Substance Painter or Substance for short, is a texture painting software developed originally by Allegorithmic, a French company already known for making CAD and animation software, and for their infamous substance designer which allowed you to turn scans and images into PBR materials and 3D textures. We will get to that later.
Substance is a fairly new software on the 3D market, first released in 2014 in comparison to Software like Blender released in 1994, or 3ds Max in 1996 to give you an idea.
It was only a matter of time before Substance made its way into the heart of every 3D artist and quickly set itself as the industry standard, simplifying the way we shade objects and making the whole workflow way faster than the typical shading practices. Substance did so well that creative Software giants Adobe stepped in and acquired it in 2019 paving the way for a new era in texture painting.
What is Substance?
Now Called Substance 3D, a family of 4 softwares including Substance Painter and Designer allows you to:
Texture 3D models in real time, with smart masks and tools that adjust to the 3D shape
Design 3D materials, models and lighting environments with the total control of node-based authoring
Create 3D materials and lighting environments in a flash from real-life images with AI-powered scans
If all of this catches your interest, you can acquire Substance3D on a monthly or yearly subscription by visiting the Adobe website or you can buy the software for a flat fee on Steam. However, you will only get to update the software for a year, and you will miss out on the source files.
What does it do better?
Let’s dive into substance and see why this has led to it being the industry standard for shading. It is a PBR (physically-based rendering) real-time viewport with ray tracing. This means that your model is rendered under real-world values for light, ensuring the most realistic textures possible. You can import and export any file type for integration with your favorite Software such as Maya, 3DS Max, Blender, Houdini, and Cinema4D.
It makes use of Smart materials that dynamically adapt to add randomized wear and tear to a texture in a fast and efficient way making shading a joy and as easy as it can be. With this latest update, you can convert height maps into Normal maps with the new tool called sharp, which allows for more precision in high frequency and hard-surface details you can export in 8K resolution, the highest resolution currently in standard use. It offers real-time software integration with game engines Unreal Engine 4 and Unity, and it has versions for all operating systems Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The Learning Curve
To help new and existing users, Substance 3D offers the Substance Academy, a cache of videos and courses designed to help one learn how to use Substance Painter quickly and effectively. You can also find documentation that details the software’s capabilities and features in written form.
Within the Substance Forums, you’ll find guides, troubleshooting tips, software integration advice, and general support. Users have created threads on just about everything related to Substance Painter, so if you run into any trouble, the forums are a great place to find a solution. The learning curve for Substance Painter is remarkably gentle. It’s quick to set up materials and textures to paint onto models, and great results can be achieved without too much difficulty. The intuitive user interface is one of the reasons that users highly recommend Substance Painter.
Substance is the industry standard for shading, so in my opinion, now is the time to dive into Substance if you haven’t already. It will enhance your workflow, make it faster, and will look great on your resume. So what are you waiting for?