Working on a Library Bookshelf in Substance Designer

Working on a Library Bookshelf in Substance Designer

Mary Dvorsky briefly talked about the construction of her Austrian Library Bookshelf material in Substance Designer and gave some advice for those who want to learn the software.


Hello! My name is Mary Dvorsky, and I am a senior in Game Art at Ringling College of Art and Design. I found my passion for game art in early high school. I have been creating art and playing games my entire life, and so this career path made so much sense for me to take. My thesis partner and I created our fully playable game experience, “Ozias.” I will be new in the industry once I graduate, and I am beyond excited to see where it takes me.

Falling in Love with Substance Designer

I have always been the kid who loved looking at the small details around my environment. I just fell in love with being able to recreate and reimagine the textures that surrounded me. You can pack so many details into a material. In college, my favorite professor held a summer class for materials, and I signed up immediately. I realized that I had a great understanding of 0s and 1s and black and white shapes, and so Substance Designer grew on me very quickly.

I felt that I hit a breakthrough when I decided to create my beehive material. I wanted to use all of my Substance Designer knowledge to prove to myself that I knew how to create something with many complex components. I had so much fun with this material that I went on to create my first hard-surfaced material, my bookshelf. This project showed me how much I had learned from each of my pieces before. I have only been using Substance Designer for two years, and it is inspiring to see where I started and how far I have come in so little time.

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Austrian Library Bookshelf Project: Idea

I started my bookshelf project because I had created an environment that I liked a lot, however it was pointed out that the walls were outdated. I made a very quick bookshelf just to test on the walls and see how it looked. I ended up really enjoying what it did to my environment, so I took the project further and decided it was my mission to make this bookshelf something I was proud to put in my portfolio. The plan was to make it feel like it truly belonged in a believable environment.

Material Construction

I started this bookshelf with the basic shapes that I knew I needed on it. I divided everything into sections and later built them together as if I was constructing a bookshelf in real life. I created the structure of the wall itself and added details accordingly. I created my columns by starting at the very small details surrounding the tops because this was the part I was most inspired by. I then used several height blends to combine each part of my column. Parts such as the Face Wall Plaques were done in a different graph and brought in. Parts such as the marble textures were done last, I warped different shapes and noises to create something that best resembled black marble.

Customizable Features

The most easily customizable parameter is the books. The sizes, amount, and colors are all changeable. It's also easy to add other ornaments and I probably will add more in the future. I have different color parameters set up so that the colors could be changed, as well as roughness variation parameters.

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Challenges in the Project

The most challenging aspect of this production was the face wall plaques. I took inspiration from Jonathan Benainous and the faces on his Baroque Ceiling material. He makes it look so easy, and my first attempt had definitely not been successful. I feel that challenging myself to make a face in Substance Designer was so great for me because I came out learning so much from such a small part of my project.

Advice for Learners

My best advice for anyone who wants to learn Substance Designer is to start with something that forces you to create solid shapes. The way that I truly became comfortable with Substance Designer was by creating a simple leaf texture. Such materials force you to learn things that you cannot get around. You really learn when to use subtract versus multiply, add versus max lighten, and so forth.

Watching other artists create art also helps you learn cool tricks and how to use certain nodes. During school, I had been really lucky to be surrounded by other amazing artists who were really helpful with feedback and critique. At the end of the day, it is important to keep an open mind and have fun creating art.

Thank you for taking the time to read, and if you have any questions feel free to contact me on my Artstation!

Mary Dvorsky, Environment/Texture Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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