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Rock Surfaces with Substance Designer

We’ve talked with Vinicius Cortez about the way he produces very interesting natural substances.

We’ve talked with Vinicius Cortez about the way he produces very interesting natural substances.


Hello, my name is Vinicius Cortez. I am 19 years old and from São Paulo, Brazil, where I was born and live right now. I am a lover of CG, games and every type of art. My speciality is 3d modeling and PBR Materials, but I’ve done some Concept Art works too. Currently, I am not working for a company at the moment, but I have been searching for new opportunities. Right now I develop my work by being a member of the team of Chaos Force Studio, a indie developer I work voluntarily in the fan game Sonic Evolution and other projects we’ve been planning and doing freelance materials for the site www.textures.com.

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Using Substance

The Substance products from Allegorithmic are really incredible! I use the Designer and Painter combo, and after one year studying these awesome products, I realized that they’re a essential part of a arsenal of a 3D Material for an artist today. The characteristics of non-destructive and procedural workflow in Substance Designer it’s the great differential of it. And another great thing is that most of the modern 3D Engines have integration with Substance products.

Rock Surfaces

First, is essential to have a good reference. There’s some points that’s always great to stay tuned, that are:

  • In the capture of your own reference (when taking the photo)
  • Take pictures far from the Material, and with varied angles, so, you can see the
    answer from the light that the surface of the Material has
  • Take close pictures, so, you can see the micro surface of the material

When taking your reference from the Internet, choose a picture with a good resolution and preferably favorable to the points of the captured reference. I will show how to get the shape of the rocks, how to define your height map.

First, let’s create our shape:

After finishing your shape in the way that you want, let’s duplicate this set of nodes that
define the shape:

Now let’s work with the color of the material:

A good technique that I have discovered is use the shadows node to add detail in a
specific place.

Muddy Ground 

The secret is to create the elements apart and select where they will appear or not using masks and also with the variation of the colors and roughness, the breakdown is below.


The secret of the glass is with his refraction property. In the below scene is with 1.6 of intensity that depends a lot from the render engine used and the opacity map created in Substance. With opacity, you’ll define areas that will be less transparent, like the dirt.

Showcasing Materials

It depends a lot of the kind of the work. Try to use smooth lighting and a few colors, for not give the look that the material is with the wrong color after receiving light. It needs to make sense, simulating real scenario conditions. For example, when you’re going to render mud, use a outdoor environment HDRI, something similar to the final environment it will be applied. Also, try to simulate the lighting from the sun. In more “nature” materials, like wood, metals, etc, use studio HDRI’s, with less influence of lighting colors or more desaturated. To render materials like metals, a simple sphere and a cylinder is enough.
Now for a brick, you can put it in cylinders and another objects, but it is best to have a plane simulating a wall too, since it is like the final application of the substance. I like to use a lot using Marmoset Toolbag for render the materials.

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Vinícius Cortez, Environment/Material Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Comments 4

  • Vinícius Cortez

    You are right Xoliul, i will do that next time!


    Vinícius Cortez

    ·6 years ago·
  • Xoliul

    Hey Vinicius, nice stuff, but I think you should look into creating graph instances of parts of your graph: if you're duplicating parts of your graph to create variations, you're doing something wrong, it's not the best practice to duplicate things when you can instance so easily in Designer...



    ·6 years ago·
  • Vinícius Cortez

    I recommend you watch the allegorithmic tutorials on youtube :D


    Vinícius Cortez

    ·6 years ago·
  • Felipe

    Very nice article. Do you have any suggestions for someone who is just starting using Substance Designer?



    ·6 years ago·

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