Substance Painter: A brush with fine art - MCV

Substance Painter: A brush with fine art

We consider Substance Painter’s move on reinventing the way artists work with 3D game assets
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Texturing and compression is the foundation on which Allegorithmic built much of its reputation in the industry. But with its new release, Substance Painter, it is offering something a little different.

In essence, Painter strives to deliver an artist-orientated, physically-based toolset for working on game assets. It does so with a view to compliment physically-based rendering, and focuses on working with what the company is calling a ‘material mindset’, through the likes of dynamic weathering and particle painting.

And after several years in development at Allegorithmic, it’s now ready for release.

“There was a clear need for a 3D painting application dedicated to game assets,” says president and founder Sebastien Deguy. “Traditional pipelines using Photoshop started to hit walls with the rise of physically-based rendering – the perfect time to revamp the texturing pipeline. 

“So we dug up an old idea we had of using a particle system to drive texture alterations and map generation. We knew that we had the tech and expertise to build something unique and we were just waiting for the right time to execute.”

The result of that effort – along with input from users granted Early Access through Steam – is a tool that enables the application of water stains, erosion, grease streaks and other natural weathering to models’ textures through simulation, rather through painstaking and time-consuming traditional painting.

“PBR, multi-channel painting and a non-destructive workflow are the foundation upon which Substance Painter was built,” confirms Deguy. 

“As the demand for next-gen content shifts toward physically-based, Substance Painter will be there to provide full material painting, physical simulation through particle brushes, a true non-destructive workflow and more.”

MODUS OPERANDI BRUSH SAGA

The idea is that Painter will emerge as a standard for authoring physically-based content, saving time by letting artists paint on a flexible range of texture effects such as rain, laser impacts or even heat, with full control over parameters around qualities such as effect ferocity. Artists are also able to dictate myriad effects like glare, colour correction and tone mapping.

And, adds Deguy, there’s been an effort make the toolset familiar to those that have mastered existing art tools.

“Substance Painter has adopted and enhanced common workflows found in popular applications such as Photoshop and ZBrush,” he says. “The goal was to help users get up and running quickly.

“Soon, we’ll also have the ability to export not only images, but also PSD file and Substance file to streamline the process with Substance Designer and any game engine or DCC application supporting Substance engine.”

And, as with most modern middleware trying to serve an ever more diverse games industry, Painter promises to suit a broad range of studios, partly in response to engines’ need to do the same.

“Substance Painter is definitely suited for a broad range of use,” states Deguy. “High-end game engines such as Unreal and CryEngine that were once only available for triple-A studios are now finding their way into the hands of independent teams. 

Both UE4 and Unity 5 will further push PBR as the mainstream workflow, and PBR in Painter provides triple-A studios the workflow they need for proprietary engines with custom shader support and artist-focused material painting. At the same time, Painter provides smaller, independent teams an easy and efficient toolset for authoring physically-based content for UE4 and Unity 5, as well.”

With the final release imminent, a number of licenses will be available, from an indie version and pro offering for studios generating more than $10,000 a year, to floating licenses and site licenses. And those curious can also test the water with a free 30-day trial.

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