Welcome to our Digital Leather Workshop!

The Substance Source team releases 840+ photorealistic procedural leathers.

What do a car, a gladiator, and a sports shoe have in common? You’ll need leather to texture them. And if you are so inclined, we have good news: April is the month of leather on Substance Source. So, into the world of tanned hides we go.

You might have explored the 200 leathers already on the platform. Today, we add over 840 new materials to the collection. But this time, they are all fully procedural! A lightweight solution that is completely customizable yet remains photorealistic in every detail.

It’s a real leather digital shop from which you can pick materials to texture luggage, upholstery, and apparel products with:

  • 30 different types of leathers, common and exotic
  • 9 processing finishes specific to the treatment of the leather
  • 19 stitching patterns
  • 10 punching patterns
  • 5 braiding patterns
  • 10 perforation patterns

And even better, no animals were hurt in the creation of this collection. Follow us through the rabbit hole – or rather the eye of the needle – into a new material exploration from the largest library of procedural materials available today.

Let’s talk about leathers

To speak about leather is essentially to speak about skin. The material is a product manufactured from animal resources industrially processed by tanneries and mégisseries, mainly to ensure its preservation even in high humidity environments.

Animal leathers come from a variety of sources, mainly from cattle, horses, sheep, goats, deer and pigs, but also from the skins of peccaries, ostriches, reptiles (crocodiles, lizards, frogs, etc.) and fish, especially a cartilaginous fish called shagreen.

There are also organic or artificial leathers made from plants such as latex, coconut, banana, apple, pineapple, cacti, and even mushrooms!

Finally, similes are made mainly from plastic materials such as vinyl, polyurethane or skai.

Turning hide into leather

To become leather, raw hide goes through several stages of transformation. The best known of these stages are tanning, corroyage (curing) and finissage (finishing).

Tanning is the operation that consists of transforming animal skin into leather. The process uses various substances that allow it to go from a putrescible, highly hydrated skin to a stabilized, rot-proof and water-resistant material.

Corroyage is French and means “to prepare”. That stage involves a series of technical operations to thin the skin to the desired thickness (called slitting or de-ridging), to flatten it (winding/mise au vent) and to soften it (palisson).

The most important — for us, as it directly affects the surface appearance of the leather – is the finishing (finissage). At this stage, the leather acquires specific properties, particularly in terms of texture and appearance.

The main finishing processes are aniline and pigmented finishing, i.e. covering the leather with a product that is either transparent or pigmented to magnify or hide the details of the grain and color the leather.

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Leather finishes

There are several grades of leather quality, mainly linked to abrasion, polishing, or even correction of the skin surface, and then the addition of color by industrial pigmentation. There are dozens of specific finishes which we have simplified here.

Full grain leather is a flawless appearance of the original surface.

The sanding of the surface offers finer and finer grains (in addition to the characteristics of the original hide) until you obtain the nubuck by sanding the outer side of the hide — suede is made by sanding the inner side — which are surfaces with a velvet-like appearance.

Most of the leathers on the market are so-called corrected or modified. This is a finish that is achieved by rolling the leather pieces under a press. The press molds have different grain sizes depending on the desired surface finish. This ensures that the grain is evenly distributed over the entire surface of the hide.

This process is also used creatively by some of the top luxury houses to apply exclusive grain patterns that are not found in nature.

Finally, the leathers can be dyed using various techniques to obtain metallic, pearl, iridescent, and even fluorescent effects.

Leathers in product design

By analyzing the different visual effects of these processes on each type of skin, we have created photorealistic and parametric digital replicas of these grains and finishes.

Leather product goods

Luxury leather goods is by definition the industry that uses the most diverse range of leather types.

To meet this need for diversity, the new collection adds 30 different leathers to the selection. Designers can choose from classic skins, like beef, cow and calf leather, and cordovan (horse leather) to exotic skins, made from mammals (elephant, buffalo, ostrich, peccary), reptiles (crocodile, snake), and fishes (stingray, shark, ray).

The emblem of leather goods design is luggage, of which the handbag is undoubtedly the spearhead. However, there are an infinite number of different sizes and styles, ranging from travel items such as trunks and suitcases to small leather goods, which include companion bags, gloves and accessories like wallets, pouches, and belts.

The design cycles for these so-called “fashion” objects are very short: they are seasonal. It is therefore necessary to be able to visualize each new collection quickly at a high rate.

The traditional approach to 3D visualization of leather in leather goods is to scan the skins, which allows to capture all the details of the skin grain. The result is very accurate, we have a collection of over 200 scanned hides already on Substance Source.

However, keeping up with the pace of digitizing each new color collection and seasonal finish is very time consuming. Procedural assets provide ten-fold creative freedom compared to scans as all aspects from grain to finish are customizable. Forget about the logistics involved in capturing and post-processing hundreds of skins! A procedural material is in fact an infinite library of variations up to 8K resolution.

Our basic objective is to provide designers with a way to visualize their creations as close as possible to the final result before the product goes into production.

But it doesn’t stop there! Parametric digital materials are design tools on their own. We propose to do CMF design at the digital level. This means defining colors, finishes, and even grain details upstream of the product design process.

Defining the grain procedurally is an opportunity to control the skin pattern in the finest detail. A designer can use the normal and height maps to draw the depressions and bumps to be engraved on the grinding presses to print the desired pattern on the hides. No more need to reverse-engineer existing skins.

Above all, it is the promise of unbridled creativity that frees us from the technical limitations of analogue processes.

Leather in footwear and fashion

The challenge is even more complex in fashion and footwear. Here, not only are the speeds just as fast, but the combinations of manufacturing processes are even more diverse.

For instance, a designer could want to combine the natural grain of the hide with color and shine effects. Or better still, use an exotic grain without having to depopulate nature. Or give it a shape that is impossible to find in the animal kingdom.

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Procedural materials are a starting point, but it is in the Substance tools that they really come into their own. The nodal graphs (.SBS) available on Substance Source are just waiting to be mixed, customized and improved according to your creativity.

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This collection adds 10 additional finishes to your creative toolkit to create the surface you want. We have assembled the grains, finishes and patterns for you in a ready-to-use package.

Drag and drop the desired asset onto your 3D model for a photorealistic result. All you have to do is customize the parameters to your liking.

We have grouped here both “new” leather finishes and noble aging effects such as patina. Also, alteration styles, such as the addition of cracks or wrinkles to obtain a “devoré” effect.

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Another opportunity for digital materials is their use in rapid prototyping. In the industrial design process, prototyping is used to validate formal, technical and CMF choices before production.

The new techniques of rapid prototyping through 3D printing make it possible to reproduce the smallest details of form more and more faithfully. Thanks to the increased precision of the printers, it is now possible to add the details of the substrate. In this case, an accurate reproduction of the “touch” of the leather (haptics).

All this becomes another way to save time in the design cycle. From a Substance material it is already possible to generate a real object that includes color and surface information as well as structural details such as stitching or perforations, the pattern of which can also be configured.

Leather upholstery

One other major industrial application of leather is upholstery.

This industry consumes large cuts of leather skin, which mean it focuses on hides and skins from large mammals, and therefore is more limited in terms of grain diversity. The increasing use of synthetic leathers such as PU (polyurethane) compensates for this size limitation. This is surely a relief to our friends in the animal kingdom…

Upholstery is a technique of assembling leather pieces to cover the seat of furniture. Here, we have taken the example of the automotive industry, although the patterns in our collection can be used on many other products.

The manufacturing process of a car upholstery is the following.

Using a pattern and a cutting tool — now exclusively digital — the seat pieces are cut out of the hide lying flat. Then, the leather pieces are sewn together so that the whole leather cover fits into the foam structure of the seat. The car upholstery includes the seats in the car’s cockpit, but also furniture elements such as the steering wheel, the dashboard, or the door panels.

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The complete interior of a luxury car can use up to ten different cows!

Most often, the seat bottoms are stitched to create graphic patterns. We opted to give you a range of choices there, too: today’s collection completes our leather library with 20 fully procedural stitching patterns.

Everything is customizable: the stitching layout, the density of the pattern, the intensity of the quilting, the color and diameter of the thread, and of course all the visual aspects of the leather base.

Some of the patterns also combine perforated areas. Perforated leather provides a more sporty look while also allowing manufacturers to have built-in ventilation in the seats.

The virtual 3D space is a zone of total freedom in which creativity is king. It is an opportunity to try out the most daring CMF combinations: the 2 500 presets in the collection are a solid starting point.

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Automotive upholstery designers and digital modelers are true digital craftsmen and also force workers. A 3D class A model requires the sculpting of every stitch in the assembly. To get a realistic visualization from the 3D model, it must also contain all the details of borders and edges such as the folded seam, the double seam or piping.

Weeks of work are needed to create a seat and days for a steering wheel. This cumbersome process severely limits creative iterations as any change means starting again from scratch.

Substance Painter is a simple way to paint these assembly lines directly onto the 3D model. This is both fast and versatile as all seam and border information belongs to the texture and not the model.

Changing the design is as easy as a “control z”.

It means the assurance of testing all the possibilities before launching into manpower-heavy final modeling. In Substance Painter, a preset tool is available to create twenty different types of stitches. This is how we painted the seats of the X-taon in the last Substance Source Highlight video: Ultramarine Skies.

All that’s missing is the smell of leather to make the experience complete. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a way to digitize it yet.

Share your creations with us using #madewithsubstance.