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Substance Painter 2 Review

By Paul Hatton

Web: http://www.cadesignservices.co.uk (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 30th March 2016

Here we put the 2nd iteration of Substance Painter through its paces and see whether it's easy it is to pick up for beginners...



Product: Substance Painter 2

Company: Allegorithmic

Website: www.allegorithmic.com

Key features:

- New Smart Masks for creating and using your own mesh-adaptive mask presets
- New Clone tool, non-destructive, for copying and pasting parts of texture
- New Smudge tool, non-destructive, for blending and spreading colors
- New content in the shelf: alphas, tools, materials, smart materials, and more
- Finishing Filters

Physically Based Rendering and 3D painting tools seem to be emerging in the visualisation market quite rapidly of late. Quixel is one of the other front runners in this market but we're going to take a look at Allegorithmic's latest offering and see how it measures up and whether a beginner can pick it up and use it.

Prior to writing this article I had never used Substance Painter. I knew of it and what it did but I had never even tried to use it. I was well aware of Quixel and had previously put that through its paces so I knew what the rough workflow would be. With that in mind I was therefore keen to get my hands on Substance Painter 2 and see if I could get it integrated into my texturing workflow.

The Display Settings let you apply post effects such as depth of field which really help you to add that wow factor to your images.

Paul Hatton

Prior to us diving into what it was like, let me just give you a quick overview of what it does. In essence, it allows you to import 3D models and texture them using a variety of different maps including normal maps. Substance Painter is a standalone piece of software in comparison to Quixel which is built to be integrated into Photoshop. Substance Painter is physically accurate which means that its textures will respond as they do in real life in any lighting situation.

With that introduction out of the way, what is the first thing every beginner does? Find some tutorials of course. I headed over to Allegorithmic's YouTube channel and helpfully found a whole playlist devoted to using the software for beginners. Amazing! I systematically worked my way through and found them to be absolutely fantastic. They were pitched at the right level and were very easy to follow. The whole process of adopting the software was slowly and systematically explained. Perfect for beginners.

The ability to paint textures in 4K means that your textures will stand up to even the closest scrutiny. Textures can also be non-destructively scaled up and down.

Paul Hatton

The next thing a beginner does is to do something basic! So I created a 3D model in 3ds Max, unwrapped it and applied a standard material to it. I exported it as an OBJ and imported it into Substance. I then baked the textures and began painting! Most of this process was really straight forward but what did take me some time to get my head around was the layer based painting system. Obviously the process of painting different maps with different alphas, textures and brushes etc. is a complicated process, but I wonder whether it could be more simplified within the software. It's fine once you've got your head around it and figured out where everything is, but I would say this is unnecessarily complex for a beginner. That being said, it's well worth pushing through!

The user interface has been reworked and simplified making it easier for beginners to get to grips with.

Paul Hatton

Once I was up and running to a very basic level, I was then keen to check out the new features added for version 2. To put it concisely, I was very impressed. Not only have they increased the number of built-in resources in the shelf, but they've also redesigned and simplified the interface. They have simplified a number of processes including putting the camera settings into one place rather than them getting lost in the DOF rollout.

"I found Substance Painter incredibly easy to use and the workflow just seemed to make sense"

There is also a full-screen option which lets you use all of your screen real estate to view your creation and maximise the effectiveness of your painting. Aside from that they have also introduced a mask editor which lets you create custom masks and even save them out as smart masks for reusing in the future. These are some incredibly useful changes to the workflow which will be music to the ears of visualisers who like this painting workflow.

In conclusion I found Substance Painter incredibly easy to use and the workflow just seemed to make sense. The interface is ordered and customisable which is perfect as you start to get used to the tools. I was also impressed with how stable it was. I didn't experience a single crash which is brilliant for the production environment.

Score (out of 5): 4

Price: Indie = $149 and Pro = $590

Release date: TBC

System requirements


OS: Windows 7 / 8 / 10 - 64 bit mandatory
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: VRAM 1GB
DirectX: Version 10
Hard Drive: 150 MB available space (+500 Mo per project)
Additional Notes: Integrated GPU are not recommended

OS: Windows 7 / 8 / 10 - 64 bit mandatory
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: VRAM 2GB
DirectX: Version 11
Hard Drive: 150 MB available space
Additional Notes: Integrated GPU are not recommended

Supported GPU
Intel HD 4000 / IRis Pro and above
nVidia GeForce 8 and above
AMD/ATI Radeon HD 2000 and above
Latest generation of NVidia Quadro

GPU not supported:
AMD FirePro


OS: 10.7
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Hard Drive: 150 MB available space
Additional Notes: Integrated GPU are not recommended

OS: 10.9 or 10.10
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Hard Drive: 150 MB available space
Additional Notes: Integrated GPU are not recommended

GPU not supported:
AMD FirePro

Related links

Download Substance Painter
Substance Painter 2 Release Trailer
Substance Painter Texturing for Beginners
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