[Finished] Sci-Fi Control Panel in Substance Designer

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TheGabmeister polycounter lvl 2

Finished Material:







Original Post:


After watching Daniel Thiger's tutorial on creating complex shapes and heightmaps, I wanted to test what I learned by making something related to sci-fi. Looking for a reference, I found this very interesting sci-fi control panel from Jeremy Love's portfolio for Alien Covenant.

Seeing a lot of insets and bevels, this is a very good opportunity to stretch my skills in shape creation. The goal is to create the reference 100% in Substance Designer, improve my skills in heightmap blending, and eventually create a portfolio-ready output.


For the next few days, I'll post some updates and share with you some of my discoveries that might help you in your future projects with Substance Designer.

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  • TheGabmeister
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    TheGabmeister polycounter lvl 2
    Let's disassemble the target shapes into smaller and simpler components:



    I took some time fine tuning the individual heightmaps as these will drive a lot of the other maps such as the Normal, Ambient Occlusion, and Curvature maps.



    Blending all these parts required a lot of adjustment. I finally learned how and when to use the Curve and Histogram nodes. These were really useful in making sure which shape is on top of the other. The GIF below shows the sequence:





    Next up, I'll create a bunch of masks for all the colors and textures.

  • TheGabmeister
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    TheGabmeister polycounter lvl 2
    One of the things that I've encountered a lot with hard-surface shapes was these "beveled corners." It's kinda like the shape you get when you select the vertices of an object in a 3D modeling app and then do a bevel.



    Previously, what I did was that I manually placed a triangle (or a rotated square) at those corners and then do a subtraction or addition. The issue was that the number of Blend and Transform nodes increases for every corner hence becoming cumbersome for complex shapes.

    Thanks to Palirano from the Allegorithmic Forums. He taught me a really cool way to create these beveled corners using Directional Blur:


    The limitation here, however, is that this approach only works with 90 degree corners. For other angles, you might need to play around with the parameters of the Directional Blur.

    Here's a test shape I made using the same approach:



  • TheGabmeister
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    TheGabmeister polycounter lvl 2
    Finished creating the masks and some of the textures:


    Here's my progress so far:





    Currently aiming to make it look a little bit stylized. I'll add some variety to the Base Color, Roughness and Metallic map later.
  • TheGabmeister
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    TheGabmeister polycounter lvl 2
    Recently, I've been watching stylized material creation from 3dEx Youtube Playslist on Substance Designer. If you're into stylized textures, definitely check him out.

    One quick way that I learned on how to make something look stylized is to add visible highlights around edges, and then blend those highlights with your base color. The node setup below is the one I used. You get those edge highlights by blending a Curvature Sobel and a Curvature Smooth node, both of which are generated from your Normal map:




    The GIF below shows how to Stylized Filter adds those distinct highlights along the edges.



    At this point, I think I'm ready to export the maps into Marmoset Toolbag and do some beauty shots and portfolio renders.
  • TheGabmeister
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    TheGabmeister polycounter lvl 2
    Finished material. Rendered in Marmoset Toolbag:








    Overall, creating this material was a fun learning experience. Below are things I learned that you might find useful:

    1. Avoid heightmap intersections if you can. One mistake I did here was that the edges of certain shapes and the shapes beside them were slightly intersecting. At first I thought it was perfectly fine to leave them like that because you can't see it anyway. Later, it caused some issues when creating the color masks.

    2. Optimize early. Allegorithmic has provided a Performance Optimization Guide which everyone should read.

    3. You might run of of RAM when trying to compute 4K or 8K maps. If your computer cannot handle the load, there is still a way to output these maps by using Substance Player. 

    4. When your graph becomes too complex, create subgraphs to make your work easier.


    Things to Improve

    1. I should have created an environment that would be the backdrop/setting of this material.

    2. The Roughness Map can still be improved by utilizing the masks and varying the roughness along certain sections of the material.

    3. The Dirt applied can still be tweaked and improved.

    4. The warning labels on the lower left somehow looks out-of-place. Might be good to add a little bit of grunge here.


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