3 Tips to Improve Your Surfacing of an Asset

Decisions on How to Surface.

There are three main ideas that I consider when surfacing an asset.

1) What is it?

2) What is its relationship to the camera? 

3) What is its story?

Often a surfacer or texture artist, will receive artwork that will show what the production designer/art director wants. Other times we will have to rely on the storyboards or the script to figure out what is needed.

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.”

I will be using this nursery rhyme as an example and the assignment is to surface the prop “pail.”



What is it?

First thing that needs to be decided is what material is it made out of? Is it plastic, metal or wood or even a champagne bucket made of glass? What is the style? Is it cartoony or photoreal? The first stop is always the artwork. In this example, it’s a realistic wooden bucket with a rope handle.

Great! Now we know that we need a wood texture and a rope texture!


What is its relationship to the camera?

It’s important to know how much time to put into completing your assignment. We know we are surfacing a prop, but is it a hero prop that will be handled by the main character or is it only a piece of set dressing that is far from that camera?

This is where storyboards and layout/previz are helpful. Knowing how the asset is being used in context is very important. The most efficient workflow is to have the cameras available and do your test renders from those cameras. If you don’t see it, then there is not much point in spending your time on those areas. It is also important to have the right size texture maps. Having texture maps that are too small will cost you resolution and maps that are overly large will make rendering more time consuming.

In our example, the “pail” will be handled by the characters and seen in multiple shots, including close-ups. This means that our asset should be surfaced completely and have decent sized maps.



What is its story?

Next we need to figure out the story of the asset. Is the story about a futuristic robotic self- levitating pail? Is the story about a brand new lacquered cherrywood pail with inlaid mother of pearl? No. The artwork shows that it is an old pail that is sitting on top of the hill by a country well.

Great! Now we know that we need to age the asset.

Now we do research! This is where we look for reference. How does wood look like when it’s been sitting in the sun, or with water damage? Internet image searches are invaluable, but going out in the real world with a camera (even a camera phone) can be just as useful. Always start with the artwork, but supplement!

Decide on the color of the wood and the size of the grain. Adding stains and discoloration can add character and interest to even a simple object like a pail. And you can go even further and add “hair” to the rope to look like fibers and displacement to make cracks in the wood, however you don’t want to over do it if it is not really called for.

There are many more decisions that need to be made with every asset, but these three questions will help you make the best choices possible when starting each new assignment.

The Author

Linda Kurgpõld

Linda Kurgpõld

Linda Kurgpõld is a veteran of the entertainment industry, working as a digital artist for the past 20 years. She has worked on such diverse projects as Academy Award winning feature films, TV commercials, video games, previsualization and animation, including a six year stint at Dreamworks Animation. She has specialized in textures and surfacing for the past 12 years.

Linda grew up in Studio City, California and received two degrees from the University of Southern California, a BA in Cinema Production with a minor in Fine Arts and a MFA in Animation.


Talent Spotlight: Introducing Violette Sacre!

This week we got to learn more about the amazing look dev artist who’s been working hard on Bink’s Textures and Fur: Violette Sacre!

Violette always knew she wanted to work in animation but never knew it could one day come true!

She comes from a multicultural family and grew up in many countries : America, Belgium, Spain and France, but always had one constant passion wherever she lived: the love for Art.

At a young age, her mom put a pencil in her hand and encouraged her to Draw. As she grew, Violette enjoyed exploring all forms of Art, from drawing to sculpture, and would often find herself illustrating for her Mom and Community of Valbonne (small town in the south of France): illustrating such things as Poems and stories her mom wrote, articles for the local newspaper and holiday cards for the local school fundraisers. 

Like all 'kids' working in Animation today she was greatly inspired by Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks, 'The little mermaid', or 'La Sirenita' as Violette knew her while living in Spain at the time, would be the influence that really sparked her passion for Animation. But it was really when she saw 'Shrek' for the first time, with all of its rich texture and lighting work that she then fell in love with 3D Animation! With a computer Geek as a dad it also made sense to follow in his footsteps and study something that had 'computers' in the title and so, she decided to pursue a career in Computer Animation.

Violette was lucky to fulfill those dreams by getting into Ringling College of Art and Design's Computer Animation Program and landing her first job at Dreamworks Animation where she was privileged to work on films such as 'The Croods', 'How to Train your Dragon', and 'Madagascar2'.

When Eric Approached Violette about working on 'Bink', she immediately fell in love with the cute character and was excited to have the chance to help bring him to life! Originally, Bink wasn’t going to have fur but Violette was determined to make Eric’s vision of Bink having fur come true (and he looks incredible!). To Violette, one of the most rewarding aspects of Look Development is making people’s visions come true!

In her free time, Violette loves to spend time with her husband and three-year-old son. She enjoys gardening, developing characters and stories, and helping her husband expand his photography business.

One of her greatest wishes is to one day finish illustrating all her late Mother's prolific writings and to publish them in her honor.

To learn more about Violette, check out her website here!

Talent Spotlight: Introducing Linda Kurgpõld

We’re excited to introduce an extremely talented creative professional, Linda Kurgpõld! Linda has been working with Eric Miller Animation Studios on a few recent projects, including Bink. 

Linda specializes in surfacing and modeling, which means she creates everything you’re going to see on the screen during the pre-animation process. Coming from a long lineage of artists, Linda started out at USC as a fine art student. Linda had always been extremely artistic and had multiple creative outlets, like painting or playing the clarinet in the marching band. Her junior year of undergrad she switched over to the USC Cinema Program. She had always been fascinated by everything that went into creating a film and had decided that she was going to be a filmmaker. Soon after graduation, Linda realized that the aspect of film that she was most interested in was animation. She started the USC Master’s program in animation and it was during that time she found a passion for computer animation.

Linda’s always been amazed with how films are made and she still watches the special features on DVDs to find out how things work. To her, making movies will never lose it’s magic, which is why she’s been doing it for the past 20 years.

She’s spent the last couple of years taking advantage of all that LA has to offer. When she’s not working on a large project you can find her traveling, visiting with family, going to museums, or taking up photography.

Want to know more about Linda and her work? Check out