Product Design – Leather Phone Cases and Vintage Polaroid

  • Design
  • Interview

Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time for this interview. Could you introduce yourself to the community?

Thanks for having me! I’m Mike Voropaev, freelance 3D generalist and visual artist working worldwide and living in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Tell us more about your background. How did you get into 3D?

I have a very diverse background — I studied computer systems and networks at the university in Kirov, Russia, and worked as a developer and a graphic designer. Then I worked for two years in Germany as lead 3D designer improving workflows, scripting stuff, and, of course, creating 3D models, textures, and renders.

Now I’m taking projects worldwide as a freelancer. My relationship with 3D started a long time ago, when I was a teenager, I have always been passionate about the industry, game development, texturing, and modeling. So that was a kind of hobby for a long time. Later on, I decided, “this is it!” And I started to do 3D only in the past couple of years. But my background from development and graphic design is very relevant in this area as well. Almost every 3D tool supports custom Python/JS scripting, so you have almost unlimited power to customize and make your workflow faster and easier.

How did you discover Substance? How has it improved your texturing workflow?

I heard of Substance products from the start. I used Substance Painter a lot, and now I’m learning Substance Designer as well. And I love it! I think Substance Designer is a one-of-a-kind tool with huge possibilities.

With Substance Designer, I can create very tailored textures for almost every need I’m facing at work: product design, motion, AR/VR dev, etc. It is definitely a must-have tool for every 3D professional.

Tell us more about your Hadoro Leather Accessories project. What were the different software tools you used?

The client, Hadoro Paris, wanted to achieve a very clean and refined leather look. So, photos or scans weren’t so useful here. Substance Designer came in handy because it gives you total control over the material’s look and feel and lets you adapt to any changes and work with feedback very quickly and efficiently.

When texturing was finished, I moved to Substance Painter and adjusted it a bit: I made edges of the leather straps, placed logos, and added some really slight color variation based on model curvature. Then I moved all the stuff to 3ds Max and continued my work on animation and materials there.

Could you give us a breakdown of your texturing workflow with Substance on this project?

For this interview, I improved this alligator leather a bit and decided to create a special video to demonstrate the breakdown.

The YouTube video is a bit long, so here is the shorter text version of this breakdown.

In the first part of the graph, I start with the basic pattern creation, using Tile Sampler nodes and some primitive shapes.

Then I do several warps to add more variation and to make the basic pattern more distorted and natural.

After this step, I “grow” a more natural pattern with the Distance node, to create more organic shapes of the scales than in my initial pattern. Then I use several Edge Detect nodes to blend them together and create more variation in scale roundness.

Here is the gif animation of the result I achieved after this part of the graph.

Later on, I process this map through a sequence of blurs and histogram scans to increase the variation in the distance between the scales. Then I use various warps from the Spring 2019 update to create stretched and distorted, organic look.

Here is the gif animation of what I’m doing:

I then create basic volume out of the pattern I just created.

And an animated gif of the map transformations:

When the basic volume is ready, I add some details, like wrinkles, bumps, leather between the scales, etc.

The first things I add are wrinkles on the upper and lower parts of the scales. To select these parts, I use Flood Fill to Gradient, and Histogram Scans.

And then I use this map as an opacity map when blending my basic scales volume with modified Crystals and Anisotropic noise.

Here is the GIF:

Then I need to fill the space between the scales with some nice leather, wrinkled around each scale.

Here is the 3D view of the result I’m creating in this frame:

And here is the map itself:

After that, I add more and more levels of details, like these creases:

The creases map:

And after combining all the details and parts of the height map, I finally get this result in normal and height outputs:

Next, I move to Roughness, AO, and Base Color maps, but that’s a long story; if you’re interested, check my YouTube detailed breakdown above 🙂

What about your Polaroid project?

The Polaroid project was actually a fun passion project I did in 2017; this was the first model where I used Substance Painter. I believe it is the most precise 3D model of that camera on the internet. 🙂

There were no blueprints or dimensions of the camera so I spent hours searching for good photos on eBay and other sources. Then I picked several as the main reference for the project and did the 3D model as precisely as I could.

The texturing was the most interesting part of the process because I used Substance Painter for the first time and it was so fun. I checked the references of the second-hand vintage cameras people selling to notice every little detail, like damaged labels, dust settled down on the body, scratches, and fingerprints.

With the powerful masking features in Substance Painter, I was able to reproduce all these worn-out signs of the good ol’ camera in some hours — from scratch!

Are there any tips or tricks with Substance that you would like to share with the community?

I’d recommend to designers who just started to learn Substance Designer to check the official documentation and become familiar with the nodes and tools that this software offers.

The next tip I wanted to share: Be curious. You can learn a lot from observing surfaces around you. Yep, it’s a lot of 3D scans where you can check how a normal or diffuse map looks, but it’s much more helpful to know the exact parameters of the material you want to create — check how it looks under different light sources, how it feels from far and close up, etc. When I just started learning Substance Designer, I walked around and looked crazy, geeking on every interesting surface I saw.

And the last thing I want to mention, the thing I actually learned from this Polaroid project: Search as many references as you can and don’t limit yourself to the Google Images. Patent archives, old blueprints, even e-shops and eBay — you can find something interesting and helpful, especially for the used, vintage things.

Could you send us a picture of your workspace?

My setup looks a bit like a gamer setup 😀 But, actually, working and staying focused for long times when doing projects and stuff requires handy and convenient tools as well.

Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

Anything you would like to add or we forgot to mention?

Substance Designer and Substance Painter are must-have tools in the game dev stack. But if you work as a product designer or 3D generalist, you can still benefit a lot from these tools, so I’d definitely recommend checking it out and adapting it into your workflow.

Substance Designer and Substance Painter are my everyday tools now, so I’m planning to release more projects utilizing their power and scalability.

Thank you for having me in such a great community!

All images courtesy of Mike Voropaev and Hadoro Paris.

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