Discover Substance Painter|What it is and what it is used for

In 3D Texturing, Apps and Software review, Art, Review by Christian Justamante Jacobs

Developed by Allegorithmic, a popular French software company known in the industrial design and animation industry Substance Painter was released in 2014. Software giant Adobe in January 2019 acquired the French software company Allegorithmic. Similar to a 3D version of Adobe Photoshop, the Allegorithmic software painter is a 3D painting tool for digital painting work.

So, What is Substance Painter?

Created with advanced masking and procedural texturing tools, Substance Painter was developed to texture models. With 2D programs, it can be difficult to achieve specific texture models, and Substance Painter was created as a more natural alternative to this. Since its release, Substance Painter has grown to become an industry-standard in the game design and animation fields for digitally painting and texturing 3D models.

With the real-time PBR material workflows of Substance Painter, you can choose to paint either on the 2D maps or straight on the 3D model. You can view your edits in real-time, giving you an idea of how your texture would turn out even before you are done. The textures of Substance Painter are displayed and exported in PBR format, making it easier to import them into the game engine producing the same result. To start with Substance Painter, you would need a properly UV unwrapped polygonal model, which would be used as a surface to paint on when imported.

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Why you should use Substance Painter as a 3D modeler 

The set industry standard for texturing 3D models, Substance Painter, remains a top choice for many 3D artists. Unlike before, when designers had to switch between programs when painting and texturing 3D models, you can perform all of this action on a single program, Substance Painter. Substance Painter makes it a lot easier for you to combine your workflow in one place, increasing your work speed.

AAA 3D artists can easily create realistic textures in shorter timeframes using Substance Painter. This, in turn, means that game turnaround times are even faster, and the final meshes are of high quality. A powerful 3D texturing app, Substance Painter allows you to create and edit 3D models that work well with any engine they are imported to. This high performance of Substance Painter accounts for its popularity in the gaming world being used by major gaming companies such as Capcom, Activision Blizzard, and many others. Substance Painter was also used in texture modeling of highly rated games, including Uncharted 4 and Horizon Zero Dawn. 

A great tool not only for animations but also for 3D modeling, the workflow game design and animation with Substance Painter are often described as:

A selected low-polygon object is modeled in, for example, Maya or Blender with its UV coordinates unwrapped.

Specific sculpting programs, including ZBrush, Mudbox are then used to refine the model. The high-detailed poly model is created after which the creation of various bump and displacement maps.

The next step is to apply the different displacement maps to the low-poly model and move on to texture painting with Substance Painter by exporting it.

After texturing the model, it is then exported to a 3D software where the rigging and animation process will start.

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What Are Its Main Features

Advancement in technology has brought about the need for more sophisticated designs that have to show proof of where technology stands at this point. The Substance Painter is just the right tool to make your artworks come to life. The software of the Substance Painter is produced from topnotch state of the art materials that allows for seamless and efficient working experience. The software company, Allegorithmic, put in so much effort in coming up with features, so that eases the work of the artist; either it is a 3D texturing for games or architectural design. Some of the features of the Substance Painter include:

  • Powerful Paint Engine

The Substance Painter powerful paint engine is why it has become one of the most widely acclaimed and used 3D rendering software by professionals, who want to create arts that stand out from the crowd. The paint engine gives users the ability to work on huge projects with its array of texture filling features, 8k digital rendering of images, and a super-fast software that eradicates lagging. This has always been a problem in the past for 3D digital illustrators, as they have had to put up with software that lags after long use of editing. The Allegorithmic software, gives users a boost, as tasks are done do not slow down due to lags and software freeze.

  • Real-time software integration

For most artists, surviving through the arduous task of having to design their works and having to transfer and integrate it into the designated game engine. The fact that the Substance Painter has solved this issue is a plus that most artists look forward to when working with the software. Now, the Substance painter allows users to integrate there designs into game engines such as Unreal Engine 4 and Unity software. This is a bonus, as corrections and modifications can be made right from the Substance Painter software. This eases the user’s job of having to move large files between software to correct minor errors.

  • Large File-Sharing Database

The Substance Painter software also comes with a huge file-sharing database that puts file sharing and integration on the palm of the users. Now users can import and export data without considering the format of the file. Files from software such as Maya, Houdini, Blender, Cinema4D, and 3DS Max are all allowed to be accessed from the substance painter software. With this wide range of file sharing and integration capability, the Substance painter software enables users with features that make their work easier and versatile.

  • Highest Resolution Export

The thrill of having well-tailored and designed 3D rendering being displayed at resolutions that bring out the effort of a well-crafted job can be overwhelming. That exactly is what the Allegorithmic Substance Painter software offers users, due to the addition of their 8K resolution export. Currently, 8K resolution is hands down the highest resolution of imagery that is in use by any device. The clarity that the 8K resolution brings to images is what makes it a fan’s favorite, as texture rendering, color balancing are all at optimal levels. This gives the artists the advantage of letting viewers see the actual surrealism that was put into the work. With the 8K feature, no detail is missed, and every single effort is being portrayed.

  • Availability on Major Platforms

The Substance Painter software is currently available on major operating system platforms such as Windows, Mac, and Linux. This feature allows for mainstream access to the software, thereby eradicating the issue of secluded operating system platforms. 

Now, artists, designers can all have unlimited access to the Substance Painter software capability no matter the device they use.

  • RTX Accelerated Bakers

The Substance Painter software boasts of a new, improved RTX accelerated baker, that gives your 3D modeling a more comfortable and more efficient way of texturing your 3D designs. This new inclusion allows the artist to bake their images faster than ever before. The baking time of the latest software helps reduce the unnecessary time it takes artists by almost 65% from the former software. Now the artist can have enough time focusing on better texturing and less time waiting.

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Advanced Techniques

To work around the interface of the Substance Painter takes a lot of practice to get a better understanding. The software is so power-packed and can handle any baking need of a user, with its vast array of baking tools.

One advantage of baking in a model is that it gives the finished job a well detailed and textured look. Most people tend to rush through the model, and this always results in reduced performance in the quality of the work. The baking tools of the Substance Painter allow users to create a low poly mesh base and mix it with a high poly mesh base. Once this has been done, a template is made in which users would transfer details on the high poly mesh onto the low poly mesh base. After completion, the Substance Painter creates a normal map that would be used by an engine, which would render a description of how light would affect the model.

Although a whole lot of 3D software boast of having baking tools, the functionality is light years apart, and cannot be used as a replacement for the Substance Painter baking tools.

Another technique that comes as an advanced feature on the Substance Painter software is its optimal masking tool. Using this tool, most times, give a difference to the artwork or model that is being worked on. For a model, or digital art to come alive, overall attention must be paid to every single detail of the work. What the masking tools bring to the table when it comes to model rendering is very important. When masking is appropriately and efficiently used, the artist can be assured of every detail of texturing is protected. Most times, when the work is not adequately masked, the painting of texture and details may over the original guidelines and distort the finished work. Masking options, including selecting individual polygons flat colors, the standard method of painting are all included in the Substance Painter software.

The different tools included in the Substance Painter software each have their individual use contributing to the total workflow.

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Tips To Know When Using Substance Painter

Regardless of the project, you are working on, the difference between the flawlessness of your work and abject drudgery would be dependent on how well you add texture to your model. No matter the excellent base work you have done for your model, it all boils down to how well you work on your texturing. An incompetent texture job would always leave the framework useless, and this would mean hours wasted on building an unacceptable model. So, how do you fix this? What are the steps needed to finish an excellent sculpting job with the perfect texturing?. Here are tips you need to know that would help your texturing get better, thereby producing topnotch models using Substance Painter

  • Design your Texture Library 

One way through which you can improve your texture application game is by developing your texture library, where you already have a collection of some of your best-texturing templates. It can be tough work painting and making a whole new texture everything you need it, or probably if you are working cross-platform. A library would eradicate the entire time used to recreate another texturing. That’s why a Substance Painter allows users to import and export data from any platform without stress. So whenever you want to embark on a new project, bring in your arsenal of already prepared texturing, and reduce the burden of recreation. 

  • Optimal Lighting 

When texturing a model, it is imperative to pay attention to the lighting of the model. Most people tend to make errors when texturing, because they too carried away by the features of the Substance Painter software, that they overexpose the model. If attention is not paid adequately to this, the model will react to light exposure in different environments, thereby allowing the color to change. Since the software offers several studio light features, it is just about the right to use studio light environments, which would provide your model with white light. 

  • Prepare For Texture and Details

As a rule of thumb, building around an already finished environment gives you a better sense of how your model would turn out. Most times, before you start the actual model of your work, work on all the surrounding details that make the image stand out. Once this is done, you see the bigger picture, and then be able to work toward that direction. Losing the overall concept would most time mean losing some little details that would make the project perfect. Making use of a 2D or 3D platform, too, can be helpful in seeing everything from a better and accessible point of view. To make the conceptualization of the project come to life, tools like ZBrush can help with doing the poly painting. Flattening of the logos and decals should be done when using 2D, as the text might flip when you mirror them.

  • Create A Base

Nothing beats creating a base for the components of the model you are working on. Building a base allows you to reuse the material, and you give the contents a close resemblance of realism. This is what every digital artist wants whenever they work on a project, a sense of realism that brings their materials to life. A little touch of color in the right places could determine if your model or material would transcend from 2D to the point of realism. These are the things to pay attention to whenever you are working with Substance Painter. You also have to be careful when you’re going rough; it should also be done to the right point. Overdoing your base material could lead to you have a warped or terrible looking model. 

  • Processing Your Wear And Tear

When it comes to wear and tear in texturing, a whole lot of things have to be considered to simulate a realistic situation. To do this, you need to properly analyze the wear and tear that may affect the character you are developing. A character who just went for a swim can’t have his shoes dry, as that is impossible. Things like this are what should be paid attention to when working on texturing. Substance Painter has done an excellent job by providing the software required to run model and characterization like this. Now, the role of doing a good job about it solely relies upon the steps you take and the attention you pay to the most minute of details. What makes a good model and characterization, is that uncanny need to spot details, and put it out in your work. 

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  • Application of UV Maps 

Texturing can be arduous for those who feel they do not have the patience to learn the ropes. When it comes to creating character models and a good base map for that, most 3D software can try to do it, but what happens when you need topnotch character design and development. The use of UV maps gives users the chance to create depth about the model and character. Substance Painter provides the user with the ability to go through with adding depths, wear effects, and edge damages. Users can also incorporate design for other platforms to make the aim at perfection easier. 

  • Inputs of Smart Mask and Generators

Substance Painter added two new features to their software, which are the smart mask and generators. These new additions all work together to give the software more advanced tools to improve your productivity. The smart mask and generator are tools that can be utilized in creating fascinating looks within the snap of a finger. However, breaking up the looks can be a great way to add more depth to the character formation. A hack you can use is to infuse another layer of paint just directly over your mask/generator and do a little bit of painting in some places. 

  • Choosing The Right Workflow

To paint great pieces in Substance Painter, it should be noted that fill layering help put materials in an orderly manner. Doing this will help your texturing get better than when you use the general fill. Although a lot of people don’t get that right, using the right fill, might just be the move to help you stand out. When you choose a preferred fill color, you can mask it, and then paint over the mask. This permits users to alter the hue of their fill to any designated color that suits their specific needs. 

In conclusion, most of the elite digital artist and model creators all use the Substance Painter Software in creating most of the art that they are known for all over the world. A piece of improved knowledge on some of the advanced techniques of the Substance Painter could be the deciding factor in whether your art would stand out or not. There are several tutorials all over the internet, giving different ideas about better ways to utilize the software. So, take your time and put in more effort into improving your texturing and painting skills. 

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About the author: Christian Justamante is a professional 3d artist working in Elite3D creating characters and assets for the video game industry. His knowledge in 3D makes him an expert in 3DSMax, Maya, Zbrush, Substance Painter, Marvelous Designer, and other similar programs.