Substance Painter - Let's make a chessboard with images, masks and Procedurals
In this tutorial we will see three different ways (among the many possible: there are not only these three, of course!) to quickly texturize a chessboard in Substance Painter; obviously, we don't just want to provide black and white squares to the geometry, but to create a checkerboard pattern by superimposing it on a material that already has its own texture, such as wood or, even better, marble.
The tutorial was made with the 2019 version of Substance Painter, but the concepts and methods shown are also valid with other versions of the program; it is a basic level tutorial, which gives only a few concepts on masks and Layers covered in some videotutorials on Substance Painter that I previously published on my channel and on my website.
The methods, in fact, are all based on the same principle: multiply a black mask on the color layer of the base Texture; the multiplication of a color by black (or, in any case, by a shade of gray) has the effect of darkening that color, so we can multiply a checkerboard pattern with the color channel of a Substance Material to darken it only in certain points.
For this particular example, I will always use "White Marble" as the base material for the chessboard object; I mapped the material with Tri-Planar mapping and setting 3 in the Scale parameter, in order to insert a good number of veins on the surface (I chose this material precisely because the veins are very evident and allow us to appreciate the effect of the masks on parts of the surface).
The first method will see the use of an external image texture as Texture (without masks, therefore); the second method will see the manual definition of a layer mask; in the third method, finally, we will use a Substance Painter procedural mask.
I urge you right away not to consider the individual methods just for this particular case, but to think about how they could be useful in different circumstances, especially keeping in mind the pros and cons of each method.
FIRST METHOD: EXTERNAL IMAGE
The first method is to import a grayscale image texture into Substance Painter and map that UV-mapped image to the parts to be affected.
To apply the Texture mask on the White Marble material, first I create a Fill Layer (a layer with default parameters) in which I deactivate all channels except Color (because I want to modify only the color of the underlying material, darkening it).
I then change the method of applying the Fill Layer from "Normal" to "Multiply": we immediately notice the effect of multiplication.
By modifying the number located under "Multiply", in the Fill Layer just created, we can adjust the intensity of the effect.
Then I drag the image (which I previously imported into the program, using File - Import resources) from the Alphas section of the Shelf onto the Base Color box of the Fill Layer; the image is basically the black and white mask of a chessboard, which I am placing on the surface; also, I am setting the UV Wrap parameter to None (no repetition of the image outside the mapping area), in order to avoid applying copies of the image to other parts of the surface.
Again, we can modify the intensity of the effect by varying the value of the parameter placed under "Multiply".
The method just used does not even use a layer mask: this is possible because we do not have to define areas of different colors or other particular effects, but only darken a material, so we can directly multiply an image by the other materials; it is a very fast method, therefore, but ... you have to have an external image suitable for the purpose, of course!
SECOND METHOD: HANDMADE MASK
The second method examined in this tutorial, on the other hand, consists in manually creating a layer mask, using in particular the Polygon Fill tool and possibly the brushes and some masks of Substance.
We remove the Image Texture from the Fill Layer created with the first method and set the color to pure black: we will adjust the intensity of the effect with the value located under Multiply, as in the first example.
We right-click on this Fill Layer in the Layers tab and click on "Add Black Mask": a black layer mask, so the layer will have no effect on any area of the surface.
To manually specify on which polygons we want to apply the effect (ie: which parts of the mask to make white), let's select the layer mask, then click on the Polygon Fill tool in the toolbar; then, in the Properties - Polygon Fill tab, we choose the Polygon Fill mode, make sure we have Color on 1 (white) and ... start clicking on the boxes we want to modify.
In this particular case, the operation can be performed faster by switching to the 2D view of the UV map of the geometry and clicking on the boxes that interest us; obviously, these boxes (that is: these faces) must be there in the original geometry, otherwise we could not limit the area of application of the Polygon Fill tool to the squares that interest us!
The initial configuration of the pieces, in chess, requires that the queens are on the squares of their own color; the white queen starts on D1, so A1 (the one on which the white rook on the left is located, so to speak) must be black.
With this method we are NOT defining, however, letters, numbers and any other decorative elements; for those, it will probably be necessary to resort to brushes, if you really do not want (or cannot) use an external image, as with the first method.
We adjust the intensity of the effect by varying the value of the parameter placed under "Multiply".
This method would seem to be the worst of the three treated in this tutorial, since - in the specific case of the chessboard - it is obviously slow and actually requires that the geometry is already set up for this purpose; however, precisely because it allows us to set the mask on single faces of a geometry and without resorting to external images, it can be useful in other circumstances (and that's why I'm talking about it).
THIRD METHOD: A PROCEDURAL MASK
Let's reset the layer mask, this time setting it to pure white, with right click on the Fill Layer and "Add white mask", so we can talk about the third and last method to be examined in this tutorial: the use of a procedural map of Substance.
Procedural maps are particular maps generated by algorithms, which means that they are not applied and replicated textures images, but real patterns that can be modified by varying the value of some parameters, a bit like what happens with Materials of Substance Materials, in fact.
Procedural masks generally come in the form of grayscale images (because they must be applied to define the intensity of the effects - as masks, in fact) and are listed in the Procedurals section of the Shelf.
The checkerboard pattern is one of the most used, for various purposes, for which Substance provides one (Checker), together with, for example, those of the "Fabric" or "Grunge" group.
Since Checker is black and white, we can apply it directly to the Color channel of the Fill Layer, as we did with the Image Texture in the first method; this time, however, we will have to use a layer mask to limit the effect of this procedural map to the game squares of the board.
We then change the layer mask to black (right click on the mask, then choose "Add black mask"), we switch to the Polygon Fill selection mode and, this time, we select all the game boxes with a rectangular selection, in the 2D view.
Now we have just to edit the parameters of Checker, selecting the Fill Layer and modifying both the "classic" parameters of the levels (such as Scale and Offset, in Properties Fill) and those of Checker ... well, very few, actually (and we are only interested in Tiling), but the concept - which you can learn more by trying the other Substance Procedurals - is that these objects are parametric: they are not images.
Among the advantages of procedural masks we certainly have the speed (especially with respect to the manual selection of the faces, seen in the second method) and, above all, the versatility, in the sense that - through the parameters of the mask - it is possible to vary and customize the design of departure, sometimes even significantly.
Among the disadvantages of this method we have the fact that procedural masks may not be available for the design we are interested in, and that, as for the second method, we will have to provide in other ways for numbers, letters and other decorative elements.
Well, that's all for this tutorial! See you soon!