Review: Substance Painter

Lighting artist Andrew Finch takes the competitively priced artist software for a test drive.

Our Verdict

Substance painter proves that substance is more than just it's name: a competitively priced artist software which, with time, should prove to be the new industry leader for 3D painting.


  • Particle brushes - allow the use of particle emitters to paint effect.
  • Physical Based Shaders – support the next generation of consoles technology.
  • Intuitive UI – compatible with other packages.


  • Minor performance glitches - some lagging, but should be fixed in future updates.

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Substance painter 2

With clients like Blizzard and Naughty Dog, you will be in great company using Allegorithmic software

Initially, when Substance Painter loads up, you're presented with a UI that's not only intuitive but follows the same visual language as other well-known, and widely used products in the CG industry. It's perfect for the user, lowering the learning curve of new software, and you can get right into creating your artwork.

The navigation within the 3D viewport is smooth and conforms to the normal key assignment for a 3D application. The lighting of 3D meshes is also very good and there's a library of HDR maps provided, with the option of importing your own.

Workflow is non-destructive too; you can switch between resolutions of textures without repainting brush strokes, for example. I found switching to a low resolution helped a lot with performance while working, then upping the resolution when exporting textures. Even more impressive is that you can go back into your 3D package and update your UVs then re-import the mesh – Substance Painter will then re-paint textures to fit.

If you work in the games industry you’ll know that the latest games are all about the Physical Based Shaders (PBS). Substance Painter is on top of this, letting you render out all the relevant maps to get PBS working in your engine.

Part and particle

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Substance is very artist-friendly: they know what artists want to do and provide us with the excellent tools to do it

The most impressive part of Substance Painter are the particle brushes. These are little emitters of particles that interact with your mesh and paint onto your textures. So you can make it rain on your asset, and the particles will run over the surface leaving watermarks and streaks for example.

The most impressive part of Substance Painter are the particle brushes

These look ultra realistic and natural, and they're fun to use – but you can easily get distracted playing with the cool effects. There’s a small library of customisable particle brushes and you can create your own using the free particle editor from PopcornFX that comes with Substance Painter 1.0.

Substance Painter is artist-friendly. However, the performance of Substance Painter still requires some attention. I used this software on a decent machine but I found it lags at times especially when using the particle brushes. I'm sure future updates will make Substance Painter run as smoothly as possible, and when it does it will be the number one package to use in 3D painting.

Great library of artist software

Allegorithmic have some top games studio clients using their software (Blizzard, Naughty Dog, etc) and with a history of quality products heavily focused on next generation texturing in the games industry such as Bitmap 2 Material. Their price packages are also very competitive and don't price out the indie user.

Words: Andrew Finch

Andrew is senior environment and lighting artist at Codemasters Studio in Birmingham. He has over seven years experience in the games industry and worked on nine titles in my career so far.

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The Verdict

out of 10

Substance Painter

Substance painter proves that substance is more than just it's name: a competitively priced artist software which, with time, should prove to be the new industry leader for 3D painting.

Beren Neale
Deals Editor

Beren has worked on creative tech magazines and websites at Future Publishing for 13 years. He started this journey as Staff Writer on the digital art magazine ImagineFX, and in 2012 found himself bridging the magazine/website divide as Commissioning Editor on the newly launched Creative Bloq. Since then he took the editor role on ImagineFX, was Launch Editor of the fine art magazine Paint & Draw, moved to Canon Pro Europe website as Deputy Editor, and then edited the graphic design magazine Computer Arts. In 2020 he moved back to Creative Bloq, the biggest global art and design website, and as Deals Editor has applied his expertise in creative tech to help digital creatives get the best deals on the kit that they need and love. Outside of work, Beren likes nothing better than to climb himself a bit of rock.