Break|Rim|Tire Generator: New Uses for SD

Break|Rim|Tire Generator: New Uses for SD

Check out the amazing Daniel Thiger talking about his new Break/Rim/Tire Generator, created with Substance Designer.

Check out the amazing Daniel Thiger talking about his new Break/Rim/Tire Generator, created with Substance Designer.

How did you come up with the idea to create this Break | Rim | Tire Generator?

I’m always looking to find new use cases for Substance Designer. Even though I’m more known for creating natural materials, I wanted to try something new and explore other aspects of SD. I knew I wanted to tackle something mechanical for my next project.

Recently I’ve been really inspired by Chris Hodgson and other artists in the community’s hard surface materials. Also an old co-worker of mine at EA Dice, Andreas Ezelius, just posted his incredible Ford Mustang project. It blew me away and inspired me to create something in the vehicle realm. Since I’m passionate about finding procedural and efficient workflows and solutions, creating a generator seemed like an interesting way of combining these efforts.


My goal was to create something that could generate multiple designs easily. Just creating one single rim design in SD is not really a challenge since that can be achieved by hand placing the details. I wanted to create something flexible that would allow me to generate as many different versions as possible. This type of mindset and approach is probably the result of my experience from working in the game industry for too long, where scalable, iterative solutions are typically the most beneficial.

In the past, I hadn’t played around much with exposing parameters in SD, so for this project, I wanted to explore this aspect further. I put myself in the position of the designer and customer, and tried to create parameters that I thought would be interesting. You can pick from multiple base designs, for example: spokes, hexagons, star shapes, etc. Many of these also feature additional customization settings specific to each type.

What were you trying to achieve in the end?

Ultimately I wanted to be able to produce renders that could show off interesting designs and highlight the flexibility of this generator. While there may be some technical and mechanical flaws, I wanted to try and achieve renders that closely matched the quality of some of the vehicle artists that I am inspired by. Also, I wanted to introduce the idea of using SD for prototyping projects. Last year I attended Substance Days, and had the pleasure of listening to Raymundo Burgueno’s presentation. He talked about how he created procedural rim designs using Grasshopper. I was really curious if I could achieve something similar with only SD. It was such an inspiring presentation by an extremely creative guy.

Are there any tips you can share?

A couple of things come to mind when looking back at this project. I discovered that when exporting textures for test renders in Marmoset, png files have some pretty severe compression artifacts which are really apparent on round / smooth / glossy surfaces. After some testing, I figured out that switching to tiff was the solution, as they are truly loss-less. The increased file size wouldn’t really work as a solution in a game environment, but for static renders, it works well.

Also, if you create empty input nodes in your substance graph, they can be used in Substance Player as custom slots for users to import their own bitmaps. When I realized this, I rebuilt the graph so that users can input their own base shapes and logo into the generator, which made it a lot more fun to play with. By inputting a black and white mask, you can use it to create rims like this:

Some sweet 80lvl rims:

Substance Designer logo rim:

In rendering my final composition in Marmoset Toolbag, I found that displaced geometry lacked backfaces. This meant that in my render setup, the rims didn’t reflect at all in the glossy brake disc. I solved it in a hacky (or clever) way by cloning the rim geo and material, and then removing all tessellation normals and color. Basically just a material with alpha and black diffuse. I also scaled the geo negatively so it would show up in the correct way in the reflection.

I’ve made this whole project available on Gumroad. For those who don’t own Substance Designer, you can download Substance Player for free on Allegorithmic’s website, as well as the renderer Marmoset Toolbag, which is also available in a 30-day free trial version. With these two programs, you can use the generator to create everything you see in this article.

For those who want to dissect, learn, or build upon this project, all sbs files (break generator, rim generator, and tire pattern generator) are available to play with.

Lastly, I decided to include my Marmoset scene since I get a lot of questions about how to set up my renders. Hopefully people will find it helpful to see my lighting and material setup.

Check out my YouTube channel for videos of the generator in action.

Daniel Thiger, Lead Environment Artist at Bungie

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

Follow Daniel on ArtStation.

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