Substance Designer for VFX?



(25th of March 2018 Update): I originally made this post in the hopes of finding out how Substance Designer can be used for Realtime VFX. It has since been answered. This post is now for anyone who makes something in Substance Designer for Realtime VFX to show off their work from said program, and I’m totally ok with that! Be it work, or to show off how you made something - put it here! Thanks All!

Let’s do this! :smiley:

Original post:


So I recently got Substance Designer due to a past suggestion by a former teacher that I had the mindset to be really good at it. They were right (it seems)! I’m hooked.

So besides the really cool procedural texturing abilities Substance Designer has, I have come across mutterings both here and elsewhere on the net that this program has VFX purposes as well. Unfortunately I’ve noticed that there is little documentation about that. I’ve yet to see anyone say “Oh you ‘need’ Substance Designer for this VFX Effect”.

I’ve seen stuff for Houdini (THERE IS SO. MUCH. STUFF. TO. LEARN. >_<) / Maya / 3dsMax Fume FX for renders. 2D Stylized is Flash (That’s it?) which sucks since the current Adobe price model is not doable for me right now. Then after all that it’s Photoshop and the engine you use to render all this in. That’s all I’ve been able to find. There is nothing for Substance Designer. Where in this line-up would this program sit in?

I imagine I’m being a touch obtuse at the moment, as I’ve been teaching my self an array of programs and my wires are rather crossed currently. :crazy_face: What I ask feels like it should be obvious to me, but I find my self at a blank. Thus I ask. I’m wondering if anyone here can point me in a direction in the advantages this program has for VFX. Is it simply for the texture purposes or is there more I’m missing here? Or is this purely for offline rendered VFX?

@Bruno Could you help me with this perhaps?

Thank you!

Sketch #10: Bruno Afonseca

so i’ve only just learned Substance Designer myself over last xmas break but i think it’s uses are quite limited for games vfx work.

I’ve used it to do some image processing (turning clouds into tiling textures) which was quite nice, and to have a workflow similar to photoshop but with a history, but i dont think it’s a great tool for creating textures from scratch like you would with environment art.

there’s definitely potential for someone with more experience than me to use it to make some great fire or water source textures but i can’t really see what advantage this would have over using photo ref or simulation.


It has a lot of uses for FX. It makes for quick iteration and good randomization. I’ve seen it used to make sprite sheets for random impacts, flashes etc. Check out Substance Share to see what people are making, there are a bunch of different techniques being used that could be utilized for FX purposes. At my studio we use it more than Photoshop now for texture creation and editing.


It’s just really good for textures, since everything is procedural you never get seams. Unless I’ve missed something, I think that’s all people are referring to when they say it’s great for FX. With a few exceptions I’ve found it beats out PS and AE for static textures and normal maps. AE still has some good plugins for flipbooks, but it still has tiling issues if you blur or distort any of its noise textures. If you are working in Unity and don’t have access to a modular material editor, it could be a good way to prototype some stuff visually too before bringing it into engine.

I love it, and it’s now my go-to for most non-flipbook stuff.

edit: it’s my go to for anything but hand painted/painterly textures. I still use PS for that


Care to show some examples?


I use it as a Photoshop replacement mostly, for texture creation. I find Photoshop to be a bit of a pain to work with, seems it’s getting slower every version. In Substance it’s easy to create and maintain a library of tools, and since I use noises and shapes a lot in vfx, it really fits my pipeline very well. Definitely not mandatory, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Every once in a while I make a new tool to solve certain problems I run into, and I share them for free:


@Joesith I agree with Partikel. Could you point to some examples mentioned? Substance Share was one of the places I looked before posting here, but when I put in “VFX” the only things that show up are the tools Bruno mentions in this thread. (Which is why I mentioned him in my OP.)

As I said, when it comes to searching for this, this seems very sparse in documentation. If you could point to something you’ve seen that would be greatly welcomed.

@Travis With this idea for assets made by Substance; Do you mean useing the Substance plug-in for that engine? (In my head that means you can see the texture change the result of the effect in real time.)

Or, simply the speed which you can render out variations to help find an end result?

@Bruno I’m learning here! How would I add the tools you made? Or even what should I search for to learn the process to add and make my own tools? (I looked, and couldn’t seem to find anything ._.)

Thank you all! (Even if I didn’t @ ya!)


@Partikel If you check out the Filters/Effects category there a examples for different procedural textures you could possible make. I didn’t do a particular search, I browsed what they had and what I thought looked interesting I downloaded and proceeded to mess around with them.

Also its gradient picking tool is amazing.


I meant something more tangible. Do you have an effect in engine where we can see the benefit of Substance? I’ve hovered over the buy button many times, but I can’t seem to convince myself that it solves any problems I have.


To add tools to your library, just make a folder wherever you want them to be, go in Edit/Preferences/Projects/Library and add the path, it’ll go over it and populate the library with whatever it finds there!

To make your own tools, try adding a blank input and output nodes, and put something in between and expose some parameters:

So if you drop this substance inside another graph, it’ll have input and output plugs and some parameters you can tweak. Note that you can also add functions to control those parameters and whatnot. You can right click a node and open it up to see how it was made, try that too!

@Partikel It doesn’t solve problems that other tools wouldn’t be able to, it’s just a quick and fun tool to use to generate textures, kinda like Filter Forge, with really fast iteration. Since it’s a very complete solution you can bring in meshes, bake textures or masks out of them, you can paint bitmaps or draw vectors inside it as well. Supports up to 32 bit HDR, so you can even create IBL probes in it.


Unfortunately I can’t share anything in engine due to everything I have made thus far has been used for production purposes.


@Mez just as Bruno and Travis said, I too use it for creating textures. One can use it for alphas and masks too. I haven’t created any “tools” yet so I’m not exactly sure how that’s done but while making materials you can expose for example a “cracks” parameter to the material and change it on the fly instead of going into the cracks node and messing with the values, if that makes any sense.

While I personally use photoshop more than substance designer, designer works waaaaay faster. Specially tweaking the initial nodes can lead to the end result. Also it helps create tileable from the get go, unlike photoshop which has a few more steps involved to do so.

Check out this: [start at 20:17] from 20:17 to 21:35 he shows how he exposes it. So instead of travelling to the roughness node every time to change he just exposes a parameter and can change from the root.


For my work it’s a tool that is super handy to have (every texture is tileable, node based editing makes non-destructive changes really easy and quick), but I definitely wouldn’t call it a MUST have. @Bruno also has a bunch of helpful tools he’s provided on Substance Share, one of which i’ve been using pretty extensively to help quickly generate threshold maps.


Hi guys, I have a hard time creating textures for VFX and also finding Tutorials about it. I started to try around with Substance, found this thread and I would love, if we could start to share practical examples in here. I will start and show of my first tests :slight_smile:

Hot Cloudy-Clouds

"Effect Texture Maker" Website

nice! i really like this idea. I’ll share more of my graphs as well. this one is a set up i use to grey pack some textures quickly. nothing special texture wise. it does let me iterate quickly though.

a lot of stuff i do usually involves rotating and transforming and then using a make it tile node.


First try with flames. Not satisfied yet but its a start.


Those look good! That would take me an hour or so in Fume and it wouldn’t tile


Very cool. Let’s see more! If you want to try and push this fire even farther within Substance, give a look at these for inspiration.


think i might jump on this bandwagon, designer looks great fun…

I’ve seen videos where it looks like geometry is also made within designer, does anyone know if that’s possible. and to be able to export the geometry?

“For instance, we needed a few medals to be built. Traditional 3d modeling/rendering would have been sufficient but time-consuming. Instead with a substance I created, we can now generate as many medal permutations as needed with very little effort.”

makes it sound like he made the geometry with in designer?


he is just referring to creating normal/height and other maps. no modeling in designer. i think he is just saying he saves a bunch of time by setting that up in designer instead of having to sculpt/bake each one in other programs.