I started my CLO 3D journey last September with a rather daunting challenge of creating a realistic looking denim jean in 3D.
As the founder of a denim consultancy, Rowan (my partner and boss) had been asked by a few brands to create a range of denim in 3D, and was struggling to find anyone to do it.
After some initial research, we came to the conclusion that we would try CLO 3D. I downloaded the programme on a newly purchased PC & fancy mouse, (CLO utilises Nvidia Graphics cards for accelerated GPU rendering which is not available on my usual mac) and signed up for my monthly subscription.
Excited, I spent a few days learning the basics following the official CLO 3D beginner videos and gradually became familiar with the basic operations. Having grumbled slightly about having to learn a new programme from scratch I was actually pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
Then I spent a few more, slightly more frustrated days, learning how to make a basic pair of jeans from scratch, again following an official video from CLO. As a clothing designer (and a home sewer who makes all her own clothes) I would say that I have a fairly good understanding of how clothing is constructed, but even I struggled here. Perhaps starting with a t-shirt or a pair of leggings would have been less idiotic but I just wanted to make denim!
Having finally conquered the basic garment, I should have realised that the hard work had not even started, much like with a pair of jeans in real life. The work is in the finishing!
I googled 'how to design denim in CLO 3D' and was a little confused by the lack of videos, comment threads, and 'how to' YouTube videos which I would always expect for an Illustrator question. Having had the back up of numerous friends and colleagues with in-depth photoshop, illustrator and even excel knowledge, also backed up by all the information you could ever need on the internet, I was stumped to find very little information on creating denim jeans in 3D. It looked like I was going to have to take the limited offerings available and then work the rest out on my own. A tall order for a complete novice still struggling with fly constructions.
However, living with a 'denim head' designer (with over 200 pairs of jeans in the attic) tends to give you an edge on what is important in a pair of jeans. With a list of 'must haves' from Rowan (and my own designer sensibilities) I set off to create a realistic pair of jeans. We decided that I should re create a pair of battered Edwins, worn from raw, with various rips and holes and a fantastic fade pattern. I took photos of the jean from every angle in the garden with my I-Phone on a lovely bright day and got to work.
I was then surprised to find that most of the following part was to be done in photoshop. After creating a 'UV template' of my jean pattern in CLO, I would export it into photoshop and create the 'texture' of my jean.
Here I warped my photos to fit the pattern (infinitely frustrating for a perfectionist) and re aquainted myself with the clone stamp tool and the healing tool and every other tool in photoshop that I had forgotten about. Then after many many hours of reshaping pockets and creating realistic waistbands, going back and forth to get a decent resolution within the UV parameters, I was ready to import my file back into CLO.
It was then I realised that my fade lines did not match up from the front to back legs, which was the number one 'must have' from the boss. So after trawling CLO 3D videos looking for any information on pattern matching it was back to photoshop to find a solution myself. Turned out that good old fashioned photoshop rulers would have to suffice and after a lot of tweaking I made the fades match.
I then realised that the lovely neat topstitching tool on CLO (where you can specify the exact distance from the seam that you want your stitching etc) looked wrong on my battered, misshaped pattern pieces. I needed to create my own slightly wonky lines on which to lay my topstitch. So I learnt how to how to use the 3D pen tool to draw onto the 3D garment. I was really pleased with the outcome, it was time consuming and fiddly but my topstitching looked much more realistic as a result.
Next I needed to create the Edwin shanks, rivets and patch. Yet another situation where there were no specific videos on making jeans hardware, but I cobbled together information from a few 'make your own button' videos on youtube and finally got something I was happy with.
My jean was complete. I was thrilled with my first attempt and promptly sent everyone I knew a video of my jean on a turntable.
But then my designer head kicked in. I wouldn't always have the perfect pair of vintage jeans to copy, more often that not I would need to create my own fades and rip patterns. So how could I recreate this jean without using photographs?
Again, I found some very basic videos on line about how to use a stock fade pattern (CLO have a couple in their library which you can use to create a very basic wash pattern). But this wasn't really getting me anywhere close to the look of the Edwin.
I then got my hands on some 'factory ready' laser patterns for jeans production hoping that these would be simple to convert into beautiful CLO wash templates. But alas, on a laser template the parts to be lasered (the holes and the whiter blasted areas on a pair of jeans) are coloured in black. My skills were not good enough in photoshop to reverse this successfully (if anyone know how please let me know.. and yes I tried to invert!).
So back to the drawing board. I realised that I would have to manually draw the whiskers and blasted parts in photoshop, using the brush tool with various sizes, opacity and flow settings.
My first few attempts were not great, but finally got somewhere closer to where I needed it to be. This had to be done for each leg, front and back, each pocket, coin pocket, belt loop and waist band.
The same was going to be true for seam and pocket edge puckering. I found a CLO tutorial on how to create custom seam puckering in Photoshop (or equivalent photo editor!) and spent a few hours replicating the various seams and edges, and then scaling them correctly into CLO. There are a lot of seams on a pair of jeans and each has different stresses and strains and different wash patterns. I can confidently say that I now know this pair of edwin's inside out having studied it for so long!
I then created all the topstitching, re-used the custom hardware that I recreated for the UV version, and figured out how to make the rips realistic. Ready to render at last, I was thrilled with how far I had come.
However, CLO was there to show me how much of a novice I still was. Opening up the render window I was horrified to see odd white marks in various places on the jean. Not visible in the 3D window, I could not understand where they had come from and I was reminded again about how little I really knew about this programme.
Although actually, it turned out that no one else knew that much about CLO either! No tutorials, no answer when I googled 'White marks during render CLO3D', not even a reply on the CLO community question board when I posted my issue.
I was stumped.
Hours of fiddling later I realised that the white marks seemed to appear anywhere that my custom seam puckerings overlapped. Hours more looking through any articles I could find with any relevance whatsoever (and lots with none at all), I came across something called 'Z offset', basically a measurement of how far the given object is from the surface of the garment. So I changed the Z offset for each of my custom puckerings by a tiny amount, making sure that any overlapping seams had slightly different values for their Z offset. Hooray it worked.
Render complete (with many tweaks on opacity) I had a jean that I had created from scratch.
Comparing the two garments, one created from photos and one created from scratch, the photo jean clearly looks much better.
More realistic and more '3D'. However, I am confident that with more practise and with a custom library of puckering, fades and rips, each jean that I create will get better and better. Hopefully one day being indistinguishable from the real thing.
If anyone else is on a similar journey please get in touch!
By Jemma Read
3D and Product Designer