Posts Tagged ‘Substance Painter 2’

ArtStation and a mine

December 27, 2016


Just a very quick post to show off a new asset (although I’ve already been spamming Twitter with that a bit).

It’s another Half Life asset: a hopper mine. Was a lot of fun to work on!
The above shot is in UE4, this is another Modo + Substance Painter asset.

Also, I’ve decided to jump on the ArtStation bandwagon, just in case I didn’t already have enough accounts and pages to maintain 🙂

Hope everyone has a great holidays and New Years!


City scanner scene – Breakdown pt1

October 12, 2016


In this post, I’ll go through the construction of the environment for my recently posted Half Life 2 scanner scene.

The point of this project was really just to do a bit of animation on my scanner, and show it off in a simple environment. I can’t remember the last time I did any animation, but my guess would be when I was studying at the AIE over ten years ago 🙂

So with that in mind, figuring I was going to struggle with the animation side, I wanted to keep the environment dead simple. It was always going to be dark, anyway, since I wanted the scanner to light the scene!

Modelling / texturing the tunnel

I looked up a bunch of photo reference for cool tunnels in Europe, presumably the sort of thing that the resistance in city 17 would have used 🙂

I blocked out basic lighting, camera setup, and created the tunnel out of cubes in UE4.
Once I was happy with the layout, I could then just export the blocked out mesh to FBX to use as a template in Modo:


I also took the time to make a really basic animatic.
I changed the path of the scanner quite a bit, and timing, etc, but I still found this to be useful:

Anyway, at this point, the scene blockout is in Modo, and I can start building geometry:


The geometry itself is dead simple, so I won’t go into that too much, I just extruded along a spline, then beveled and pushed a few edge loops around 🙂

I always use the sculpt tools to push geometry around a little, just to make things feel a bit more natural. Here specifically I was sinking some of the vertices on the side pathways:


Layered vertex painted materials can be expensive, so I wanted to avoid going too far down that path.
In the end, I settled on having two layers: concrete, and moldy damp green stuff:


The green stuff is vertex paint blended on, and the vertex colours for the mask was done in UE4 rather than in Modo, just because it is quick and easy to see what I’m doing in editor.

Most of the materials in the scene were made in Substance painter.
And I’m lazy, so they are usually a couple of layers with procedural masks, and one or two hand painted masks 🙂


Water plane


For the purposes of this scene, I could get away with a pretty low tech / low quality water plane. As long as it had some movement, and is reflective, then it would do!

The engine provides flow map samples and functions in the content samples, so I just used those. I’ve written my own ones before (and by that, I mean I copied what they were doing in the Portal 2 Water Flow presentation from siggraph 2010), but the UE4 implementation does exactly what I wanted 🙂

And seriously, if you haven’t looked at that presentation, go do it.
They used Houdini to generate water flow, but I’m lazy and ain’t got time for that! (Not for this scene, at any rate).

I just generated mine in Photoshop, using this page as a guide:

Photoshop generated flow maps

At some point, I’d like to see if I can set up the same workflow in Substance Painter and/or Houdini.

Anyway, the material is a bit messy (sorry):


I’m passing the flowmap texture and some timing parameters into the flowmaps material function, and getting a new normal map out of it.

The only other thing going on here is that I have a mask for the edges of the water, where it is interacting with the walls. I blend in different subsurface colour, normal strength and roughness at the edges.

Fog planes


I’ve got a few overlapping fog planes in the scene, with a simple noisy texture, offset by world position (having a different offset on each make it feel a little more volumetric).

Much like the water, the fog plane has a subtle flow map on it, to fake a bit of turbulence, and the material uses depth fade on opacity to help it blend with the surrounding geometry:


UE4 4.13 mesh decals

I was going to use a bunch of the new 4.13 features originally, but in the end I think the only one I used was “mesh decals”.

These are decals in the old school sense, not the projected decals that UE4 users have probably come to love. In the back of my mind, I had thought I might turn this into a VR scene at some point, and the cost of projected decals is a somewhat unknown commodity for me at the moment.

The main advantage of mesh decals, vs floating bits of geometry with Masked materials, is that mesh decals support full alpha blending.

In these shots, the water puddle, stain and concrete edge damage are all on part of the same decal sheet:

The decals are all using Diffuse, Normals, Roughness, Metallic and Occlusion (the last three packed together):

DecalsTextures.pngI built the decals one at a time, without much planning, basically guessing at how much texture space I thought I was going to need (I didn’t bother setting a “texels per metre” type of limit for my project, but that probably would have been sensible).

Each time I wanted a new mesh decal, I’d work out in Modo how big I want it first:


Then I’d copy it into a separate Modo scene just for Decal Layout which I take into Substance Painter.
I just did this so I could keep all the mesh together in one space, to keep it easy for painting:


And then here is the scene in Substance:


And here is the scene with and without decals:


What’s great about this, is that mesh decals don’t show up in Shader Complexity, so the tech artists on the project will never know… (I kid, I kid. They will find them in PIX, and will hunt you down and yell at you).

I really like this approach to building wear and tear into materials. The first time I saw this approach was when I was working at Visceral Games in Melbourne, and the engine was very well optimized to handle a pretty huge amount of decals. I didn’t embrace it as much as I should have, back then.


A few years back, I made a blueprint for pipes that allowed joining sections, etc.
So I knocked together a model in Modo for the connection pieces:


Edge-weighted sub-d, of course, because I can’t help myself 🙂
I even started sculpting in some heavy rust, but had to have a stern word to myself about not spending too much time on stuff that isn’t even going to be lit…

Textured in Substance Painter:


Same dealio with the pipe segments:


Then I just built the spline in the editor, and set it up like in my old blog post.

Much like I did with the original blockout geometry, I also exported the final pipes back out to Modo so that I could use them to work out where I wanted to put some decals.

The only other thing that was a pain, was that the pipes need lightmaps, but I couldn’t work out a way to generate unique UVs for the final pipe mesh.

In the end, I just used the merge actors function in the editor, so that they all became a single static mesh, and let Unreal generate lightmap UVs.


Did you notice that there were hanging spider webs in the scene?
No? Good, because I don’t like them much 😛

I probably spent 10-20 hours just messing about with these silly things, but at least I got some fun gifs out of them:


Next up…

I’ll break down the construction of those web things, might be useful for a scene full of badly animated vines, I suppose…

I’ll also go through all of the silly things I did on the animation / blueprint / lighting side.

City Scanner

August 27, 2016

Since I had so much fun with the last Modo / Substance project I did, thought I’d do another one 🙂

This time, I decided to make a City Scanner, from Half Life 2.
It’s a work in progress, and I’ll keep posting regular screenshots up on my twitter, but here’s where I’m currently at:


I could have been smart, and just grabbed the model from Source and built around it, but I need to practice building things from scratch, so I built it based off a bunch of screenshots I grabbed out of the game.

It has quite a few differences to the original, which I’m going to pretend was due to creative license, rather than me screwing up proportions, etc (I particularly hate the green side panel, and some of the rear details, but I’m not going to fix the modelling on those at this point) …

Building the model

As with everything I do, this was built as an edge-weighted Catmull-Clark subdivision surface, in Modo 10.

Whenever working on these things, I tend to throw some basic Modo procedural materials and render them out, so here’s where I was at by the end of the high poly process:


Once I was happy with the model (read: sick of working on it :P), I created the low poly mesh for it, and unwrapped the thing.

Unwrapping aside, this didn’t take a huge amount of time, because I just used the base sub-d cage, and stripped out a bunch of loops.
It’s pretty heavy still, at about 7000 vertices, but it’ll do!

Painter work

I could have baked the procedural materials out of Modo, and painted over the top of them, etc (Modo actually has some great baking and painting tools these days), but I need to keep using painter more.

Probably the largest amount of time I spent from this point on was splitting the high and low poly up into lots of different meshes so that I could bake all the maps I needed in Substance Painter.

Models with lots of floating, yet welded intersecting parts are a little bit of a pain for this sort of thing, but I got there eventually.

From Modo, I baked out a Surface ID mask (actually, I used a Diffuse render output, and had flood fill colours on all my materials, but I use it as a Surface ID mask in Painter):


For each of the colour blocks, I set up a folder in Painter that had a Colour
Selection mask on it:


And then I just stack up a bunch of flood fill colour layers with masks until I’m happy.

There’s not a lot of actual painting going on here, at this point, although I do always paint out some parts of the procedural masks, because having even edge wear across the whole model looks pretty silly.

That said, smart masks with flood fill layers aren’t a bad way to flesh out basic wear and tear, etc:


I still need to paint out more of the wear and tear on my model, and put more colour variation in, it looks a little like it has been in a sandstorm, then thrown down some stairs 🙂



Aside from some issues with Reflection Capture Actors (having emissive materials in a scene can mess them up a bit), I really didn’t do much except throw the exported textures from Substance onto the mesh, and put a few lights in.

I did mess about with the texels per pixel, min and fade resolutions, and radius thresholds of the shadow casters a bit, because the default settings for shadows in UE4 are pretty low quality for some reason, even on Epic settings.

The material is really boring at the moment, the only thing it exposes is a multiplier for emissive:


Next steps

I will probably animate this in UE4 at some point, and have it floating around, flashing lights, etc.
And it will end up as a minor piece in an environment at some point, hopefully 🙂

For now, though, I want to continue down the fun path of Modo sub-d/Substance, so I will probably start working on a new model.

Watch this space, and/or twitter 🙂



Modo 10 on the move

June 19, 2016

A month ago, I had a fun adventure taking a train across Canada (which I can highly recommend, by the way).

I’ve moved from Toronto to Vancouver, so I’ve been sans PC for a few months.

Never fear, though, I could still run Modo on my trusty Surface Pro 1 🙂


One of the stops along the way was in Winnipeg.
I had two tasks while there, getting some t-shirts, and finding something to model in Modo (well ok, three, if you include a milkshake at VJ’s).

I decided on this auto-sprinkler thing:


The plan was to do most of the modelling work with standard Pixar sub-d stuff in Modo 901 while on the train.

After I arrived in Vancouver, though, I upgraded to Modo 10, which gave me some fun new tools to play with!

Procedural Text

Non destructive modelling along the lines of Max’s stack, and/or Maya’s history is something that has been discussed a long time in Modo circles, and it has landed in Modo 10!

So, once the main mesh was finished, I could select an edge loop in the sub-d mesh, use Edges to Curves to create a curve to place the text around.

Then, in a new procedural text item, I reference in the curve, and use it with a Path generator and a path segment generator to wrap the text around the sprinkler base plate:


I couldn’t work out a procedural way to get those letters rotated correctly, so I just fixed that up manually afterwards.

Fusey fuse

Since I wanted the text to be extruded from the surface and to look like it is all one piece, I decided to use Modo’s Mesh Fusion to Boolean the text on:


Since the mesh was a sub-d mesh, I didn’t really need to make a low poly, I just used the cage.
Well… Technically I should probably still make a low poly (the cage is 3500 vertices, which is pretty heavy), but it’s amazing what you can get away with these days, and soon we will have edge weighted sub-d in all major engines anyway (we won’t… But if I say it enough times, maybe it will happen??):


At this point, I unwrapped the cage, to get the thing ready for texturing.

Substance Painter time

I won’t go too much into the process here, because my approach is generally along the lines of: stack up dozens of procedural layers, and mess about with numbers for a few hours…

Since I could not be bothered rendering out a Surface ID map from Modo, I quickly created some base folders with masks created from the UV Chunk Fill mode in the Polygon Fill tool.

So in about 10 minutes I had a base set of folders to work with, and some materials applied:


Hello weird bronze liney thing.
Looks like someone forgot to generate world space normal maps…

Anyway, I went with a fairly standard corroded bronze material for the main body, and tweaked it a little.
Then added a bunch more procedural layers, occasionally adding paint masks to break them up here and there when I didn’t feel like adding too many more procedural controls.

There’s about 30 layers all in all, some on pretty low opacity:


And here’s what I ended up with in Painter:


Pretty happy with that 🙂
Could do with some more saturation variation on the pink bits, and the dirt and wear is a bit heavy, but near enough is good enough!

Giant hover sprinkler of doom

And here it is in UE4, really large, and floating in the air, and with a lower resolution texture on it (because 2048 is super greedy :P):


Speaking of UE4: Modo 10 has materials that are compatible with the base materials in Unreal and Unity now, so you can have assets look almost identical between the two bits of software.

Which is pretty neat. I haven’t played with that feature, but I feel like it will be particularly nice for game artists who want to take Unreal assets into Modo, and render them out for folio pieces, etc.