Making a Ghibli-Like Scene 100% in Substance 3D Designer

Shuchang Wang shares the workflow behind the scene inspired by Hayao Miyazaki, breaks down the colorwork, and talks about the importance of feeling the painting.


My name is Shuchang Wang, I am from China, I used to work for Archosaur Games as a Texture Artist, and currently, I work for Tencent. I worked on Dragon Raja and a mobile game Avatar. 

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to see Daniel [Thiger]'s instructional video about Substance 3D Designer, and I was surprised. Since then, I have been very interested in Substance 3D Designer. I am very grateful to Daniel, my goal is to become an Environment Artist like him. 

The Project

The previous company wanted to make a game similar to the Ghibli style. I was very interested because I have liked Miyazaki Hayao's cartoons since I was a child. This scene was done by me and my friend together, and all the materials were done by me in Substance 3D Designer.

First, I find some references that I think are suitable and I look at the feel of the brush strokes in the reference.

In the second step, I make a painting generator in Substance 3D Designer based on the reference and select the brushes that I think are suitable for the specific brushes in Photoshop.

It is very important to make the initial texture in Substance 3D Designer, it determines the basic style of the material. 

Next, I continue to use the brush of my choice to overlay. This process is very interesting, but sometimes it is painful because it requires constant attempts to get the results you want.

Next, I expose all the color parameters and go to Substance 3D Designer for drawing, but it is only used as a basic texture.

It should be noted here that in many cases, the feeling of hand-painting is not exactly correct in the absolute sense nor is it a very strict PBR attribute. It is even more important to understand the painting itself. The feeling of painting is not like a computer code. Not every brushstroke needs to have a very important effect. It is just a feeling. I know that it sounds strange, but it is what I really think – you need to have this feeling. 

Just like the position I selected in the picture below, there is a feeling of embellishment. Strictly speaking, there is nothing wrong with the lack of these, they are there just for the feeling of texture. This kind of texture is not necessarily absolutely correct, but the presence of these textures here makes you feel an association, which is enough.

Next, I want to share my coloring process. This is my scene, the wall material and the Height Map are made by me. There is nothing special, I think the production of Base Color is more challenging. 

In the first step, I am very relaxed about choosing colors. I just need to pay attention and not choose any extreme colors.

The mask below can be remade, as long as it has a black and white change, because it is just a color change, and the purpose is to make our Color Map look not completely uniform.

In the second step, I add a little noise. With this noise, you need to pay attention to the hue. For example, the Basic Color of the wall is warm. Then when we choose the noise, there can be some color changes. This time I chose a cool color, but this is not absolute, you can try it yourself.

Next, I still use a mask to superimpose different colors to make them richer on my Color Map, but it should be noted here that when we select noise, its range is compared with the main tone. Try to make the area as small as possible, otherwise, the color correlation will look a little messy. 

In the third step, I use the Slope Blur node to disrupt the current color state. This step makes the Color Map have a touch of brushstrokes.

Here you need to pay attention to the mask production. The purpose of this is to deal with noise in a relatively small area, and a larger area of color distinction is required, but it should be noted that the color distinction here is relatively subtle, so don’t ruin it. The overall color is here just to make the details appear to have some changes. 

This step is based on the adjustment of the previous step. It can be handled freely. In fact, if you feel that it is unnecessary, you can skip this step. It will not have a great impact on the final result.

Finally, we enter the detail adjustment stage. We use the Height Map to generate Normal, and then use the Light node to get the outline of the Height Map. This step can effectively increase the three-dimensional sense of the overall material.

Below is the step diagram of the Color Map:

Shuchang Wang, Environment Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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