Alexandra Lazarenko shared a breakdown of the Puffer material, explained how the coat was made, and offered some tips for beginner artists.
Hello everyone! My name is Alexandra Lazarenko. I'd worked as a research assistant at St. Petersburg Academic University for 10 years, but after getting my PhD, I decided to have more freedom and completely change my profession. At that time my husband Nikolay Lazarenko worked as a senior material artist in a big AAA project. I decided to use this great opportunity and asked him to be my teacher and mentor and of course, he agreed. He showed me Substance 3D Designer, and it was love at first sight. He helped me a lot to make my first steps in learning it. Additionally, I collected information about Substance 3D Designer bit by bit from YouTube videos and practiced a lot.
I'm very grateful to my husband and the artists who share their knowledge, and now I'm creating free tutorials on my YouTube channel to help artists who want to start learning Substance 3D Designer.
Currently, I’m living in Bar, Montenegro and working as a freelance material artist. A part of my work is creating materials for selling in stores. It motivates me a lot when people buy my products, I feel that I'm doing something useful.
The Puffer Material
It often becomes a problem for me to figure out what material to do next. Once there was a heavy storm outside. It was a little cold at home and I thought about a warm blanket. So, I decided to create a warm and cozy material. I always start with references, this should always be the first step.
In general, the puffer material consists of stitches and folds.
For the stitches, I blended the Shape node (long and thin paraboloid) with a tiled Gradient Linear 2 node and added Crystal 2 noise node for realism.
I divided folds into 3 groups:
1. Wide soft folds:
For this type of folds, I created one Tile Sampler with small paraboloids with random size, rotation, and position. I added Blur to make them softer and created another Tile Sampler with long paraboloids, which I used for the base shape of my material and as a mask for the folds.
2. Narrow but deep folds near the stitches:
3. Crumpled folds:
With the Levels node, I can control the shape of the folds, and with the opacity parameter in the Blend node, I can control the depth of each type of fold.
To create a fabric structure, I blended two Anisotropic Noises, sloped them, and warped them by folds. I blended this fabric relief with all my maps.
From references, we can see that there can be a lot of different patterns in puffer materials. I decided to create three of the most common – stripes, squares, and rhombi. I added a Multi Switch node to switch between these patterns.
In the process of working on the material, I decided to make a patchwork. I like how it looks – very cute and cozy. To combine different parts of fabrics I used the Flood Fill Mapper node. In order to remove the spaces between the pieces, I created a Distance node.
I like to create multipurpose materials, so again I added a Multi Switch node and the ability to choose different types of color maps – uniform color, stripes, patchwork, and a custom color map. Additionally, custom patchwork can be created. For this purpose, I created another Flood Fill Mapper node with eight color inputs.
However, eight additional inputs can be distracting and get in the way when using the material. To make it more user-friendly, I hid the unused inputs and parameters. To do this, I wrote an if condition:
And this is how it works:
Moreover, I exposed a bunch of parameters including the stitches' color and size, roughness, fold intensity, normal intensity, etc. This material can be customized as you wish. With the help of tweaked parameters, you can achieve the effect of different types of fabrics.
I liked this material and decided to sew something. The first thing that came to mind was a super-large puffer coat, almost like a blanket. I made a simple pattern in Сlo3D, and the result seemed very funny to me. I decided to leave it as is. In order for the material to keep its shape, I chose the Trim Full Grain Leather preset in the physical properties of the material.
Creating this material really fascinated me and it took about two days from the initial idea to the final render.
Tips for Beginners
I believe in the 10,000-hour rule. It lies in the fact that if you practice something for a long time, you will definitely succeed, so my advice is to practice as much as possible. Start with simple lessons on YouTube and try to follow them. After that, try making materials yourself. Improvise, there is no right or wrong way in Substance 3D Designer. Similar results can be achieved in completely different ways.
And another piece of advice – don't start projects that are too big and complex if you feel you can't finish them. This way you can lose your enthusiasm. Start simple, your achievements will motivate you.
I’d like to say thank you to 80 Level and Arti Burton for giving me the opportunity to talk about this material. Thank you for reading, I hope you find this interesting, and learn something new from it.
Alexandra Lazarenko, Material Artist
Interview conducted by Arti Burton
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