Texturing Characters in Substance Painter

Texturing Characters in Substance Painter

Nikie Monteleone talked about the way she painted the amazing model by Nina Tarasova, based on the concept of Alli White.


Hi! I’m Nikie Monteleone and I’m originally from New York but I have been in Portland, OR for a little over 5 years. I originally went to school for Fashion though during my senior year I was introduced to Animation. I began taking a few classes learning 3ds Max and SolidWorks and quickly fell in love. It was too late to switch majors and I was also told I was cheating by my fine arts teachers so I put it down but always knew it was something I wanted to do. For five years after graduating MICA, I worked on movie sets, assisted a gallery artist in NYC & then made my way to designing kid’s products & patterns for a merchandising company. None of them really gave me creative satisfaction so I knew I had to go back to school for that itch I still had! After the first semester at SVA in NYC, I ended up quitting my “5th ave design job” and took a chance with animation. I did just about everything to make the career switch a possibility which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! I started out as an intern at a small shop in Connecticut working on a few sci-fi films. I ended up staying there for 2 years and had an awesome manager, Jay Garrison,  that was always willing to stop what he was doing to help me with a problem or answer my very long list of daily questions. I was able to touch every part of the pipeline while I was there but knew texturing was what I loved doing most.

Greenie Genie by nikiemonteleone on Sketchfab

I use what I have learned from school, from peers/co-workers and from Artists I respect every day! At my first school, The Maryland Institute College of Art, I got deep into the surfaces of anything that could be worn on the body. Because it was more of a fine art school and not really a fashion school, I learned more about the creation of these surfaces with weaving, dyeing, silk screening, sewing and creating patterns. We would have really great constructive critiques that I still refer to today. It’s a very hard thing to hear someone give you feedback but it’s the only way to grow and get better. I also took classes that taught me about composition, color theory, and art history. All extremely important to the process! Knowing a piece of software is great but learning how to create & construct a great piece is a whole other story.

Greenie Genie

Nina’s model is absolutely beautiful! I dove in, right away, putting “like materials” in the same UDIM patches. Skin together, metal together, cloth together etc. UVs are very important for an efficient workflow since each patch is its own “texture set.” I might have a bit more of a game plan if there were more assets but for this model, materials were pretty straightforward. From there, I was able to make all the “Look” choices in Substance both in the viewport and with their IRay renderer.

So for example, all the skin has the same “texel density” so if I chose to put a freckle pattern on the face, the body will get that same freckle scale even though it’s in another texture set/UDIM patch.

Once in Substance Painter, I went through a few of their default fabric presets to see which ones appealed to me most. I had the color palette from Alli White’s original illustration but I decided to add a pattern to the fabric (which I love creating!) I looked up ancient temples and referenced a few shapes from the walls and other ancient Egyptian art. From there, I created a black & white pattern that I used to mask out how many specs came through on the fabric. I did the same thing on the lamp, coins & henna using ancient money and ceramics references to come up with the shapes I created there.


The skin was a little more challenging since SSS is not something you can really see in Substance Painter (or any paint program that I’m aware of!) There are, of course, ways to fake these channels within paint programs but it’s not until I get to Maya with Arnold that the real fun begins with light and SSS. I painted this in Substance Painter but fed the weight map into a ramp before feeding it into the SSS weight so I can control the amount of white and black all while IPR rendering.

Hair, Clothes, and Particles

To be honest, I hand-painted those in Photoshop! I did have a particle system going inside Maya but I wasn’t able to get as much control as I wanted to I just ended up painting them at the end of the day! Shout out to Grut Brushes for making some seriously amazing photoshop brushes. Here, I used the Grut brush “Pointy Pop”.


Other when finding the time to work on personal art, it’s a toss-up between lighting and the hair. I really wanted to light her from below so the gold was the real light source but because of the way she is positioned, I couldn’t quite get a light to wrap around her face the way I would have liked so there are light passes and some small photoshop touch-ups. I got the Arnold lights as far as I could then went in and lightened a few areas before I started the compostiting phase.

Nikie Monteleone, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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    Texturing Characters in Substance Painter