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Creating Magick Potion Vials 100% in Substance Designer

Alexey HRDesign shares the secrets of potion-making in 3D and shares his tips on tool customization.


My name is Alexey Druzhkov a.k.a. Alexey HRDesign. I am currently working as a Lead Material/Environment Artist at KB3D where you can always find kits of models for any of your projects, but also there are lots of PBR materials in our kits.

I really like to play with Substance Designer. Sometimes you get real magic, such as creating geometric objects from simple primitives, which is a lot like turning a pumpkin into a carriage in Cinderella.

The idea of Magick Potion came quite spontaneously. Pinterest is one of the best places for inspiration, you can disappear there for hours. I wish I had time to implement all the ideas, in the future I will surely please you with something even more interesting.

These are some of the pieces that inspired me. I was not quite sure if I could squeeze out enough of these shapes because of the stretching created by Displacement, but the result is pretty good. The potion vials were inspired by hamulos, LES Blackbirdink and Nick Milik.

Working on the Potions

I originally tried doing something like this from a simple Substance Designer base cylinder, but I was having trouble docking the geometry where I had values close to zero on the Height Map.

So, I experimentally created a simple cylinder with a different diameter, which allowed me to collapse the geometry if heightmap = 0.

The main thing I wanted to achieve was being able to create a flask of any shape using only the Curves pattern.

When I created such unusual shapes with Displacement at high Height Scale values, I had to increase the bit rate of the Height Map to 32 bits to make the glass surface as smooth as possible, although I added micro-damage to it afterwards. Surprisingly, 16 bit was often not enough.

Customizing the Nodes

Here are some images of my simple bottle scheme in Substance Designer. Nothing very complicated, except some custom nodes like Bezier and Closehole. You can find free Bezier analogues on the internet, but I was curious to understand how it works and created my own curve called Bezier User using pixel processor. Pixel processors are a lot of fun when you start to understand how they work. I wish schools and universities would teach geometry and vectors with similar visualization tools, because it really can be fascinating when you see the application. 

Here is the generation of Wood Curves with my own Bezier Curve:

This section of the graph is the most interesting one, everything else I created is very simple. 

I also tried to use Refraction directly in Substance Designer IRay, but unfortunately sometimes it works and then sometimes it does not, sometimes the button called 'Rebuild all Shaders' helped, but then I also could not adjust the tesselation levels. So all in all, I created a Refraction Map on my own and then checked it in Marmoset. You can also try experimenting with Refraction in the IRay in Substance Designer if you see no change in Scattering, Absorbtion, Absorbtion Color when you change something, plus, you can find a shader similar to Opacity in Substance Painter.

Here are my CloseHole and Curve examples, which I created while thinking about Magick Potions. Curves have proven extremely useful in creating metal patterns.

I tried to make almost all the parameters of the Bezier Curve customizable, especially changing its segments, and the Curves node helped me do this smoothly. The curve can be attached to the input to change Color Depth, Scale, Rotation and other things. 

Here is what it looked like in Marmoset.

And here are a few images to illustrate my breakdown of the process.

Alexey HRDesign, 3D Material Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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