Art by Eugene Golovanchuk

New Substance Designer Release: Your Life Made Easier

Nicolas Wirrmann on December 5 2018 | Technology, Substance Designer, Software, Release

This winter, Substance Designer gears up for the coming cold with state-of-the-art technological improvements and massively simpler pathways for your daily use. In short, the numerous additions to the tool will allow you to feel a noticeable change in both power and ease of use.

A Smoother Experience

All those little inconvenient gestures, repeated hundreds of times over the same day, wasting your time and energy? We’re working to get rid of them, so that your interactions with Substance Designer are as efficient as the engine under the hood.

Tab / Spacebar

You requested it: we implemented it. You can now call up the node list in the graph by pressing either Tab or the spacebar.

As a side note, this was much harder to do than originally anticipated; we pushed through many hours of frustration, drank many liters of coffee, and got through a significant number of post-its, until the solution was found… in just ten minutes. Which serves as a reminder that the Substance Designer devs are also human.

Flow Highlight

Lost in node graph spaghetti? Can’t quite figure out where all your inputs are? The new Flow Highlight function allows you to see all the parent nodes connected to one selected node.

And just for good measure, the ‘Select Parent Node’ function is now faster.


Continuing our efforts to improve a the readability of our graphs, we’ve added badges to your nodes. In the graph view, you can now see which node is displayed in the 2D View, which is in the 3D view, and which is displayed in the Properties window. There’s also a nifty badge which will let you know whether there’s a function error on a node.

If you prefer to see the graph without these badges, the function can be deactivated.

Graph Search Tool

Okay, the graph search tool function needed some improvements. Now, you can search by labels, tags, function variables, as well as by a node’s UID - which will be pretty useful when you get an error message and want to see which node, precisely, is concerned.

Graph Tabs

And these graph tab control buttons? You know, the ones that were just lying around in that strangely-placed bar? They are now, simply, on the tab itself.

And grabbing that tab and dragging it around allows you to undock it.


Those of you who enjoy playing Substance Designer on hard mode sometimes like to create a sort of ‘graph-ception’ with layers upon layers of graphs, pixel processors and FX maps. Even the best of you could get lost in these. (Don’t deny it.)

That’s why we thought it was time to add a breadcrumb to the software. Content that used to appear in a new tab is now visible in this smoother system. That’s all your elements, visible and editable in relation to one another!

One little trick: to see the breadcrumb for a sub-graph, make sure that the ‘Edition in context’ function is activated.

And for lovers of keyboard shortcuts, all the breadcrumb elements (the pixel processor, the FX map, the sub-graphs) open with the command ctrl+E.

New Content

This release has only one new node, so we decided to make it count. The PBR Render node, as the name implies, renders your PBR material (base color/metallic/roughness). Just plug in a PBR material and an HDR map. This allows you to simulate full material lighting within a single map. Combine this new node with a custom procedural environment map and create beautiful thumbnails in seconds.

The render you obtain is nearly as precise as a material rendered in Iray. Of course, this requires some heavy calculation, and so the node can take some time to render. But this is time well spent - take a look at this:

Faster Ray Tracing

Real-time ray tracing is the next big thing and promises better, faster, more realistic rendering across the board. Just look at the amazing graphics of NVIDIA’s Project Sol demo.

We saw this and wondered how we could use this new technology to our advantage. It begins with the baking. The new RTX-powered bakers will give you unparalleled speed, with bakes that previously took several minutes now requiring just a few seconds. Thus reducing your caffeine intake.

In order to integrate this technology we’ve had to change several elements in the architecture of the bakers. This will also allow us to integrate other technologies in the future, which will radically improve the performance of the bakers and broaden the range of supported hardware.

RTX is enabled by default if you have an NVIDIA GPU (either a GeForce RTX or a Titan V), and Windows 10 version 1809 (go here and click on “Update now”). We understand that not everyone will have access to this new tech right now, but we’re proud to say that Substance Designer will be ready for you the moment the hardware is democratized.

Python API

Imagine a magical world, where a few lines of Python code can take control of your graph. This is exactly the solution we’ve found; we’re shipping it to you just in time for Christmas.

Starting today, the Substance Designer Python API allows you to create data, as well as edit data. Generate endless iterations on a preselection of nodes. Introspect node properties without creating that node. Create some serious Christmas magic. And let us know what you come up with, on Discord or Twitter!

Two things are not exposed in the API: the bakers and the 3D view. We just didn’t have time to get them ready for this release; we’ll make these features available as soon as we can.

And if you’ve already been using the Substance Designer scripting capabilities, you might have to change your code a bit. There’s a lot more information in the Substance Designer internal documentation, so don’t forget to take a look for more details.

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