Fine Tile Material with Substance Painter
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by Ketki Jadhav
10 hours ago

I really like how you've articulated your entire process. This was a very enriching read. A Well deserved feature!

Great article! Thanks for the awesome read.

Wow, this is so cool! Nice job!

Fine Tile Material with Substance Painter
30 May, 2017

3d artist Daniel Castillo showed an alternative workflow, which allowed him to build some very nice materials with Substance Painter, Photoshop & Zbrush.


Hey! My name is Daniel Castillo and I’m from Spain. I currently work as an Environment Artist at Mercury Steam, which is located in Madrid. At the moment, I’m toiling away on a video game called Raiders of the Broken Planet, which is a AAA title developed by our studio set to release later this year without the help of a publisher.

Old Ceramic Tiles in Substance Painter

Substance Painter is my favorite texturing software—it’s very intuitive and truly an artist’s best friend because it allows one to perform almost anything manually, resulting in great procedural assets.

I attempted to do something cool and more or less realistic with Substance Painter as a texturing software because it provided a good high-poly mesh sculpted in ZBrush. The goal was to get well-defined shapes with some aging and damage in ZBrush. Afterwards, in Painter, I finished the job with layers of quality detail.

I chose a tile floor because it seemed like the perfect choice for this exercise. Besides, as an environment artist, I also wanted to add a fine tile material to my portfolio!


Before starting any kind of project, it’s critical to gather a bunch of references. To achieve credibility in projects, whether they’re cartoonish, realistic, stylized or something in between, it’s key to amassing references for shapes, colors, fragility, weathering, and so on. I suggest being quite thorough while searching the web—be sure to change search keywords and settings from time to time.

For this particular tiled floor, I wanted to highlight a great portion of ceramic tiles (or a similar tile material) with embedded symbols. My choice of tile colors changed during the production process—those seen in the final project are the colors I ultimately decided upon.

When working with tiles, one wants a neat ID mask to separate the main colors and materials. I got that ID by generating polygroups in ZBrush. Then, when baking in Painter, I selected the Polygroup/Submesh ID option as a color source in the ID Baker parameters tab.

I like working with smart masks in my projects. They require that I have all the textures (normal, AO, world space normal and curvature) baked from the high-poly mesh to work properly.

Once all the required textures are baked and ready, one now can start building up materials. Normally, I begin with a strong base color and then stack up several layers of stuff with smart masks and a high level of transparency.

Smart masks are great, but they need quite a bit of additional, customized paints below each paint layer—this is why we’re using Substance Painter, folks!

For instance, I used a hard brush on the green tiles to get that broken effect because there is no single smart mask capable of doing this by itself. Also, readers, consider having a paint correction on masks that shows unwanted effects somewhere.

The symbols embedded in tiles were made using alphas generated from the very same references, which included a few changes. After some time spent fixing and repainting in Photoshop, the symbols we ready for use as a mask in Painter.

Aged and Damaged

I wanted an aged and damaged version of my main tiles so I added terrain, like cracks, impacts, bumps and dents, to the tiles in ZBrush. One can always further destruct in Substance Painter through adding more cracks and pores, which can be done with height in layers or the correct stencil and/or brush.

Before this step, I generated a smart material from my “standard” tiles. One can do this by putting all the layers inside a folder and then clicking “sec; create smart material,” which is extremely useful!

When dropping a smart material over other materials, the procedurals assets, such as the smart masks, will work fine. However, this won’t apply to manually added paint effects, so the task here becomes removing those paints and repainting them. The next step, then, is to desaturate the colors in general as well as to add more dirt, gravel and dust.


Once the textures are ready, the question becomes: Which rendering software will I use? My preference is Marmoset Toolbag, which I really like, even more so in its newest version! It’s quite easy creating beautiful works with this program—one doesn’t need to be a pro at lighting and rendering to produce good results.

If required, I slightly adjust levels of saturation in Photoshop before rendering in Marmoset.

Here’s one last thought for all the readers. I’m sure it’s already known but I used three different programs outside Substance Painter to make these tiles. In doing so, I worked within my comfort zone of softwares, allowing my project to benefit from the unique advantages each program offers environment artists.

That’s it,! I hope you all enjoyed reading about my work. I’m happy to have shared my experience, and I hope you all picked up some tips along the way!

Daniel Castillo, Environment Artist at Mercury Steam Entertainment

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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