Substance Designer 3.1 review
With its powerful node-based workflow, Substance Designer is a new kind of texturing application. Mike Griggs checks it out…
PLATFORM: Windows / Mac OSX
- Procedural texture creator
- Advanced node-based workflow
- Creation of game-ready textures
- 2D painting toolset
- Ability to create ‘live’ textures
Texturing is entering the 21st century, admittedly a bit late, with a range of new scalable paradigms. Formats such as PTEX and tools such as Mari are becoming the buzzwords for the next texturing generation. However, you would be wise to add Substance Designer by Allegorithmic to the new kids on the texturing block.
Substance Designer could be seen in the industry as predominantly selling itself as a texturing app for game development, but this would be doing it a massive disservice, because it has advanced integration with 3ds Max and Maya, and it can be used as an asset creator potentially for any 3D application.
The power of Substance Designer lies within its node-based workflow. This can be used to create a standard range of output maps, diffuse, normals and so on. But it’s when it’s creating a Substance that the application really comes into its own.
Substances are, in effect, sets of instructions for texturing that have been created by the user using the application’s tools, which are predominantly procedural. When the Substance is used in applications that support it, such as Unity, the artist still has the ability to change elements such as colour and bump values on the fly.
There’s also the potential to link to programmable elements within the host application. What’s more, Substances can also be used in 3ds Max and Maya to create tileable procedural textures.
▲ The nodes enable you to blend various parameters together to create Substances that can be edited live in a host application
Once you get your head around the essential concept of how Substance Designer and Substances work, the power that you have at your fingertips can be a little bit overwhelming. Bitmap images can either be brought into the application, or generated as new images. You start to find that you’re better off creating as much as you can directly within Substance Designer because it allows you to make the most use of the node-based workflow.
Paint your textures
A simple example would be setting up a range of image outputs at various resolutions, from 256×256 to 2,048×2,048, of one texture design for a model.
You’re able to paint directly onto your textures within Substance Designer with a reasonable set of paint tools, and while they don’t have the sophistication or response of Photoshop’s brushes, the fact that you can manipulate so much through filter nodes, from levels and saturation to masking with other bitmaps as well as blending all these elements together, gives you a playground that makes the tools of Photoshop seem from a different era.
The major caveat is that to get the most out of the 3D drawing tools, you need a model that has been UV-mapped. There’s none of the simplicity of texturing using PTEX-based workflows. However, this doesn’t mean Substance Designer should be dismissed. For certain uses it can replace all your other texturing tools at the drop of a hat, and with a roadmap of exciting updates in early 2013, Substance Designer really could revolutionise your textures.
- Powerful node-based workflow
- Potentially limitless potential
- Excellent customisable interface
- Requires models to be UV mapped to get the most out of it
- Node trees can get unwieldy
Substance Designer offers a new way of creating textures. If you develop for game engines, it’s a must-buy
About the author
Mike Griggs is a freelance concept 3D, VFX and motion graphics artist, working across TV, exhibition and digital design
on Thursday, January 10th, 2013 at 12:53 pm under Applications, Reviews.
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Tags: Allegorithmic, review, Substance, Substance designer, Substance Designer 3.1 review, texturing application