Pattern Creation with Illustrator and Pantone in Substance Designer

Guilherme Marconi merges 2D and 3D workflows for fashion design and print

After the Meet Mat 2 contest I got my first job in the Game Industry and at this moment I work at Diorama as a 3D artist, with a focus on texture.

At the beginning of 2021, I had been studying Substance Designer for some months, and even though I was focused on learning 3D, I was missing something that I have done for 15 years. I remembered a lot of work hours in a screen print studio, as a teenager, and I started to test some concepts using Substance Designer.

More about Screen Printing process here.

In this study, I wanted to do a migration of my workflow Illustrator/Processing to a new viable process Illustrator/Substance Designer. After Substance Designer added the Pantone support, things became much more promising.

I´m going to explain in this breakdown the creation process of a new texture. It maybe is not the best approach for the process of 3D work, but it was my vision as a 2D artist to reproduce one workflow by adding some traditional print conceptions.

The illustration process was as basic as possible using the pentool and bezier.

So I’m not going too far into the illustration process itself. Let’s talk about the color process, the way of thinking before and while the idea was taking its shape.

While I’m drawing, I like to paint what I’m producing with gray values — this makes it much easier to understand how the drawings are behaving, and if the shape reads are running with my wish, it allows me to imagine the colors that will occupy each of these scales.

With the initial design step completed, it is time to think about the colors.

I usually open Adobe color and verify some trends, even if I have something in mind. I always do this, and many times I had a thought in my head, and, when I verified on the site, I decided to try a different way, with a positive result.

In this case, since the beginning of the process, I had already a color in my head. I defined the yellow color that I wanted in my doc, and changed it to “Adobe Color Themes” inside Illustrator —that is the fastest way to check color schemes, I decided to follow the “Compound” in chromatic approach.

Looking again, maybe this choice was a subconscious wish to produce something connected to my home country, Brazil.

I like the “Adobe Color Themes” tool inside Illustrator because it facilitates a lot of my initial color tests, and it is very fast to verify the matches and seek harmony between them. If you have some basic knowledge of color theory, it is possible to extract a lot from a simple tool.

There is a good video for you to understand the basics.

If you have more interest in the subject, it is worth diving deep into the studies of masters of colors of Bauhaus, such as Itten, Albers, Kandisky, and Klee.

With my three defined colors:

I created the variations that I wanted to use in this project: one yellow with three variations and another two colors with just two variations. At this moment, the variation choices were made just with “feeling” — what I thought would be good. I did some tests in one of the flowers to do a pre-validation while I was choosing these variations.

With defined colors, it was time to use Pantone Connect:

It is an incredible addition to Illustrator; install it here.

In Pantone Connect I started the process to convert my RGB tones to Pantone; the tool is a quick solution to this.

After RGB color selection, it is very simple to do the conversion. Just type the values and select the color that you judge closest to yours. The Pantone Connect keeps the books updated, which makes the job very easy. I added color to color until I had my RGB color all recreated, in Connect.

I need to say there are some functions in Connect that I like very much: The Analyze option provides a series of very interesting information.

It’s worth saying that I love the option “Download Image Template.” It is perfect when I’m working in a project as illustrator and need to present my choices while I’m in the process of production.

About the palette creation process in Connect: When it is defined, you can use the option “Add Color to Swatch” to move the colors from Connect to Illustrator and continue the job.

I always double my original RGB palette, then I can apply the new Pantone colors and compare the palettes to check whether the colors are similar. In this case, the result couldn’t be better.

At this moment, I start the process of coloring the illustrations with the Pantone colors and test the colors matches in this. During this process, I realized I could produce details of shadows and highlights, which could then be used (or not) inside Substance Designer.

This process was realized in all the illustrations and resulted in this:

As I said before, I once worked in a screen-printing company, and I imagined that it would be interesting to adapt this concept and use this in the design. So, I would need to separate each created color in a way that would make it possible to change into a procedural form in Substance Designer later.

I thought it would be ideal to use masks, like the traditional way of printing. The concept I’m trying is like the traditional screen print — I’m wondering whether printed screens would create the final printed result. This traditional process can be checked here.

The idea was to take the colors that I had and transform them back in distinct RGB colors; using the node “Color to Mask” in Substance Designer is the most efficient way to do this and create the masks that I need.

I used the “Recolor Artwork” in Illustrator to do the change color process of the palette for the referents and their previously defined RGB colors. I was using “burn a silk screen printing frame” process. Information about how to use the “Recolor Artwork” can be found here.

Following the flow to Illustrator/Substance Designer, I created SVGs in 8192×8192 proportion, where each illustration occupied an area in 2048×2048 proportion, a preview of the result can be checked here:

As I said before, I wanted to enable or disable some details within Substance Designer. I thought it would be helpful to allow this control in SBSAR — that’s why I separated these details in SVGs.

It is important to say that all the SVGs had their outlines expanded; it is just to use the Object/Expand inside Illustrator before exporting the files.

The SVGs were saved with the following configuration.

In Substance Designer, I imported all my SVGs and started the process of using the node “Crop Color” to cut each illustration referent area. Defining the area of crop in 2048×2048, it was easy to cut each illustration respecting the offset movements always between 1.5/-1.5.

I created an object selection graph and used a customized version in node “multiswitch color” to be able to have more entrances and enable any choice in the final pattern created. I used one node for each, one for the illustrations in RGB colors and one for the details. After, it was just to link the function entries “input Selection” of nodes to be able to create the 02 outputs that I wanted.

The multiswitch was ready; at this moment I created a setup very simplified of masks and colors and I started some tests.

Illustrator and Substance Designer side by side:

With Illustrator and Substance Designer open side by side, I wanted to ensure that I would have the result I wanted. And, to my happiness, they were equal, the color control was perfect!

I need to say that being able to use Pantone while using Substance Designer was a very incredible experience.

In the next step, I needed to start the pattern creation, and I decided to customize the Tile Sampler to work more with the inputs, at first with 64, but it didn’t seem a healthy choice to optimize. I chose in the final version a 32 inputs version, since the normal 6 inputs were not generating the results I had in mind.

I worked with the first pattern layer using 32 inputs, it was useful as a chaotic first base, for the other layers to settle on top. It is a process that I always use in my images and I really needed to reproduce inside the Substance Designer. I need to say that sampler inputs, Scale Map/ Rotation Map/ Vector Map and Pattern Distribution Map were vital to have an “organic” result that I liked more visually; even with many tests of changes of Random Seed, the result remained pleasant to me.

I continued matching the tile always with two versions, one just with “the print colors” and one with the details, making the link for both.

The next step was adding a second layer to the pattern, where the idea was to add illustrations that I would like, in a second level of spotlight. I wanted to keep the random option of those items, and that’s why I used a title sampler with 10 inputs — a little less than the previous one but a scale factor of illustrations proportional bigger than layer 01.

Following my workflow, it was time to add the first layer of items fully controlled in the border, to create read points when the pattern is repeated. I used the object selection graph (to enable easy changes in parameters afterward), chose the objects, and used one transform node to scale the illustration and another transform node to position it. Throughout the process I was testing global Random Seed changes to verify whether the result remained pleasant. In this step, to avoid a lot of using the “Blend” nodes and an increase in lines crossing the graph, I used a node “FX-Map” with a very simple setup to receive the inputs using the Blending Mode Max, in Quadran.

The process of finishing and creating some controlled focal points was basically the same as the previous one: choosing the items and putting them in position testing multiple seeds in the process.

With the result of the pattern composition finished, it was time to begin the process of coloring the result. At this moment, the goal was to extract the masks using the node “Color to Mask,” using combinations of RGB with the options Mask and Softness = 1/ Keying Type = Chrominance, which showed the best results during the tests for both the colors and the details.

At this moment, the process was basically using the node “Blend” and using the masks obtained in the previous step to add one color over another.

To create a mask of the outlines, I basically used the FX-Map previously configured and published all the masks of colors in it.

Following the coloration part, I added two new blends in Albedo, one being “Multiply,” to add new colors differences in base, and another as “Add” for the highlights in illustrations.

When I reached this stage, I needed to add some contact shadows in superior layers. To do so, I used the node “Greyscale Conversion” as the channel A=1. This fulfilled very well the function of serving as a shadow to the layers, using the node “Transform” to move a little and simulate a contact shadow, and the “Greyscale Conversion” in a “Blend/Subtract” to clean up what I didn’t want. This process was made in “layers” 02/03 and 04.

Next, I added these masks, created to each layer in blends, in Abeldo, using the same color for all the shadows and the same value of opacity. In this moment I also inserted the last color of the process, which was the outlines.

When putting the roughness of the fabrics together in one Blend, I chose to create a control where it could define a roughness separate to the drawing outlines, to reproduce some applications very common in screen printing, where the lines have a beautiful shiny, metallic effect.

In this stage, I used a node named Advanced Normals To Roughness. Following the previous concept, I created a very simple controller, looking for the possibility of screen-printing effect I’ve previously mentioned.

In the end of the process, I used conventional outputs of Metalness workflow.

I also decided to create 02 outputs to make it easier to print the images, in case I needed to: one export that has the “Pantone” colors, with no connection to the Overlay step, and another that matches everything needed for a CMYK print.

With the SBS completed, I exported the SBSAR and decided to jump to Substance Painter and work on some concept products. It’s fun time!

I need to thank Adobe for providing the sneakers and T-shirt files for experiments.

Iray:

Corona Renderer:

When I was finishing this breakdown, it came to mind that I should add outputs of each mask color, so it would be possible to burn a silkscreen printing frame and produce something real. It will be my goal in a new study for sure!

In the end, I’m very happy to know that any person can open the SBSAR of this project in Substance Player or Substance Painter and create their own version, changing the objects in the pattern, and deciding the number of flower models, for example. The person can take the printed Pantone Book and choose the colors and change it in Substance according to their desire, and can also create variations using random seeds, changing the scales, and many other things.

Exploring pattern variations in Substance Painter:

Play

Download the material for free on Substance Share and play with the patterns and colors!

It is so cool to know that a person with little technical knowledge can do all this with no difficulty, and I believe that the possibilities using Substance Designer and other Adobe Creative Cloud tools to create print for products are just unique.

I’m really excited to continue exploring these possibilities and other concepts!

Visit Guilherme on Behance. All images courtey of Guilherme Marconi.