Learning Texturing With Substance Painter

Learning Texturing With Substance Painter

Carlos Rizo did a breakdown of his amazing 3d weapon asset, textured with Substance Designer. This project was created during the Gnomon course.


Hey, everyone! My name is Carlos Rizo and I’m currently studying in the Games Track at Gnomon School of Visual Effects. Before attending Gnomon, I created motion graphic art in Cinema 4D for fun at high school in Palmdale, California. “The Last of Us” inspired me to enter the world of game creation, so I set my eye on Gnomon. After seeing all the amazing artwork from the students there, I knew this would be a great school for me and the right one for beginning my career in CG.


One of my favorite games from the past few years has to be the Order 1886. I loved the fact that the game was set in England during the Victorian era, yet the designs and aesthetic had a bit of steampunk mixed in. I found this gun design from Anton Lavrushkin, an amazing concept artist whose work I quickly became a fan of. Anton’s work is solid, detailed, and the presentation is top notch! After seeing his amazing fan art, I wish I could have seen The Pneumatic Rifle in the actual game. Intent on giving Anton’s beautiful weapon concept justice, I chose to model and texture it for my Texturing 2 class at Gnomon with instructor Christophe Desse.

Setting Goals

I was looking forward to learning Substance Painter with Christophe. He’s no stranger to working with textures at a professional level, given the fact that he has been working at Naughty Dog as Co-Lead Technical Artist with Michel Hatfield for 2 years. Having been originally inspired by the game from that studio, I really felt grateful and assured I was learning from the best! That said, I had to put in the work to learn, and Christophe had several requirements each student was to accomplish.

Christophe’s Requirements

  • Organised mesh with good topology
  • Clean, optimized textures
  • UV layout that makes sense and respects the texture
  • Storytelling through materials
  • Have fun doing your assignment

Analyzing the Concept

When I first start off a project, I deeply analyze the concept and I try to anticipate the kinds of challenges and problems that can come up. I mapped out the difficulty of each part in terms of complexity of model and texture with easy, medium and hard based on my judgment and experience.


Having reference is the most important part of any project. It gives you a better understanding of how things need to be built in order to work correctly and gives a better understanding of materials. The more references the better!



When I started, I set up an image plane to hold my reference. In this case, I was fortunate that Anton created an orthographic view of the weapon, so blocking out was not necessary. I needed to model the weapon with clean topology, so I had to adhere to hard surface modeling techniques and did the entire project in Maya. I did not yet know how to retopologize so working in sculpting programs was not an option for me. I first created the barrel of the rifle and then moved to the scope.       

The most difficult parts of this design were trigger, receiver, and stock. I had to make sure it was perfect, these being the most detailed parts and having bad geo would detract from the rest of the rifle. I had mostly just used varying degrees of modified primitives, but getting to the stock had me using Nurbs surfaces that I converted to polygons later.

After finishing the model, it was time to unwrap and clean up the UV’s.


Christophe taught us a good way of doing UV’s that made me feel more confident about doing them. Having clean UV’s is the key to the ability to texture without problems when you have already exported the mesh to Painter. For example, I unwrapped this piece by using a planar projection, then I cut the seams by hand making sure I placed them where they won’t be seen. Then, I unfolded the UV’s. Now, to get rid of any distortion, select all UV points on each face and use the smooth tool. After all that is done, I created my texture sets by selecting the pieces I wanted and used layout, making sure to preserve 3D ratios.  

Knowing this was a project about texturing I did go overboard with the number of texture sets on the rifle. I have a total of 9 sets. Each set has clean texel density.

Baking with Substance Painter

Christophe taught us how to bake in Substance Painter. Substance Painter has strong baking capabilities and it’s very fast at doing it. We used it to get the curvature maps and normal maps, which are useful whe it comes to masking layers and modifying the generators in Substance Painter. I baked a subdivided level 3 version of the rifle on to a subdivided level 1 version.

Learning Substance Painter

Having never touched Substance Painter before, opening up the program for the first time was a scary experience, but Christophe did a great job at explaining how it worked and what tools it offered. After his in-class demos, I quickly learned the process to create textures and materials that are believable. When I began working on the textures, I developed a workflow that I used throughout the entire project.    

Substance Painter offers a bunch of materials and smart materials that are packaged with the program. Most of them are materials that might not be exactly what you’re looking for, but those materials can be modified or used as a base to create the material you desire. For example, I’ll explain how I got the wood material I created for the gun. I used the Wood Chest Stylized smart material as a base and worked from there, getting the desired look I wanted.

This is what it took to create the wood material, changing the color of the wood and modifying the wood fibers pattern to make them look more realistic and natural. Next, I worked on getting the story details in the texture. I wanted to show that this rifle had seen battle, so I added dirt where you’d expect it to be and that would build up being used in the rainy dirty days of 1800’s England. After that was done, I received constructive feedback from Christophe to add old wood resin above the wood to give it the gloss and break up the surface. I also have less resin on the parts where the rifle is held the most to show wear.

There are many metals on this rifle, the reason is that this gun has a custom-made look. It would have been made only once and for a specific person, so I wanted to show that in the materials.

Another example of how to create materials to show story was in the receiver and trigger materials. The copper you see here was made from scratch. Using my reference for copper that has been oxidized was a good starting point.

  • First, I created a fill layer and set the color of the metal and adjusted the metalness to be less reflective.
  • Then, I used a grunge map to get some scratches and dents.
  • Afterward, I moved on to using a generator to get some dirt filling in those small places.
  • The oxidation was created using a grunge map with a gradient to achieve the green color then with a generator mask.
  • Then, I added more dirt layers.

Remember to add additional details to sell the story and concept like fingerprint smudges on the scope.          

Rendering with V-ray

I used V-Ray for rendering the project since I had prior experience with lighting and the texture nodes. I decided to create a scene for the weapon because I thought it looked kinda boring just having it float on a turntable. When I decided that I wanted to place the weapon in an old shipping crate, I completely forgot that crates shipped with a straw inside of them so that the contents wouldn’t be damaged during transportation. After completing the crate, table and setting up the lighting, my last challenge was to make the straw. I have never created anything related to straw and hay so I need to find a solution that would work in the limited time I had for the project. You can find the tutorial for the hay I made here.

All the textures in the scene were also created with Substance Painter. Here is how I set up the lighting:

I believe that a render should look good without a ton of post-processing. If your render is not looking desirable, then keep trying. Don’t hide mistakes and try to create a mood! I also used some environment fog to give the air a more dusty look.


In the end, I had fun working on this project and it was a great learning experience. Substance Painter is a powerful tool that can be used to texture amazing things. I hope reading about my experience gives others insight on how to approach their projects with more confidence. Now get out there and texture your awesome models!

Carlos Rizo, 3D Environment Artist Student at Gnomon

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Comments 3

  • Anonymous user

    great job! thanks for sharing!
    Would I remodelling this gun for study-purpose


    Anonymous user

    ·3 months ago·
  • Dave

    Great job and very inspiring! Thanks for sharing.



    ·2 years ago·
  • Demi

    that's some top quality work there dude, very nice



    ·2 years ago·

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Learning Texturing With Substance Painter