Art by Joshua Lynch

Talk with a Substance Guru: Joshua Lynch

Allegorithmic on September 29 2016 | News, Stories, Game, Film/VFX

We had the opportunity to chat with one the most talented Substance Designer user out there: Joshua Lynch.

Discover more about this artist and some of his techniques to create  'bigger than life' Substances!


Joshua Lynch



Seattle, USA

Hey Joshua, can you tell us about yourself ?


Sure! I attended and graduated from the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, AZ. After I graduated I got my first game job and have been working the game industry for over 7 years now. I have had the pleasure of contributing to multiple titles including the upcoming Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and Defiance.


Over the years I have worked as a prop/environment artist and now I have transitioned to a material specialist role. Teaching is a big passion of mine. I have had the opportunity to present and teach at Gnomon, GDC, and SIGGRAPH.

You have been using Substance Designer for a while right now, but do you remember when and why you decided to use it at first?


Oh yes, I can remember exactly when and why I decided to use it. Assassin's Creed Unity had just released and I saw some of the art posted online and I noticed a lot of it was made using Substance Designer. It was at that moment I saw the potential of the program and I decided to pick it up and I dove right in.


At the time there was very little info online outside of Rogelio’s videos and Allegorithmic’s official YouTube channel. But there was a very active and supportive community, including active participation from Allegorithmic employees which I had never seen before.

“The first thing that always comes to mind is the speed at which you can iterate and explore, it is unmatched”

What is your favourite SD feature(s)?


That is a tough one, there are so many! The first thing that always comes to mind is the speed at which you can iterate and explore, it is unmatched. Second, flexibility in production. I can take any nodes from another material and bring them into a new file, saving tons of time and at the same time maintaining visual consistency.


Last but not least, real time feedback across the entire material chain in near real time, incredible. A great example of this is the ability to bring in a new pattern for the texture and watch the entire material update based on that single change. That is the true power of Substance!

Have you played a bit Substance Painter so far ? (if yes, can you describe your experience?)


I used Painter when making some props about a year and a half ago now. My initial experience was that it felt like the program I had always wanted to texture my props with! It is so easy to pick up and use and yet there's enough depth there for flexibility when you need it.

You are frequently sharing awesome Substances on your website and on the different social networks. Can you share with us some of your secrets to build such high quality materials?


Whenever I start any material I gather as much reference as possible. I pick out key elements from the reference to bring into the material. From there I start to block in major forms of the material with the height/normal map. It is a lot like building a house, you start with large foundational forms first. Followed by medium, small, and micro details.


As far as this portion goes, try to control the amount of noise and detail being introduced. Noise isnt detail, noise is a flattening distraction to a material. Being selective with where and how much noise is introduced will make the read of the material more pleasing to look at. A large majority of my time is spent focusing on the height/normal and gloss/roughness. These are key at defining the detail and response to lighting of the material. Most of the time I am looking at the material with a flat gray color so I can focus on material read and response. I typically don’t worry about adding color until the very end.


One often overlooked topic I want to mention about color, is it's actually more about value. For example, take any photo reference you may have and desaturate it. Taking it to grayscale will remove all color and allow you to focus on the value of the material you are referencing. Paying attention to these value details and implementing this into your work will help the end result immensely. Don't be afraid to push it too far or try things. The worst that will happen is you will get feedback and adjust accordingly. But at least then you start to learn what too far means. Additionally, tutorials covering my workflow techniques in greater detail can be found on my Gumroad (

Like Rogelio; we were lucky enough to have you as a speaker on our booth at GDC 2016: how was that?


Being a speaker at GDC 2016 was an incredible experience to be a part of! It has been a dream of mine to present at GDC after my first time attending while I was in college. To be given the opportunity to present alongside such talented artist was very humbling to say the least. It was also awesome getting to meet and chat with Allegorithmic developers. The booth was busy each day from open to close so the energy was fantastic! Sharing art and workflow techniques to like minded and passionate artists was a truly rewarding experience. Being able to meet so many passionate students and industry artists throughout the day was awesome. To be honest I just hung around the booth each day, so many great presentations and people to talk to. Was a blast and I would love to do it again!

“Being selective with where and how much noise is introduced will make the read of the material more pleasing to look at.”

Procedural texturing tools like Substance Painter or Substance Designer, are now well established, especially in AAA studios. Beyond your personal experience, why do you think there is this growing interest around these products?


Simply put, it is clear these tools and workflows are the future. I think one of the reasons there is continued growing interest is that Substance tools present a more interactive and highly iterative experience when it comes to creating art. I think for a while there has been a feeling of restraint with tools and workflows. And lately it seems to be an unshackling of the chains so to speak with Substance tools by allowing artists to work faster and with more immediate feedback and less fear of time commitments in production.


When an artist hears they can update their UV layout in Painter and they won't have to redo work or you can change the amount of bricks in your pattern and the material updates accordingly, that is hard to ignore. I feel we are just scratching the surface when it comes to the potential of these programs. It is an exciting time!

What do you do when you don’t texture ?


When I am not texturing I am usually hanging out with my wife and our pets and unwinding. We like to play games and watch shows and movies. In addition to that, going on road trips and bringing our cameras is often a priority.

Finally, what is the next Substance Artist you would love us to interview?


I would love to read an interview with Christopher Hodgson.

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