Master Substance Designer sculpts
Discover how to sculpt in Designer
In this tutorial we are going to learn how to create a high-quality figurative piece in volumes and composed of several elements using substance Designer. We will discover how to create complex and precise shapes, enhance their volume and mix them together. to achieve all of that, we will work the elements in separate subgraphs before building the final scene in a master graph. We will also use separate tools like the perspective and Destruction nodes to save time. eventually, we will find out how to layer materials according to our sculpt.
Set up the project let’s start by creating a new substance with the pbr Metallic/roughness template. the name you enter here is the first graph – let’s call it ‘sacred bust’ and it will be our master graph. in this graph, we will compile all the several parts of our character made in separate sub-graphs. let’s set the Output Format up to 16 bits in the parameters Window to avoid any artefacts and add some ao and Opacity Outputs. to do so, create two new Output nodes. For each new Output, set up the identifier, label and usage according to its use – for example, ao and ambient occlusion.
Block out the head by right-clicking on the package of the substance in the explorer window, let’s create a new substance graph and call it ‘Head’. First we need to set up this graph option just like we did with the master graph. For every output, put the option ‘visible if’ at 0 except for the height. now let’s start the silhouette by moving simple shapes like squares and discs with transforms and blend those in add Mode. set the tiling Mode option of your transform nodes to no tiling and the Mip Map Mode to Manual.
Sculpt the head now that we have a primitive shape for the face, we need to sculpt the big volumes like the cheeks, the eyeholes and the chin. in order to do that, we are going to add or multiply simple blurred Volumes on the head. like we did before for the silhouette, let’s grab a shape and transform it – but here we need to blur it before the blend to avoid hard intersection artefacts. playing with the opacity of the blend is also a good way to keep things smooth at this step. You can blur your shapes with a nonuniform blur before applying it to the face if you want to manipulate it with an asymmetric deformation.
Creation of the eyes each eye is composed of two eyelids and an eyeball. For those three volumes, we need to work their silhouettes individually, just like we did with the head, and use bevels and nonuniform blurs until we have obtained our main shapes. next, blend those parts together with blend in Max Mode. the pupil can easily be created by subtracting a shape on the eyeball before blending it with the eyelids. using levels and paraboloids blended with low opacity on the shapes can help to control the volumes even more.
Make the mouth First we need to subtract a shape like a paraboloid where the hole of the mouth is supposed to be on the face. now, just like how we did with the eyelids in the previous step, use shapes with transforms and nonuniform blurs to create each lip separately. When we want to enlarge a silhouette or round the edges of it, we can use an edge detect with the edge width set to 1 and roundness set to 1 or 2. to create the nice orientation and volume of the lips, use a nonuniform blur on your shape with an intensity of 5, aniso of 0, asymmetry of 1, angle of 90, samples of 16 and blades of 9. this will give a direction to the sculpt.
Shape the nose like with each of the steps above, start with the silhouette by adding and subtracting simple shapes to each other. use two bevels with positive and negative values and blend them together to give the main volumes. next we need to push the nose bridge back by adding a transformed gradient as a multiplier. transform a paraboloid to create the exterior of the nostrils and Max it on your volume. after that, subtract a paraboloid with a 0.3 opacity to sculpt the bottom of the nostril and then take away a smaller paraboloid to dig the nostril hole itself. apply a symmetry to obtain the full nose and at this point we need to make sure that we don’t forget to balance the range of height at each step so that we can keep control of the overall volumes along the way.
use shapes with transforms and nonuniform blurs to create each lip separately. When we want to enlarge a silhouette or round the edges of it, we can use an edge detect with the edge width set to 1 and roundness set to 1 or 2
Block out the octopus create a new graph for the octopus. For this part, we’ll be working the body and each tentacle individually. Do the silhouettes first by transforming simple shapes like discs. use a non uniform blur to transform the silhouettes into volumes. then use a level node to clamp the black and white values. to finish, blend the different parts of the volumes together with a blend node in Max mode. Don’t forget to play with levels to adjust the depth of every element and gradient for the orientations. build the eyes, tongue and teeth separately then blend them in Max mode on the octopus.
add a paraboloid shape in the hole, a crown around the cup and slope blur it to sculpt it a bit. now we can duplicate this whole setup and adjust the steps to fake an another suction cup orientation
The octopus’ suction cups in another graph, extrude a disc with the perspective node to create a cylinder. add a nonuniform blurred disc on top of it and subtract some directionality warpped circular shapes. then add a nonuniform blurred disc to the bottom and use the result to dig a hole in the cylinder. add a paraboloid shape in the hole, a crown around the cup and slope blur it to sculpt it a bit. now we can duplicate this whole setup and adjust the steps to fake an another suction cup orientation. expose every orientation – four could be enough – and bring this graph into the octopus graph. now transform as many suction cups as you need along the tentacles.
Build the bust We need to build the bust in one graph but use separate pieces for the belly, breasts, upper part with collarbones and scales collar. the belly is simple – it’s just an angular round cylinder. Make the breasts from transformed discs and then apply a nonuniform blur on it with asymmetry to push the volume. You can subtract morphed lines on the breasts to enhance the volumes. the upper part of the body is a simple silhouette enhanced with nonuniform blur on which we can subtract shapes to create the clavicle holes. to build the collar, create a separate graph with different scaled orientations. Drag and drop this graph in the bust one and move the different scales with transform to build the collar.
Create the hands in a separate graph, break down the hands into several parts to make the palm and the fingers. create the palm the classical way – silhouette first with shape in add blend, enhance volume with nonuniform blur and subtract shapes from it to create the palm lines. For each finger, simply create a different cylinder for each phalanx with a disc to extrude with the perspective node. blur the intersections between the phalanxes and between the fingers and the palm itself. create the arms on the side with simple volumes and drag and blend them with the hands to obtain the complete arms.
Construct the heart in a new graph, break the heart down into different parts – the main volumes, secondary volumes, the several arteries and the gears. the organic parts of the heart are made as usual with a silhouette enhanced by nonuniform blurs. the arteries are made from disc extrudes with the perspective node and then bent with a directional warp. create different gear silhouettes with splatter circulars and discs blended in add Mode. For more information, check the boxout on the opposite page on mechanical parts. to break the continuity between the heart and gears, add a slope blur to slightly sculpt the organic heart surface.
Build the character now that we have every sub-graph, we can drag and drop them into the master graph. use levels or Histograms to balance each element and transforms to place them correctly. blend the part in Max mode to create a believable result. be careful that the Mip Map option of your transforms is set to Manual to avoid artefacts. Don’t hesitate to do some back and forth, retaking the designs of the parts that compose the character so that we get the result we want – it’s all about iteration. compile the marble and metallic parts separately to be able later on to sculpt them individually.
the organic parts of the heart are made as usual with a silhouette enhanced by nonuniform blurs. the arteries are made from disc extrudes with the perspective node and then bent with a directional warp
Sculpt some marble create a cloud 1, squeeze it vertically with a transform and blur it slightly. next, blend a paraboloid in Multiply on top of it before splattering the result four or five times in Max. put the height of your character in the greyscale input of a slope blur and the setup that you’ve just made in the slope input. set the slope blur samples to 32 and the intensity to 0.025 in Min Mode. add a nonuniform blur on a bnw spots 1 with asymmetry, Mosaic greyscale and slope blur it with a blurred cloud before slightly subtracting the result on your main height. lastly, blur a cloud 1, Histo scan it with contrast, bevel it and use that recipe to slightly subtract elements on your character height.
Shape the metal because we’ve already sculpted the heart in its own sub-graph, here we are just going to sculpt the wheel. create a bnw spots 1, use a nonuniform blur on it (8, 0, 0, 0, 0, 16, 9) and multiply the result on the main height with an opacity of 0.2. now we need to splatter a ridged bell, invert it and multiply it on the main height with an opacity of 0.1 . at this point, we could use a nonuniform blur with a cloud to smudge some of the volume parts. now blend the wheel and heart back together with a blend in Max mode.
Material layering part one to begin with, drag and drop two marble materials into the scene – that way, you can work on every layer at once. it is possible to download these sbsars online or we can build our own in separate substances. create a Material blend node and set the channels according to the scene – base color, normal, roughness, Metallic. create an Hbao (true, 100, 16, 1, true) from the height and Histo scan it to isolate the upper part volumes. then invert this and use it as a mask for the Master blend. through playing with the value of the blended albedo and roughness, we can slightly enhance the volume of the material.
You can work on every layer at once. it is possible to download these sbsars online or we can build our own in separate substances. create a Material blend node and set the channels according to the scene
16Material layering part two repeat this setup but this time according to the curvature, the positive ao and a facing normal mask. it will create an efficient and believable layering of materials that will enhance your volumes. We are able to keep the same two sbsars and play with the albedo Hsl or use another sbsar for more variety. to create something more realistic, we can multiply a grunge map on your masks before using it for the Material blends. normal combine the normal generated from all those material blends on the normal created from the character’s height. Material layering part three Drag and drop two metal and one oxide sbsar into the master graph. blend the two different metals according to an edge mask generated from a histo scanned curvature, then darken one of the metals and blend it again – but this time according to the valleys of the curvature. to finish, add oxide material on top of it based on how a contrasted curvature would be eaten by a contrasted grunge. Oxide is nonmetallic so the mask here needs to be very contrasted. go back to the step when we merged the nonmetallic and metallic heights, subtract the first height with the result to isolate the metallic parts. contrast it and use that as a mask to blend the marble and metal layering.