Welcome to the GraphN documentation! This software was built for a very simple purpose: Giving artists the best tools to create virtual worlds.
GraphN connects to your DCCs (your 3D software, such as Maya or UE5), and allows you to automate various 3D art workflows with nodes and ready-made tools. Let's go through the basics, from downloading GraphN to using it to create useful tools for your workflow.
- For starters, head over to polygonflow.io and download the latest version of GraphN. You can get a trial version or subscribe directly from there.
- Before you start the installation, make sure that your DCCs (all Maya and UE versions) are closed.
If you had GraphN installed before, check the Notifications tray and close the GraphN License server if you find it. It has the Polygonflow icon, and you can right-click on it, then hit Quit.
- The installation process also detects all your supported DCCs, and you can install their integration either from this step or later on once you've started GraphN. We recommend installing it at this step.
- Once you've installed GraphN, starting it will give you the following popup, from which you can pick your preferred license model. We usually recommend starting with a trial, and if you're happy with what you're seeing, you can buy a subscription later, or continue using GraphN for non-commercial projects even after the trial version expires.
- The trial version will ask you to input an email, to which a license key will be sent. Once you've received it, copy the license key, then go back to the GraphN license activation panel shown above, select the first option Activate License, and then put in your license key to activate it. If the license is valid, the color around the license field will turn green, and the Continue button will be clickable.
- And that's it! If you didn't install the Unreal Engine or Autodesk Maya integrations before, you can always do it from the GraphN front page.
If upon installation you receive an anti-virus warning, please ignore it and reach out to us on discord or at email@example.com, and we'll make sure to include it in our anti-virus whitelist.
If you're facing any issue with the installation or licensing, please reach out to us with a description (and screenshot when possible) of the problem to firstname.lastname@example.org
The GraphN user interface is fairly straightforward: since the software connects to your DCC, you often have like in this screenshot, your 3D software on the top, in this case, Maya, then your GraphN graph on the bottom. We also have the properties panel visible on the right, and all the nodes in the center.
If you look at the menu bar right here:
The first four square icons on the left represent four different base layouts for your GraphN user interface. The button with the green text is a dropdown that shows you the list of DCCs that are currently running on your machine, with GraphN installed in them. You can select any software in that dropdown, and GraphN will connect to it.
- The Export Graph button exports your graphs to use them straight within your DCC, without needing GraphN (more on that right here).
- The Runtime checkbox is there to toggle runtime execution to your connected DCC, in this case, Maya 2023. If checked, anytime you change a parameter or move a slider in GraphN, the graph will run in your DCC and update its result.
- If Runtime is unchecked, you'd have to either press on the Run button to the right or hit CTRL+R to run your graph.
In order to connect GraphN with your DCC, you need to install the GraphN Library, which is an extensive integration into our current supported DCCs: Autodesk Maya 2018 to 2023, and UE5. UE4 support will be available in the near future, with more DCCs set to follow. During the installation process, we help you install all integrations available by automatically detecting which 3D software you have that we support. But you can always do this step again through the GraphN Homepage.
Installing an integration from there is fairly simple: go to the Homepage tab in GraphN or to the Integrations menu, then install the integration of your target DCC. In the case of Maya, this is all you have to do:
In the case of Unreal Engine, you can simply click on the Install Unreal Engine Integration button and let GraphN detect the software for you, or you can start your UE version, click on that installation button, confirm its installation, then restart UE. That should be it!
Once you've gone past the basics, GraphN gives you an incredibly flexible workflow that's appealing to both artists and technical artists.
To demonstrate what this means in action, let's take a look at this graph and its behavior:
The setup is extremely minimalistic: we have our ground and plants, we scatter points on the ground, then create instances of the plants. We pass the positions and rotations of each scattered point to our instance node. The end result is connected to the root node, and that's it.
You should always ensure that you connect your final result (in this case, the Create Instances node) to the Root node, as it's responsible for computing the graph, and won't be aware of any node tree that doesn't have the root node as its right-most node.
To add any of those nodes in the graph, simply hit Space or Tab and the node search popup will appear. From there, you can search the nodes by their names, or arbitrary keywords, as all nodes have tags that can help you find them even if you don't know the exact name.
To get the Ground and Plants nodes in the graph, simply select your ground in your 3D scene, then back in GraphN, hit ALT+S to get the object that's selected in your viewport, or ALT+A if you want to select assets like materials.
Let's say we wanted to scatter these plants only near other objects:
Here, we've added a path, passed it to input curve in order to retrieve its data, then used a points proximity node to find the closest plants on a path. If you look at the properties editor on the bottom-right, you'll notice that we have the reverse property set to false, which means that instead of giving you the closest plants to the path, the node points proximity will give you the farthest plants from the path. The distance property is being changed in the video, and it nicely affects the width of our small road.
To take things one step further, let's make the plants near the path slightly smaller, as that's what you'd often observe in nature:
The scaling is done thanks to one node: points blur. This node has a radius property, and dragging it up or down will give you bigger or smaller plants near the path. Now let's talk about the elephant in the room: we're already seeing some wires crossing each other, which is the pet peeve of all node graphs software. We have various ways of solving this problem in GraphN, and the simplest one is named node reference.
The idea is simple, you right-click on a node like scatter points, create a reference of it, then pass that reference to points blur, which in turn reduces all the wire crossings. Here it is in action:
Reference nodes allow you to access any data from your node graph, which helps a lot with graph readability and complexity. Reference nodes are just one of the many features we've built into GraphN that make it a unique software to work with.
This nodal interface is the heart of GraphN. The viewport? That's Unreal Engine 5's. The software effortlessly connects to UE5 or Autodesk Maya 2018 to 2023. Here is the same graph doing its magic in Autodesk Maya 2022:
We'll be rolling out Unreal Engine 4.26 and 4.27 support later this year, and got Unity, 3DS Max and Blender on our roadmap. Long term, we want GraphN to be the workflow automation platform: you can be an expert UE5 user, automate a task with GraphN, and share/sell it to all users that rely on one of the software GraphN supports.
Before we wrap up this section, I wanted to show you a quick tip: hiding all properties on your node that are not connected! You can do that by right-clicking on the node and clicking on Hide Non-Connected, or by clicking on the three dots at the top-right of every node, and toggling individual properties that you want to hide on the node.
Remembers earlier when we installed GraphN's integration into your DCC? That wasn't just some plugin that connects GraphN to the target DCC, but so much more: GraphN Library is a plugin that sits right inside your DCC, and gives you a library of ready-made tools that can help accelerate your workflow like never before. Every tool in this library is created with GraphN, and not only can you create your own tools, you also get access to various incredibly useful utilities with this plugin. For starters, this is what using a tool is like:
As you can see in the video, there's a small panel in which you can set some parameters like what's your terrain and plants, and the tool automatically runs with the expected results. All other modifications then become just a slider away, giving you a fast and non-destructive approach to world-building and any other 3D automation task.
How does one create a tool like that, you may ask: The process is relatively simple: in GraphN you need to right-click on the properties of any node you want to display in your tool, then hit Expose Property. Here's a quick demonstration of how that works:
As you can see, exposing a property creates a node of type Values. You also get a popup where you can set some basic parameters like what's gonna be the default value of your tool property, what's its tooltip, and so on. Once you're happy with what you've got, you can just hit OK, then move on to whatever other property you want to expose. You can get back to that menu anytime by right-clicking on your exposed node, then hitting Edit Exposed Property. Exposed nodes have a distinct bright blue header, and when you select them, you'll see their type "Values" appear right above the node.
Our mission is to create a well-rounded ecosystem where artists and tech artists can create, share and sell their tools, and then others can use them within the GraphN Library. Long term, we see a thriving and creator-driven movement where we all help each other in our quest to work smarter and get home by dinner. GraphN is available completely for free for non-commercial use. GraphN Library is available under a subscription, with a perpetual license model planned in the near future.
You can learn the nuts and bolts of the user interface right here, check the setup & installation section here, explore the various other sections ( Scattering Primer, Geometry Primer, Curves Primer) of this documentation. The software is still fairly small, and mastering it can be a fairly straightforward process. Don't forget to check out our FAQ, or join our Discord if you need anything :)