Making Of / 01 September 2018

Material Study: Puzzle Pieces

Another one for my pattern recreation series in Substance Designer.
This time I started off, as the previous time, searching on Pinterest for an interesting pattern and I stumbled across this Image. It looked like a fun pattern to recreate.
I followed up with a quick search for some additional reference and found most of these images on sites for phone wallpapers, which wouldn't be the first place to come to mind when searching for reference, but in this case it worked out.
I wanted to stay close to the main reference in terms of how the puzzle pieces look, the material and the color scheme. For the pattern I stayed close to the layout, but changed up the slanting of the pieces a little to create a more interesting look.
1. To create the single puzzle piece I start off with a Square Shape, Add a Disc Shape to the square, move it in place with a Transform node and a Mirror to get it on both side of the piece, then do the same on the vertical axis but this time use Subtract. I blur it a tad to round the edges of the piece off and to make the circles appear better connected to the square.
2. At this point I rotate the piece 90° and feed them both in a single Tile Sampler with Pattern Input Number set to 2 and Pattern Input Distribution set to Pattern Number. I set the Position Offset to 1 to line the pieces up properly.
3. Now to give the pieces a bit less perfect feel to them, I went back and warped it a little with a Gaussian Shape as Gradient Input, this step is easier to visualize when the pattern is created in the sampler. This concludes the main pattern.
4. To generate the masks for the direction of the grain I used two Tile Samplers with the same settings and a Checker 1 in the Pattern Distribution Map Input (to optimize the graph I could have just used the bottom two samplers and add them together, I chose not to in this case as I wanted a bit more control over these masks). To get the selection that I need, since in the reference there is an edge around the grain, I use an inward Bevel, Blend this on top of the pattern with Multiply, Histogram Select to grab a selection of the value that I need and blur it out to give the mask a little falloff, that way the transition between the grain and the edge is not that harsh.
5. I use the Flood Fill nodes to generate different effects for me. The Flood Fill to Grayscale gives the pieces different heights levels that I blend back on top the pattern with Multiply. The other one that I use here is the Flood Fill to Gradient, this gives me control of the slanting of the different pieces, I blended this back on top of the pattern with Min (Darken). Then following that chain I want the pieces to not have big gaps in between them, to solve this I use a Blur > Curve > Non Uniform Blur > Slope Blur, note that the values used are very low on these nodes as it needs to be very subtle and you'll get artifacts very easily if the values are too high.
6. I wanted to define the gap in between the pieces a bit better after the previous chain, I used an Invert Grayscale > Levels > Blur > Non Uniform Blur > Levels and blend the result on top with a Subtract with a low intensity, it's a very subtle difference but it helps to separate the pieces from each other after the previous Blur chain.
7. Here I use a Distance node to fill the gap in between the pieces, I use this as a base for the Albedo creation later on.
I won't get in detail about the creation of this as I wanted to focus on breaking down the pattern and some additional edits to get the height to the point that I wanted, but hit me up if you have any questions!
The final result can be found Here on ArtStation
These breakdown blogs take me a while to put together, but they help me a lot personally. When I look back at my graph to explain how I did something, I often find better or more efficient ways to do it, cull nodes that are not doing anything at all or replace them for cheaper setups and it makes me understand my own process better.
I can highly recommend to anyone reading this to do a breakdown of your own work, it's a great way to learn and improve!
Feedback is as always greatly appreciated!
- Martin