Friday, July 20th, 2018 Posted by Jim Thacker

Allegorithmic ships Substance Designer 2018.2

Allegorithmic has released its latest update to Substance Designer, its material authoring software, updating the UI, improving baking performance, and adding new transform, extrusion and Shape Splatter tools.

The release also marks the debut of Substance Designer’s new Python API, eventually intended to enable users to customise any part of the software through scripting.

On its blog, the firm refers to the update as ‘Summer 2018’, but it’s 2018.2 in the release notes, so that’s what we’re calling it here.

Updates to the UI and node-editing workflow
As with its recent releases of Substance Painter, Substance Designer’s sister product, Allegorithmic has begun to overhaul the software’s user interface.

Users can now undock any window and let it float above the others; and the graph view now comes with a new Align Nodes option to align nodes horizontally, vertically, or snap them to the grid.

More significantly, it’s also now possible to edit graphs in context: Substance Designer now lets you preview the inputs of a graph while editing its sub-graphs, rather than having to use placeholders.

Performance improvements for baking and the Auto Levels filter
Under the hood, performance has been improved: Allegorithmic claims that Substance Designer’s texture bakers are now “up to 5x faster” than the previous release.

The Auto Levels filter is also “up to 30x faster … depending on the resolution of your project”.

Versatile new Shape Splatter node distributes complex forms across a surface
New features include a new Shape Splatter node, designed for distributing patterns around a texture map.

Like the existing Tile Sampler node, it can be used with a normal input to generate the illusion of surface detail, but unlike Tile Sampler, it preserves the height of the new forms relative to the underlying surface.

It also comes with a set of companion nodes that make it possible to customise its output.

The results look pretty diverse: examples on Allegorithmic’s blog range from scattering pine needles across a forest floor to wrapping bracket fungi around a tree.

New transform and extrude filters, plus new gradient editing controls
The update also adds new transform filters, including Quad Transform and Trapezoid Transform, which let users edit the shape of an input by moving corner control points or adjusting the length of its sides.

There are also new Normal Vector Rotation and Normal Transform filters, for editing normal maps.

Other new filters include Shape Extrude, which extrudes a 2D form into a 3D shape; and the Flood Fill filter added in Substance Designer 2017.2 has been extended to support patterns with internal holes.

In addition, there are new options for editing gradients interactively via control points in the 2D view.

New Python API: currently limited in functionality, but set to grow in future releases
Substance Designer 2018.2 also introduces a new Python API, eventually intended to enable artists to customise any part of the software via scripting.

In its initial state, the API only allows users to access and export runtime data from the graph, which would make it more suited to quality checking. However, future updates will add the ability to write data out from the graph, which should make it possible to automate common tasks.

According to Allegorithmic’s press release, users can also “create their own plugins using the scripting tool, or modify existing plugins”, although that isn’t discussed in the current blog post.

Updated 24 July 2018: Allegorithmic’s latest blog post discusses the new Python API in more detail.

Scripting capabilities are currently pretty limited – the post admits that “Python experts might find them frustrating” – being confined to reading data from a graph, rather than modifying the graph itself.

That restricts the scope of plugin development to quality control, or tidying up nodes: Allegorithmic’s own graph layout tool was scripted in Python, and is editable.

The firm says that users can expect “fairly regular updates” to the scripting capabilities in future.

Pricing and availability
Substance Designer 2018.2 is available for Windows 7+, CentOS 6.6+ or Ubuntu 12.4+ and Mac OS X 10.11+.

New Indie licences of the software, intended for artists and studios earning less than $100,000 per year, cost $149; Pro licences cost $990. Both prices include 12 months’ maintenance.

Subscriptions cost $19.90/month for Indie users; $99.90/month for Pro users.

Read an overview of the new features in Substance Designer 2018.2 on Allegorithmic’s blog

Read a full list of new features in Substance Designer 2018.2 in the online release notes