Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic

Photorealism in Archviz: Rajko Stijakovic uses Substance Painter

Pierre Bosset on May 31 2018 | Stories, Cinema 4D, Corona Renderer, Architecture

My name is Rajko Stijakovic and I am currently based in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the city of Gradiska, but I like to travel a lot so most of the time you’ll find me somewhere else.

I work as a freelance 3D artist, mostly doing architectural visualization and product visualization. I am also running a Patreon page where people can see my tutorials for Cinema 4D and Corona. I also use Unreal Engine and sometimes I post projects from different renderers like Octane, Vray, and Redshift there.

My Background

I was passionate about video games as a kid. I think that was the reason why I tried Sketchup when I was in high school. That wasn’t really my main preoccupation, because I played volleyball and became coach during my sports sciences studies. As I also had a keen interest in music from a young age, I once tried to record some music and do some kind of animations for it. That was when I discovered Cinema 4D and Vray, and that’s how everything started. Later, I did an Interior Design class at ITAcademy in Belgrade and started freelancing.

Studio Heisenberg

When I started working on a freelance basis, I was watching a lot Breaking Bad. At that time, I had a few colleagues with whom I worked on projects, and I got the idea to make a simple webpage to promote our business. That’s when I came up with the Studio Heisenberg name and everything rolled on from that moment.

Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic

How I discovered Substance

I’d been searching for ways to improve my texturing, and that had been difficult with the renderers I was using at that time. I started to explore surface imperfections and, during that time, I discovered Substance Designer. At first, I played around with it a bit with it but when Substance Painter released, I immediately fell in love with it and started learning how to use it properly.

Still Life Studies

I almost exclusively use Cinema 4D and Corona renderer. So basically, I’m modeling and rendering everything in Cinema 4D and if I need some help for sculpting UV maps I bring in other apps. That’s where Substance came in. I usually use Substance B2M for creating textures from diffuse maps or pictures. When I need additional realism, I use substance Painter to make some wear and tear on objects, like I did for the stool chair in the still life project called Lillium Corner.

Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic
Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic


I’ll show some screenshots of my latest coffee scene where I used Substance Painter extensively.

First I do basic modeling in Cinema 4D:

After that, I use a bridge to unfold the 3D and do the UVW mapping:

Then I start working in Substance Painter:

I use a lot of smart materials and bake curvature maps so I can make dirt and rust. After that, I export maps and get back into Cinema 4D and make Corona materials and lighting for the final image. Coffee beans are also done this way.

Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic

Tempo Penthouse 3D Visualisation

I did this image with the help of Substance B2M, which is one of the tools I use in all of my projects. When I get some pictures or textures from clients, I make all the maps inside it. In this project, I used it to make parquet as B2M had the option to make parquet from a wood texture. I made a free tutorial on it on my YouTube channel. I also used Substance Painter for wood around the pool and some chrome imperfections.

Next Projects

I’m currently working on a visualization of Zurich airport with a company from Switzerland. I’m planning to do one full photorealistic Unreal Engine interior with the help of Substance Painter, which I’ll use for my Patreon tutorials.

Industry Trends

I think Substance is a big help in archviz and product design industries for photorealism, especially for some wear and tear, because nothing in real life is perfectly clean. With Substance, we can easily make some scratches or smudges which will give much more life to images in less time than any other software today. Also, some integrations with renderers like Corona or Octane in Cinema 4D would be great, something like we have for Unreal Engine at the moment.

The archviz market is strongly heading to VR and real-time visualizations. But we cannot rely only on those, and current renderers are becoming simpler and much less time-consuming. There is much more time for color, compositions and making stories. So I think in the future it will be much more important for archviz artists to know how to make photographs than to know how global illumination works.

Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic
Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic
Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic
Image courtesy of Rajko Stijaovic
Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic
Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic

Tips and Tricks

My tip is to get used to UV unwrapping because it’s fundamental for everything that will later be done inside Substance. With tools like unfold 3D, it’s easy to do that. And after that, when we paint or make Substance textures, it is important to understand how materials are made in the real world. For example, I received a question about how to make dirt on windows, as the person who was asking couldn’t get it right playing with roughness or bump. The problem is that dirt isn't a structural part of the glass, it is a separate layer of materials. When you realize that, it’s easy to make two different materials, and then with some masking put them together. Look around, observe and think how things are layered in the real world, and then it’s easy to bring this perspective into your software tools.

Substance Painter Features

My favorites, for now, are smart materials and smart masks. With them, in a few minutes, I can see how my objects behave and I don’t lose much time in creating layers. In the future, I would like to have accurate export presets for popular renders like Corona, Octane, and Redshift. I am aware that there are some of these already exist, but I’m not completely happy with them, and sometimes I need to do some additional work inside renderers to get the look I want.

Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic
Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic
Image courtesy of Rajko Stijakovic


There are many studios that inspire me, including MIR, Recent Spaces, and The Boundary. I also like artists such as Bertrand Benoit, Cornelius Dämmrich or Raphael Rau. I like how they evolve over time, taking maximum advantage of software tools and upgrades. They also sometimes make tutorials and give insights into their workflow and findings, which is always really helpful whether you are a beginner or experienced user.

My Working Space

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