How to use the pixel processor in substance designer

This is my introduction to the pixel processor in substance designer. It shows the creation of a vector displacement tool and guides you through the functions needed.

Substance Designer tips: Show input and output names

ShowInputNamesSD is great but when connector names are hidden it can be confusing.

You can display the name of inputs and outputs by clicking on the little “i” icon on top of the graph window and checking Display Connector Names.

The name displayed is defined by the “Label” text field of the input or output node.



Nodal Alchemy

Allegorithmic Tools Google Community

Environment Art

Maya UI refresher and Rendering tips

Maya UI refresher and rendering tips.

Some things that trip me up when I jump back into Maya after a break

UI Refresher

View Camera or lights POV from the outliner

  1. shift o  to open the outliner
  2. Middle click and drag a camera or light into a viewport. This will set the POV of the panel.

Node Editor:

Create a new node – press TAB to bring up a search box, type in the name of the node you want to find  (ie. bump) then click on a node in the drop down list. Press TAB (or ENTER ) again to create the node.

Create a link. (see Autodesk Manual )

method 1 – expand the attributes of the source node, Click an output and drag over the input of the target node.If you mouse over a compound attribute, the Node Editor automatically expands to expose its children to which you can make a connection

Method 2 – select the node you want to connect TO . middle click a node and drag the box onto the property in the attribute editor

Assign material to object

Select object in scene. Right click on shader in the node editor, swipe up and choose ‘Assign Material to Viewport Selection’


Middle click on a material to drag it from the shelf to the work area.


use space to swap between a multi-panel view and single panel view


Enable Mental Ray Production Shaders:

To expose the mip shaders cut and paste the following script into the MEL command window.

 optionVar -intValue "MIP_SHD_EXPOSE" 1;

After restarting MAYA the mip shader nodes should be exposed.

Setup Linear workflow

To set up a Linear workflow in Maya I need to be conscious of inputs and output colour spaces.

Textures need to be set Linear or Gamma colour space by the user. The Default Input Profile can be set to sRGB for textures but

In render settings:

MayaColorManagementEnable color management, and set the output color profile to Linear

Render view:

Display > color management > set the Image Color profile to Linear sRGB

AO Pass

Use the surface shader to create an AO pass

Maya Motion vectors

Sometimes if you add a 2D motion vector pass to a render layer, the output render will be slipped in time. e.g. if you make a render for frame 10 it will do a render for 10.5

In Maya 2014 you need to adjust the motion blur settings to affect when the motion vector is calculated.

  1. turn ON motion blur in the render dialog ( this exposes the settings and stops them being greyed out )
  2. set the motion vector to start frame
  3. turn OFF motion blur in the render dialog

Image Based Lighting

IBL_DialogIBL is cool but when using render pass I need to remember to turn it off correctly. Simply hiding the object in the render pass doesn’t work. It needs to be turned off in the IBL dialog.

Rendering Overscan

If you need to match an existing image with an overscaned version of the image then do this.

Based on a multiplier, you take your format (e.g. 1920 x 1080). Then multiply it by the percentage you want to overscan.

For example to overscan a 1920 x 1080 plate by 20%.

  • Calculate the new frame size.
  • 1920 x 1.2 = 2304
  • 1080 x 1.2 = 1296
  • Put this into the render settings dialog
  • Finally add the 1.2 value into the camera scale in the attributes editor.


Mental ray Sampling tips

Useful Tips and short cuts for inking in Illustrator

Adobe-Illustrator-logoMost illustrator tools have a bunch of extra features only accessible using short cuts.

Here’s a selection of tips and shortcuts useful for inking images.


Live Trace

Import your bitmap (scanned) artwork on the art board by using (File > Place). With the artwork selected got to (Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options…). There are several presets within the Tracing Options window, or you can use the controls to fine tune your own settings.

  • Check the preview check box to see your settings applied in real time.
  • If its a black and white image check the ignore white checkbox in Trace Settings. This will prevent unneeded white filled paths from being created.
  • When you are satisfied click the Trace button.

After your object is traced click (Object > Expand) to turn your artwork into editable paths.

It’s also useful to (Object > Ungroup) a few times

Preserve stroke settings while creating several paths with the pen or pencil tool.

Illustrator_stroke_settings To stop the stroke settings reverting to basic with each new path.

  • open the Appearance panel ( Window > Appearance),
  • select the fly-out menu
  • deselect New Art has Basic Appearance.

Ctrl s to quick save.

This is a reflex action for me now. … I hate losing work from a crash…

If strange things happen because of corrupt settings

See this article describing how to Move the folder and reset the Illustrator preference.


  • Go to File » Document Color Mode and check RGB.
  • Select everything in your document and go Filter » Color » Convert to RGB.

Layers TabAi_layers

Move selection to new layer

In brief… if you select multiple paths on the artboard you can then click on the small coloured square in the layer view to drag that selection to a new layer. (e.g. In the image the above, click and drag the top right green square ). There is a more detail explanation here .

Dim the image.

When tracing an image its easier if it’s faded. Double click the Layer to bring up the Layer Options dialog. click on the ‘Dim Images To:’ check box and the type in a value for the percentage. Note double click the Layer NOT the image


ctrl click a Layer Eye icon to set that layer to outline mode

Alt click a Layer Eye icon to hide everything but that layer.

With the selection tool (V) double click to enter isolation mode.

Tool shortcuts.

Tool settings

Double click a tool in the tool bar to bring up its settings dialog.

Selection tool (V)

Double click to enter isolation mode

Direct selection tool (A)

  • hold alt then click to break a handle

Pen tool (P)

There’s a lot a features in the pen tool depending on where and when you click on stuff…

While drawing with the pen tool you can:

  • Choose the ‘Direct Selection Tool’ first ( the white pointer) then the pen tool. While using the pen tool hold ctrl to use the direct selection tool.
  • While dragging out anchor points – hold space to move the knot – hold alt to break the handles
  • While drawing click then drag on the last endpoint to adjust the Bezier Handle for the next path segment. You can also hold alt to break the handles or simply click  and let go to make the next line straight.

Extending Paths with the pen tool

Instead of using the ‘Direct Selection Tool’ (white pointer) to select the end point, you use the regular Pen Tool to select the endpoint first, then you can keep drawing like usual!

Eraser tool (shift E)

hold Alt and drag – creates a rectangular selection and erases everything inside it.

Width tool (shift W)

  • escape key to deselect a width point
  • hold alt to only adjust one side of a width point
  • hold alt and drag to copy a width point
  • use Shift to select multiple width points
  • use the Delete key to remove width points
  • double click a wp to access the Width Points Edit dialog.

To edit a path with width, it can be transformed into a closed vector fill. Select the curve and go to Object > Expand Appearance

Shape Builder Tool (shift M)

  • alt to subtract
  • drag a line to select multiple shapes
  • shift drag – drag out a marquee and select multiple shapes

Blob Brush tool (shift B)

Outline mode (ctrl Y)

Toggle outline mode on or off by pressing ctrl Y. Useful when selecting points becomes tricky

Note: ctrl click a Layer eye icon to set that layer to outline mode

Smart guides (ctrl U)

Toggle smart guides on or off by pressing ctrl U

zBrush Downloads and Shortcuts

I have a love hate relationship with zBrush. On the one hand it has an amazing community producing fantastic work, and it’s the industry standard with a unique list of features. On the other hand the UI is an utter disaster, and basically relies on artists learning a vast set of obscure keyboard shortcuts… which is ok if you use it everyday… but if you forget something it can take hours to locate the right button.

Useful zBrush shortcuts

The Topology Brush

  • Pick the topo brush. Paint curves on the mesh to represent edge loops.
  • Click on the mesh to create the Polys ( note: the thickness is based on the brush draw size )

InsertMultiMesh IMM

M  display Meshes

After selecting an InsertMultiMesh brush, simply press the M key to display a floating window which lists all the meshes which are available with this brush


  • ctrl + shift + left click — hide polygroup
  • ctrl + shift + left click and drag —  invert the display


  • C — Colour picker tool – ( this picks the colour for the active slot in the left tool bar … NOT the same as the active colour for your brush. Make sure you always have the right slot active for your brush and colour picker. )
  • V — Switch colour

Brush Controls

  • L — Lazy brush
  • [ or ] — Change brush size

Clip brush

  • space to reposition
  • double tap to make an angle

Curve Brush

The curve brush IS cool (… i must maxScript something like this one day ). zClassroom has some good tutorials. But its useful to remember:

  • Just click (and release ) on the object to start another curve. You can’t go back and edit the curves after you add another one.
  • Drag the Brush and Stroke Tabs into the left panel for easy access while working.
  • in Stroke > Curve play with Bend, snap, Lock start, and Lock End.
  • The curve bursh has two modes red and blue
  • To modify the curve size… Change the red brush size, then click the curve again.

Sub Tools

To select sub tools without bringing up the menu. Hold Alt and click the subtool you want to sculpt on


  • z — Bring up the spotlight dial
  • shift z — activate / deactivate spotlight
  • hold Ctrl — to scale and rotate the texture


To Centre on the visible part of the mesh, unmasked region or current polygroup, click the white ring at the far end of the transpose line.


space – to bring up the action list ( note that you must mouse over a object in the viewport as well )

zBrush Workflows

…why have 1 click workflows when you can have 10 clicks to do the same thing. zBrush just likes to give you more…

Reset zBrush

Go into the Preferences menu and press the “Init ZBrush” button.Init_zBrush


Save Textures

TextureMapDialogYou can’t save textures from the texture map dialog (arg why would I want to do that ?!! ).

  1. In the texture map dialog. Click the Clone Texture button.
  2. The texture appears as the current texture for your brush in the left tool bar.
  3. In the Left toolbar. Click on the texture to bring up the quick pick dialog from which you can export the texture
  4. Now go back to the left tool bar. Click on the texture again and choose texture off.  … Otherwise your brush will use your newly saved texture as a pattern stamp 🙁

UV_map_DialogSet new texture sizes in the UV map dialog

…Because if the size controls were in the Texture map dialog that would … you know… make sense…


go into the texture dialog

Import a texture

click the add to spotlight button


To add custom directories to the Lightbox.  Add shortcutlinks inside the Pixologic install folders

e.g. To add extra brushes from a network drive. Make a shortcut to the directory of your choice in:-

C:\Program Files (x86)\Pixologic\ZBrush 4R6\ZBrushes

Adjust an Object Pivot In the transform settings


S.Pivot defines the pivot based on the centre of the currently visible mesh.

C.Pivot re-sets the object’s pivot to its original location, after a pivot point has been set using S.Pivot

Adjust an Object Pivot In the transform settings

ctrl click and drag the transpose line to create a mask on the model.

see more in posing

Apply Displacement

Load your displacement map in as an alpha,

  • Alpha – import
  • Tool > Displacement map > Intensity – set it to something usually under .1 but it varies.
  • Tool > Displacement map> Apply DispMap.


Setup AA

First of make the document size twice as big of your desired final render image.
>Document palette>Double button
Then draw your model on canvas and go in edit mode ofc.
Next step is making your document size half its current size. This will take care (more or less) of those jagged edges – some sort of AA.
>Zoom palette>AAHalf button

Setup Lights

Since this is just basic stuff, i won’t explain all about lights – play with them and set them up the way you like it. One thing i would point out is how to take care of noise in your shadows and make them smoother.
> Light palette > Shadow drop down > Rays slider
Raise the number until you shadows become smooth (note this will increase your rendering time)
> Light palette > Shadow drop down > Blur slider
Raise the number and it will blur some of the noise that is in shadows
Again you can play with Shadow Curve and Lenght to change the look of your shadows.

Setup DOF

OK, once you take care of your light(s) and shadows it’s time to add some dof (if you want to).
The quickest way to set this up is to use Preview render and Fog options.
> Render palette > Fog button
Turn it on and open Fog drop down
Now play with Depth1 (‘front’) and Depth2 (‘back’) sliders. How does this work: the part of your model that will be in fog will get blurred and part that is out of fog will be nice and sharp (in focus) when taking final render.
To achieve dof effect on your final render you will have to transfer settings from Fog to Depth Cue.
> Render palette > Depth Cue drop down
just copy Fog depth1 to Depth Cue depth1 and same for depth2
Next turn off Fog button and turn on Depth Cue button under Render palette ofc.
To make the Depth Cue a bit better you should increase the anti aliasing size – this will smooth out the edges.
> Render palette > Antialiasing drop down > Size slider
And one more thing that you can do to improve the overall AA.
> Render palette > Antialiasing drop down > Super Sample slider
Increase to get better results

Best Render

All you have to do now is switch on best render option and render the final image.
> Render palette > Best button
And final step is saving your render
> Document palette > Export

Useful zBrush Downloads

Zeoyn Cutter

I found these brush through digital tutors. It’s good for making sharp grooves. A mix of displace and pinch. zbrush downloads

has a great section of brushes alphas and other tools all free to download.