Hello everyone!

In this tutorial we will see how to simulate the presence of seams on an object using the Substance Painter brushes (version 2019) on the mask of a Material which, as we shall see, will have only the Height channel active, which allows us to simulate the reliefs.

We will then see two things, in a single tutorial:

  • how to simulate details using Height Map - in this case, reliefs with the same maximum height;
  • how to define an opacity mask for a Material or a Layer using the brushes.

In the tutorial I will show then a very precise application, using among other things a native brush of Substance Painter, which allows you to quickly create a sequence of stitches, but the technique is generally valid with various types of brushes to obtain different effects: the one shown here is just an example!

This is the fifth tutorial I publish on Substance Painter and here I take for granted some things covered in the tutorials previously published on this website.

In the tutorial I use a 3D model; here is the link to this resource:

https://gumroad.com/l/engBELT

in the package there is only the FBX file of the model, without Materials and without text or video version of this tutorial; however, as always with my tutorials, it is NOT necessary to have this model: you can follow the tutorial and learn the general technique without having to get this object in particular!

Well, given these premises, let's start!


LET'S PROVIDE A BASE MATERIAL TO THE OBJECT

I created a new project with the "PBR Metallic Roughness (Allegorithmic)" template using the 3D model of a belt (the FBX is available in the package I mentioned a moment ago), in particular applying two different Substance Materials to different parts of the object through the masks and the "UV Chunk Fill" selection mode, which I showed in a previous tutorial ("Two materials in a Texture Set with masks"), so I will not return on this point.

For the record, I used the Material "Cobalt pure", a Substance native, for the buckle, while for the actual strap I used "Artificial leather", in both cases leaving the default material settings.

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LET'S ADD A MATERIAL TO THE BELT

At the top of the object Materials stack, in Layers, we now add the material we want to use for the stitching.

The choice obviously depends on the specific case (in general, not only for this practical example, because the technique is valid even in contexts very different from this); here I am using a material from the "Fabric" group of Substance, writing Fabric in the search box of the Materials tab, in the Shelf, then choosing a Material from those shown.

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The Material can be customized by modifying the parameters (such as the color or basic colors) in the Properties - Fill tab.

The material will be applied to the whole object, which obviously is not good; to limit the effect, however, this time we proceed in this way: we create a folder, in which we will put both the Fabric Material and the Fill Layer Height, which will implement the actual reliefs, so later on we will create the mask with the brush for the folder, not for the individual Layers, in such a way as to apply the mask to all Layers in one shot.


 

HOW TO CREATE A FOLDER AND A FILL LAYER

Let's click with the right mouse button on the Fabric material and, from the menu that appears on the screen, choose "Group Layers".

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Now let's click on "Add a Fill Layer", at the top of the Layer tab, to create a basic Fill Layer, in which, however, we will disable all the channels except for Height (that of the reliefs), in the Properties - Fill tab.

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Let's edit the value of the Height parameter, setting it for example to 0.2.

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On screen ... we will not see any difference, for the simple reason that, at this moment, the effect is applied to the entire surface of the object! To appreciate it, we will have to limit it to just seams.

Let's drag the Fill Layer into the folder created a moment ago.

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HOW TO CREATE A MASK AND USE THE BRUSH

Let's right click on the folder that groups the Fill Layer Height and the Fabric material, then choose "Add Black Mask" from the menu that appears on the screen.

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We actually select the mask and click on the Paint tool, which is located in the Toolbar Tools, usually located under the main menu.

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With the default settings, we should be able to "paint" on the model - or better: on its layer mask - right away, with a blurry brush at the edges and with pure white color, which means that we will set the areas of the image to white layer mask on which we will pass the brush, with the effect of showing the materials in the folder!

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The brushes are found in the Brushes section of the Shelf; obviously, I won't list them here, but I invite you to try them and change their settings in the Properties - Paint tab, where there are plenty of commands that, in most cases, have intuitive meanings; however, the main commands are:

  • Size: the size of the brush;
  • Spacing: the separation between one element of the stroke and the other, when you click and drag; we will see very soon a practical example, with seams;
  • Angle: the angle of application of the "drawing" of the brushstroke; with brushes without particular direction, such as "Basic Hard" and the like, this parameter does not say much, but the effects will become more evident with other brushes, such as that of stitching;
  • Grayscale, usually located at the bottom of the tab, allows us to specify the gray value to be applied to the mask; intuitively, setting this value to 0 (black), we will give black strokes on the mask, thus removing the effects in those areas, so we can use a brush like an eraser, in a negative way.

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STITCHES: THE PAINT BRUSH FOR SEAMS

Let's delete all the strokes simply by right clicking on the mask and choosing "Add black mask" from the menu, then we move on to the real topic of this tutorial: the seams.

In the Brushes section of the Shelf, we write Stitches in the search box to filter the elements based on this name; by default, Substance should show five native brushes with this feature. The first brush of this list will be fine: let's select it with a double click.

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Clicking and dragging the brush on the object, we will see the creation of stitches; in reality (now it is clear) we are not painting the actual material, but the layer mask of the folder that contains both the material and the Fill Layer for the reliefs.

The basic settings of the brush allow us to set the size and space between one dash and another; however, drawing on a curved geometry like this is not very comfortable.

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PAINTING ON THE UV LAYOUT MAP IN THE 2D VIEW

Let's switch to the 2D view to visualize the object's UV Layout and act directly on this representation which, since the object is represented on a two-dimensional plane (and that the UV unwrapping has been done well, in the sense that the parts of the strap are straight) is much more comfortable ...

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... especially if we use the following shortcut: we click with the left button and immediately release the point where we want to start a seam, then press SHIFT and, holding it down, draw a line, then left-click on the end point and release both SHIFT and the mouse.

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We have just drawn a line and we can use this technique also for other seams, avoiding having to proceed freehand in the straight parts!

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We have not finished yet: by pressing SHIFT CTRL and dragging, before clicking with the left button, we can draw with a snap at preset angles (should be, by default, 22.5°), so on the seam of this model we can draw, in effects, perfectly straight lines!

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The Properties - Paint tab of a brush has, as seen, many parameters, some of which allow us to introduce randomness between one stroke and another, for example by varying the size or angle of inclination of the various sections, however I will talk in other tutorials, with practical applications; in this tutorial, dedicated to stitches, we only need to know the items already discussed, that is dimension, spacing and angle of the strokes in a fixed way, without randomness or other effects.


HOW TO REMOVE BRUSH STROKES INSERTED BY ERROR

In case of error in defining the points, don't worry!

The mask is a grayscale image and, as we have seen, can be modified using the brushes, which can also be set to black or white, so we can remove any errors, both in the 2D view and in the 3D view, by selecting the level mask of the folder, choosing a harder brush (for example, "Basic Hard"), setting the color to black and using this brush on the offending parts.

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The effects will affect all the Materials and Layers of the folder, so we won't have to fix them one by one.


NESTED FOLDERS AND MASKS

The folders can also be nested and so will their masks, so for example we can insert this folder inside another by right-clicking on the folder and choosing "Group Layers".

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At this point we can define a new layer mask for the folder, even with a different technique; for example, we could use the UV Chunk Fill technique (or, as this model allows it, the Mesh Fill mode, which selects the connected geometries, even if they belong to different UV islands) and select only the belt.

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In this way we will be able to make a first rough selection of the parts to be influenced, followed by more detailed selections with the more internal folders and level masks. It is also a method that avoids applying the seams, in this case, even to parts of the object that should not be affected.


CUSTOMIZING THE MATERIAL AND THE VALUE OF HEIGHT

The use of materials and levels within a folder, delegating to the mask of the folder the definition of the application areas, gives us a certain flexibility in modifying the parameters of the Materials also at a later time, in fact now we can open the Fill Layer and change the value of the Height parameter, or change the color and other parameters of the Material present, without having to worry about the mask of application of these materials, because the mask has been defined for the folder and is applied to all its elements, as seen in the case of error correction.

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TO RECAP ...

In this tutorial we have seen several things:

  • how to group multiple Layers and Materials in a folder (and possibly in nested folders) in order to define the layer mask for the folder and control the application of multiple effects;
  • how to create a Layer for the Height channel only, so as to create reliefs of uniform intensity;
  • how to draw on a layer mask with brushes, also taking a look at the main parameters of these tools in the Properties - Paint tab;
  • how to make stitches with the appropriate brushes of Substance, creating, among other things, straight seams in the 2D view (working directly on the UV map) using the snap shortcuts.

That's all for this tutorial; see you soon!!