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Hand-Painted Texture Guide

VSQUAD prepared a step-by-step instruction on how to create hand-painted textures in Substance Painter without using normal maps.

VSQUAD prepared a step-by-step instruction on how to create hand-painted textures in Substance Painter without using normal maps.

In this tutorial, we want to share a step by step guide about how to make a hand-painted texture without any normal map in Substance Painter. Of course, if you have a high poly model the process will be easier and the final result will be cooler.

The GIF below shows the full texturing process we’ll cover (click it):

You can also find a recorded version of the tutorial below:

Our most frequently used generators – a very cool feature of Substance Painter.


Let’s start. First, you need to create and prepare your model in any 3D package. Mainly, we use the fbx format to import it to the Substance later.

Template is a way Substance renders your normal map (G channels in Unity and Unreal have a difference). Since we don’t use normal – leave it as it is. Run the program, click New File, select your model. In the document resolution, you can choose anything and change it later if needed.

Find TEXTURE SET SETTINGS and click on Bake Mesh Maps.

The main feature of Substance is generators. Using this tool you can make any kind of gradients, play with you cavities, edges, and much more. To make this happened Substance has to render its specific maps, so we start from baking maps. Click on “Use low poly as high poly” since we don’t have a high poly model.

An important thing about our pipeline worth mentioning: we will mainly use Fill layers and will not use Layers like in Photoshop. Delete Layer and create our first Fill layer. It’ll be our base color.

Change option Material to Base color since it’s supposed to be a hand-painted texture.

We want to start by applying AO to our model to see some base texture. Let’s study how to do it. Create a new Fill Layer. Find MATERIALS. Turn off everything except color. Click on Base Color, find your AO in the list.

Here how it looks like now. Flags have another shader, that’s why they are still white. The easiest way is when you have 1 shader and 1 texture.

Now let’s start to work with the generators.

  • Rename our layers. Create a new Fill Layer.
  • IMPORTANT. Right click on the layer and add a black mask.
  • Right click on the mask and add a generator.
  • Select Light generator.
  • Open generator’s options. Both kinds of Angle are the main parameters.

Let’s do a bit more organization, put our stones base texture to the folder and study how to make the masks.

  • Create a new folder, rename it, move our stones layers there. We can’t touch the mask of our Fill Layer in case we want to organize our layers. Use folders instead.
  • IMPORTANT. Generators use the mask of our Fill Layers as they work this way.
  • You can do ALT+click on the mask to see it better. Click on Polygon Fill tool and make a mask for the stone.

Let’s do the same for another material.

  • Create a new folder. Create a new Fill Layer. Choose the wood base color and rename everything.
  • Mask Editor generator can do a lot of useful things. First, let’s add some Cavities. (Again, create a new Fill Layer, select dark wood color, add a black mask, add a generator, select Mask Editor,  open PROPERTIES (remember these steps, as next time we’ll skip this part). Slightly change everything to see the effect.
  • Let’s add color to the edges and adjust them. Do the same steps mentioned above, but in Curvature section, select EDGES (as edges have another color).
  • Let’s add deeper shadows. Create a new Fill Layer with AO generator (AO generator is a new feature in Substance 2019, and you can simply add extra AO  instead).
  • Now let’s study how to fix some places that look wrong. Add new Paint to black mask above the generator and try to fix the necessary places.

My settings for Paint tool:

Now, what do you have to paint by hand? All the details you didn’t model but want to have, some specific places like lines on the roof and window textures.

Let’s take a look at the brick texture. Here we have a 3D Linear Gradient generator and extra levels above the generators.

  • First, we created Base color
  • Then added Light generator
  • Then Mask Editor cavities  + extra level above generator to reach the needed effect. You should try it out.
  • Add 3D Linear Gradient and play with parameters
  • Add extra Fill Layer and AO generator + Paint to fix wrong palaces. It’s important to note that we painted some edges by hand.

We have almost no metal parts in this castle, but I want to share with you how to make some interesting textures for metal parts with a special filter called Baked Lighting Stylized. Simply create the base color of your metal, add AO and then drag and drop this filter above your AO. Play with lighting parameters to achieve the result.

We like how metal works on the tower, but it looks too simple on other parts. In a case like this, you can duplicate the filter, create a mask for another part and change the parameters.


Using this pipeline you can finish all the castle. Now we’ll show you how to export your texture.

By clicking on Export Texture you will find a lot of presets from Substance, but in our case (exporting diffuse) we have to create our own one in the Configuration section.

Simply choose your new configuration in EXPORT list and there you go.


Here’s the final textured model of the castle:

It is available for purchase in Unity Asset Store if you are interested.

P.S. Thanks to our 3D artist Vitali Koziuk and Volodya Liubchuk for this cool castle model and texture examples!



Join discussion

Comments 3

  • Vsquad studio

    Join our instagram or artstation. We`re going to do more tutorials like this


    Vsquad studio

    ·4 years ago·
  • Vsquad studio

    We`re happy that it's helpful


    Vsquad studio

    ·4 years ago·
  • Fakhri

    You've saved my life! I'm new in substance painter and I really need this workflow to finish my Final Project this month, THANK YOU! :)



    ·4 years ago·

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