Creating Virtual Mud with Substance Designer

Creating Virtual Mud with Substance Designer

Environment artist Svend Kruse Rønslund talks about the creation of procedural “natural” material in Substance Designer.

Most recently Allegorithmic has announced the winners for its awesome Procedural Material Contest (sponsored by NVIDIA). It was a great event that brought up to our attention a lot of very talented artists, who have created some amazing materials, which look nothing short of amazing. The kind of detail the artists have managed to achieve is incredible. It’s like a piece of art. We’ll be publishing links to some of the most interesting materials in a while.

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Right now we present you the exclusive interview with one of the competitors, who took part in the contest, – our old friend Svend Kruse Rønslund (check out his Artstation page). He’s an aspiring environment artist, who created a very nice 3d scene, we’ve talked about a couple of month ago. Svend created his own procedural material for the contest and he talked a little about the production process in our interview.

Creating Virtual Mud

Creating Virtual Mud with Substance Designer

I picked mud because I had never made an organic material in Substance Designer, and because I knew it would be a challenge to achieve the amount of detail that a lot of mud has. it was probably one of the major challenges. It’s hard to make a digital texture look like real mud.

Creating Virtual Mud with Substance Designer

So I started out by deciding what kind of mud it will be: is it street mud, is it swamp mud, is it dry or wet? Maybe both.

Creating Virtual Mud with Substance Designer

Then I started to look at A LOT of mud reference. After I’ve done the research I started to build the material in Designer by blending different grunge maps and noises together to get something that kind of looks like mud.

Creating Virtual Mud with Substance Designer

It’s very important that you keep going back and forth between the references to check if the detail is there and that is looks right.

When I was happy with the project I moved on to the next step – adding footsteps, then leaves and roots.

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I ran into problems and had to find solutions. If you’re new to Substance Designer and to material building, you’re going to spend a lot of time fixing your mistakes. I think I spent at least 4-5 hours on fixing some mistake that I made on the edges of my footsteps.

Avoiding Repetition

Creating Virtual Mud with Substance Designer

For me that can sometimes be one of the hardest things to do. Of course you’ll be able to see it repeat itself when you’ve tiled it 30 times. But let’s say that we’re making a brick wall and we want to tile 3-6 times and we don’t want people to notice it, well try not to have bricks that completely sticks out from the others, try to make everything as even as possible. If you want the brick wall to be damaged try to make the damage even and not just one brick. Another way of hiding it is to break the material up with light, shadows and props in your game engine.

On using Substance Designer

The program itself I think is easy to use and get started with, it has a really nice interface which is easy to navigate around. They have everything you need to get started, some nice grunge maps and cleaver nodes and almost everything is customizable. It can do very simple things and extremely complex things at the same time. Overall it’s a great program to work with.

The Secrets of Detailed Materials

Creating Virtual Mud with Substance Designer

Keep looking at references, keep going back and forth between your material and the reference. Think about what it’s been through, maybe it’s old rocks that has been sitting in the ground for over a hundred years, maybe they’ve been damaged in the process by objects or people, some are maybe covered in dirt.

It’s important to be honest with yourself. Do you like it? Are you satisfied? Ask a friend what they think? Critique and comment are always useful.

I can’t stress it enough: you should be organized. It can quickly become a mess with all your nodes, so put them into frames and name the frames properly, it can be very helpful the next day when you’ve forgotten half of your nodes.

You can check out Svend’s submission on Substance Share and download it for free to play around in your scenes. He keeps working on this project and updating it in his free time.

Svend Kruse Rønslund, Environment Artist (

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