New Substance Source Materials: Take a Dive With Don Arceta

Take a literal dive into these 15 new nautical materials in Substance Source!

Substance and Don Arceta have a long shared history. Don is a material expert and an early follower of Mattershots. He is the direct inspiration behind the creation of Materialize, the digital material creation contest!

It was only justice to give him the opportunity to inspire us again with a theme of his choice. And the result tastes of sea salt.

(Nautical) miles away from what we’ve seen so far with signature collections, Don “Cousteau” Arceta takes us to explore the depths of the ocean floor, the magic of paradise islands and the organic beauty of coral reefs. A great way to digitally extend the summer holidays.

Don Arceta: I’m an associate art director at Playground Games. I’ve been in the industry for 14 years and spent most of my career focused on environment art. Between Bioware and Playground Games, I’ve worked on several projects, including the original Mass Effect trilogy as an environment artist and the lead environment artist for Anthem and Forza Horizon 4.

For this collection, I wanted a theme that would highlight the versatility and creativity of Substance Designer. I have a lot of fun molding high-poly looking 3D assets — only having to apply a material to a simple shape, like a sphere. I wanted a theme that could provide this kind of opportunity frequently. For variety, I also looked for a good mix of organic and man-made materials of large and small scale.

This is what eventually led me “Out to Sea.“

It was great to explore this theme, as there were a lot of diverse things to be inspired by. Having such a wide diversity in materials made each material a unique creative challenge and constantly pushed me outside my comfort zone.

Chapter 1: Sea Exploration



One of the first inspirations for this collection were images of vintage deep-sea diving helmets. This was the catalyst for the sea exploration category: These materials represent underwater exploration as well as exploration on the surface.

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What I like about the hard surface examples in this category is that they can be quite unconventional. Rather than just being a surface, these materials transform into full assets that can be used to create compelling scenes and compositions.

This category was a lot of fun to work on since the difference of scale between the materials was quite drastic. From the small nautical compass to the large surface covered in biofoul.

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Chapter 2: Gone Fishing

While gathering ideas, I came across some cool looking aqua pods with fish being farmed inside. This was an interesting visual and looked like it would translate well onto a material sphere. The rope, netting and hull are inspired by things you might likely see or use on a fisherman’s dock.

Even though most materials in this category are man-made, there is still an organic nature to some of them, like, for instance, with the rope and nets.

When the Substance team began to work with Don on this release, we decided to try and go beyond what a material usually is. We explored the ocean, as well as the boundaries of material creation. Check out this Fish Bait Ball material, which is almost designed to be animated. We had fun playing with the material in Substance Alchemist.

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The Fish Bait Ball material is free on Substance Source. Download it and take a dive into the .SBS graph, explore the parameters, and surprise us with the kind of barrier-breaking materials you will create!

Don Arceta: One of the interesting things with the Gone Fishing category of materials is that, aside from the fish, it doesn’t take much change for the materials to break free from the sea theme. The materials can be quite versatile and can work in different types of environments. Take, for instance, this Ship hull, and imagine the possibilities:

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Chapter 3: Nature



The nature category of this collection, as you’d expect, is an exploration in organic materials.

The tropical islands material was very unique since I was working at a scale I typically don’t work with within Substance Designer. The slight nuances in undulation and wave patterns of the water were something that was important to capture as it helped ground and contextualize the islands.

I couldn’t do a sea-themed collection without doing some coral. Coral is one of those things that can look quite alien, which made these really fun to work on. For variety, I wanted to explore materials that weren’t only underwater but that were also close to shore.

Just like the sea exploration category, there is a great range of scale, which presented unique challenges for the different materials.

A very big thank you to the Substance team! It was a complete pleasure to work on this signature series and it goes without saying, I heart Substance Designer.

Meet with Don and the Substance team very soon and have a chat about the construction of these materials. We’ll take a long, hard look into the construction of a graph, talk about tips and tricks from a master of the trade. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, see more of Don’s art here!

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