Creating hand painted textures with Substance Painter

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Dec 27, 2018

This tutorial guides users on using Substance Painter for 3D texture creation. It covers moodboarding, color selection, 3D modeling, and detailing technique

The Mission

If there’s one thing that artists can agree on, it’s that there are some base qualities needed to succeed as any kind of digital creative. Hand painted textures It's one of them.As the technology advances, new programs come to offer new alternatives.


  • Substance Painter
  • Your prefered 3D software
  • (optional) Graphic Table
Crepe textured with Substance Painter with strawberries and ice cream

First things first, Set up a moodboard

Before opening any 3D software, we look for references and place them together...To get a grip about the feeling we want to convey.To establish the overall shape reference.To define a good looking topology.

References, feeling and wireframe of various crepes

Then Colors

When it comes to picking the right colors, I like to visit Adobe Colors to quickly make my own set of color palettes or to create one from the colors of the images from the references.

These are some of the palettes for this project:

Color palette for the crepe

3D modelling

Once we have a good idea about what and how we want it, is time to make it with the 3D software of your choosing,In this case, the model was made in Autodesk MayaLT, when it is finished, it's time to open Substance Painter.

Since this is a tutorial focusing on textures, we're  not going to explain how we made this model or set up the UVs.

But this is something you should do before exporting to Painter.

Crepe 3D model wireframe MayaLT

Opening Substance Painter

To open the project, we can use the default template for painter since we are only going to use the albedo on this project, but if we want use some opacity to add some transparency on the model I prefer to use the left one.It's not necessary to decide it right now since you can change it any moment from the shader settings.

Opening the program Substance Painter
Substance Painter opacity template tab

It's possible to import the normal maps and other additional maps when you start a project, but you can get a pretty good result from the baker mesh maps in the “texture set settings”.

Base Color

One of the things I like to do, is to add a “fill layer” with a base color without detailing anything to see that the composition works.  At this time, on the project I usually work on the “base color channel” since the other channels are not crucial on this moment.

3D model of the crepe with base colors

Another thing that I like to do is work with fill layers and paint the masks, that way if you want to change the color to try another tone you can do it easily in the property fill. I consider this one of the good practices in substance so you can leave the paint layer for small details later on.

To add some texture to the base color, I duplicate the fill layer and change the color to a darker tone to see the changes. Then I add a white mask and start to tweak it.

I like to add a generator with a mask editor, since it gives a really good base for a mask, and rise the ambient occlusion and curvature.

Crepe 3D model on Substance Painter

Then I add a sharpen filter to harden a little the edges of the color, and finally I add levels so I can invert the colors, here is the difference:

Crepe 3D model Substance Painter without inverting the filter
Crepe 3D model invert filter
Inverting the filter

Here is the final the result (without the  other colors):

Crepe 3D Substance Painter color handpaint

Then I duplicate again the base color and chose a lighter color to add some light, I do this by adding a white mask and using the mask editor again. But this time I work with the textures too.

Crepe 3D Substance Painter color handpaint

As you can see in the image I put the  first texture on “multiply” and the “texture 2” on add/sub. For the textures on this case I used ones that come from substance since it has a great library but you can import your own resources from “file”.

Crepe 3D Substance Painter color handpaint
Contrast color in normal mode

When I paint I like to add some contrast to the base to balance the output of color, to do this add a fill layer in soft light or overlay and modified it with the light generator, to give it some direction and degradation of it, the light generator usually I leave it on “divide”.

Detailing up

For this part I recommend to use a normal layer, so you can paint it over, since you can pick the colors from the base created before with the brush. For the brush itself I usually tweak the flow and the stroke opacity and leave it at half.

Be sure to check that the two of them work with the pen pressure since by default is deactivated. Then on the properties tab I tend to use the spots brush and I change the alpha to dirty blurry dense. I found this to be one of the best option since is round but without a perfect shape.

Crepe 3D model in Substance Painter top textured

As you can see on the layers on the image, the next step is to separate and change colors, dor the final layers, that are on top, the stroke opacity and flow tends to rise up, since the hard lights are on top of the surface.Morever, in this case I have to use the blur filter so I coul give the Ice cream the fluffly look to the Ice Cream.

Aplication on the other Materials

For the rest of the items on this model I applied the same principles explained before. For the chocolate for example I created a Fill layer with a dark color and added a black mask, then I painted with white the with 0% hardness, until I got a ramp of browns as a result. Same with the strawberries.

Crepe base and strawberries painted Substance Painter

For the wrapping paper, I used a stencil to write the letters on the paper using a fill layer with  a black mask, then on the brush I load my alpha and the paint on the position I want.

Crepe title text

Crepe title text

Working with another Maps

When you want to work the other maps like opacity or the roughtness, create another layer that has that one active and the rest inactive, that way you can control better the results without worrying about the rest of the maps.

Crepe 3D Substance Painter color handpaint


All in all, Substance Painter is a really powerful tool, that can be used for a great variety of projects. Being able to hand paint the textures directly on the texture sets, different from Zbrush that paints vertex or from Photoshop that does not allow you to see the model in 3D.

Good tool and Good luck.

Crepe 3D model animated
Substance Painter
Laura Usón

Passionate about videogames, movies and creatures. Artist by day and superhero at night.

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