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Workshop - Maya/Substance: Modeling/UV in Maya to Substance Painter Texturing - File Cabinet Prop

Category: Maya, Environment Art
February 11, 2022

The idea came from wanting to do a simple prop so I can texture it in Substance Painter to learn the software.

Didn't want to use any previous models I've created. Decided to create a new one and went with a simple prop - a file cabinet.

I also didn't want to stop there but use the prop to create, light and render a small scene with it.

I created a full workshop for you to see the modeling, UVing process in Maya. Then texturing process in Substance Painter. I also added a small bonus section of the final, small scene I put together to light and render with.

You can watch the full workshop below.

Idea, Planning and Reference

Full collection of Master Reference image to study the prop to model. Not only is this useful for modeling but also for texturing and lighting. Doesn't matter how simple or complex your prop is, the more reference images you collect the more accurately you understand what to create.


I decided to use add more modeling detail to the edges for extra geometry and edge highlight that would look good for lighting.

Low-poly geometry tends to have very harsh unrealistic edges. This is ok when you have a poly count budget you need to meet. You can also often fake this extra geometry with a normal map.

If it is a render where poly count doesn't matter, then model it in using bevels. Here is a 90 degree low poly corner and a beveled corner:

I applied bevels to every edge of the model, including the drawers:

In the end, the prop will look better and will catch a nice highlight when the light hits it.

Rendering as You Model Tip

Here is a great tip I started using during modeling.

Do quick renders as you model.

This helps to see your work and how it will look lit without you to reach the end of model completion. It helps with motivation and to check if your modeling is turning out good.

In Maya you can use Arnold render or in my case Redshift render. Insert a light that can use HDR images and begin doing quick renders of your modeling.


UVing the file cabinet was quick. I used simple planar projections.

All the pieces maintain the same texel density. I manually placed all the shells into 0-1 UV space. Here is the final UV layout.

The only time consuming part was making selections to planar project. This was due to the amount of bevels I had added. But utilizing selections, especially Grow and Shrink makes this faster. Select > Grow and Shrink.

  • Grow Selection = Shift .
  • Shrink Selection = Shift ,


For texturing I exported the mesh as FBX with following options:

  • Smoothing Groups
  • Smooth Mesh

For texturing process I kept it very simple. I only used 2 Smart Materials. One for the Cabinet and one for the Handles/Tag area:

  • Base Cabinet: Smart Material: Steel Painted Stained
  • Handles: Smart Material: Steel Stained

I utilized Polygon Fill: Mesh Fill for the handles because I didn't have a Material ID to use:

I adjusted base color for both Materials as well as scratch repetition on the Steel Painted Stained:

Finally I exported the Textures to use in Maya with Redshift renderer.

Small Environment Scene

I wanted to create a small scene to use this file cabinet in. Yet I didn't want to spend too much time creating additional props. So I kept things very simple for this.

I created additional models: wooden chair, wall, floor and book.

For the lighting I used a Dome Light and an HDR image. Check the video above on how to do this with Redshift.

I then created a small encompassing environment with windows. Reason for this was to introduce more shadows in the environment. HDR image lighting wasn't enough to create strong light/shadow I wanted to have. With additional geometry, I was able to achieve the self-shadowing I was going for in the environment.

I decided on the square format render instead the standard widescreen format:

In Closing

One of the biggest problems others encounter, including myself was starting on projects and then abandoning them half-way through because the inspiration and motivation are gone. So I made a pact with myself to finish what I started as often as possible. Even if I didn't like the results - just finish the project. And that's what I did.

Read Next: 32 Lessons I Learned from Creating 32 Modular Pipe Assets


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About World of Level Design

My name is AlexG. I am self-taught level designer, game environment artist and the creator of World of Level Design.com. I've learned everything I know from personal experimentation and decades of being around various online communities of fellow environment artist and level designers. On World of Level Design you will find tutorials to make you become the best level designer and game environment artist.

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