Let’s Preview the (Near) Future of Substance and 3D

  • Community
  • Technology

We just concluded the Substance & 3D News livestream, where we shared updates on everything Substance… and more. 

Some of the highlights included previews of cool features coming to Substance Painter, Substance Designer, and Substance Alchemist; A look at Adobe Medium, and new content on Substance Source! 

We can’t forget our great collaboration in the works with HP for Project Captis, the material scanner, and our partnership with Wacom which will delight new and experienced 3D painters. 

If you have missed the livestream, you can watch it again here:

Let’s make it a bit easier to find what you’re looking for!
Substance PainterSubstance DesignerSubstance Alchemist
Adobe MediumSubstance SourceLabsIntegrations

Substance Painter

Our 3D Painting Application is in the starting blocks for a great update! The team focuses on improving the quality of use for recent features, as well as new and expanded possibilities:

Update: Automatic UV unwrapping

Last December, we introduced our new Automatic UV system, which allows you to texture without worrying about your UVs! New options will give artists more creative control: recompute existing UVs, only generate missing UVs, unwrap + pack only, or pack only.

Revamp: Texture and mesh export

We want to make your projects export easier! We’re optimizing the mesh import and export workflow by supporting multiple formats. There’s the added convenience of the ability to export in different formats on a per texture or channel basis.

And it gets even better: you’ll be able to export a tessellated and displaced mesh directly out of Substance Painter. This will allow for consistency across software, but will also be awesome if you’re going to, for example, directly 3D print a Substance Painter project file.

Courtesy of Mimaki

Improved: Bakers

The old curvature baker used a mix of baking from the low poly and deriving information from the normal map. This new baker ray traces curvature information from the high poly directly, resulting in much higher quality and precision. It’s also compatible with NVIDIA-powered RTX, so it’s faster than the previous method.

Before & after:

The AO baker also gets a new ground plane option, simulating the AO you would get if your asset were standing on a flat surface rather than floating in space.

Update: Python API

Customize Substance Painter to your liking! We’ve updated the scripting API in Substance Painter, which will now use Python 3.7 instead of JavaScript. The JS API will of course still be available in legacy versions, but from now on we’ll focus on the new Python API.

New: Decal feature

You can now drag and drop decals with automatic planar projection! This is going to be especially helpful with the upcoming Substance Source Decals release, which we’re expecting around the Substance Painter release.

New: Wacom Partnership

We’re happy to announce a partnership with Wacom, giving users 6 free months of subscription with every Wacom Cintiq 16’ or 22’ tablet!

Substance Designer

Finally: Shortcut editor 

A longstanding request for Substance Designer has been to be able to map simple actions, such as node creation, with shortcuts. This will now be possible thanks to the new shortcut manager, allowing you to personalize your experience! 

New: PBR render node 

This node is an improved version of the previous PBR render node. This iteration will allow you to create high-quality ray-traced thumbnails for your materials by rotating the camera, moving the shape, and changing the focal of the camera. 

New: MaterialX Plugin (beta)

MaterialX is a material definition standard is meant to represent materials in a renderer-agnostic way, paving the road to universal materials and shaders.

We’re providing our MaterialX graph editor as a beta plugin, which will be available for download on Substance Share. If you’ve ever built a shader in Unreal Engine, this will look and feel very familiar. 

Custom shader combining UDIM textures, procedural dirt, dust, and micro scratches. 

The great thing about MaterialX is that it’s easy to convert to any other material standard. Our MaterialX graph automatically generates an MDL shader for Iray as well as a GLSL shader for the real-time viewport in Substance Designer. A simple click of a button will also generate the Substance Painter version, allowing you to maintain a consistent look across all the Substance viewports. 

Improved: Color Management 

Last Substance Designer release introduced the integration of the OCIO Color Management system.  

We’re adding an integration with Adobe Color Engine (ACE), which 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. 

Take the image below, for example. It contains a ProPhoto ICC Profile, 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! 

Improved: Bakers

AO Thickness & Bent Normal will get better quality thanks to a new sampling method.

This new method works particularly well in combination with subsampling. Here’s 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: a new normalization option will let you manually control normalization. This is, 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. Also, the manual factor allows you to fix potential seam issues on UDIM meshes.

Substance Alchemist

New: Export presets

The latest Substance Alchemist release introduced export presets and channel packing, which allow you to export your materials to high-performance renderers and game engines.

Since the feature is entirely driven through Substance graphs, you can easily create and add your own preset. In short: export anywhere.

New: AI-powered Image to Material

The new Substance Alchemist release will see the introduction of a new Image to Material (AI) feature. It will use machine learning to recognize shapes and objects and accurately generate height maps and normal maps, as well as getting rid of the albedo from any shadows or highlights. The results are super exciting!

Image to Material (AI) is going to be one more way to create your material from pictures, and will coexist with the current Image to Material (B2M).

Work-in-progress: Image-to-material technology in Adobe Capture

Take pictures with your phone; create assets from these pictures: Adobe Capture is a free mobile app that allows you to do all this and more. It can recognize fonts, generate brushes and vector patterns from your photos, and it even includes a mobile version of Substance B2M to capture materials on the go.

We are now working closely with the Capture team to bring more powerful 3D-centric features to your smartphone, and that starts with “AI-powered Image to Material”, which is coming to Adobe Capture later this year.

Work-in-progress: Captis Material Scanner with HP

We’ve been developing a material scanner in collaboration with HP, called Project Captis. We want everyone to scan, and that includes you! The Captis scanner will be a great step forward as it will be connected to the Substance toolset, where you can process your scans.

The modular nature of the device makes it portable and it works on battery power, so you can even scan materials outside!

Adobe Medium

Have you ever dreamed you could sculpt directly in 3D with your hands? Medium lets you do just this: it’s a VR sculpting tool available on the Oculus Rift. Let your instincts take over and use your entire body in full immersion in VR to sculpt your 3D asset. It’s a great way to rapidly create and iterate.

Artwork by William Dylan Domeyer

Medium has features like elastic move that make organic shaping more natural than ever. You can also kitbash hard-surface models using our selection of over 300 stamps, with our snapping and constraint tools.

When you’re finished, export your asset as an OBJ or FBX to 3D print, to your favorite game engine, or bring it into another program for rendering, compositing, or texturing work.

Medium’s Kelli Townley gave a presentation of Medium and its planned updates.

Substance Source

Recent upload: Fantasy Battlefield with Enrico Tammekänd

Enrico Tammekänd takes you to wild and majestic fantasy worlds with his new material collection on Substance Source. Inspired by fantasy battlefields, create your very own interpretation of Middle-Earth, Westeros, or invent your own!

Recent upload: 100 Stylized Materials

We recently released a collection of 100 fully parametric stylized materials on Substance Source! Check out these visually striking materials tailored for mobile gaming, or any project incorporating stylized elements.

This is only the beginning; there’s much, much more to come!

Coming soon: 100 Decals

Decals are landing on Substance Source very soon, with a starter kit of 100 elements. You might ask, ‘What do decals do?’ Decals are an effective way to add isolated details to a model without having to incorporate them directly into the main model or main texture maps.

Each decal from the collection is parametric and was created using Substance Designer. And that makes them even more powerful as each asset is really a generator of an infinity of variations of itself!


Because a large part of what we do is rooted in technologic exploration, our teams work on prototypes, some of which end up in our software. Here’s an overview of what the teams have been working on.

Work-in-Progress: Image to Material (AI)

As mentioned earlier, the Image to Material (AI) brought together technology by our Core team, and of course, some Substance Engine magic! This is what this new tech does:

Prototype: Wrap brush

Have you ever gotten tired of having to tumble the view continuously to paint around an object? Well, we thought we could work on a possible solution; Take a look here:

See the Labs presentation by Davide Pesare, for more details.


New: Houdini plugin 

We are thrilled to have worked closely with the SideFX Labs team as they created the best Substance integration between the 2 powerhouses of proceduralism. 

The new Substance Plugin for Houdini lets you load Substance Archive files (SBARs) into Houdini via COPs (the Houdini texturing context). This lets you chain Substance nodes together, feed the output of Substance graphs to all parts of Houdini (Terrains, Materials, Geometry) and many other workflows. And this is only the beginning!

Physics-Based 3D scattering, Fast Maps Baking, and all the other great parts of Houdini are now exposed to your Substance workflows in one seamless experience. By integrating Substance at the COPs context, its potential is unlocked to use Substance materials in all parts of the pipeline, instead of only limited to a rendering context. Using Houdini’s Image Planes as different textures, several new workflows fall into place. Load Photoshop files and use each layer as an input into a Substance file. Then use a Composite ROP to export all Substance output. 

You can grab the new, free plugin on the SideFX labs site located here.  

Updated: Unreal Engine plugin

Substance in Unreal Engine has undergone a major restructuring. Part of this restructure brings full support of UTexture2D and includes both inputs and outputs. With UTexture2D support, the plugin can now be used to publish to any platform Unreal supports including mobile. Along with the addition of multiple platform support, UTexture2D also allows the native use of the texture streaming system within UE4.  

The plugin also brings full support for material instancing and introduces a new material template workflow with numeric outputs supported by the Substance engine. Material templates allow you to define exactly how you want to configure your Substance material shaders in UE4.  

We ship with templates for working with displacement, refraction and world-aligned materials that have built-in controls for adjusting tiling, texture size, displacement, and emissive parameters. The material template system also allows you to supply your own custom templates. 

Want more?

Well, you’re in luck. William Ruhlig, our Meet MAT 2 winner, will be live with the Substance team next week.

Read more