By Michael Burns | on November 29, 2004
Pros: Lockable brushes, Styles and Style Browser simplify painting textures. Handles perspective, reflections and materials well. Versatile cutouts ideal for adding realism.
Cons: Unusual system with some interface quirks. No Maya import or Mac version yet. Application use perhaps limited to architectural work. Moderately expensive for everyday use.
Piranesi is primarily used by architects. It’s a painting tool that imports 3D scenes or 2D plans, and allows you to apply textures and add elements as you would in Photoshop. Piranesi’s interface is basic compared to Adobe’s ubiquitous image editor, but the two programs have similar scene navigators, toolboxes, and brush styles. However, Piranesi does boast some unique elements.
Scenes are imported into Piranesi by rendering models as a flat-shaded image in the EPix format, if the modelling application supports it. Plug-ins for 3DS Max, Cinema 4D, and LightWave are on the CD. Alternatively, you can convert
the file to EPix using the bundled Vedute application. EPix has two types – standard (.epx) and Panorama (.epp) – imported as a single image with depth information. Once in the application, you paint by using the toolbox settings such as applicator type, colour, texture, or render action. You can zoom in and out of scenes using a mouse wheel and can restrict your painting to only certain items, such as those rendered in a particular material, using the Material lock style.
Similarly, the Orientation lock and Plane lock styles allow you to restrict the plane and direction of your painting. 3D Brushes can be applied, which match their orientation to the plane beneath the pointer. Another type, the raster brush, picks up an image to define the brush shape. Textures applied with the raster brush can be adjusted – you can manipulate the size, shape, position, and orientation of the raster texture immediately. You can use Alpha textures, and Fade effects add perspective to textured scenes, while there are several ways to create a more photorealistic scene, using reflections, shadows, and lighting.
Styles represent a saved collection of toolbox settings such as brush size and type, colour, and texture. These are listed in the Style Browser. This window allows you to select styles using various views, as well as edit and delete them. After painting you can add Cutouts. These are pieces of stage scenery such as people, cars, or trees that populate a scene and add a touch or realism – you can even import your own pictures as Cutouts. These are not just useless paper stencils – they scale accurately to a scene and interact with objects, and they have alpha and colour information that can be edited, before they are finally ‘burned’ into the scene.
As a way of painting textures, adding depth, and finishing 3D scenes, Piranesi is a high-quality and fast solution. However, the hefty price tag makes it more of a niche product – more of an architect’s application than an essential addition to your creative toolbox.