# Introduction to handplane for workshop artists

ngon master
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ngon master

Hello workshop artists. I wanted to put together a thread to more formally introduce handplane to the workshop community. We have been sponsoring the the dota challenges on polycount for the last few months and I am a longtime member of polycount. From what I can tell, only some of you are using our tool. I wanted to address that since it is free and can save you time and effort. I am going to write a bunch of information on here, but for the lazy people who don’t want to read a wall of text I will summarize the takeaway. handplane + source engine = no more shading errors and no need for hard edges or splitting your model. You also can use all of your existing baking tools and workflow, you do not need to learn a complicated piece of software.

Artists selling models through the steam workshop do not need to pay for a commercial handplane license

So what does handplane do? A lot, but the main thing handplane does is calculate tangent space in accordance with the game engine your model is going into. Tangent space is the coordinate system that relates a color in the normal map to an angle in the world. Unlike world or object space, tangent space maps use a combination of information in the model and the normal map to create the final normals that are displayed on screen. This gets complicated because there are many methods for setting up this coordinate system. This is much like an encoding and decoding problem. The system used to encode the normal map must be the same as the system that is used to read and display the normals in the game.Unfortunately, when most baking tools and game engines were being written, nobody bothered to check and see how other developers were handling this. As a result, most game engines do not have a single baking tool that can create a tangent space map that will be 100% correctly rendered in game. If you have done much normal map baking, especially with weapons and hard surface work, you will have seen the results of this mismatch in the form of gradients in the lighting and shading. Typically artists fix this with hard edges and extra edge loops. Both of which make the model less efficient and waste time. With handplane you do not need to add any hard edges or use any extra geometry to get your normal maps to be displayed correctly, it will just render correctly.

Tips for getting started with handplane quickly

1) Triangulate your models before using handplane. Also use the same triangulation for the model you send into source. When a triangle flips direction, the normals and tangents both change, causing the tangent space map to no longer be correct for the new topology.

2) You can use handplane with virtually any baking tools and 3d software. Source expects normals imported with the model, so long as you can export a model with normals from your 3d program you can use handplane. SBM is a very reliable option for source users but FBX and OBJ can also work just as well (so long as your software can export an FBX or OBJ with smoothing splits and normals intact).

3) Set handplane’s input map to “Auto Detect”. We will likely remove all the other options in the next build as they cause unwanted confusion. If prompted about y/z orientation, click yes.

4) Reset transforms before baking normals or sending your model to handplane. Some model formats pass transforms correctly and others don’t. If your object space map contains transforms but they don’t make it into handplane, all of your shading will be rotated and your normal map will look very strange. By resetting transforms you circumvent this problem.

5) For overlapping or mirrored UVs, use the same set of UV shells all the time. Much like the resetting transforms issue- If you shuffle your UV shells around and use a different set for baking vs handplane you will get shading that faces the wrong direction and a normal map that looks very strange. The simplest solution here is to just use the same model file for baking as you use with handplane.

Troubleshooting

The most common problem people see when using handplane is a tangent space normal map that doesn’t look blue. People often mistake this multi-colored output for a world/object space map. In reality, this is a tangent space map but with shading that is facing the wrong direction. It is typically related to suggestions 3,4, or 5. Another step to figuring out the cause of errors to is to test your object/world space normal maps with a viewport shader and confirm they actually face the correct direction. You can also post in this thread, the official support thread in technical talk, or email me with your issues. [email protected]

Lastly, if you want to see handplane source output compared directly to 3dsmax, maya, and xnormal you can check out this video:
[ame=" engine comparison with handplane - YouTube[/ame]

## Replies

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Yep, gotta give a big thumbs up for Handplane - it's all I use for tangent space maps these days.

I'll try and throw together a quick tutorial on baking object space maps out of MODO (my weapon of choice) for use in Handplane, too.
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polycounter lvl 11
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polycounter lvl 11
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ngon master
Fixed. Thanks cupsster
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I'm worried tho - the normal map generated for fully smoothed lod0 will probably look broken on lod1 model, won't it?
Isn't that safer to give separate smoothing groups for the sharp objects?
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ngon master
MechBgum wrote: »
I'm worried tho - the normal map generated for fully smoothed lod0 will probably look broken on lod1 model, won't it?
Isn't that safer to give separate smoothing groups for the sharp objects?

I responded on the youtube comment but- Yes, you can expect big changes in the model to yield shading errors on the lod. You don't have to smooth everything with handplane, you can bake any way you want to- just with the expectation that no matter how you set up your lowpoly model, the shading behavior will be correct. Lod1 models are so small on screen that it likely wont be a problem. If it does cause a visible issue, add a hard edge or two. With handplane your normals will be generated correctly for source, to what extent you want to stress that functionality is up to the user.
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polycounter lvl 6
Is this specifically for Source or can you get the same results for UDK/Unity?
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ngon master
The quality of the results are engine specific. Unity and UDK both come with an asterix. Unity in forward mode shows slight errors (very subtle) because of how unity handles normalization. In deferred rendering mode the quality is perfect. UDK is more problematic. Handplane should give you the best possible output. Also, unlike the import tangents and explicit normals workflow, it works with skeletal meeshes.

unity testing video:

UDK video:
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ngon master
Also, we should probably update the website to make this clear. Artists selling models through steam workshops do not need a commercial handplane license.
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polycounter lvl 12
Farfarer wrote: »
Yep, gotta give a big thumbs up for Handplane - it's all I use for tangent space maps these days.

I'll try and throw together a quick tutorial on baking object space maps out of MODO (my weapon of choice) for use in Handplane, too.

Farfarer - Patron of Modo in game art!

I also work with Modo and Handplane. It's awesome.
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polycounter lvl 5
Oh cool! I was looking at using this too, but wasn't prepared to spring for a license just for Dota 2. Glad that you guys will allow us to use it for workshop purposes.

Incidentally, I use Modo too haha
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polycounter lvl 10
I'm pretty sure handplane said we can use handplane to submit items to steam workshop before. I think it was in one of previous monthly competitions(maybe august?).
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greentooth
so alec hit me up to write a bit about my experience with handplane,
and its been pretty good so far.

the normals and the resulting shading are just flawless (wich also improves your generated cavity maps).
also the UI is pretty self-explenatory, never had to fiddle around or anything, if you get a correct object space normal bake you practicaly can´t do anything wrong from there.

only issue i ever had was with mirrored overlapping UV´s but putting the mirrored ones on different UV charts solved it, and i had to do that for the source import anyways.

i quickly put together a few images showcasing the normal map quality.

baking correct tangent-normals for a mesh like theese shoulder plates is basicly impossible with the tight polybugdet dota 2 has.

so yeah deffinetly recommending handplane to everyone making dota items.
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ngon master
I'm pretty sure handplane said we can use handplane to submit items to steam workshop before. I think it was in one of previous monthly competitions(maybe august?).

Yeah, that was in a news post on polycount a while back. I realized that several workshop artists weren't aware of that post so I wanted to point it out clearly here.
Goeddy wrote: »
so alec hit me up to write a bit about my experience with handplane,
and its been pretty good so far.

the normals and the resulting shading are just flawless (wich also improves your generated cavity maps).
also the UI is pretty self-explenatory, never had to fiddle around or anything, if you get a correct object space normal bake you practicaly can´t do anything wrong from there.

only issue i ever had was with mirrored overlapping UV´s but putting the mirrored ones on different UV charts solved it, and i had to do that for the source import anyways.

i quickly put together a few images showcasing the normal map quality.

baking correct tangent-normals for a mesh like theese shoulder plates is basicly impossible with the tight polybugdet dota 2 has.

so yeah deffinetly recommending handplane to everyone making dota items.

Thanks Geoddy.
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polycounter lvl 9
Great post, I will be checking this out on my next item.

EDIT: Well I decided to test this out on an already submitted model, and wow, what a difference! Check out her hair parting.

Ok, I mean it's only a small item but it is obviously a much better normal map.
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polycounter lvl 4
@MDk: Wow that quitte a difference!

I think I will give handplane a try as well, didn't expect such a big difference on a small object as that hair. the only thing that I can see is that you did not use the exact pose from the front Mdk, so it can also be the lightning a bit.. Overall it looks a lot cleaner.
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polycounter lvl 3
Looks interesting, especially that it is mentioned that cavity maps will be better which I tend to have issues with when I work with xNormal.

Will give it a go on my next item .

Also, I never knew it was free license for workshop use before. First time I see it is in this post.
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polycounter lvl 9
Andyk125 wrote: »
@MDk: Wow that quitte a difference!

I think I will give handplane a try as well, didn't expect such a big difference on a small object as that hair. the only thing that I can see is that you did not use the exact pose from the front Mdk, so it can also be the lightning a bit.. Overall it looks a lot cleaner.

Although the poses are slightly different, the difference was still as noticeable as it looks in the picture. In any case I will definitely be using this again.
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polycounter lvl 5
Cool didn't know it was free for dota2 blacksmiths. I'll give it a try for my next set.
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polycounter lvl 4
Hey,
can someone hook me up on how to use handplan with dota2 items ? if tried to try it out but kinda failed, i didnt really get any good resulst which could be an importing problem and such. I would love to give it another shot if I would just see why and how to use it correctly.
thx
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ngon master
i have been signing into the dota workshop google hangouts to help people if they have problems. If you jump on there you can show me what is going on.
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polycounter lvl 4
if you are around these hangouts we eventually will meet ^^ today i dont hav ethe time. sry. but i am sure someone will teach me thx