Substance Designer 6
Staff Writer By: Sergio Rosa (nemirc)
Recently, Allegorithmic released Substance Designer 6, a new of their amazing material creation application. I've covered Substance Designer in the past, but in case you aren't familiar with the tool, I'm going to provide a brief introduction. Substance Designer is a material creation application that you can use to create procedural materials (called Substances) that can be used in other applications, like games or 3d applications.
Substance Designer 6 offers some new interesting features that can easily fit certain workflows or scenarios. One of the biggest new features must be the ability to work with scanned pictures. Since you'll be using photos of the same texture with different lighting conditions, the idea is to allow users to create more realistic textures from photos with different lighting conditions to create a more realistic look for the textures, including better normal maps. Of course, this is mainly useful if you want to create super realistic textures with very realistic details from scans or photographs.
They also made a small but good update to the baker. The baker is basically an interface that allows you to extract different information, either from the model itself, or a higher resolution version of that model, like normal maps, curvature maps, ambient occlusion maps, etc. In SD 6 you can bake based on materials (meaning it will only bake the parts that belong to a certain material).
Another interesting update is the Transform 2D node. To be honest, it's a rather simple node, but it can be very useful. Basically, it allows you to transform (move, rotate, scale) your texture to modify how it's laid out on top of your model. With this node, you can even set the texture to non-tileable.
There are also small changes in the software preferences, where you can set options for image formats, as well as an option to set the default normal map format. It's not a big change, to be honest, although it can save you some time since you won't need to set the same options every time you start a new substance.
Substance Designer 6 also includes the ability to work in HDR. This works for the substances themselves, or the background environment used to lift the object in the 3d view. HDR has different uses in different areas of computer graphics, and it's a good thing that Substance Designer added this feature.
An issue with many current design software packages is that the user interface becomes more and more cluttered with different elements, and Substance Designer is not an exception. The good part is that you can move elements around and rearrange the interface to fit your needs, but in the long run, it's a lot better to get a bigger monitor, or rather, a monitor with a higher resolution. I used the previous version of Substance Designer on my Retina Display MacBook Pro, but now I use it on Windows on a 4K monitor, and the software definitely benefits from a larger resolution.
Substance Designer comes in three different licensing models: Indie, Pro and Enterprise. Indie is aimed at those with a revenue less than $100K per year, Pro is aimed at those with revenue between $100K and $100M a year, and Enterprise is for revenue above that. On top of that, you can get Substance Designer (and Painter) as part of a Substance Live subscription. Visit the Allegorithmic website for more information. If you think being able to use HDR and scanned images is a killer feature (and I think it is, for a high-end market), you can consider if this upgrade is for you. However, if you're new to Substance Designer, you should definitely give it a try.
Sergio Aris ROSA