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Substance Designer Materials: Production & Presentation by Enrico Tammekänd

Enrico Tammekänd shared his personal take on Substance Designer and Substance Source, talked about his experiments, coloring, presentation, and gave some tips.

Discovering Substance Designer

For those who are not so familiar with Substance Designer, it has a non-destructive workflow where you can kitbash your ideas very quickly. Everything is done procedurally, where each noise is generated and that means that we can have thousands of variations to our material graphs. Substance Designer eliminates the struggle of sculpting e.g. 20 different ground materials where we can just create one base setup graph which is going to generate thousands of variations based on your preference and we can always go back and change everything if the materials don’t fit exactly as needed.

Substance Source & Online Libraries

The Allegorithmic Substance Source material library is growing exponentially each day and I am really happy to see that happening. It provides artists the freedom of not worrying about how to paint their 3D assets. They can just go and check out materials to their liking and if there’s something that looks interesting but requires some changes, they can just get the .SBS graph file and tweak everything to fit the needs. Also, having the procedural mindset, it will be very rare that people will be using the exact copies of the same materials since anyone can add random seed to the materials and get the same style, but just a little bit different.

Experimenting with SD: Advice & Tips

One of the best ways to experiment with Substance Designer is to actually experiment with it. As simple as it sounds, people often get stuck in their comfort zone and therefore they do not use workflows that could give them new results. I think it is very important to find a new node for example and even if it’s not going to be very efficient to use in your material, then at least try to fit it there anyway. That way you will get more comfortable with using other nodes in your toolset and expand the mindset of utilizing Substance Designer to its fullest.


References play a very big part in the overall material creation and therefore also on the color creation. Even though I don’t use the references exactly 1:1, I tend to use them as close as possible. With references, you can see what has been built in real life, the possibilities and techniques in order to get the correct heightmap that then impacts the creation of every other map, including the Base Color.

Material Presentation

Making the sphere renders I started to see that it is very important to actually increase the light intensity a lot. The lighting brings out all of the characteristics of the materials, the roughness, normal map, surface details, height scale, etc. Therefore, in order to show off as much as possible with only a few images, the basic understanding of lighting principles plays a key part in it. Because in the end, the way you present your work is going to be 50% of your whole project.

There are some common principles of photography like the rule of thirds and the golden ratio which can help out on how to position the lights and do the composition to be pleasing for the eyes. These rules can, of course, be bent and the presentation should be more based on how the artist actually wants their artwork to be shown. But some of the key elements I have found are shadows, highlights, and support lighting. This can be interpreted into having a Directional Light for the shadows on a specific angle, a really bright light from behind the sphere for the highlights and finally a subtle supporting light from the downward angle that gives the impression of having multiple lights bouncing off from the environment that it is surrounded by.

Source: 80LV