Skinning layers are a central feature of ngSkinTools. With them, you break your rig down into easier manageable parts and edit them separately, then blend everything together through layer transparency.
They’re not just a simple way to make your work more organized - they also physically isolate groups of influences from the rest of the rig, so paint and edit operations won’t mix-in influences you were not expecting. This also allows you to do things that were impossible before: per-layer mirroring, adjusting influence weight up/down through layer transparency, blend transferred weights with previous weights, to name a few.
Just like in the previous version, ngSkinTools brings its own weight painting tools. Improving viewport experience is the main focus of V2, and it's complete revamp over the previous implementation.
- Selecting influences on screen, a #1 requested feature from users, is nowhere. Just hold “S” and drag over the surface to select dominant influence from that part of the mesh, or hover over a joint pivot to select precisely the joints you want;
- In addition to the usual surface projection mode for the brush, the new “screen” brush projection mode is useful when you want to quickly set weights for both sides of the mesh;
- Custom shortcuts while in paint mode allow for quick access to intensity presets;
- Color feedback is now provided through VP2 APIs, greatly improving the performance of displayed meshes.
Keeping weights in harmony with each other is not easy. ngSkinTools help you smooth weights with the control you need, allowing you to control the intensity, number of iterations and effective radius. For very dense meshes, added “iterations” argument now allows for the quicker spread of smoothness over larger areas of the mesh.
The “relax” tool from V1 is gone. With major performance rework, you’ll notice that simple flood-smoothing is now much faster and should be a near-instant operation even with large meshes.
The opposite “brother” of smooth brush, “sharpen”, is also there - for cases where you want to just bring out the dominant influences
Mirroring is one of the most frequent automated tasks you might want from your skinning tool. With ngSkinTools, you’ll be able to:
- Mirror rigs in any pose; no need to switch to T-pose;
- Have granular control over left/right/center influences mapping, matching left/right joints by naming convention, joint labels, etc;
- Easily mirror parts of your rig by leveraging layers;
- Automatic mirroring of weights to the opposite side as you paint so that you don’t need to get distracted from painting while working on symmetrical layers.
With the “mirror as a layer effect” feature, ngSkinTools introduce a new concept to ngSkinTools - layer effects. This differs from automatic mirroring of weights as it’s not directly modifying your layer weights; instead, it’s a post-effect that happens in the background buffer. This has multiple benefits, like a much cleaner seamline of left/right sides, the ability to tweak mirroring settings AFTER weights are painted, etc.
As its predecessor, ngSkinTools2 operates on standard Maya skinCluster (also known as “smooth skin”), so no custom nodes will be required to use your rig. The plugin has a couple of custom nodes, but they’re only required while you work on setting up your skin weights and can be deleted after, so your work should stay compatible with most pipelines out there.
A lot of speed improvements have been made since V2, like improving the utilization of modern multi-core processors, or eliminating bottlenecks through much heavier use of performance profiling. Having a responsive, snappy tool is always a pleasure to work with.