You can set your target multiple ways. To set the target, you may select the object from the list, by clicking on the field, but it’s probably not the best way, especially when you have thousands of objects in your current scene. You can also use the eyedropper for selecting the right object. But the best way for setting the target is simply having the desired object selected and active, and then click the arrow button right next to the Target field.

Library mode and how to select assets

When the Library mode is active, you need to select your asset. Simply select the desired library (the one you’ve already set up in the preferences). Flow Startup library comes with basic nature pack, that you should be able to see in the Asset Painter category. Then select the subcategory, as in this case no asset is located directly in the category folder.

When there are assets in selected directory, you will see two fields on the right of category / subcategory selection. Both of them works the same way – you select the asset with them. The smaller one is here for you to see the larger preview icons, while the larger one with the name will show as the list. Select the desired asset and you will be ready to paint it on your target.

Painting the objects

In all painting modes, the painting operation looks exactly the same! As you’ve probably already seen, selecting and moving objects with gizmo did not change a lot from the default Blender tool. This has been provided, so you could easily keep manipulating the view and your scene, while having the Asset Painter tool active in the background.

When you are ready to paint your assets, simply press CTRL + Left Mouse Button over the spot, where you want to place the object.

Precise placing objects with pressing CTRL + LMB

You can also paint the objects, like with the brush in any graphic tool. Then press CTRL + LMB and drag your mouse to keep painting, release when ready. You can set up the paint step in the Asset Painter settings, that I’ll describe in the moment.

“Painting” objects with press & drag feature

Selected objects mode

The other method of painting the assets with Asset Painter is the Selected Objects mode. In that one, what you will be painting onto your target, are the objects currently selected in the 3d viewport or in the outliner. So if you already have some objects in your scene, and don’t want to find each of them separately via the library mode, you can simply select them and repaint with the selected objects mode. If you have more than one object selected, Asset Painter will randomly select which one will be painted in the current click. When you drag the pressed mouse, each object will also be selected randomly.

In this mode, it’s also quite important what objects you choose. When painter will be duplicating the source objects, all the settings will apply to that current object’s transform values. So if the object is already scaled by 2.0, the Base Scale setting will be multiplying this 2.0 value, not the initial 1.0. You can read more about the painter settings below.

Asset Painter Settings

Main Asset Painter settings subpanel can be found just next to the Target selection field in each painting mode. I’ll shortly describe each of the settings below:

Linked / Local

This setting appears only when Library mode is active. You select here whether you want your asset to be loaded as local into your scene (it will be later editable and tweakable) or linked from the source file.

Scale Randomization

Base Scale parameter means how big your asset will be. It’s simply the multiplier of the default scale of the loaded / selected asset.

Then you can set min and max randomization range. That means, that your base scale will be multiplied by the random value from the specified range.

So, that means that your objects scale will be first multiplied by the Base Scale value, and then by the random value from the Min-Max range

Rotation Randomization

With this settings you will be setting the randomization of rotation for your assets. You can set the values from 0 to 1 for each of the axis. By default, value 1.0 is set for Z axis, other values are 0.0. And all the axles symbolize the local axles.

This parameter is the multiplying value for the random angle from -180 degrees to 180 degrees. So, for example if you have your value set for 0.1, the randomly picked angle value will be multiplied by this 0.1, so divided by 10. That means that 1 value allows you to have the full random rotation range, while smaller values narrow it down.

Draw Step

Draw step is the simple value for setting the density of your assets, when you are painting with dragging the mouse.

Snap to Face

Enable Snap to Face to align your asset to the face, that you are painting onto, otherwise, the initial assets will be rotated as in it’s root file, for most situations it will be Z-up. When Snap to Face is enabled, you will be able to choose to what direction is headed the current asset, and as I said before, in most cases it is up, so the default setting is pretty enough.

Collection Painting Mode

Painter Collections are completely feature introduced since Flow 3.0. This new painting mode is really amazing feature, that allows user to create it’s own sets of objects, that will be used (and reusable) for painting. And unlike the Selected Mode, you don’t need to first place the object to the scene, you can create the painter collection directly from the asset selection.

And just to make sure – this mode does not allow to paint with any Blender collection. You first need to create this special collection, adding objects with the plugin, as each of them will then receive special properties to be later more customizable.

Creating the Painter Collection

To create the Painter Collection, you simply need to add objects to it. This looks a little bit like appending the objects to the scene, but in this case, they will be shadow-loaded and added into the Painter Collection.

You can find the Add to Collection button in Collection Mode and in Library Mode in Asset Painter tool.

When you press it, you should see the popup window for selecting the asset, similar to the basic Flow popup. You can add both the asset from your Flow library or the selected objects. Simply select the collection or create the new one, select the object and click OK, so the object is added into your Painter Collection.

Adding Assets to Collection

Setting and using Painter Collections

As it may first look complicated, it’s really simple to use this painting mode. All magic happens in Collections Settings, where you will see all added objects, and will be able to set the properties for each of them. Let’s first create the new collection with three objects – one grass, daisy and rock. When it’s ready, it should look like below:

As you will see, settings for the first added object look little bit different than for the other ones. This is because this object has been set as Main. This means that this object will always use probability 1.0 and cannot be disabled from painting. It is marked by filled star icon. You can always set another object as main, by pressing the outlined star button.

As I’ve already mentioned about the probability, let’s now talk about it. This value determines how often will the asset be used for the asset painting operation. Smaller values means that the asset will appear less frequently than the assets with higher probability and the main asset (which is always using probability 1.0)

Let’s set probability 0.5 for the daisy and 0.1 for the rock, do some painting and see what happen.

Grass 1.0 / Daisy 0.5 / Rock 0.1

As you see, there should be mostly the grass, which is the main assets. There are also some daisies, but not that much. And only one rock. If the probability for all objects would be set for 1.0, all of them would be distributed quite equally

Grass 1.0 / Daisy 1.0 / Rock 1.0

The other basic setting, that is quite important is the base scale. It can be always set for each object individually. It determines the initial scale of the asset, that will be later multiplied by Asset Painter’s base scale setting and by randomization values. Let’s now play with it (all probabilities are set for 1.0 for this example)

Daisies are now enormously large, when rocks are barely visible among the grasses. And now, let’s increase the randomization values in the Asset Painter settings to see what will happen.

With this set of settings, the assets transforms are now highly randomized.

Individual settings for the assets

What you can also do with painter collections objects is tweaking the individual settings for each of them. By default, the objects would be always using main asset painter randomization settings, but by enabling Use custom settings checkbox, the selected object will now use only it’s own set of properties.

I’ll now enable custom settings for the rock, and set the Asset Painter settings for more default ones.

As you should see, the grasses and daisies will now use only main settings, while rocks will be using their own rotation randomization.

Saving and Loading the painter collections

Always remember, that the painter collections created with the Flow addon are Local, what means that they are linked only to the current scene. However, you can save the collections, making them later reusable.

When you have your collection already created, simply press Save Collection button and this collection will be saved into the specified Flow Library.

IMPORTANT! This collection will always be saved with all it’s objects. So mind, that if you have lots of high poly heavyweight objects in your collection, the filesize may be large.

Brief summary

You should now be able to use Asset Painter with no problems, suiting it to your very own needs. This tool is really powerful and flexible, as it can help you with creating amazing environments, detailing up the vegetation or simply adding objects into the scene. Check out some of my personal results of using asset painter below

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I'm the founder of digital.ARCH and all our products. I work with Blender since about 2008, and this time help me to gather a lot of experience with this software