Art by Pauline Boiteux

Substance Designer Spring 2019: Prepare For Takeoff

Nicolas Wirrmann on May 9 2019 | Technology, Substance Designer

A smarter ecosystem

Substance Designer is seeing its most significant update in a while this spring with a brand new version of its core Substance Engine (v7) as well as improved scripting API, some impressive new nodes; and an additional performance boost on the bakers side.

What is the Substance Engine v7?

Allowing you to go beyond the texture maps of the PBR format, the Substance Engine v7 allows you to process not just textures, but also values.

How will this work? There are multiple answers: you will be able to use the Substance Engine v7 to add, for instance, some specific magic value that a custom shader in an in-house engine may need. Your Substance material will integrate even better in your workflow.

Also, this will allow Substance creators to enrich their content with additional information. For example, take the scale of a material. Is the width of this concrete tile supposed to be 50 centimeters, 10 inches, or 1 yard? With the new engine, this information can be embedded in the Substance file and can change dynamically as the Substance material is being tweaked!

Another example is how to represent some material properties that can’t, or shouldn’t be, encoded in a texture: the weight or elasticity of a fabric or leather, for example; for manufacturing purposes, the minimum viable thickness of a material destined to be 3D printed.

This new engine opens the door to many new workflows and pipeline improvements.

And today?

In Substance Designer, this means that, starting today, you can use uniform values inside the compositing graph. How does that work? Say hello to the all-new ‘Value Processor’ node.

You can create input values on any other node of the compositing graph. This has several uses.

First, this can be applied to optimize your graph. Before, textures represented values - now you can directly use values. For instance, in a metallic workflow, you can replace the color node with a color value, effectively calculating a single value instead of a series of pixels.

The values of the graph can also be used as outputs, like in the case of the new node min/max, which allows you to set both minimum and maximum values.

Values can then be used inside parameter functions. Just plug your value processor into a new input in any node you choose. In the example below, the min and max values are used to drive a level node so that it performs an ‘Auto Level’ operation.

And because we like to deliver new functions with a bow on top, all our integrations are progressively becoming compatible with the Substance Engine v7.

Help us make this smarter ecosystem even better with your feedback! We are currently looking for beta testers for Substance in Maya; give us a shout on our Discord channel.

More New Content

All right, now it’s time to look at all the new toys you get with this release: new nodes!

Flood Fill is slowly becoming a staple of a new generation of insanely creative material authors, and so the team brings you new variants; the Flood Fill To Index, which lets you give numbers per shape, and the Flood Fill Mapper, which lets you apply images on each shape. This comes delivered with a ton of options we can’t wait to see you explore.

You saw it during the Substance Day at GDC Keynote, - the Atlas Splitter is now here!

Using the values (thank you Substance Engine v7), the Atlas splitter divides your Atlas and lets you isolate and exploit the separate elements of your scan, taking a tedious part of the scanning process and leaving you with all the fun of scanning and placing your asset wherever you want!

Two directional warps join the family: the ‘Non-Uniform Direction Warp’ allows the intensity and direction of the warp to be driven by an image input; the ‘Multi-Directional Warp’ applies the directional warp multiple times in opposite directions while the displaced texture stays in place.

‘Height Extrude’ also joins the family and lets you render the 3D depth from a grayscale height map. See the magic happen:

The Triplanar gets an update with a more accurate blending formula, separated inputs for the x, y, and z projections, and random offset.

And finally, the Normal Vector Rotation filter is improved. It lets you choose various directions based on a grayscale of inputs.

We know you’ll seize these new tools and make brilliant things with them. And we can’t wait to see what will happen.

Improved Python Plugin System

We couldn’t forget the Python lovers and scripting experts. This time, the scripting API gets a major update (it’s actually roughly half of the changelog!).

Mainly, it invites you to explore QT for Python and create a GUI for your plugin inside Substance Designer, with the same style of that of your favorite application (Substance Designer, of course).

Awesome plugins are in the works. They should also make your life a lot more convenient, and we should be able to deliver these to you in a nice package really soon. We’ll keep you updated.

We’ve also changed the Python plugin system, which is now up to industry standard. Your plugin is now created when the application starts, which allows you to create a persistent plugin.

Serious optimization

Bakers

What would a new Substance Designer release be without some massive optimization? Once again, your bakers are getting noticeably faster.

The team has worked on the Integration of Optix for your AO / Bent Normal / Thickness bakers. And they’re at least 5 times faster than CPU raytracing. Any faster and your computer would take off!

If you want to make the most of this, don’t forget to update your drivers, because we use the very last version of Optix.

DXR acceleration is now available for NVidia GeForce 10 series on Windows! In order to make the most of this integration, don’t forget to update to, at a minimum, the NVIDIA GeForce Game Ready driver 425.31. For older GPUs, you must use the Creator Ready Drivers 419.67.

And because we like to give you complete control, you can now choose your own style with the new options in preferences to activate/deactivate the raytracing backends.

.obj Loader

Another point we wanted to make more seamless for you: the .obj loader! It is now optimized and multi-threaded. You should see a significant increase in loading speed; at least 1.5 times faster. Expect to see more improvements on that end with future releases.

This Substance Designer release main image is an original creation by Pauline Boiteux. Check out her fabrics on Artstation!

Find Substance Designer and every element of your Substance subscription in the Launcher, a free app to keep track of your software versions, browse and download Substance Source materials, and get the latest news from the Substance team.

The Launcher is still in Beta: let us know what you think so we can keep improving it!

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