Learning Substance Tools
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by Shayne Byrne
41 min ago

Maybe they should focus on making their games they already have run a bit better first. There are many complaints about the game play in World of Tanks. The platoon aspect needs fixing so it is more fairly ranked.

>Evangelion on TV I see you're man of the culture, Thomas :)

give me some names. Who's doing great environment work with Unity these days? I'd be happy to interview anyone who's showing some cool stuff!

Learning Substance Tools
26 January, 2017
3d artist Wes ‘Mr Substance’ McDermott  was kind enough to talk to 80.lv about his work, 3d art and ways to approach learning new software.

Art by Mahmoud Salah


My path to working with computer graphics was quite a long journey. I started out as a photographer and got a degree in commercial photography. From there, I moved into video production and worked as an editor/shooter. This is when I first saw LightWave 3D 5.0. I was instantly hooked and spent all my time to learning LightWave. Over the years, I continued to learn new 3D programs and eventually got a job working for UPS Airlines creating content for the flight training department.

Art by Wes McDermott

During my time at UPS, I began creating my own tutorials and wrote two books, one covering MODO and the other on creating game art for the iPhone using Unity. After the books, I had more opportunities to create tutorials and run demos at various conferences such as Unite and GDC. I then started to do some work for Allegorithmic providing training content and running demos at their GDC booth. Later this turned into a full-time position with Allegorithmic.

I’ve always been a self-trained artist as many of us are. I know what it’s like to struggle to learn and having to piece together information from various books and tutorials. Whenever I create a tutorial, I always remember how hard it was for me to learn new software or techniques, so I strive to create the tutorial that I would want to watch. The type of tutorial I wish I had when I first started. I love to learn and I really enjoy sharing with others information that I have found or picked up. I really love the CG community and it’s a great privilege to be able to contribute and help others.

Art by Mahmoud Salah


I always like to encourage new users to jump right in and don’t be afraid to get started. Anyone can learn anything and the only limits we have are the ones we impose on ourselves. This mindset has helped me through the years as I learn new software. I recommend new users start with Substance Painter as it’s very easy to use and you can just jump right in. As a layer-based system, there is not much of a learning curve and the overall UI is minimal and not daunting. The Substance Toolset is all about texturing, so it’s also important to have a good understanding of a 3D app. Knowing how to create UVs and understanding texel density are huge benefits to not only texturing with Substance, but in any texturing software.

Art Cedric Seaut

I think the best way to look at Designer is that it’s a tool for creating tiling base materials. It’s a node-based interface so it can be a little tough for new users. However, you are working with nodes that are more about image processing and compositingб, rather than shader/math nodes like you see in UE4. I like to think of Designer as a digital compositing tool, but for textures. We look at Designer as a tool for technical artists where they are creating base materials or utilities that can be used by texture artist teams. With Designer, I don’t think there are any big prerequisites to getting started. Again, it always helps to have some background in working with textures for 3D, but you don’t need to be an expert modeler or texture painter.

Art by Matthew Moult

Realistic Look 

I think PBR has really changed the game for texturing. I used to struggle a great deal creating materials before PBR and now I find it much easier to create realistic surfaces You don’t need to be a scientist of sorts, who knows all the theory and principles behind light and surface interaction. Of course, the more you know the better texture artist you will be and learning lighting/PBR theory is only a huge benefit. What I mean is that the PBR shaders do a lot of the heavy technical lifting. I can stick to a few core principles of PBR and create materials that are physically-correct without much effort. I find this gives me more time to focus on the art design of the materials and textures I’m creating. I think PBR frees the artist from technical constraints and allows them focus more on being an artist.

In regards to Substances, I think that subtle variation and detail are keys to creating realistic work. Since you are creating textures in a procedural manner, you may run the risk of having that “computer-generated” look. However, Substance gives you the flexibility to quickly create various details and complex layering that go a long way to creating a realistic material. Variation is the key.

Stylized Materials

I think a common misconception is that PBR is only for realistic materials. However, if you look at Disney/Pixar you can see that PBR is very well suited for stylized materials. Disney created the “principled” shader which is based on real-world measurements. It gives artists a way to work with physically-accurate data without sacrificing the ability to make stylistic changes.

Art by Guillaume Mollé

To me, I think the stylized look translates into different aspects. I think this involves not only the materials but the assets themselves. For example, if we look at a cobble road, we could make this stylized through the cobble stone shapes, color palette and overall design. However, the core materials for stone, dirt, and rock are still physically-based.

Again, I think PBR frees the artist. They are not bogged down in the technical aspects of rendering and instead they can focus on art design. Let the shaders handle the science and the artist handle the art. But please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying an artist should shy away from the technical. I would say I am a much better artist by learning lighting theory, studying materials and what they are made of and better understanding the science behind it.

Imagine a situation, where you have a very basic low poly planet, with sort of just colors for materials. How would you approach this production with Substance Painter? 

Here I would start by establishing some basic materials using Fill Layers. These materials would represent the land, oceans, and clouds. From there, I would blend these fill layers using the mask that are driven by procedural noises to create the separation of land and water as well as create the cloud layers.

Painter is a 3D painting package. Simply put, you can paint on a mesh to create textures. However, Painter can also be used procedurally to build up materials. This is very powerful as you can create reusable materials and quickly build up materials. This process gets you about 85% of the way and then you can spend the remaining time hand painting details and polishing the results.

Substance Academy

We provide content from beginners to advanced users. We see Substance Academy as a learning hub where users can view content as a course and get access to source files. We wanted to consolidate all our training into one central location. We cover all the Substance toolsets and will be growing the library by frequently adding new courses. To get started, I recommend checking out our “Getting Started” course for both Substance Designer and Painter.

Wes McDermott, Technical Artist at Allegorithmic

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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