Emiel Sleegers Unveils his Substance Art
Hello! My name is Emiel Sleegers.
I am from the Netherlands and currently working as an environment artist for UBISOFT reflections in the UK. I am currently 20 years old and I am now in my second year in the AAA industry.
I am a self-taught artist with experience at Playground Games, where I worked as a environment artist on Forza Horizon 3, which was released this September. Aside from this, I also create tutorials on Gumroad and for a website called www.3dmotive.com. And of course I am a massive Substance fan!
The Biolab corridor.
I often do personal work to improve my skills, try out new things and just because it's fun.
Here is a quick example of something I finished a while ago which made heavy usage of the Substance suite. I had been looking through some concept art from random people on ArtStation, and I came across a concept of a sci-fi corridor from the artist Adrian Girod.
Of course we all know that sci-fi corridors are being done A LOT, but they are still fun to make, so I gave it a go.
For this project I did not want to be limited to making everything game ready since that would only hold me back. Don’t get me wrong, the scene was made in real time in Unreal Engine 4 with a proper polycount, but I made this project out of five modular pieces that all have their own 4K textures.
I started by creating a quick blockout in 3ds Max as always to get the right scale and shapes. I exported that blockout to Unreal Engine and set up a very basic scene.
(Quick Tip: I always have a character height reference for most engines like Unity, Unreal, and CryEngine that I have in the same location and can quickly import to make objects to scale.)
After I finished creating the blockout, I started working on the high poly piece by piece. Since I work in 3ds Max, I create my high polys by stacking up my modifiers. For example: I first make a base low poly, then I add an extra edit poly for all my high poly details only. After that I add one more edit poly for my supporting loops and on top of that a turbosmooth modifier.
This way, I can easily remove all modifiers that are useful only for the high poly once all my high poly assets are done. I can then do a quick final optimization for the low poly, like removing faces you can’t see and merging unwanted verts.
While I was using Xnormal and the old exploding technique, where you drag all the different object pieces into different places to bake a proper normal map and AO, I recently moved to Substance for all my baking as I can get all my maps in just one click, and I can remove the tedious “explode” step from my workflow.
Once all my maps were baked and I exported low poly objects that were still intact, I started importing everything in Substance Painter and set up a new clean scene.
In Substance I then started my normal texture progress which involves first adding normal map details, then base colors. After that I started stacking up details like dirt, dust, scratches, multiple generators and details like stickers.
A thing I always like to do on metal objects like these is to have loads of welding and blots, et cetera, if it makes sense. I also like to have some slight strength differences in the roughness to make the metal feel less perfect and, again, all the other grunge and generators etc.
Now in this case my scene needed to have very clean textures so I had to find a balance where I could still push some nice texture detail but without making it look all worn and damaged/dirty. So at the end the texture work was easier and faster than when I make a post-apocalyptic style prop.
As you can see, the texture progress is fairly straightforward but I can definitely tell that for me texturing always goes so much faster and smoother in Substance Painter compared to Photoshop, for example.
Here are some examples of the stacking progress:
Once all my assets were done, I started to prepare everything for Unreal Engine (making the lightmap, UVs, and correct dimensions.). Then I started to export everything in Unreal and replaced my blockout with all my final objects. I also imported all my textures and I set up all my materials, which were pretty basic for this scene.
After that, I started to set-up my scene lighting, played around with my lightmaps and made things like emissive maps. Once the lighting was finished, I did the final post-processing effects and particle pass and I fixed any bugs I could see.
First lighting pass before feedback:
Remember: feedback is good!
Once I’m at this stage I always like to ask for feedback from people. I always have a close group of friends whom I usually get feedback from, but I also always like to post my progress on forums like Polycount and ArtStation for more feedback.
Lighting pass after feedback:
Overall, I am and will always be a huge fan of Substance tools. I started using them about one year ago and I have not touched Photoshop since then. Nowadays I use Substance Designer and Substance Painter for my entire texture workflow. I learned Substance thanks to all the great tutorials that are made by Allegorithmic and on top of that of course by playing around with everything a lot.
The corridor was a really fun project to do, and thanks to Substance, I was able to do this project in only 3 weeks (I worked on it in my spare time after my full-time job.)
I want to thank Allegorithmic for giving me the opportunity to do this interview, and I hope everyone finds it useful!
You can find Emiel's ArtStation right here!
Some other work done using Substance products: