Updated: Apr 4
born from wet, cold feet and my favorite slip-on sneakers. I was sitting at my computer one night, and my dog Bella needed to go out. When I lead her out the back door, I was quickly dismayed. It was pouring down rain and my feet became soaked even through my slippers. I got Bella on the dog line and came inside to sketch some ideas. What if I had a comfortable pair of slippers that were easy to slip in and out of, waterproof, and stylish? What if I wanted to run Bella out for a walk in them? I wouldn't want the soles to track in mud or dirt. This first sketch was mainly to get the idea out of my head and on paper. It's definitely a bit bulky, and more of a lifestyle look than the final product.
Once I had the sketch and a few days to think about the design, it was time to jump into #Modo and start blocking out my idea. 3D is great for concepting and allows you to quickly judge what you like. Modo also makes changing a model fast and painless most of the time.
My favorite shoes have always been the ones you can comfortably slip in and out of. My go-to shoes any time I need to slip something on and run out the door are my New Balance Fuelcell 100s. They are super comfortable, and easy to slide into. I tied the laces once when I got them in 2019 and I'm pretty sure they have never been untied since. Mine are all black, and kind of remind me of a futuristic ninja shoe. I really like that look, and I wanted to pull some of that feeling, and style into this design. So I started with a similar silhouette and broke it into 2 parts.
The Slipper - Comfortable and waterproof, perfect for working from home.
I wanted the slipper to be comfortable and waterproof, for when you are grabbing the mail or letting the dog out. It would need its own outsole, something to grip the ground and make sure you didn't end up as the "slipper." I also wanted it to remind the wearer of a comfortable soft sock, the kind you would wear in winter to walk around the house and keep your toes warm. So I brought the design up over the ankle and added an extra layer of cushion to help keep any rain or snow out of it.
The Sneaker - Extra stability and an added layer of protection from dirt and mud.
If you wanted to run to the local store for some snacks or take the dog around the block, that's when you would slip into the shroud with the more substantial sole and lockdown support.
I decided to forgo traditional laces for a bungee cord system on the outer shroud, I figured if I don't even tie the laces I have most of the time, I probably don't need to worry about it for this design. I added nylon webbing across the forefoot and heel to add structure and stability, as well as an easy way to slip into either the slipper or sneaker. With both pieces of the shoe together you end up with what I think could be an iconic 2 heel loop design.
I wasn't worried about final materials or anything just yet, instead, I used some presets and procedural materials to play with different looks. I was mainly concerned with blocking out the main shapes of the shoe at this stage.
Once I was happy with the base form, it was time to really polish the materials and style.
I brought my Modo model into Substance Painter and started texturing. I was able to find nice knit materials for different parts, and tweak them to fit my design. I came up with a logo and name for my shoe, and after a few tries, I settled on the House Sneaker. A modern take on an old favorite, the house shoe. I added the stitches to the webbing to help with lockdown and made them an extra color pop that I think turned out well. Lastly, I worked on the sole design. I tried a few different variations, some more out there than others but I ultimately decided on a zig-zag pattern for the heel and a subtle raised graphic around the top.
I love #SubstancePainter for realistic materials, and how easy it is to try out different material blocking and stitch lines. Setting up a 3D model to use with Substance Painter takes a little more time, but I think the results speak for themselves. When you're done texturing you can use 3D viewers like #Sketchfab or Marmoset Toolbag to see your model in 3D. I think this is super cool because people can spin your model around and check it out from all angles. Other 3D artists can check out your textures, UVs, and topology too.
Overall I really enjoyed this project. Sometimes working as a professional 3D production artist means you don't get a lot of creativity in your everyday work. This was a nice step away from that, I really got to flex my creative muscles, and because this was my own personal design it meant I could step out of the design constraints I see in a lot of my normal shoe models.