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Tutorials to Becoming the Best Level Designer and Game Environment Artist (since 2008)

Substance Painter: Quick Exercise to Help You Prototype, Experiment and Decide on Materials

Category: Substance Painter
May 23, 2023

Experiment more.

Try textures that don't fit into theme of your environment. New ideas reveal themselves you wouldn't think of otherwise.

There are times when you're working on an environment and modeling assets but you haven't figured out how you want to texture them.

Take some time and experiment with this exercise.

Experiment Exercise

One exercise I like to do is take 30 to 45 minutes and do a throwaway work session.

Take your asset and do the following:

  • Automatic UVs
  • Export as FBX
  • Import into Substance Painter
  • Bake Texture Maps
  • Start applying ¬†different materials onto your mesh
  • Most importantly: don't save your work

This allows you to experiment and try things out without having to worry about completing, especially when you don't know what you want.

Video Tutorial

UV and Export the Mesh

First step is to export your mesh.

But you need UVs.

Last thing you want is to spend time UVing. So do Automatic Unwrap.

Automatic Unwrap is temporary. It helps to UV your asset quickly so you can start experimenting with textures. Once you know what material you'll use, you can UV correctly.

Next, export your mesh as FBX.

Substance Painter Setup and Experimentation

Setup a project in Substance Painter but do not save it. Use the exported mesh. In the example below I use UE4 project template (also works for UE5).

Then Bake Textures.

Now you are good to go. Experiment!

Begin to apply different materials from Library section. Drag and Drop and see what material you'd want to use. Run through as many materials as you need. Each time you apply one, delete it from the lawyer stack and reapply a new one.

You can even go to the Marketplace and download new materials to use. Apply it to your mesh. Maybe that's the one you'll use.

Write down the materials you do like so you know which ones to use when you actually begin texturing.

Once done, close Substance Painter and do not save. This was an experiment to try things out.

Go back to Maya and start UVing your asset properly.

Quickly Replacing the Mesh in Substance Painter

Another useful tip is swapping an existing mesh to something else.

This allows you to load another asset into an existing (non-saved) project and experiment with that mesh.

Go to Edit > Project Configuration:

Click on Select and choose a new mesh:

Rebake Textures so Substance Painter calculates new information of the mesh and continue with experimentation.

Quick Iterative Process

I do this exercise all the time. By dedicating 30-45 minutes to experiment and have fun, you can try things you wouldn't have otherwise and get new ideas in the process.


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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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