Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 Posted by Jim Thacker

Allegorithmic releases Substance Designer 4.1

Allegorithmic’s teaser video for Substance Designer 4, a major update to its games texture-creation tool. The software includes new toolsets designed to reflect the rise of physically based rendering in next-gen titles.

Originally posted on 28 November 2014. Scroll down for details of the 4.1 update.

Allegorithmic has released Substance Designer 4, a significant update to its games texture-creation tool.

The developer describes the release, with some justification, as “the first texturing tool devoted to next gen”, with new features including material layering, physically based shading and procedural weathering effects.

Procedural texture authoring for standard games tools
Substance Designer provides a non-destructive, node-based system for authoring lightweight procedural textures, or ‘substances’. Substances are supported in 3ds Max, Maya, Modo and Unity.

Textures can also be exported a standard bitmap texture maps, for use in any 3D software package: a process Allegorithmic estimates represents an “80 to 90 per cent” time saving over painting everything by hand.

Workflow in Substance Designer 4, showing the new PBR shader, layered materials and procedural weathering.

Version 4 of the software provides toolsets designed to reflect the increasing use of physically based shading and rendering (PBR) in current PC titles and those for next-gen consoles like Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

The update adds a readymade PBR GLSL shader that can be applied to a mesh within Substance Designer, enabling the user to preview the mesh within the software’s 3D viewport, complete with image-based lighting.

The textured model should render almost identically in-game, and in standard tools like Marmoset Toolbag, version 2 of which incorporates the Substance engine.

Instant procedural weathering, scratches and corrosion
Substance Designer also includes a range of readymade filters designed to automatically simulate effects like edge wear, scratches, dust, corrosion and surface grease.

The filters use maps baked procedurally inside Substance Designer from the mesh geometry – such as ambient occlusion, world space normal and surface curvature – to expose underlying layers of multi-layered materials.

The workflow is similar to that used by Epic Games in Unreal Engine 4, which integrates the Substance runtime.

Quicker, reusable material networks
Other new features in Substance Designer 4 include the option to collapse all of the inputs or outputs of a material node into one, making it quicker to wire up node networks.

The software also includes a new Multi-Material Blend filter to control which parts of a mesh individual materials are applied to. The filter uses mesh vertex colour data to control where materials are assigned, in the same way that a Material ID pass could be used during the compositing process.

This mask can be generated procedurally or manually: for example, by Polypainting a model in ZBrush.

Once created, a Substance Designer node network can be used as a template for multiple models. By updating the mesh and selecting the ‘Refresh all baked map’ command, an existing set of materials and weathering effects can be applied near-instantly to a new asset.

Pricing and availability
Substance Designer 4 is available for Windows XP+ and Mac OS X 10.6+. A commercial licence costs $590.

The first of Allegorithmic’s eight new video tutorials on using Substance Designer 4. The developer has just released version 4.1 of the software, adding the ability to group nodes, and more baking options.

Updated 25 February 2014: Substance Designer 4.1 is out. New features include the ability to group nodes to simplify Substance graphs; new baking options, including the option to bake bent normals and AO from a mesh; and the ability to export Substance files with dependencies, facilitating collaboration.

Allegorithmic has also posted a set of eight video tutorials on how to use the software, beginning with an overview of how Substances work, and moving through the workflow for creating, editing and publishing them.

Read more about the new features in Substance Designer 4 on the Allegorithmic website