After a lot of trial and error, not to mention frustration resulting from this, I came to the conclusion the way I planned on carrying out my project just wasn't going to work. Long story short, my plan for creating physical textures to then apply to Maya models is no longer the direction I am taking with my project, below is my process of reaching this conclusion.
My initial plan was to first model, then reduce/triangulate to low poly all eight animals in Maya. Then take them into the PePaKuRa software, unfold their meshes, then export them into the PePaKuRa silhouette viewer, print the mesh, and export into Silhouette Studio to then load the printed mesh into my Silhouette Cameo machine, and have it auto cut out the mesh for me, meaning its very precise and much quicker.
The first issue I ran into was PePaKuRa allowed me to see I had some odd things going on with some of my models, hidden faces and unjoined vertices etc, especially on the penguin, I'm guessing from where I had (badly) joined multiple models - meaning I had to go back into Maya and spend some time cleaning up. However there was then another problem, again with the penguin, and also with the elephant and orangutan models - the meshes were destroyed. I had had the same issue before with my Jet-pack Jones body model. I would work on it, save it, then when I reopen the file next time I go to work on it, the model is all over the place. I've now figured out I think its something to do with not deleting history(/enough?) before saving. I also messed around a lot with ensuring Maya was fully up to date, deleting and resetting preferences folders, etc, plus of course I now make sure I always have Maya auto save enabled and running correctly as I kept having Maya not quite behave how I thought it should or how I needed it to (as usual though).
Fixing the penguin low poly model, sorting points and ensuring symmetrical and clean.
Once I had all my animals successfully modelled and reduced and actually fixed, I started taking them into the PePaKuRa software and experimenting with different ways of unfolding the meshes. I also played around with different sizes for the actual models when assembled, as this all effects how large the pieces are, how many sheets of paper etc you need, and how it can all fit onto the paper, so therefore how large your unfolded meshes can be. I have some screenshots from experimenting, but its basically all the same screenshots for each model, so below are some from the penguin. I had to re-do the penguin mesh I already did for the interim crit, as I realised it would be not only much easier to assemble if I could easily identify what piece went where, but also it would make it easier for applying physical textures, working out what patterns I wanted where and how it would all look together, as I would have to work in pen on the unfolded mesh. So I tried to keep these meshes pretty symmetrical. I was basically creating UVs, but in PePaKuRa. This way also shows the difference in outcomes between allowing PePaKuRa to unfold your mesh for you, and manually deciding where the mesh is cut and which edges would have to be joined later in assembly.
Manually cut model
Unfolded model from my cut lines
I then spent time going through and deciding which pieces should again be separated, to try and make things much more symmetrical, and also having to make sure nothing was over-lapping which would mean I would not have a complete model once assembled.
Highlighting different areas to check what part of the mesh they relate to.
Finished unfolded model, laid out to take up as little space and few sheets as possible. This particular unfolded mesh was to be 25cm tall once assembled. There were lots of different size ones I experimented with though.
Last stage is to export as a DFX file, ready to be taken into the PePaKuRa viewer for Silhouette.
However, this is once again where I ran into problems. No matter how many times I exactly followed the instructions on the PePaKuRa website, I just could not get the viewer software to work properly with silhouette. Whats meant to happen is it allows you to print your mesh with all the registration marks and fits perfectly to page as displayed in PePaKuRa, then simply open it in silhouette and hit cut. But each time I did it, things would cut wrong/off the line. The size would be correct (most the time at least) but for some reason I just couldn't get it to line up, which of course meant all the fold lines were off.
However I thought of a fix, which involved just skipping the viewer software entirely - I brought the file directly into my silhouette studio software. Not even sure at this point what the point of the viewer software is exactly, as its pretty easy to work your head around working in the silhouette software. I also took notes through my processes to keep track of what I was doing.
My process was to bring in each page as a new project, as each project can only be 1 page large. Then enable all the print, cut and registration marks, to know my size boundaries. Next make the outer edges of the mesh a dark grey, and inner blue and red fold lines a light grey and set the line style to dotted. This means I can cut semi perforated for easier folding. Different coloured lines are sued to represent different types of cut in silhouette studio so that's why the different shades of grey. I also chose grey as I thought it would be the best colour to hopefully not be that noticeable once the animal was assembled and textured. I then scaled up all 3 documents to 105% (for the penguin) which is the largest I could make them for them all the be equal and still fit in the boundaries. Previously I had just been using copy paper to try and get the print and cut lines to match, but now needed to use watercolours paper as I would be texture experimenting with watercolours so I had to experiment with test cuts, to see what blade thickness, setting and speed worked the best. (Again, just the penguin's here as the settings are the same for each, so are the screenshots). I also had to ensure that all the lines' thicknesses were set to 1 point in the line settings, so the printer would actually recognise them and print them, allowing me to see what I was doing when assembling. Next was to print and cut, and (success!) the print and cut lines finally matched up.
This is where the next set of issue began however. This particular penguin size I found was far too small to actually easily physically draw patterns onto, plus assembly was really very fiddly, and the thickness of the paper made it quite hard to work with the smaller faces. So I also experimented with creating larger meshes, final assembly height of 40/50/60cm. However the problems I was facing now was actually being able to fit the model on the sheets, I was having to cut the meshes into much smaller sections, meaning it was getting more confusing come assembly time, and sections which I wanted to have joining textures etc weren't looking right. Also there was the issue of scanning back in the meshes to take and apply these textures back on my Maya models. My original plan was to scan and then edit and brighten/clean up in Photoshop my painted and drawn on mesh pieces, then apply to UVs for my models. However I couldn't get the scanned pieces to match with my UVs right and actually look how I wanted. Next idea was to trim off all the edge flaps from the physical mesh in Photoshop, and save as was. Then bring that image in as a texture on a flat plane in Maya, and add edges and vertices on top of the mesh edges etc, then attempt to clip said vertices to their corresponding Maya mesh, to create the animals texture using these texture "shells" from a plane. I didn't get very far with that though as everything was stretching and not working and it was all just going very wrong.
Long story short. I realised at this point I should probably just call it a day on the way I was trying to do things, as it just really wasn't working, was far too complicated and was taking up so much time. Plus the results I was getting physically weren't going quite to plan, with watercolours not working quite how or where I wanted, the placement, vibrancy, and errors in drawing too. I had already downloaded several watercolour Photoshop brush sets to help spruce up my textures in Photoshop, so I thought, why not just create all the textures in Photoshop. This way I could work just onto the UVs, I wouldn't have to faff with PePaKuRa, printing and cutting, physically working, scanning, cleaning up and then also trying to get the texture back onto the Maya model. I gave it a shot, my original plan for my project fell through, but you have to know when to call it if something isn't working.
Next step was to go back over my UVs for my animals that I had done (as I didnt try the UVs method with all of them) , and change them around to work with designing the textures in photoshop, as well as then create the UV sets for the rest of the animals too. Next posts will be my updated and final UV sets for my animals.
Then on from there, actaully trying out fully in Photoshop to create the water-coloured and patterned textures, hopefully how I half envisioned them looking at least.