The Substance Art of Rogelio Olguin

  • Game
  • Interview

Who are you?
Rogelio Olguin

Where are you based?
Los Angeles, California

What do you do?
Texture/shading Environment Artist at Naughty Dog, worked on Uncharted 4.

When it comes to art, Rogelio Olguin describes himself as a “workaholic”. And when it comes to Substance Art, we like to describe him as a reference in the industry: texture artist at Naughty Dog and founder of EnvArt (a blog about environment art), Rogelio is never shy when it comes to sharing with the community.

A Substance Designer expert for more than 2 years, he‘ll describe in this interview his first steps with Substance Painter 2, and share some of his pro tips.

Hey Rogelio, for the people who don’t know you (yet), could you tell us about your background?

I am currently a texture/shading Environment Artist at Naughty Dog and have been with them for 3 years now. We just completed Uncharted 4, which is going to be amazing.

I’ve been in the game industry for 14 years working at various companies such as Crystal Dynamics, Epic Games, and Framestore NY.

I went to School of Visual Arts in NYC for my computer art degree and have been an avid gamer and mod creator since I was 13 – before I even considered this as a profession.

I’ve worked in many aspects of game development: Level Design, Lighting, UI, and Environment Modeling, and Environment Texturing.

In general, I like to be an artist who is capable of freely moving about many disciplines. I love art and specifically world/environment creation.

“What led me to use Substance extensively was the freedom and time saver that integrated itself to my workflows very smoothly.”

You have been a Substance Designer power user for several years now, creating awesome content and tutorials: do you remember what led you to use SD extensively at first ?

I have been using Substance Designer for around two years.

In the completion of The Last of Us, some of the Naughty Dog artists were already working on pre-prod for Uncharted 4. More specifically, Bradford Smith and Christian Nakata were pushing the idea of using Substance Designer. At this point I was not convinced, since I am rarely convinced of anything unless I use it first.

So the dry run went like this: I installed Substance Designer and opened it up and started doing stuff with it. If I had questions I would first go to the online community for Substance, which at the time was growing. This was also part of the vetting process: if the community was helpful it would be a good sign. The community ended up supporting me, it felt new, and everyone was excited to learn.

Substance Designer was amazingly intuitive to use from the start. Having some VFX experience, PBR and the layering workflow was not such a huge jump for me. The node systems were also relatively easy for me due to programs I already knew like Shake (a compositing program) and Maya shading and texturing systems.

Within about two weeks I knew most concepts of Substance, and from that point on it was mostly just pushing it further.

What led me to use Substance extensively was the freedom and time savings that integrated themselves to my workflows very smoothly.

Rock Cliff Wall, Substance Designer procedural material by Rogelio Olguin

“My first true feeling was fun and having no sense of frustration while using this new tool. Now that I have finished with this project, I am eager to do more.”

And now you have just started using Substance Painter 2, and what a start: You got some impressive results in just a weekend with your Shaman! What is your first feeling about Substance Painter 2?

Thanks. Shaman ended up being a study to really test out Substance Painter, and it developed into a full-on project. Character and Prop artists at Naughty Dog heavily use Substance Painter, so I really did not have the opportunity to go in depth until now.

What was striking to me was how the program is laid out. It really seemed intuitive and almost without tutorials I was able to understand functionalities by just poking around. Of course I say this with the consideration that I have used many painting programs prior to Substance Painter so I felt like Painter in many ways grabbed from what is out in the market and made it into a collection of what we as artists really need.

So my first true feeling was fun and no sense of frustration while using this new tool. Now that I have finished with this project, I am eager to do more. It is really an amazing program and I think this tool is here to stay. Honestly at this very point, writing this… I do not see any other painting program that can compare.

On a final note, I tend to leave my computer on all the time and Substance Painter did not crash while I was working. So I was super surprised with the stability of this tool!

Shaman project by Rogelio Olguin

What was your texturing workflow for this Shaman?

For me the easiest way to work when texturing anything as complex as props is to think of it as layers of materials, colorization, wear, grunge, and decals.

For example, the cap started with a basic leather material that was already in the Painter package. From that I added a worn leather, dirt, grime, and colorization layers in which all had different amounts of roughness/glossiness to give a more interesting read to the materials.

So in the abstract, this means starting with the ideal clean material, and building up the history of what happened to the material over time. Creating textures and materials in this way is easier to control versus adding it all in one layer, but also the way how real life works so mimicking these steps will lead to a better material result.

These are the same methods I use for tiling textures, going in deep about what happened to the material over time and caused metals to tarnish or stone to break apart.

Paying attention to the micro details, but at the same time distancing to the macro is the key to great textures. With textures I like to tell stories, even if the story is as simple as water stains happened here and eventually the paint below it became discolored and bubbled.

What are your favorite SP2 features so far?

I did not test out the particle brushes…I know, what a shame! I would have to say my favorites were the smart materials, ID picker, and being able to paint on the flat UV layout with lighting/material representation.

We had the chance to have you as a speaker on our booth at GDC 2016: tell us a bit about your GDC experience.

GDC was amazing and everyone at Allegorithmic was an amazing host! I think the biggest takeaway was the passion of the crowd at the booth and the GDC panel sessions I did with Bradford Smith.

I had the honor of speaking with many people I met, from students to seasoned artists, and it was great to share our passion of making art or general problem solving when it came to our games. Conversations would keep going for a while on the floor after the presentation, which only made it much more exciting.

GDC was a fun experience and I would love to do that again. This was my first GDC and my first GDC doing talks so it was definitely special for me.

Rogelio Olguin speaks at the Allegorithmic booth at GDC 2016

“This notion that procedural materials are limiting has disappeared recently with many game companies starting to adopt more procedural methods of creating content. Substance Designer and Substance Painter are great tools that help in this creation process.”

What is the most common misconception you have heard about using procedural texturing techniques offered by Substance Designer and Substance Painter ?

The biggest misconception is that procedural materials look fake or not natural. This misconception comes from games that attempted to use these methods in the past with subpar tools. Also, the technology was not as advanced as it is now.

I think the most interesting part of it is that being game artists, we were in an odd bubble that has finally burst through in this generation.

The VFX industry has been using PBR-type shader systems long before games started using them. VFX has used procedural texture and material creation for a long time as well. The Pixar and DreamWorks movie studios, to name a few, would create entire materials through procedural methods and I could be wrong, but almost all materials were created procedurally.

So this notion that procedural materials are limiting has disappeared recently with many game companies starting to adopt more procedural methods of creating content. Substance Designer and Substance Painter are great tools that help in this creation process, but even with a layering system of pure materials, regardless of the where the data of the pure materials came from, the action of blending into a single asset is a procedural method.

So I am not surprised we are going this route and to me it seems like the next logical step for the future of game art.

What do you think makes a good texturing artist? What do you particularly focus on when you look at someone else’s work ?

From the raw standpoint of a texture fitting on a scene or asset, the aspect I look into is whether the materials read as what the material is originally meant to be. If you are able to make the material or texture read like the correct materials, then you are set.

The more abstract philosophical stance when seeing artists work is a great sense of balance, form, value, and colors. When it comes to form and balance I look for a good understanding of the subject matter whether it be snow or a cliff face. The main forms have to represent that material from the get-go and be balanced enough to have different degrees of levels of detail.

A good texture will have a strong foundation of macro details. Macro details would be the larger forms like the brick main shape or the waviness of sand. As you go deeper into the mid to smaller details, each layer is balanced in harmony in which the textures and forms tell a story of the wear and history of the material or texture.

Value also has to be well balanced to give contrast. A good method while laying down colors for your texture is to make sure to go back and forth from a grayscale to see the values of your textures. From a technical standpoint, it is important to have a value that is also representative of the actual material you are making. This involves a lot of technical aspects that I will not go into that involve using photo reference and color correcting so we can arrive at the “true color” of the material. Using a Macbeth chart can help with this for further info check out a tutorial and explanation on this at

Colors are also important. I feel many texture artists are afraid of colors. Artists make dirt textures using desaturated browns, and if you go and take real-life photos, you will see that in nature, even a small patch of dirt is not just browns – it is a varied amount of colors layered into each other. A way to represent that is through what I call washes of color, like a watercolor. Layering colors onto each other is a way to create a sense of color vibrancy. I learned this method through art school and traditional painting. So please do not be afraid of colors – it is better to push them as far as possible since it is easier to pull back.

The biggest thing is an artist who can take a critique and change the work as many times as possible to get the best result. As a texture artist, you will create many texture and material iterations and you will need to have thick skin. You need to be a person who is not satisfied with the first result and keep on tweaking.

What do you do when you don’t texture?

I have been getting into sculpting, clay sculpting creatures and characters. This is the easiest way to get me off a computer. I take workshop art classes with some of the artists in my area, like Simon Lee and Jordu Schell from time to time. Besides that, I am always working on something in my spare time that is art-related in some way. I am a workaholic when it comes to art, though I do love seeing new places when the time permits.

My wife and I adopted a dog recently – a shiba inu named Pancake – and I enjoy playing with him. He is insanely cute and adorable. I’ve been training him whenever possible. Pancake is a pretty awesome dog.

Pancake, Rogelio’s dog

I am also the founder of an Environment Art blog in which we add tutorials or anything having to do with environment creation, and we have a few authors that regularly post. The blog has been up for a year and it is pretty active, getting a good number of views per day. We hope to grow into something the community will really enjoy. The link is here:

Who is the next Substance Artist you would love for us to interview? 🙂

The next artist could be Josh Lynch. He has been doing some amazing materials in his free time and he also did the GDC booth presentation with you all. He is an awesome artist!

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