Stylized Subway

Material Breakdown

Lydia Zanotti


Lydia Zanotti

Senior Environment Artist


I’m Lydia Zanotti, a 3D Environment Artist who has worked for companies like Valve, Riot, and Amazon.
I’ve been in the industry for a decade now, and when I’m not making maps at work I enjoy making weapons and textures.


I just recently started learning Substance Designer, and I’d like to break down how I created one of my materials and offer advice to those who want to learn this software.

This subway wall material was something I made a few weeks into learning Substance Designer, so it’s very beginner-friendly.

I based this off of a subway material by James Braley that I got inspired by.

The majority of this texture is being driven by 2 Tile Sampler nodes. I am using one of the nodes to drive the brick layout, and the other to get height breakup.


To have some broken tiles on the wall, I used a Cells 4 node and warped it a bit, and blended it using a mask of select tiles.

This helps make the wall feel more worn and less pristine.

A Flood Fill to Gradient node was how I approached adding slight tilt to the tile pieces.


I then did a pass of removing tiles by putting Levels on the second Tile Sampler I used to separate different tiles.

After this mask, I could layer some nodes together to make patterned mortar.

I used Transformation 2D to rotate a Gradient Linear node, then blended a noise mask to break up the lines.


I wanted to push the worn feeling of this material and add text. For the graffiti, it was straightforward… just a text node!

I used a Slope Blur node on the graffiti to give some wear to the edges.

A good tip is to blend this text mask into the height so the slight bump feels like paint on a surface. Do this with your roughness, so the paint has different gloss properties than the wall tiles.


Lastly, I added a metal vent at the bottom of the wall, and a metal trim along the middle of the wall to break it up a bit.

I used shapes to build out both of these. Without these elements, the wall lacked interest and story.
At the very end, I used a Transform 2D node to make it slightly crooked.


Texturing this was the fun part, especially because now I had access to a ton of different masks.
You can see I’m using a ton of blend nodes to build up colors using these masks.

I always start with the base wall first, and work my way to the most foreground elements last.


The end result is a tiled subway wall.

It’s a pretty simple and fun material to make and teaches you how to use various nodes and get comfortable with the Tile Sampler and working with Shape nodes.


The best advice I can give someone starting in Designer is to learn one node at a time.
Set a goal to learn the Curve node one day, or the Vector Warp node the next day.

Having prompts is also a good way to get ideas on what to make (check out Nodevember and Mayterials prompts) and consider joining in on material challenges.