Courtesy of John Seymour

Product Design: From Substance Source to Cinema 4D with John Seymour

Pierre Bosset on February 28 2019 | Stories, Substance Source, Cinema 4D, Design


Hi, my name is John Seymour. I'm 50 years old, and I live in the United Kingdom. I work in the industrial design sector, mainly as a lookdev artist.

I also provide technical consultation and training in 3D asset creation, specifically lighting, shading and texturing.

I’ve previously worked for Hasbro and Luxion, amongst others.

Courtesy of John Seymour

My Background

I was working as a systems technician mainly on ICL machines in the early 1990s until they were replaced with networked PCs, and one of the first programs I installed was PovRay, which was a command line-based ray tracer.

I was blown away by what it could do, and launched myself into rendering images of teapots on chequered floors… From that moment on, I was hooked.

Later on, I started working as a web designer and realized that I could use a very early version of 3ds Max (R2) to export 3D assets to web content using VRML.

At the time though, 3D was in its infancy and it was extremely difficult to produce anything with a 'wow' factor with the existing render engines. After all, this was the time before HDRI, Global Illumination, Area Lights and so on, so it was all basic, stylistic output. No real-time render engines, physically based workflows, or anything like that; everything was steam-driven. ;)

I feel honored, however, that I was around at that time and saw the emergence of new technologies that have changed the face and shape of the industry. It's a great time to be a 3D artist.

Courtesy of John Seymour and Mykola Holyutyak

My Workflow

I use Cinema 4D for modeling, animation and data preparation, and Octane Render and KeyShot for rendering. The texturing side of things is taken care of by Substance Designer and Substance Painter, which I'm learning at the moment.

I then use Adobe Photoshop for post-processing/compositing, but admittedly I do very little when it comes to that - I tend to try to wring every ounce of visual juiciness from the render engine itself.

Substance Source

I first heard of Substance Source via an Allegorithmic mailshot, I believe... I went online for a gander, and was wowed... The quality of these procedural materials is superb, and the ability to export them at 8K via Substance Designer is tremendous.

Gone are the days of using low-res photography-based textures that are essentially 'stuck' at the resolution they were taken at.

I showed a colleague of mine a couple of rendered out Substance Source textures and he was awestruck that what I was showing him was procedurally generated and not photographic. The same day, he went and bought an indie license with a subscription to Substance Source. That says it all, really.

Courtesy of John Seymour

Substance Materials

I will generally use Substance materials either via a UV-less workflow or a correctly laid-out UV workflow depending on the project, time limitations and so on.

I also make use of the Substance Engine functionality inside Cinema 4D itself. This saves a lot of time when building PBR materials.

Breakdown: Meze 99 Classic Headphones

For the Meze 99 Classic headphones image, I downloaded ‘Wood Beech Chocolate Brown’ for the wood cans, ‘Leather Fine Grain’ for the earpads, ‘Bronze Yellow’ for the metal chassis and ‘Wool Heather Double Knit Brushed’ for the surface they’re sitting on.

These were imported using the Substance Engine inside C4D. I then tweaked the materials to suit my needs and then converted them to Octane Render shaders.

I then set about tweaking the Octane shaders and in the case of the earpads and cans, mixing the base layer with a ‘dust’ layer for added realism. A custom displacement map was also used on the earpad leather to add folds and also on the floor surface to add wrinkles.

I have to say that having Substance functionality inside C4D is extremely helpful. It saves having to interrupt your workflow and go back into Substance Designer or Substance Player if further material edits are needed, which is really cool.

Substance Source Materials
Earpad Shader
Wood Cans Shader


Always make good use of external visual material - use photographic references as much as possible.

Also, dirty stuff up a little; nothing is ever completely clean and sterile, even when brand new.

Future Projects

I’ll definitely be using Substance Source materials again – they’re an irreplaceable (seriously) asset to my texture arsenal. I couldn't be without them, now.

I’m currently working on automotive sequences, so I’ll be delving into Substance Source for that.

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