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Creating Hyperrealistic Wood Material for a Rifle in Substance 3D Painter

Ivan Popov walked us through the process of making a wood material for a rifle, showed the texturing steps, and explained the rendering process that would make the result look realistic. 


Hi everyone, my name is Ivan. I am a professional 3D Artist with over 10 years of experience in 3D graphics who is currently looking for a job. I specialize in creating textures, props, weapons, vehicles, and environment art. My path in 3D graphics began with my longtime passion for creating video games. I dreamed of being part of professional teams and creating mind-blowing video games. I made this artwork with the help of my friend Denis Malakhov, who created other materials for the weapon and helped me with references.

At the moment, I am the administrator of a Discord server dedicated to 3D graphics, and I also supervise a team of specialists. Our main goal is to create the best weapon portfolio. I also teach people at my online school. I also have impressive experience in creating 3D models for production.

References and Inspiration 

The creation of any realistic material requires high-quality references. You cannot count on the fact that you will be able to texture a good material using 1-2 photos. In this case, you will not fully understand the material and identify its physical properties. Only if there is a sufficient reference base, it is possible to visualize the material on the model.

As for references, you can open Google and start searching. You can use the "search by image", explore forums, trading platforms, and thematic websites. In my practice, all my students constantly neglect this activity at first. However, this is one of the most important stages in working with any materials, which will determine the result of all the work you have done.

Understanding PBR Workflow

Physically Based Rendering (PBR) is the foundation of realistic material creation. PBR workflow relies on the accurate representation of how light interacts with materials in the real world. It consists of three main components: Albedo (base color), Roughness, and a Metal texture. Understanding these properties is crucial for achieving authentic materials. It is especially important to pay attention to how all channels work with each other and what final visual result you get. Substance 3D Painter utilizes various Texture Maps to simulate realistic materials. Understand the purpose of each Map and Height Map, and how they contribute to the final look of the material. Experiment with different values and textures in each channel to achieve the desired effect.

Layering different materials is crucial for achieving complex and realistic surfaces. Substance 3D Painter allows you to stack multiple layers of materials and adjust their blending modes and opacity. Experiment with different blending modes like Overlay, Multiply, and Soft Light to create subtle variations and surface imperfections.

Generators and procedural masks in Substance 3D Painter offer a wide range of possibilities for creating realistic materials. Experiment with different generators and masks to add subtle wear and tear, aging, or specific patterns to your materials. Height and Normal Maps play a significant role in adding surface details and depth. Experiment with the Height or Normal channel to create bumps, dents, or scratches. 

As you know, any surface has some visual defects, which I will call gradients below. Gradients are color variations, changes in brightness, saturation, contrast, and so on. They can help convey depth and highlight details, which is why they are so important. To understand exactly how they should be done, you should pay attention to the references. When texturing it is important not to lose sight of even the smallest details. For example, I noticed small unidirectional lines on the wood texture and decided to create a similar mask to get the corresponding result.

Creating realistic materials in Substance 3D Painter requires a combination of technical knowledge, artistic skills, and attention to detail. By understanding the principles of PBR workflow, utilizing various texture maps, and exploring the extensive toolset within Substance 3D Painter, you can achieve materials that captivate the viewer with their authenticity. Try to practice and look at the references. Don't be afraid to start the whole material from scratch if necessary. This will give you a huge and rewarding experience.


For rendering, I used 3D scans, which I placed in the background, set the center object and started building the necessary frames. First, you need to set the position of the camera, and then adjust the light. At this moment it's important not to move the camera, otherwise, it will destroy the entire light composition. Then, for each new frame, the whole light should be adjusted again. When the render is done, you can use Photoshop or Lightroom to polish the entire visual and make the picture look exactly the way it was intended.

Personally, I do not advise overloading the frame with post-processing. Try to minimize post-processing to the result that you need. Thus, the frame will not be overloaded, but on the contrary, it will be as clean and clear as possible.

Many thanks to 80 Level for the opportunity to publish my article, and also huge thanks to everyone who has read up to this point. I wish everyone creative, professional and personal success, and I sincerely believe that with due dedication everything will work out, so do not be lazy and try to develop yourself more and more every day. 

Ivan Popov, 3D Artist

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