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It’s here: The complete overview of Unity toolsets and workflows for technical artists

October 17, 2022 in Technology | 7 min. read
The complete overview of Unity toolsets and systems for technical artists | hero image
The complete overview of Unity toolsets and systems for technical artists | hero image

As longtime Unity creators know, we regularly share updates and feature improvements, alongside tips and best practices, across multiple channels: on our blog, in the forums, and at events. This open, multichannel dialogue is a central part of our community’s roots.

Sometimes, however, it’s nice to have a complete overview, or inventory, of what’s available for your specific expertise or area of interest. That’s what our new e-book, Unity for technical artists: Key toolsets and workflows, aims to provide for experienced and technical artists alike. While the original version of the e-book was based on the 2020 LTS, this latest iteration reflects what’s available in 2021 LTS.

The first of its kind, this new guide compiles detailed summaries of all Unity systems, features, and workflows for experienced technical artists. Use it as both a source of inspiration and a reference for accessing more advanced creator content to expand your skill set.

Through compact yet visually rich sections, Unity for technical artists highlights the vast possibilities for graphical quality and breadth of style that you can realize with Unity.

But inspiration is not our only goal here. Each section includes links to instructional, in-depth resources, so you can learn how to use the toolsets that are most important to you, your work, and career path.

Technical artists: The bridge between programmers and artists

Previsualization and settings for different asset types in the Inspector: C# script, texture, FBX asset, and material
Previsualization and settings for different asset types in the Inspector: C# script, texture, FBX asset, and material

Based on feedback from individual creators and professional teams we’ve worked with, technical artists are expected to have a broad understanding of what’s possible to achieve on various target platforms with the Digital Content Creation (DCC) tools and game engine they’re using. In light of this knowledge, they inform the art director and other artists of any limitations and opportunities surrounding the target hardware.

Many technical artists address their team’s most complex artistic needs, from character rigging to writing shaders, or proposing new workflows and creation tools to accelerate their processes. Overall, they play a critical role in ensuring that the visual quality of a game or other application meets the standard set by their team.

Unity for technical artists spans a multitude of toolsets, pipelines, and workflows, reflecting this range of expertise required of technical artists.

What’s in the guide?

Shader Graph enables shader authoring for artists and other team members via connecting nodes in a graph network.
Shader Graph enables shader authoring for artists and other team members via connecting nodes in a graph network.

The e-book serves as a useful resource for users who want to expand their skills in Unity. Maybe you’re a programmer looking to specialize in graphics programming, a designer who wants to refine game content by scripting interactivity in Unity, or an artist learning to create shaders either through scripting or with the Shader Graph.

Keep this e-book handy for onboarding new team members – those who have worked with Unity in a limited way previously, or those who’ve worked with a different engine entirely. This guide will help them pinpoint the Unity tools and related learning resources that can benefit their creative work.

Let’s take a look at some of the major sections in the e-book.

Working with assets

The chapters on assets cover topics such as building a non-destructive asset pipeline, importing assets, roundtripping with DCC tools, and the Asset Database.

The grey-boxed assets on the left side were created with Unity ProBuilder, whereas the final assets on the right side were completed in DCC software and imported back into Unity with the FBX Exporter.
The grey-boxed assets on the left side were created with Unity ProBuilder, whereas the final assets on the right side were completed in DCC software and imported back into Unity with the FBX Exporter.

Rendering pipelines and pathways

In this guide, we review the latest capabilities of the Universal Render Pipeline (URP) and the High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP), as well as pointers on how to choose the best rendering path for your particular project. Other topics covered include dynamic resolution and upscaling methods.

I am Fish by Bossa Studios Ltd., created with HDRP, is available on Steam and Xbox.
I am Fish by Bossa Studios Ltd., created with HDRP, is available on Steam and Xbox.

Global Illumination

Additionally, we unpack the lighting workflows used to simulate Global Illumination (GI) with the Progressive, CPU, and GPU Lightmappers, as well as differences between Real-time GI, Ray-traced GI, and Enlighten.

The lightmap of a static object
The lightmap of a static object

Worldbuilding

Unity provides a complete set of tools for building and designing rich and scalable 3D and 2D worlds. These chapters dive into key workflows for grey-boxing levels with ProBuilder and Polybrush, while showcasing the latest iteration of the Terrain sculpting tools, and sharing details on how to create sky, cloud, and fog visuals in URP and HDRP.

A prototype made with ProBuilder on the left, with the FBX Exporter panel open, and the final environment by the artist on the right
A prototype made with ProBuilder on the left, with the FBX Exporter panel open, and the final environment by the artist on the right

Visual Scripting

Visual Scripting comprises visual, node-based graphs that non-programmers can use to design final logic and create quick prototypes. An introduction to Unity’s Visual Scripting system explains how you can use it to define game logic for your Unity projects without writing traditional code.

The Visual Scripting solution
The Visual Scripting solution

Digital humans

An extensive appendix outlines the process of creating digital humans for the Unity demos The Heretic and Enemies. From data capture and processing to creating the skin, eyes, and hair visuals, this section discloses how such effects were achieved.

Enemies required a custom version of HDRP’s Eye Shader.
Enemies required a custom version of HDRP’s Eye Shader.

There’s much more to discover in the e-book, including sections on the animation system, creating cutscenes and cinematics, and the 2D toolset.

Unity for technical artists: Key toolsets and workflows | E-book

We hope that you enjoy this latest technical guide. We encourage you to share your feedback on the forum.

For more advanced content, you can browse our recently published How-to hub, which gathers Unity e-books, instructional articles, documentation, and more, all in one place.

October 17, 2022 in Technology | 7 min. read
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