Creating Sci-Fi Panels in Substance Designer

Creating Sci-Fi Panels in Substance Designer

Guilherme Marconi briefly talked about his first procedural material created in Substance Designer as well as shared a few resources and the .sbs file for studying.


My name is Guilherme Marconi, I am 38 years old and I've been working as an illustrator for the last 15 years with Nike, Absolut Vodka, Microsoft, Nokia, Puma, AT&T, and some other cool brands.

I saw so many cool things produced in Substance Designer that I just wanted to take my chances and try something, too. I love sci-fi movies and series and I wanted to try to make something connected with sci-fi.  I've been studying SD for about 2 months, no more than that, and it was scary in the beginning, but it got more and more fun as I studied. 

I decided to learn 3D after X-TAON Substance contest, and nowadays I study it in parallel with my work (I have a mentor, Felipe Marques) – and who knows, maybe I can get a job in a game studio someday.

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Sci-Fi Panels: Start of the Project

I started looking for references on Pinterest, and after that, I drew a sketch on paper to get an idea of what I wanted. My goal was to verify how I would deal with the creation and design of shapes and the development of height maps. My plan was to achieve each detail in my sketch and to see how I'd be doing in the process.

At first, I did a triangular shape, and it was a victory. After it, I thought that I could probably finish what I had in mind and continued my project, “climbing” one step at a time.

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Albedo and height:

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As I mentioned above, I tried to do one step at a time. I ended up creating separate graphs for each element and putting it all together in the final graph. In the process, I created a multi-switch graph for all the stickers that I used. This was one of my goals – to try to draw them using SD's native nodes.

I used a Tile Generator to create the repetition, using the height maps, albedo, and roughness I had generated in the previous graphs. The Height Blend and the masks it generates helped me a lot in the multi-layer structure construction process.

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To create the imperfections, I used Metal Edge Wear and Edge Damages with different masks and setups for each part of the graph, with a Blend overlay of Moisture Noise and Quantize to help with the effect.

For the Emissive, I extracted a part of the graph with the main plaque and created the emissive part of the project with it.

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Being able to manage the heights on the Height Map was very complicated to me, it is not a subject I had mastered, and there were many adjustments and changes throughout the process. I did and redid a lot of things, and even put the project aside several times.


For rendering, I used Marmoset, it is an amazing tool. I used an HDRI and 3-point lighting setup composed of Key, Fill, and Backlight. With this setup, I tried to enhance areas that I think were important in the graph, and emphasize as much as possible the triangular structure.

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For Learners

You can download the .SBS file here

I should mention Javier Perez's content on Artstation, without it I certainly wouldn't have completed my project. The content of 3Dex on Youtube and on his website was very important in this journey. I also studied materials available on Substance Academy.

I always study using the method Rafa Souza described in one of his videos:

  • I watch all the content once, without trying to reproduce it, I just watch it.
  • I watch it again taking notes of the relevant explanations and critical steps.
  • I watch and execute what is being shown.

Finally, I produce something personal with what I learned from that tutorial to "firm" the concepts.

Guilherme Marconi, Freelnace Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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