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Master the Art of Hand Painting: Bring Your Stylized Props to Life with Precision and Detail!


Learn how to hand paint a stylized prop with precision and attention to detail.


Discover techniques for setting up the right environment map, selecting colors, adding base tones, shading forms, creating textures, and adding final details.


Master the art of hand painting and bring your models to life.








- Workflow


  • For today’s class, we’ll be working on a stylized axe prop and using the brushes in Substance Painter to hand-paint the textures.

  • Whenever we work on anything stylized we want to have our roughness all the way up to 1 and the rest of the channels turned off.

  • When we turn on the symmetry we can see that it is using the wrong direction.

  • We can change this in the symmetry settings by clicking on the Z Axis.

  • Now that we set up our symmetry we can start working on our prop.

  • Make a fill layer for our base color.

  • Above that layer add a paint layer, this is where we will start painting our texture.

  • By clicking 1 on our keyboard we select the paintbrush, the brush can also be selected by clicking the brush icon on the far left side of our screen.

  • Depending on how your UI is set up, go into the brush menu and choose the Artistic Heavy Sponge or any other brush that suits you best.

  • Once you have selected the brush start painting in the darker values on the axe.

  • These spots are the top and bottom part of the axe blade, below the spike on the axe, on the middle of the spike on the back where it bends, and on some parts around the engraving in the middle of the axe blade.

  • These darker values need to be smoothed out, to do so click 5 on your keyboard to select the blur tool.

  • Don’t forget to choose a brush type just like we did with the pen.

  • For the blur tool, the best brush to use is the Artistic Heavy Brush because it gives you a nicer brush stroke when blurring in the values.

  • Every time we add in the dark values we’ll blur them out using the smudge tool.

  • After we’re done with the dark values it’s time to add in some lighter values on our axe blade. Choose a lighter color that blends well with the rest of the color palette.

  • We’ll add these lighter values on the middle of the axe blade, the back of the blade spike where it begins to stick out, and the top part of the middle part of the blade.

  • We also need to smudge out this color as well.

  • Don’t forget to keep in mind the shape that you are painting on.

  • If you think you’ve added too much color you can always erase it using the erase tool by clicking 2 on your keyboard or clicking the erase tool icon on the far left side of your screen.

  • We’re going to add some light values around the indent in the middle of the axe blade, follow the shape of the indent where the edges are, and smooth out the color using the smudge tool.

  • Make a new Paint Layer to add more details with the same color.

  • This time we’ll add them between the carved indents on the axe, smudging them at the edges.

  • We’re going to add some of the light colors to the tip of the axe blade, leaving some space in between to create the illusion of a scratch being there even if it isn’t sculpted on the 3D model.

  • Where the curve is on the Axe blade add some of the same light color and smudge it out.

  • Add a new paint layer and this time we’ll choose an even darker value and start painting the axe blade, focusing on adding this color between the highlights we’ve added and in crevices.

  • Make sure you follow the form of the blade and erase any color that bleeds into the highlight or in a place we don’t want it to be.

  • Be patient during hand painting, the more time you spend working on it the better results you’ll get.

  • We’re going to add some shading in the middle of the Axe blade as well.

  • We’re going to fill out the entire engraving in the middle of the Axe blade.

  • We’re going to add more of these highlights on the axe blade to make the blade look metallic.

  • Building up from the darker values to the lighter values we’ll always give you a better result in your handpainted textures.

  • During this process, we’re only using the paintbrush and smudge tool with the Artistic Heavy Brush.

  • You can always erase certain parts of the coloring to add an interesting texture fee.

  • Imperfections will add more character to your prop and the end result will look less smooth and too clean.

  • Don’t feel scared to get a little bit messy, not everything has to be blended out smoothly but keep in mind to keep everything within the form of the blade.

  • Leaving small and sharp brushstrokes can indicate that the metal is rough and warns out, use these strokes sparingly so it doesn’t look too messy.

  • We’re going to add these highlights around the indent in the middle of the blade and on the corners of the square shape.

  • On the handle, we’re going to add a horizontal stroke of the same light silver color and start smudging it out. In between the indents, we can either erase some of the colors or add the darker metal value in between the strokes.

  • We only want the highlights to be in between the strokes and not inside the graving itself to indicate depth.

  • We’re gonna go back and forth between different parts of the blade, adding and removing color when needed.

  • Keep building up the highlight on the blade.

  • You can add in the details using different paint layers, however, it suits you best.

  • Having everything layered will allow room for errors to be fixed without loosing too much of the progress you have made on your texture.

  • If you want a more stylized look you don’t have to smudge out some of the shapes you make with your brush.

  • Don’t forget to add highlights on the top curve of the blade as well.

  • We’re also going to add some highlights on the top spike of the model.

  • Add the same scratchy details on the sides of the middle part of the axe for a more stylized look.

  • Going back to the spike add some more of the light silver color across the middle of the spike and smudge it out.

  • Choose a darker green color and add the color between the highlight we smudged.

  • Smudge it out but try to keep the highlight still visible in the middle.

  • Use the same dark green and add it on the bottom of the spike, on the sides of the square, and on the edges of the indent.

  • Change to a darker silver color and add it to the darker parts of the axe.

  • Change to the same dark value we used for shading the axe and start adding it on the sides of the bottom of the handle.

  • Leave a bit of space in the middle of the handle.

  • Erase some part of the darker shading and smudge it out again.

  • Around the rims add the same color and gently smudge it out.

  • Use a lighter color than the base color for our axe and add some highlights in the blank part we left on the handle and on top of the rims.

  • Use a darker aqua color and add it on the bottom rim and on the sides of the highlight.

  • With the same color we used for the highlights on the axe blade, we will use it again for the handle.

  • Going back to a darker shade of blue we’ll add some shadows at the back of the axe to make the shape of the axe.

  • Since it is a low poly model we need to draw in the shadows and shape of the prop ourselves.

  • Here we’re adding the same color to make the shape of the sides of the spiky part of the axe.

  • We’ll do the same thing to the sides as well.

  • We’ll switch to the highlight color and add some lighter values in the battle and in between the darker color we just added.

  • Select the same darker green we used previously and add it to the middle part of the axe handle where it connects the axe head with the staff.

  • Group up all the layers by selecting all of them and clicking Ctrl + G on your keyboard and name the group/folder.

  • Make a new fill layer for the handle of the axe, choose a brown color, and set the roughness all the way up to 1.

  • On the same layer add a black mask and by using the polygon Fill tool only select the handle of the axe.

  • If some of the colors are still bleeding into the metal parts, click X on your keyboard to switch to the black value and erase the color that is bleeding in.

  • Make a new paint layer on top, choose a darker brown color, and add it to the top and bottom of the handle.

  • Using the same color, fill in most of the carvings on the axe handle.

  • Switch to an even darker brown, make a new paint layer, and add color to the carvings of the axe as well.

  • Make a new paint layer and choose a lighter brown.

  • We’re going to add highlights in between the carvings just like we did on the axe blade.

  • We can erase some of the highlights to make them look more like stylized wood.

  • Make sure you’re smudging out the color nicely with a smooth transition, keep in mind that the edges of the color need to be smooth so use the eraser brush to clean up any color bleeding.

  • Again you can add in crips brush strokes to make it look more stylized.

  • Make a new paint layer and choose a lighter orange color.

  • Add it in the middle of the handle and smudge it out.

  • Once you smudge out the color change the layer type from Normal to Soft Light and lower down the layer opacity to half.

  • On the same layer choose a darker brown color and add the color on the top and bottom of the wooden handle.

  • After you’re done with the wooden handle change the environment map to Studio 2.

  • Group up all the layers we’ve made for the wooden handle and name it.

  • The last part we need to color is the wrap around the handle.

  • Make a new fill layer with roughness all the way up to 1.

  • Choose a lighter desaturated orange color.

  • Add a black mask and use the polygon fill tool to select only the folds around the handle.

  • Make a new paint layer and choose a darker shade of the base color.

  • Add the color on the bottom and in between the folds and smudge it out.

  • Add some extra color where the fold is.

  • Choose a lighter color of the base color.

  • Start adding in the highlights in between the folds

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