Shawn Blanch (blanchsb)

15 replies · posted

To Substance or Not To Substance: That is the Question

The Steam versions of Substance Painter and Designer are on sale for $105 (american dinero) and these appear to be perpetual licenses, with at least a year worth of updates from what I can tell. The steam versions will eventually stop updating but you can definitely still use them for life it sounds like.

Substance Painter 2020 on Steam $105

Substance Designer 2020 on Steam $105

So on to my question. I have already purchased Layer Painter, bPainter, and Mask Tools as blender add-ons and these along with other blender workflows can produce amazing results (add-ons not required haha).

I'm not great at any of them.......yet. bPainter is the one I am using the most in my spare free time. I am just a hobbyist and enjoy the journey as long as I can get where I want to go. Currently my results are not great but I don't think it is because Blender is holding me back. More-just I lack experience currently in these areas.

Should I invest in Substance based on what I already have versus what these programs do wonderfully? What I am really trying to say is: Should I incorporate it into my workflow as a hobbyist who is on a journey to learn and master his craft Modeling, Texturing, Making Materials, and exporting to Unity........eventually (the time required is not a huge problem)?
I have the money purchase so that is not the issue. The issue is really just I want to get good at the art of materials and texturing. In a way maybe I am afraid that the easy road is substance and it will take away from my learning.

The sale ends July 9, 2020 so I have some time to decide. Input and comments are definitely welcome though I could use some good input from jlampeltheluthier , rrationalrats , spikeyxxx michaelmirn frikkr and anyone else who wants to speak to this.

I want to know from those who have experience from both sides and can give their own input. Not really looking for comments like: "blender sucks go Substance" or viceversa haha. Just wanting some decent feedback regarding the topic from the viewpoint of being a hobbyist. It's also not like I would never do texturing in blender if I bought substance.

  • Well, so far I can say this:

    I would love to use Blender, but what I like the least is the lack of clear logic in the procedural manipulations. Sometimes it is just.. well. When I watch a video and hear: "Do this and perform that and you will get this result, I don't know why but it works" -- I can't take that video seriously.
    While Substance gives you the most clear and beautiful results.

    So in general: if Blender would have had a reasonable pool of operations for creating textures I would be very very happy. But for now, if you need some guaranteed results -- go for Substance. 

    But I would not dump Blender totally. Cause if you have enough time to spare (fortified with the endless desire to search for the Holy Grail in the procedural deserts of texturing) then you can develop your skills in Blender.
    And in the end it will give you the total creative freedom to build up whatever you want.

    • Thanks michaelmirn I often feel similar when it comes to complex shading setups. The steam purchases will not include any of the other Substance Suite, such as Substance Source. I forgot to mention that. I think I tend to agree though that I will get more freedom in the end.

  • I use Substance painter for most of my projects these days , but I still need to learn how to use it properly. But even with a limited knowledge it still gives me great results. Make sure it comes with access to Substance Source though (The texture library that has currently has 4000 textures and is constantly being added too) I think I personally pay around $18 a month which gives me SP and access to Substance source with monthly credits to use on the textures. 

    Also , in the 3 years I have been using it , I haven't come across any bugs , issues or crashes so it is a pretty stable program with constant updates. 

    I personally would recommend it , but just make sure you will use it regularly if you are paying a monthly sub. (Substance source texture credits roll over if you don't use them btw , I have 900 at present! ) 

    • Thanks frikkr I appreciate you giving me some feedback as well. I really like your stuff so it means a lot to hear what you think.

      I know that the steam versions do not come with Substance Source. I would not be investing monthly money for that at this point. I almost feel like if I have designer and painter I should be able to make my own things without source then, correct? (Not that I have to but I could.......). I bought ectreme PBR as a blender add-on and feel like that can get some of the basic materials covered for me. Can I make materials and import them from blender to substance for more fine tuning?

      I am currently not planning to pay for access to source at this time (maybe for a year or so). I guess I can always make that decision at a later date.

    •  I bought ectreme PBR as a blender add-on and feel like that can get some of the basic materials covered for me. Can I make materials and import them from blender to substance for more fine tuning?

      You can import your own PBR maps into SP and hook them up so yeah you probably could. 

    • @frikkr yes, SP is a stable one. Forgot to mention that. Not that my SP experience is incredibly vast but it goes really smooth so far.

      Have to say that Blender has become pretty stable too these days. I remember that "Plane texturing" video with Kent. As he tried to put some texturing on that cockpit and there was crush after crush after crush. It is way better now.

  • Hey Shawn, 

    I was also looking into getting Substance Painter to complement Blender for a while. I decided against it for a few reasons. 

    1) I also got the BPainter add on and it helped improve my workflow on painting textures on different layers. 

    2) Quixel Mixer 2020 is free and is growing with each update to catch up to Substance. 

    Everyone’s needs are different. Time is money. If Substance will save time than that can be worth it. 

    I would recommend demoing each and find what works best for your workflow. Good luck!

  • Hi Shawn, I haven't used Substance, never felt the need for it, because Blender can do everything I want already, maybe not in the easiest way, but I like figuring out how to make materials in Blender...

    Now, because of your question, I decided to test Substance Designer. Here are my findings (but this is only after a 'few' hours of using it, so not very trustworthy probably):

    SD is extremely powerful and allows you to create amazingly looking materials that would be very hard to make in Blender.

    SD has a very high learning curve, think: Animation Nodes difficult, maybe it will take as long to learn as Blender....(that's probably an exaggeration, but it's hard to tell after such a short time). At least be aware that you'll have to learn an entire software, not just an addon!

    One thing I particularly liked, is that SD lets you see a 2D version of a selected node at the same time as a 3D version of the entire material.

    What annoyed me is that all nodes are 'collapsed' and in order to change some parameters in a specific node, you have to select that node and go to a side panel...

    Generally, I find the workflow very unintuitive, but that might also be because I am used to Blender's way of working.

    Anyway using SD is not going to be like taking the easy way out; you might reach greater heights, but you'll still have to climb that mountain in order to get there!

    Those are my first impressions, I think that if you are a professional artist only making materials/shading then SD is definitely the way to go. For a hobbyist....well it's worth the money (in the Steam sale), but without Substance Source, you'll spend a lot of time before you can make anything decent (I might be wrong there...).

    I didn't test Substance Painter, got enough frustrating hours to get SD to work (mainly due to the fact that they do not support Debian based Linux and fail to mention that anywhere..).

  • Hi Shawn, I use the Steam version of Substance painter - my wife bought it as a present!

     I can't really comment on the other addons you are using as I don't have any of those but I would say I'm more than happy with SP for my texturing needs as a hobbyist. As frikkr  mentioned about the Substance source, I do miss that with the Steam version, but personally I cant justify the monthly subscription to access this.

    Obviously not quite the same quality as Source, but there is also Substance Share  where you can download various textures and materials etc for free.

    Anyway, I would recommend it as a really useful addon and not that hard to learn if you are familiar with how Photoshop layers work - for me this is much more intuitive than texturing in Blender.

  • As for pure texturing, you have powerful tools to make changes and you get so much repetitive things for "free" so getting substance isn't going to be a waste. I hope they push blender texturing towards more procedural and nondestructive, then it would start to be contenter for substance.

    you said you are gearing towards unity, that also is good thing to get substance and learn. and quite frankly, shaders in substance/blender/unity are similar enough, that you can incorporate everything you learn in one to another software, just being mindfull of their own quirks.

    also depending on your project,  i regurarly just use blender procedural materials for stuff, since i dont have to unwrap and i don't take the things out from blender,  so knowing that side on blender isnt waste either.

    all in all, learn both. :) and quite honestly, once you get into the mindset of shaders and how to work with textures, you blurr the lines on which software to use. and also can ignore all the "this software is best talks". 

  • Awesome replies everyone. I really like the different viewpoints and professional remarks, This is great converstaion.

    Thank you for weighing in. I want to sleep on it for a few more nights and weigh it after making some expensive car repairs (tires and radiator/waterpump overhaul). This will be a good break from my “should I or should I not” anxious debate I have been having with myself.

    More comments are welcome until then!

  • crew

    Lots of great feedback in this thread. My 2¢:

    I've never used any of substance's apps but I'm very familiar with the work they accomplish. The procedural abilities of Designer are bar-none from what I can tell. Artists have been doing crazy impressive things with it for years.

    It's very likely I would have purchased and learned it myself if I wasn't a Blender instructor (and thus motivated to do everything with Blender). On that note, I have high hopes that Blender will soon incorporate similarly intuitive procedural tools with Simon Thommes working for the institute. It's a bonus of being a Blender user: The features/tools always come eventually.

    As for Painter, it seems like a very good app and probably worth the $105. I'm less convinced it's "the best" out there with Mari being another incredible painting app. Blender's painting has always been a bit skeletal in terms of features but I'm able to brute-force it to do what I need.

    Hope there's something helpful in that..


    When I watch a video and hear: "Do this and perform that and you will get this result, I don't know why but it works" -- I can't take that video seriously.

    I'm totally guilty of this 😬 I agree to an extent but man, there's so much complexity in simply knowing the functions of Blender's immense toolset. To also know why/how each tool does what it does...vector math, complex algebra, alphabet-soup-formulas of light behavior, etc...It's a tall order. Not to make an excuse for myself and other instructors - we all need to keep learning! Just remember that we're human too, I guess that's my point.

    • Thanks Kent. I agree with your commentary and really appreciate the feedback. I am still very much a noob when it comes to procedural and shaders. I can definitely say without bPainter I would have not given blender more of my texture painting time. That add-on is great for the price in my opinion.

      That being said I am still very new to shading and when I watch most shading exercises. That is exactly the comment I make haha."Okay this goes here, connect that to the vector map node, magic happens, more magic happens, connect that"

      I'm not saying things are terribly explained, that is just my skill level of understanding what is going on. I am getting better at understanding some more of the basic nodes so I think I am catching on slowly, but I am guilty of blindly following without thinking about what I am doing. I then try things out on my own and that's when I begin asking the questions I need to answer. I actually enjoy that  process a lot. Which is why I am asking this question that I don't necessarily want to take the easy road but was interested in the idea of pursuing the substance suite.

      I think too many times that if I just buy something that can do awesome work then my work will be awesome by default. But that has never been the case for me. I do awesome work when I understand the workflow and can let my creative juices flow. Now great tools can help things look awesome too but I have to learn their usage well and use my own creativity to do so.

      Currently Blender without add-ons does an okay job with texture painting but it is probably one of the features I have not seen addressed in the update paths. I think it will get there eventually. And my add-ons are making it better and less painful. We made awesome stuff with it in the previous livestream for the treasure chest course and there was nothing special there. I just like the idea of none destructive painting workflows where things live on layers and can be mixed dynamically. With bPainter and the other add-ons I mentioned I can do that I just don't know them as well as I would like. Substance is one more thing that I could grow to love, but not necessarily need.

      I'm thinking out loud now. Sorry for the ramble. It seems to hep me though. Hopefully it helps another person in my shoes weigh the options.

      As long as I can go back and forth between the programs and do things well I may end up buying it just to have the option to use it, but I don't want it to take away from me learning the basics of how these things work. This is the thought I am getting at I suppose. I am really enjoying the trudging in the mud journey as a hobbyist. It is slow, and sometimes painful, but I am learning the hard way through trial and error and frustration and epiphanies and light bulb moments, which I think makes the lessons and theory stick more.......

    • "I think too many times that if I just buy something that can do awesome work then my work will be awesome"

       I really like that phrase)

    • I made the decision  to buy both Programs. I don’t feel bad about it at all. And now I have some contacts in here who I can ask the periodic question to after I get into both more. I got an extra $5 off becuase steam is also doing their summer sale promotion. It was a nice cherry on top of the decision!

      Thanks everyone for your input. I realized that Substance has some Unity features that I also wanted to use and I believe it works with my Unity Amplify Shader Editor that I also own for Unity, so that helped in the decision making process.