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Texturing an Aged Phone Booth with Substance 3D Painter

Íñigo Cebollero shared a short breakdown of the Worn Phone Booth Telefonica, spoke about decal techniques that he used, and discussed the challenges of texturing work.


Hi everyone, I'm Íñigo Cebollero, currently in my final year of the Video Game Design degree program at UDIT, Spain. Lately, I have been learning a lot about PBR technology, game art, and environment techniques, which are in high demand in the industry right now. Today, we will be looking at some texturing work that I have applied to my latest artwork using Substance 3D Painter. Let's get started!

The Worn Phone Booth Telefonica Project

This asset is based on many phone booths located around Spain. Most of them are outdated and appear aged, with varying degrees of decay resulting from the elements that have accumulated on the object during its aging process.

Creating Steel Material

I began by creating a steel base material with basic color gradients. Then, I applied multiple layers with a very soft build-up around the base color and roughness, all with a metallic appearance.

These gradients will help the details of the prop on the metallic map to stand out and enhance the overall look of the material. This technique can be used in different parts of the asset to improve the definition of individual shapes, as demonstrated in the following examples of the base color map:

The base color properties will transfer this information to the metallic map, which will incorporate the colors and render a blended version among the reflections on the final material. Following these steps, we can start working on the roughness and metalness maps concurrently.

Metallic Gradients

The metallic map typically functions as a binary switch for the game engine. This means that black corresponds to 0 (non-metallic), and white corresponds to 1 (metallic). The appropriate metallic masking for PBR requires selecting between black and white, although some engines, such as Marmoset or Unreal Engine, permit grayscale values.

Metallic map

Final shot

The core barely has any grayscale metallic values, but that changes for the macro detail here:

Some worn edges were created using the gradient technique, but this time it was applied to the metallic map. This is where we deviate from reality to make the asset appear more realistic (even if that sounds paradoxical).

In real life, some props have a visual appearance that does not fit well with PBR standards. For instance, metallic paints can create a metallic look but are not actually metallic (in terms of physical properties). When texturing such assets, we must apply a black metallic surface with a lower roughness value, but sometimes this is insufficient to achieve the desired visual effect. We need to include all metallic-looking parts in the metallic map, and these grayscale values will also help to create the decay effect, complementing the base color and roughness work.

This setup makes our job as artists much easier, as we can clearly distinguish the parts that are not supposed to have a shiny appearance while still being highly reflective.


I used two different decal techniques here:

  • Texture Decal (painting layers over their own texture): Texture decals function as a regular fill layer in this instance. With high-contrast roughness and various masks, we manipulate the original painting source. To create the graffiti, I utilized a sharp brush or alphas and incorporated dirt and graffiti brushes to erase certain areas for larger tags (to simulate spray paint) or cement/scratches for smaller tags (to simulate markers).
  • Mesh Decal (independent mesh & materials over the main 3D model): Mesh decals are typically an environment technique, but they can also be used on larger props. By creating these decals with a mesh, the prop becomes more visually appealing and adds volume and storytelling, particularly in game production. These signs can be placed throughout the environment to indicate what is happening in the town, enhancing the overall experience for players.


The texturing work is always a challenge and starts with a personal lecture about what the asset needs. In this case, I damaged the asset with different kinds of decay, including weathering that tells us how much time this asset has been exposed to the environment (i.e., painting with sun damage, some peeling, dirt, etc.) and circumstantial decay based on events that occurred during that time and could have dealt more or less damage depending on when they were placed (such as posters, glue, graffiti, vandalism, etc.).

After settling everything as you want, you would need to set up layering work to capture those events in a coherent timeline. That would be very easy to do with simple fill layers in addition to black masks. Then blend them with roughness work and multiplied the base color layers.

Always try to work with fill layers and masks in Substance 3D Painter to make the most of its power and customization. Don’t be scared about placing a big amount of layers. This phone booth has been "creating layers" of information throughout the years, and as an artist, I had to recreate that layering as well, just in this case, I made it with Substance 3D Painter.

Íñigo Cebollero, 3D Environment and Material Artist

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