The winners of the Meet MAT 2 contest have so far been kind enough to share with us the process behind the overall art direction of their entries, and their use of displacement for this contest. For this third and final article on the winners’ creative methodologies, they share their insights regarding their approach to the texturing of their artwork.
William Ruhlig, ‘Polar CliMATe Scientist’
William Ruhlig was the winner of the General category of the Meet MAT 2 contest. He is an indie game developer, and a freelance artist and motion graphics designer. He also teaches at the University of Pretoria, in South Africa.
When it came to texturing, I made extensive use of Substance Source for my project as a source for base materials. Amazingly, I found a material called ‘Cotton Polar Fleece’ which seemed really similar to the brand of coat that scientists often use in the Antarctic, so this was a perfect material to use as a base for the coat. But of course, on top of this I added a lot of dirt and wear and various other details.
I also experimented with some other Substance Source materials, like the one I used for the reflector strips on the penguin’s jacket. Originally, I think this Source material is for car lights, but it worked really well and gave me the effect I needed to make the reflector strips look extra-realistic. Other Substance Source materials were things like the pebbles for the base, the seat belt material I used for the straps, and of course, the snow.
Most of the materials visible in the project used those Source materials to get their base channels, but I then did various things to them to alter them to suit what I was picturing in my head. The snow on the ground was a combination of a couple of materials, like snow and ice, that I then height blended with pebbles and rocks. I also painted height on the snow to create footprints and other details. I really like the ease with which Substance Painter can combine and modify materials using blend modes and filters; this is super-useful in getting things ‘just right’.
For the glass on his goggles I used a grunge generator for the metallicity to get more interesting variation in the colors. I used a gradient filter to vary the colors across the curves of the glass; this gives that cool iridescent color effect and the high metal-ness brings this color out into the reflections.
I’m just getting into the whole Substance ecosystem, and I’ll soon be looking at creating materials from scratch in Designer! I’m excited by the possibilities!
I hand-painted almost all the details – like all artists, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to getting what’s in my head onto a design, and hand-painting just comes naturally to me.
I especially used different brushes for detailing the soft, feathery fur on the face and on the penguin’s hood. Conveniently, there’s already a fur brush in Substance Painter; I used this. I also used a stitch brush; I customized its size and painstakingly added cotton stitches to the fabric. This was by far one of the most tedious processes, but I really feel like it paid off – I wanted to make it look like he’d been on a research expedition for a while and that he’d had to sew up his jacket a few times, and add a few patches to it. I also used this brush to design my penguin’s very on patch, and to stitch on the South African flag.
I used a pack of free cloth fold alphas to add some base height shapes to the fabric, then from there I detailed the fabric by hand and contoured it more to the shape of the model.
To conclude, I’ll add that participating in this contest has been an amazing experience for me, both in terms of how much I got to learn, and how much I could get involved with the wider digital art community!
Adam Scott, ‘Sea Monkey’
Adam Scott won second place in the General category of the Meet MAT 2 contest. He is currently a character artist at Bungie.
When setting up base layers for materials, I’ll usually check if there’s already a similar Smart Material for the material type I’m planning. If one exists, I add it, then go through each of the contained layers to ensure it works for me. I usually delete any wear masks because I’ll be doing a full wear pass later, and I’ll adjust any tiling rates on detail layers to match my scale.
For Sea Monkey, I did browse through the Substance Source library and, though there are some impressive shaders, they were overly complex for the custom work I was targeting.
And so, here’s the general process for how I’d progress each material type, focusing on the textile suit and the brass collar.
Typically, I start with a clean base material that represents what the smooth material would look like if it were fresh from the shop. Then I create some larger forms to represent more of the design, or main forms. Once I have a solid base, I start to break up the surface. First with a general pass on everything, then with more targeted detail work. The dirt layer comes at the end to help tie everything together.
Most of the specific grunge detailing was done two ways, either by tiling procedural textures with tri-planar projection, or some adjusted smart masks. It wouldn’t be unusual to combine these methods in the same layer mask, and to do some custom paint layer on top.
For hard surface elements that required some more technical displacement, I created some simple alphas in Photoshop and imported them into Painter. This let me easily stamp them across the model in whatever scale and rotation I needed. I used the Projection tool and stamped these into layer masks.
As for painting, 99% of the time I’d just use the standard brush with default alpha and settings. I mostly did this to paint out some poorly placed detail I’d got from procedural or tiling textures. For this model, I adjusted some basic settings to make a simple stitch brush, which I used along some clothing seams. Occasionally I might swap the alpha of the brush to more of a dirt splatter for some custom breakup, but I usually got a decent result with procedurals and tileables before having to do this.
Ayagaure Sanchez, ‘Sea Sadness’
Ayi Sanchez won third place in the General category of the Meet MAT 2 contest. He is Senior Environment Artist at MachineGames.
I always try to create my materials from scratch, but I use as many things as I can to accomplish this, from photosource stuff to detailed normals or filters. The important thing is for the material to look good, and for you to do a good composition with whatever you have at hand.
In this case, for the wood I started out by using one of the base materials that comes by default with Substance Painter. I stripped it down to the base layer and began with some HSL, changing the hue and saturation. Then I added the wood grain to get an idea of the scale of the detail; I applied this using the stencil mode as a mask with a solid color. I then added color layers, darkening with hand-painted gradients to facilitate its readability. Adding a few of these layers also helped change the hues, so that everything doesn’t fall into the same chromatic range.
I like to use solid colors in different blend modes, apply a black mask, and later a paint layer to do things manually with my own alphas and brushes.
On top of this, I added different weathering layers, especially dust and sun bleach to ground the wood in reality. Desaturation came in as part of this, adding extra readability.
For the metal I started with a clean color, making sure it felt like the metal I was trying to reproduce. Then I kept adding small scratches and grunge maps as glossiness only. On top of this I added a bit of bump in different ranges, always hand-masking parts so the result wasn’t uniform and generic.
Once I was happy with the base, I added layers of different types of patina and scratched black paint. Again, nothing magical, solid colors but well masked. It was important to enrich these layers as much as possible, so I particularly used greens, browns and even some purple tones.
In order to represent the more beaten areas of the metal, I added a layer for edges and peaks, slightly reducing reflectivity and changing the albedo a bit.
As before, weathering came on top of everything in order to merge it all together.
The base of the model is just a simple black plastic, with some sand. I tried to integrate both together through some fine spreading and alphas. I decided to add some kelp so to give it an interesting note, which wouldn’t be too distracting.
Barnacles were my bridge between the base and the legs, unifying wood and sand in a very simple but effective way. There are a lot of minor layers involved in making the transition smooth, most of them just solid colors with low opacity, all hand-painted.
All my details are created through masking. I usually start with a black mask and then tons of paint layers and occasionally generators. I have a couple of random brushes specially for chipped paint, that I use for almost everything. These mostly change the rotation of the alpha, and then I manually increase or decrease the size, creating or deleting shapes inside others but really just using the same shape. You can see it in the GIF, below.
I have my own personal alpha library that I’ve built through the years. I have my name Ayi_ as part of the naming convention, so in this way I can create a subshelf, type my name and have all of them one click away. I use them with either brush or stencil mode.
Nikolay Marinov, ‘KukerMat’
Nikolay Marinov won first place in the Student category in the Meet MAT 2 contest. He is a fourth-year student of computer engineering at the ‘Angel Kanchev’ University of Ruse, in Bulgaria, and is currently working on his final thesis at the University of Coimbra, Portugal.
When it came to generating materials, I created a few alphas in Substance Designer because I’m a lot faster at shape creation there than in image manipulation software like Adobe Photoshop. I only used two external materials, one that I created in Substance Designer and one from Substance Share that I blended with the one from Designer, and with the other layer stacks in my file.
The first material I’ll talk about is the horn material. I used some of the alphas that come with Substance to create and refine the shape and then painted out the pixels around it with a couple of different materials to texture the sides when the tessellation was active, as you can see in the image below.
The second material I’ll talk about is the wool. It’s a pretty simple material that utilizes tricks I learned from my work with Substance Designer. On the image below I illustrated my workflow with Substance Designer. Although I made everything in Substance Painter, I just find nodes easier to understand.
The third material I’ll discuss is the Global Edge Wear material. I made it a couple of years ago and I use it in all of my textures. Every time I use it I modify it to fit the purpose of the project. It consists of a couple of different layers that utilize different noises to get a more naturally worn result; after I’m done with it I create a simple white Fill Layer and multiply it on top of the layer stack to get a sun-worn effect.
The last material I wanted to talk about is the very simple cobblestone material on the base. I use a brick generator, offset the bricks by 0.5 and use the scale random parameter. After that I use bevel and blur and then slope blur it with a couple of noises. After that I just hand-paint a green fill layer with the blending mode set to passthrough so that I can save the mid-level detail underneath.
I just created just a few alphas in Substance Designer to be used in this project. Everything else I painted by hand selecting alphas from those that come with Substance Painter.
Francesc Loyo Valls, ‘Ancient MAT Armor’
Francesc Loyo Valls won second place in the Student category in the Meet MAT 2 contest. He is currently studying a Master’s Degree in Video Game Art at The Superior Institude of Applied Arts (LISAA), in Paris, France.
Once I had the shapes of the Ancient MAT Armor completely defined, I started with the material process. To do so, I decided to try out different materials on the piece, just to see which one looked better. In fact, testing different metal materials is one of the reasons I came up with the idea of making an armor, because I loved how they enhanced the shapes and details.
Finally, the only materials I ended up using were the default ones included in Substance Painter. However, I did apply a few modifications to the color and roughness of these materials, to make them better suit my specific project.
The Ancient Mat Armor is mainly composed of 4 materials: copper, for the contours of the plates; silver, for the interior of the plates; green rust for the cavities in the armor; and red velvet in between the plates.
There were three key elements that I used to create the detail in this piece. The first was the application of patterns to, for example, create the geometric decoration on the body or give the effect of hammered metal on the character’s face.
The second element was the use of the smart masks that I’d created in the displacement section to separate the different materials. For example, I managed to separate the copper contours from the silver plates with the help of these masks.
Finally, the last key element for the detail creation was to add the effect of rusty metal. I did this by transferring the information with the anchor points to the smart masks of the oxide material. The combination of these three elements together was what established the final look of the Ancient MAT Armor.
Florian Bobe, ‘SubMecha’
Florian Bobe won third place in the Student category of the Meet MAT 2 contest. He is a student of 3D animation at E-Artsup, in Lyon, France.
I didn’t use anything from the Substance Source library in this case, because I felt that the materials included with Substance Painter would allow me to realize what I envisioned for the model. All the silver, metal, colored metal and so on was created from fill layers with parameters for the layer and effects.
A specific example: the glowing eyeball.
The process of creation was quiet fun. First, I had to create an emissive pass for the head so, that the eyeball would appear bright.
Second, I simply had to set my roughness, metallic and height at the necessary levels. Then came the part that was a little bit weird – the emissive by itself worked without color, but it projected a weak light. So I had to create a second layer filled with a little bit of color (called Relight).
I only used hard brushes and straight-line painting to add details. And, of course, I created alphas in Photoshop with the lasso and pen.
Guilherme Marconi, ‘A Tale to Illuminate the Backlands’
Guilherme Marconi was the winner of the ‘Best Storytelling’ award for the Meet MAT 2 contest. He is currently is a freelance 2D illustrator.
I basically created two different materials for this project.
The wood was created using masks, filters and Substance native modifiers, and some areas were hand-painted. I’d done a study on a wagon some time before the contest, and I had a base material that fitted perfectly with the wood aesthetic that I wanted.
The black ink was made trying to find the result of the ink used in cordel booklets, a traditional type of printing in Brazil. And I was also trying to add at this point some parts in black ink that take on a ‘gold’ aspect when exposed to the sun, and to weather, for a long time.
I´m not a specialist in texture – I´m just a guy studying and trying to reach the dream of working in some game studio. But I’ll try to break down how I created some of these materials as best I can, and try to explain what I was feeling and what I was trying to do while I was creating the dark ink that constitutes my MAT.
1: In this first step I started trying to find a base color that I’d like to have, working at this point with just this and a very low roughness level. This was my initial idea, that progressively changed while found new references for inks, and sun exposure.
2: Here, I started to break the uniformity of the roughness, and tried to find some variations – always using Substance masks, that work like magic, and that really remind me a lot of the way Photoshop works.
3: At this point I decided to add some lines in the roughness in counterpoint to the cracks and inherited imperfections from the normal and displacement characteristics of the wood. I wanted to add more variety to try to enrich the result, and a lot of decisions were based on testing things out.
4: One more layer of roughness using one mask, trying to break up the shine and create a variety in readability and in the reflectiveness of the piece.
5: I have found some cool references, black inks of low quality which have been exposed to the sun for a long time and have started to turn a yellowish color, almost gold. I wanted to reproduce this in my texture; this is where I started to add this idea.
6: At this point, I had one image in my head that I hadn’t yet implemented, and I was still missing some tonal and roughness variety. I added one more layer series with combinations of little masks combination and different rough values, trying to play with the nuances.
7: Here I started to use layers with customized masks and to add colors, one of them with blend mode multiply and another just with color, to add a little more variation in the color values.
8: By now I was very satisfied with all the construction texture layers so far, and it was time to add a layer just to control the metallic value. I also created one more subtle gray layer with a mask, to add new value areas.
9: At this point I reinforced the idea of the coloring being slightly golden due to sun exposure; to achieve this I used a base layer to show the color of the exposure and attrition, and I used this again as a procedural mask, to carry out the task – I find that in Substance using masks in the production process is very intuitive and functional.
10: And here, I added one more layer for color and roughness variations, with a little adjustment in previous mask parameters, to conclude the job.
11: It was really fun and exciting to slowly build what I had in mind, and to add new ideas as I discovered new references. Maybe some steps seem unnecessary from an external perspective – but these particular steps are what get me to that final render.
I imported the hand-drawn images into Substance Painter, and used the projection tool to add the reference bases onto MAT. Once the references were applied, I created a mask in black and started to paint in white with the ‘Happy HB’ brush from the Photoshop MegaPack.
So, here, I had to reveal the ink while keeping the quality of the drawn image as high as possible. For this, in fact, I used the Cintiq I won from in a previous Substance challenge, the X-TAON Car Texturing Contest. The process was a lot of fun, and the possibility of using the Photoshop brush inside Substance Painter was very cool.