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Slanted Surface Materials: Creating the Road in SD

Zahar Scherbov talked about his newest experience with Substance Designer in creating an environment design material.


Today let me introduce my new material breakdown, which I made a few months ago, and today I’d love to share some experience acquired during the development.

I came up with the idea when I saw amazing shots taken from a copter.

So I felt that it would be a very exciting quest named Material Development.

Surely, I made all this work only in Substance Designer and then render in Marmoset.

Ok, let’s start!

Act One. Road Height Map

The first problem I bumped into when I started my way was how I could make the direction of the road, and the next question, how to tie the main angle of the surface with the road height map.

At first, it looks these issues could be really quickly resolved, but I spend a lot of time on it.

So, I decided to repeat real road geometry, that’s why all my road comes down only on straight sections, like the real serpentine. Spacing Node made by Alexander Prokopchuk helped me to realize my Idea.

Understanding that it was not so easy, I tried a lot of options, spent a lot of time. Fortunately, I remember about magic node Non-Uniform blur, and from this moment my performance went UP.

I felt relieved when I handled this problem, and here are some pieces from my graph:

Act Two. Vegetation

I think this part of my graph was the most time-consuming, why? Because I didn’t estimate this task as something special, but first attempts changed my views.

Ok, two main issues I faced were how to contain all the trees on slanting surface between the road parts, and how to divide them by height and color, because at first glance you should feel the HEIGHT DIFFERENCE between grass trees and other vegetation.

I resolved the first issue with Tile Sampler node and Mask of my Road direction.

This is my grass:

Act Three. Color and Details

When it comes to color I want to share my little secret. Ok, sometimes when I need some more depth effect in my materials, for example, the trees do not look as high as I want, and the sensation of them is not so clear, I could add some shadows in Base Color map to increase the depth effect.

A lot of time I spent with Base Color and created a great number of different details, which are located only on it. Road marking is one of them. I really tried to repeat everything like in real life. That’s why I make an intermittent marking on straight sections only.

Ok, a little part of the graph with ground, grass and trees details on Base Color:

The most inconsistent detail I made for this material is the cars. I redid them two or three times because such elements like “cherry on top” come finally.

I made all this work to improve my knowledge in SD and to have more experience in slanted surface materials, and materials with a high level of details.


In the end, I want to say that the experience from this material was invaluable, I understood a lot about height maps and details in materials. I guess this breakdown was useful, and the node system in SD has become a little more affordable and understandable after it.

Special thanks to 80 Level! Guys, You are the best! I read new articles every day, and they give birth to new ideas and new challenges for me!

Thank you!

Zahar Scherbov, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Artem Sergeev

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