In May of 2008, I had the chance to review Argile, a digital sculpting and painting software package from the French company N-Sided. Right now I will be reviewing the recently released Argile 2. If you’re not familiar with this software, I would recommend you read my original review first, as I will mostly focus on the new features here.
Argile is a painting and sculpting tool. You can setup entire scenes in it and render them, as you have the ability to import assets, setup lights, transform your models in any way and output images. However, personally I find Argile to be more of an intermediate tool than a finishing tool, meaning that you will mostly use it to make changes to your objects rather than rendering out images.
The software has 3 different modules (called Studios), for sculpting, painting and rendering. The Sculpture Studio is where you modify your models with the different tools. New to the Sculpture Studio is the “On-model advanced edition.” This is an amazing tool that allows you to slide your UVs along the model to fix any texture stretching.
Usually, stretching fixed by moving the different UV vertices by hand, and that makes this tool very useful. Since you’re moving the actual UVs of the model, they are stored with the model during export, so your fixed texture will look the same in Argile and any other software you may be using.
In the Sculpture Studio you can also playback and output a small morphing sequence. Basically, what you do is create a base shape and a morphed shape, and then playback this animation. Although this is a nice feature, it is very unlikely you will be using it on a daily basis.
The paint module has gone through some changes under the hood to make it work faster. Other changes include the ability to select the texture resolution when you enter the module, more brushes (you can select your brushes from the included Catalog), and also the ability to connect to your 2D painting application.
The Catalog is a library of objects included with Argile 2, allowing you to easily create scenes. The Catalog also includes materials, textures, morphs and brushes.
With the External Paint feature you can now send the textures of your current object to your painting application, keeping a “live connection” between them. What this means is that you can paint your textures in your painting application, and each time you save those changes are shown in the Argile window.
There’s still something I don’t fully like about Argile’s paint module: you can’t use layers. This is a drawback as you can’t modify the different effects of your texture after they’ve been painted. Luckily, you can actually flatten the strokes before they become part of the texture, and this means you can tweak your strokes before flattening them. However, this is more of a work-around, as this can’t completely replace a good texture layering system, such as those available in pro applications.
The paint module also includes UV creation tools so that you can create them from scratch.
In the Render Studio you can now display real-time self shadows. This is a nice feature, but depending on your video card, this may slow down your viewport (this comment is aimed at people using gaming cards like the Geforce or Radeon series). Personally, I almost never use real-time shadows on my viewports because I don’t need to see them until render time. As I said before, I don’t see Argile as a finishing tool, but rather as an intermediate tool that prepares my model for the next stage.
Overall, Argile 2 is worth checking out. If you like version 1, version 2 will be very likeable as well. There are still a couple of things that can be improved, such as the lack of layers in the painting module, but even with those limitations Argile is worth checking out.
Unrelated to this review, if you want to keep up with me and everything I'm working on, you can visit my blog. You can also follow me on Twitter.
Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.