Substance Painter rocks; so do its users

We take a look at some of the entrants to the second Substance Painter contest for Meet MAT 2, the contest that asks users to take Substance Painter's default MAT mesh and texture it in new and imaginative ways. Take a closer look...

Substance Painter is a powerful tool

More specifically, Substance allows you to paint in 3D; you can paint wood, metal, skin, scales, or virtually any material you can imagine onto your 3D asset. If you’ve ever used Photoshop, you’ll be familiar with the setup of brushes and layers used in Substance Painter. Its non-destructive workflow prioritizes experimentation – if you try something out that you ultimately don’t love, it’s easy to find your way back to something that you do.

If you’ve seen Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, you’ve seen how Substance Painter helped texture the wreckage of the Death Star. If you’ve played The Division 2, you’ve seen how Substance Painter can texture entire environments. Substance Painter is a texturing tool that provides vast creative possibilities, used by some of the most accomplished 3D artists and studios in the world. Best of all: you can get a free 1-month trial license to see that for yourself.

Let’s meet MAT

If you’re starting out with Substance Painter, you’ll see that it comes packaged with three meshes to try out your texturing skills. One of those meshes is MAT, the Material Art Toy, and the Substance team’s unofficial mascot.

MAT is great. You know how, if you have a pet kitten, you can’t wait until you get home so that you can play with him, and cuddle him, and look at his little face? That’s kind of how the Substance team feels about MAT.

The Substance team loves him so much that they ran a competition, Meet MAT, that invited Substance Painter users to decorate him. The response was awesome; well north of a thousand artists sent in entries, and the overall level of quality was so high that the team published a book featuring some of the best artwork from the contest. A second contest, Meet MAT 2, came soon afterwards. New features had by this time been added to Substance Painter; these became the keystones of this second contest.

Here are some of the cool things you can do in Substance Painter, described by some of the highest-rated entrants of the Meet MAT 2 contest.


Guilherme Marconi, creator of "A Tale to Illuminate the Backlands"

I tried to tell a story using MAT´s texture because, as we know, each experience in our life causes a mark, something we can´t erase that changes us forever. Usually, when we meet someone, we don´t know the story behind the person. Everyone has a story, or a love story, or something they’ve left behind to reach their dreams – and here, on this wooden MAT, we get to see that story.

Adam Scott, creator of "Sea Monkey"

To create my materials, I typically start with a clean base material that represents what the smooth material would look like if it were fresh from the shop. Then I create some larger forms to represent more of the design, or main forms. Once I have a solid base, I start to break up the surface. First with a general pass on everything, then with more targeted detail work. The dirt layer comes at the end to help tie everything together.

For hard surface elements that required some technical displacement, I created some simple alphas in Photoshop and imported them into Painter. This let me easily stamp them across the model in whatever scale and rotation I needed. I used the Projection tool and stamped these into layer masks.

As for painting, 99% of the time I’d just use the standard brush with default alpha and settings. I mostly did this to paint out some poorly placed detail I’d got from procedural or tiling textures. For this model, I adjusted some basic settings to make a simple stitch brush, which I used along some clothing seams. Occasionally I might swap the alpha of the brush to more of a dirt splatter for some custom breakup, but I usually got a decent result with procedurals and tileables before having to do this.


William Ruhlig, creator of "Polar CliMATe Scientist"

My first step was to jump into Substance Painter and see just how far the displacement could be pushed. I was excited to discover through experimenting with the settings that one can get a detailed and strong displacement that could completely revamp the underlying model.

I experimented first with the penguin’s face, seeing if I could achieve what I was visualizing in my head with pure displacement, no modeling, and just by pushing the surface out perpendicular to the model. This has the limitation of no overhanging areas, and you must make sure that you don’t clip the mesh through itself. I did this in certain areas, like the fur, and I used various procedural masks and paint layers.

This was my first time using Substance Painter at all, and I found the process intuitive and very satisfactory.

Francesc Loyo Valls, creator of "Ancient Mat Armor"

The displacement feature was a key component behind the creation of the Ancient Mat Armor. Coming from the Substance Designer pipeline, I’d already used a similar process. I started with the height map, going from the big shapes to the small details. After testing different techniques, I found that the use of fill layers with painted masks was the best way to edit the displacement. This was the best process that I found to work in a non-destructive way because the fill layer allowed me to control the final amount of displacement, independently of the design or pattern used in the mask.

Remember: you can get a free 1-month trial license to try out Substance Painter, and the rest of the Substance toolset, for yourself. Who knows what you might create?

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