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How to Create Wet Mud in Substance Designer?

Christopher Henrick gives a detailed description of his workflow and explains how he created a fantastic wet mud material.


Hey, guys, my name is Christopher Henrick I’m from Brazil (Rio Branco- Acre) it’s the  city that I was born and started my studies as game dev and artistic texture. Nowadays live in Palhoça – Santa Catarina; I study at an university of games named FATENP where I am developing an application with some friends of the university  about virtual reality.

The passion for the development of textures began with my studies on game development, I found incredible each part that encompassed all the components of the art and its development and I wanted to know how to do something during that period, I started with modeling, but my passion began to emerge when I began to study textures that for me was a great challenge, since I do not consider the Substance Designer a very simple language to be learned. With the passage of time and with a lot of study I began to generate results and I began to create a link with this, nowadays I consider that developing textures is something that changed my life and made me really decide what I want to develop in the game market.

The project

The proposal to create a material like this started from an idea that I had to create a package of textures present in nature or that are caused by natural phenomena. So I had to do a lot of research on some events or places that would meet my need to reproduce an interesting content to be presented using the amazing tool that is the Substance Designer and of course, I took references of photos and photos that I found on the internet were essential.

This material is part of a set of various textures that I will be producing for sale in the Unity asset store, the best materials I will develop in this project will also be available for purchase the “sbs” file on my gumroad page, all this will be molded to the few through the development of the materials and the feedback that I will receive.


As an artist, I feel as a source of inspiration beyond the works of other artists and professionals in the industry, I also feel that one of the greatest sources of inspiration comes from nature, every new place we go, there are many possibilities to create different worlds inspired in the world we live in. And as a texture artist my look on the world has changed, because I have come to observe things that many people ignore and do not come to the same relevance that I see and that is able to inspire me to produce new contents.


As soon as my idea begins to clear in my mind and I develop a plan of action of what to do with it as soon as I finish developing my texture, my next goal is to look for good references that meet my need. For this I try to take pictures of my own references as much as I can, because I believe that the internet is not enough to find exactly what I’m looking for, but when I do not have another alternative, I always look for the best images and the closest models of what I want to reproduce so that the result goes the way I wanted. Generally, to separate the layers of the material I want to reproduce, I always try to imagine the process, in the case of that particular material I divided as follows: Earth, Earth ripple, wheel marks, small erosions and each of these layers, has its reference in specific, this helps me create a more detailed and realistic material.

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Creation Process

As it was mentioned, I tend to divide each of the processes, first I start with the process of defining what will be the base of my material, for this I create through the node “Shape” in paraboloid format and use the nodes “Warps” to deform its surface using the noises “Clouds 2” and “Creased” to arrive at the result that I desire. After this process, I add more deformities using the “Blend” in multiply mode to cause on the ground sensations of erosion that will help me in the future to expose interesting parameters in my material as soon as I send them to a game engine or Marmoset, after all this process, I just need to add my shape to the tile sampler and mix them together and create the base surface for my material.

After finishing this process, all I need to do is to deform the Base surface of my material that I just created, so the references served to help me define what these surfaces have, so I again separated the elements and observed that the structure of the earth of the mud has the following formats: erosions, variation of height, small holes possibly caused by rainwater, small landforms and ripples.

Basically all I had to do from that moment was to deform trying to follow as faithfully as possible the patterns of the forms that I found in my references. To do this, I used again some warps and slope blues greyscales connected to “bnw spots” and “clouds 2” to gradually deform the edges and create a little more variations of micro surfaces. Soon after using the “Blend” I was changing the surface so that it generated a random aspect, that created the same sensation that the surface of mud causes us visually, due to many factors, cars, rains, people walking, etc.

Following the order of the factors I mentioned, to cause the erosion sensation of the mud material I decided to merge my blend node with one of my favorite nodes “Perlim noise zoom” connected to my “blur” node, since my intention is to search random curves that node generates when applied over a given node. So basically I just needed to define the direction in which this “curve” will be applied and for that I just needed to use the “Directional blur” node and connect it to my Blend in the “add sub” mode.

Soon after completing this process to add the details of rain holes I just had to mix my “blend” with the noise “bnw spots 2” using the “subtract mode” and to correct the artificial and unnecessary holes I just added another blend by merging with the “fractal sum base” with high roughness values and using “screen mode” to correct the effects. There is the result:

That’s it! The worst part and the most fun is over, now all that remains to do in the material is to create the puddles and the variation of height, I used the shape in the paraboloid format and I tried to deform it by means of ripples that could generate in the ” tile sampler “high and low parts, since there would be dark and gray information about the structure of my shape that when applied in my” blend “in the” subtract mode “created at the same time, puddles of water and variation of height in the earth.

Height map at this moment:

Subtract values:

Adding wheels shapes

One of the coolest parts in creating this material was adding the wheel marks in the mud, as I wanted to create a wheelbrush effect on the surface of my material all I needed to know was to research some examples of these marks and how they are applied inside of material. I realized that on all wheels only the “holes” were more prominent, so I came to the conclusion that all I would need to create was a “standard” wheel shape and then “destroy” this shape with some warps, merged into the material, they would need to be as random and misaligned as possible, to cause a sense of realism in the material, as if a car had actually passed on the mud road.

Following some references I saw on the internet, I just had to create 2 types of information about my wheel shape, in this case, white and black information, so that I could deform it the way I wanted it on my tile. So basically I created 1 square totally white, I added 2 white lines on it which turned into black lines using the subtract mode with the blend.

After this process, I created some horizontal lines which with a mask exclude some unnecessary information in the center of these lines which generated a set of small white squares on the edges which were also transformed into black information with the blend in subtract mode.

My shape at this moment:

After that I repeated the same process and changing the position and mirroring using the node “transformation 2D” I got to this result.

Wheel shape

Now I need to do is merge this shape using the “tile sampler” to create the feeling of countless car wheels on my material and then deform them using the “slope blur greyscale nodes”, “warps” and  blend in subtract mode with some noise like “clouds 2” or another one of your choice, then just add in your blend using the subtract again and you will have the desired result.

The last details to the height map

After much observation I observed a kind of variation in the mud with slightly circular shapes, perhaps caused by the passage of the cars on roads, so I decided to try to reproduce some of these details controlling through blend multiply mode and adding a ground volume controller through the blend in overlay mode so finally finish the height map with the node “auto levels” and regulating the values with the node “levels”.

Circular erosion

Circular erosion shape

Ground Volume

Ground volume Blend values

Final height map

Roughness and Base color

My intention was to highlight the micro details in both the brightness and the color and as I wanted to reproduce a totally wet material and with enough puddles of water, and small cavities of brightness, all I had to do was expose these parts with masks, for that I used a Fantastic node called “curvature smooth” and controlled the values of white and black with a “levels” and through it I was able to highlight the micro details that I wanted.


After realizing this process it was enough to just define which of the parts would shine more and the others that would shine less and some surfaces slightly dry, I then used some blends varying between blending modes of “copy”, “Add linear” and “subtract” connected to the “fractal sum base” and the “Uniform color greyscale”.

Wet area


Dry area

Roughness graph

And finally the Base color map, which basically took the masks I had already produced on the roughness map and inserted the colors according to the references I had.

The process of creating the color map was relatively simple, since from the construction of the masks the only difficulty that exists is to seek to achieve the correct color tone for a more convincing result according to the references researched within the creation project of the mud and here is the final graph of basic color and the design as a whole.

Base color graph

Mud ground graph


It was a great pleasure to develop this Breakdown and I really hope this helps those who are starting to use this fantastic tool that is the “Substance Designer”, if you want to know a little better my projects you can follow me in my ArtStation and if you want to buy this material and others that I intend to launch in the future, just enter my Gumroad and get some of my stuff, C&C are always welcome! thank you so much.

Christopher Alencar, Texture Artist, Freelancer

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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  • gus




    ·4 years ago·

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