2.14.2013

Smart Texturing with Substance Designer and the Unreal Engine

By Brian Rowe, Dana Cowley

Time is a valuable commodity, and few tools have the ability to streamline texture production as dramatically as Substance Designer, Allegorithmic’s professional authoring suite of tools. The Substance runtime component is now highly integrated with Epic Games’ award-winning Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) as well as the free edition of the engine, the Unreal Development Kit (UDK).

With Substance Designer 3, Allegorithmic has evolved a formidable toolset that empowers artists to create high-quality materials much faster through automation and reusable templates. Substance features all of the capabilities that UE3 and UDK users count on, such as multi-output (with embedded channels for diffuse, specular, normal, height, AO) and miniscule download sizes, and allows for the creation of dynamic textures that can be customized at runtime.

Starting now, artists and designers can quickly create and edit lifelike textures directly through the Unreal Editor thanks to UE3’s native integration with Substance, which supports resolution-independent textures and materials that can be edited during production or at runtime.

In addition, with the introduction of popular Substance runtime features in the Febuary 2013 UDK, users will have access to 25 free substances, Substance Utilities to create substances from bitmap images, “Make it a Brick Wall” for generating parametric brick walls, and “Make it a Parquet” for generating tiled materials. Developers can also go hands-on with Allegorithmic’s internal UDK demo project, Beneath, as seen below.

To exhibit Substance’s ability to accelerate production time compared to traditional tools, Allegorithmic created the Beneath demo to put Substance through a real-world scenario.

Dr. Sebastien Deguy, founder and CEO of Allegorithmic, explained, “We built the Beneath demo for two reasons: one, we love building cool stuff, and two, we wanted to demonstrate the incredible power of parametric texturing.”

Allegorithmic’s Beneath Demo

All of the texturing work in this demo has been achieved by a single artist in only 20 days, as opposed to the months expected if the demo were built with other tools. Substance Designer allows for never before seen semi-auto texturing: texture an object once, reapply the process on as many objects as desired, and then iterate directly within the Unreal Editor.

"With this workflow, we actually reduced production time by 80 percent," Deguy remarked.

The beauty of parametric texturing with Substance, says Jérémie Noguer, technical artist at Allegorithmic, is “because the low-poly mesh and the tangent space normal map are given as inputs to the substance file, the output maps you have defined once in this file – diffuse, normal, specular, AO, emissive, glossiness, and so on – will automatically adapt to any new input geometry and UVs after asking Substance to do so.”

The Substance integration helps to drastically reduce the number of iterations, Noguer says, adding, “You can expose meaningful parameters for your substance and tweak them directly within the Unreal Editor.” This not only accelerates iteration and helps obtain the desired look and feel for each material but also saves hours of production time and ultimately leads to higher visual quality no matter the size of the development team. 

Using UDK to get started using Substance

It’s easy to get started using Substance. Be sure to check out Allegorithmic’s video tutorials and Epic’s dedicated Substance documentation on UDN.

Substance Designer 3 and UDK Workflow

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