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For a clothing company like Pink Shirtmaker, there’s a lot to be gained by going digital. Unlike a traditional physical prototype, a 3D model of a shirt can be created quickly, consumes no raw materials to produce, and can be used anywhere in production, from initial design iterations to final marketing imagery. Additionally this 3D workflow is seen as an essential contribution to supporting Pink’s sustainability responsibilities. 3D images can also be used to generate a rendered image of a virtual product on a website — something becoming increasingly important during the COVID-19 restrictions as more people begin to buy online.
But for a digital representation of a shirt to work as a sales tool, it has to be realistic — and that means re-creating real-world materials accurately. How can a 3D render convey the heft of cotton twill, the subtle softness of chambray, or the iridescence of a mother of pearl button?
Enter INDG. For the past year, the product visualization specialist agency has been working with Pink to digitize its entire product portfolio. Thanks to its know-how — and with the help of the Substance suite, Adobe’s powerful set of material-authoring tools — the firm has been creating accurate digital representations of all of Pink’s products, perfect down to the last microfiber.
INDG’s company showreel. The visualization agency creates accurate digital representations of physical products, including those from some of the world’s biggest brands.
Images so real you could touch them
Founded in 1999 by Frans Vriesendorp and Bas Gal, then both students at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, INDG has grown to become one of the world’s leading product digitization agencies, now employing over 90 people across its offices in Amsterdam, New York, and Bucharest.
The firm describes its goal to make “every product playable,” helping manufacturers to create virtual versions of their products “so lifelike it feels like you could reach out and touch them.”
INDG recently launched their Fashion vertical, aligned with the firm’s focus to digitize complete brand portfolios and derive all visual marketing content from that. Whether it is creating virtual samples at high speed or interactive, consumer-facing, photorealistic content for a marketing initiative, INDG services brands with deep expertise in CGI, automation, software development, and, of course, a solid know-how in fashion to do this all successfully.
This is a rare combination that INDG possesses and has managed to effectively utilize in helping our clients make this transition. Within fashion, they generally divide their focus between the fashion markets of sportswear, luxury, and fast fashion, and the majority of projects revolve around the product types of footwear, apparel, and accessories.
INDG works with international brands like Yamaha, Electrolux, and Philips, across industries ranging from medical technology to home furnishings. In the fashion industry, its clients include international brands like Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ralph Lauren — and recently, Pink itself.
Conveying quality digitally
“From the standpoint of a brand, 3D technology is fundamentally disruptive,” says Sacha Djorkaeff, Pink Shirtmaker’s head of client experience, who works directly with INDG. “It shakes the current design and production processes to their core, presenting dramatic cost and time efficiencies, trimming down the process of visualizing a product from weeks or months to a matter of hours.”
Part of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy group, Pink is a modern British shirtmaker. As well as shirts for men and women, the firm sells a range of other luxury products, including ties, knitwear, and accessories, through physical shops like its flagship stores in London’s Jermyn Street and New York’s Madison Avenue — but also, increasingly, through the 3D images on its website.
“Over the past year, we have been working closely with INDG to completely shift our approach to product visualization,” Sacha says. “We are creating a digital library of visuals for our products and leveraging that to create engaging experiences.”
In order for INDG to create images that engage the viewer, it had to re-create a range of complex properties of real-world materials in 3D: from folds and weave structures right down to the “peach fuzz” of microscopic fibers that give fabric surfaces their subtle sheen.
As Sacha puts it, “One exciting challenge for the project was, how do we reach a level of photorealism that conveys the depth of quality of a Pink fabric?”
A 3D version of one of Pink’s shirts, shown inside Substance Designer. INDG uses the Substance tools to re-create real-world materials, from the base fabric to stitching and detailing, and even creases and folds.
A complete suite of tools for creating digital materials
Although INDG uses a range of techniques to create digital cloth, including scanning physical fabric swatches and re-creating them from photographs, its primary material-creation tool is Substance’s 3D texturing suite.
The suite of tools includes Substance Source, a library of ready made photorealistic materials, including more than 400 textiles, from cotton and wool to high-tech sports fabrics. Each is fully procedural, meaning that they can be customized in 3D applications like Substance Alchemist, Adobe’s material-editing software. Artists can also hand-paint custom details in Substance Painter or create entire new materials in Substance Designer, a powerful procedural authoring tool.
“We started using Substance in our fashion business about a year ago,” says INDG Art Director Thomas Makryniotis. “Prior to that, quite a few of our artists were using it for their own work, or for company experiments. Once we realized the benefits, we adopted it in production.”
INDG uses both Substance Designer and Substance Painter in its workflow, the software re-creating not only the fabric of a garment but its stitching and detailing, and 3D forms like folds and wrinkles. The completed digital materials are then exported to 3ds Max, Autodesk’s 3D visualization software, where they are applied to 3D models created in specialist clothing design tools like Clo3D. To generate final imagery, INDG uses Chaos Group’s V-Ray renderer, fine-tuning its output in compositing applications like Adobe After Effects or Foundry’s Nuke.
Substance Painter enables artists to create complex 3D materials from scratch. Being fully procedural, the results can be reused across a range of projects.
Speed, accuracy, and reusability
For INDG, the key benefit of the Substance 3D texturing suite is the speed at which artists can create accurate digital representations of real materials. “The Substance Source library helps to get you on the right track very quickly, and having a real-time 3D preview while working on shading is a huge speed gain compared to a traditional 2D texturing process,” Thomas says. “Having a one-to-one match between the Substance viewport and a V-Ray render is also important. The texture artists see exactly the same image as the rendering and compositing artists.”
According to Peter Kolus, one of INDG’s senior 3D artists, taking the guesswork out of creating materials enables Substance users to work more creatively. “It’s a more intuitive way of doing things,” he says. “Once you’re familiar with the new way of working, you can be much more flexible, efficient, and experimental.”
And since Substance materials are procedural, they are easily re-usable. Once created, a base material can be used in other projects, simply by modifying a few key properties. “Procedural methods provide a more iterative approach to 3D content development,” Thomas says.
Digital marketing imagery with substance
Thanks to this combination of speed, accuracy, and flexibility, the tools in Adobe’s Substance suite help INDG to re-create entire ranges of real-world products in 3D. In turn, its beautiful, photorealistic images help clients like Pink Shirtmaker to create engaging new online experiences for potential buyers of those products.
“The Substance suite enables us to be more creative and experimental, while cutting down on our production times,” says Peter Kolus. “In our view, there is no other texturing tool out there at the moment that comes close to Substance Designer and Substance Painter in terms of ease of use or range of capabilities, and our recent results confirm this.”
For more information, check out this interview with INDG featured on Substance Magazine.