Follow Me, I Know a Shortcut: New Features in Substance Designer

  • Technology

Quick, think about one thing you’ve wanted Substance Designer to do. Chances are you’ll come up with the number one request we’ve received from artists: shortcuts! 

We agree. Shortcuts — and more — just landed in Substance Designer. This release aims to give you more tools to customize your material creation workflow, and make it truly your own. Shortcuts, plugins, nodes, improved color management and 3D view will help you innovate, and pave the way for digital material creation.

Set up node shortcuts  

It is with no small excitement that we deliver today on this long-requested, long-awaited feature: shortcut assignment for node creation. Call up your favorite nodes easily, and quicker than before. 

Just to make sure you’d be able to do precisely what you want, we didn’t setup the shortcuts in advance, so this feature is a blank slate for you to play with.

Not only can you attach a key to atomic nodes, and other usual favorites, but you can also add your personal nodes. Spending less time on finding nodes in the menus means more time to focus on that speck of dust that doesn’t look just right.

Beta MaterialX Plugin

Talking about looks, here’s something for the standardisation of your materials across platforms. The MaterialX description format, developed by ILM, allows artists to create materials that can then be used on a vast array of platforms across many usages: in movies, TV shows, games, and VR experiences, and even in manufacturing for toys and derived products.

Last year, at SIGGRAPH 2019, our team showed the first actions of a MaterialX plugin for Substance. You can read the story of the development of this plugin right here.

Today, the plugin is here! It’s a beta version as we’re confident we will deliver great improvements over the next months.

The MaterialX plugin for Substance Designer is available here, and this is what it can do:

— Develop procedural shaders and textures in parallel
— Create advanced shaders for Substance Painter, with features such as detail maps and procedural masks, changeable at runtime
— Match shader features from your game engine or VFX pipeline in the Substance Designer and Substance Painter viewport

New PBR Render Node

The PBR Render node, a fairly recent addition in Substance Designer, gets an overhaul!

When it was first released, in December 2018, this is what we had to say: “Just plug in a PBR material and an HDR map. This allows you to simulate full material lighting within a single map. Combine this new node with a custom procedural environment map and create beautiful thumbnails in seconds.

Today, the all-new PBR Render node comes with more functions: you can rotate the camera, move the shape, and change the camera focus.

There are also post effects, an additional cylinder shape, support for anisotropy and Clear Coat. Everything you need to render beautiful material previews.

New Filter: FXAA

You probably know this acronym because it’s widely used in video games to improve the quality of real-time rendering. We have implemented the exact same algorithm in a node to solve aliasing issues on your intermediary masks.

New Filter: Hald CLUT

Look up tables (LUT) are used to quickly apply color/tone adjustments to an image. Simply apply your color correction to an identity LUT (link), save it and plug it into the filter.

And since we’re talking about color…

Improved Color Management

We need to be better at color spaces, and we’ve been focusing a lot on that in the last release, with the integration of the OCIO color management system. 

Today, we’re adding an integration with Adobe Color Engine (ACE). This allows us to support ICC profiles. This is very useful to guarantee color consistency across your tools, which lets you match colors from Substance Designer with many tools — including Photoshop.

See for instance here, the image contains a ProPhoto ICC Profile; It is correctly displayed in the working color space (sRGB):

This is the second step in a series of color management improvements, so keep your eyes open, there’s more to come!

3D View Rework

Your 3D view now has a better UX and better synchronization between Iray and OpenGL. Technically, this means that you can now tweak the OpenGL material properties without plugging in textures, so it’s now similar to how Iray works. 

Additionally, as requested by many users, we’ve added the ACES tonemapper in the 3D View in the “Legacy” color management mode.

Bakers Improvement

AO Thickness & Bent Normal: new sampling method. Get better quality with the same sample number.

This new method works particularly well in combination with subsampling, here is a comparison between the previous method (top) and the new one (bottom) with a low sample count (from left to right: 4, 8 and 16 samples) and a 16x subsampling.

Height Map & Thickness: new normalization option. You can manually control normalization: it’s for instance very useful on your height map, to know the raw distances between low-poly and high-poly meshes.

The divisor value will correspond exactly to the displacement intensity you have to set up on the low-poly mesh to match the high-poly mesh silhouette.

Additionally, the manual factor allows you to fix potential seam issues on UDIM meshes.

There’s more in your new version of Substance Designer, of course! The full release note is right here. The community is on Discord, where many amazing artists are sharing tips and tricks — and our own devs are spending a lot of time there as well.

You may have noticed we’ve changed our version naming system. The new Substance Designer version is 10.1.0, which corresponds to 2020.1 under the former naming system.


Yesterday the Substance team gave many updates about what’s new and what’s coming in Substance:

This release’s main artwork is a creation by Xiaopeng Shen. Find her Artstation here.

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