Hello everyone!

In this basic tutorial on Substance Painter 2019, aimed at those who are really starting from scratch with the program, we will see the basic settings to create a new Substance project and the features that a 3D file must have to be imported into a new Substance project, especially with regard to the "UV unwrapping / Layout" for the Textures, as we shall see. I anticipate immediately that this will be a rather theoretical tutorial, in the sense that I will talk about a couple of topics - very important, of course - but I will not show any practical operation to create the Materials or anything else.


Let's start with the format of the model: Substance accepts various types of file formats to import a 3D model into a project, but those that I recommend you search (if you are buying or downloading files from the web) or to do (if you are exporting an object from 3D modeling software, such as Blender 3D, 3D Studio MAX or others) are the OBJ and FBX formats, as they are universal, portable formats that can be opened or written by most 3D modeling software that deal with meshes (that is, objects defined by vertices, edges and faces) and because they contain, within them, the definition of the Materials and of the UV Layouts with which the models have been defined.

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About the Materials, especially in the PBR method, I spoke in a previously published tutorial, so we know that it is a set of information that defines how the surface of the object will reflect light.

In 3D modeling software it is possible to associate even more sub-materials to an object and this information is present in the files exported in FBX and OBJ: we will see very little what it means, with a practical example.


We also briefly introduce the UV UNWRAPS (which will become clearer with the example we will see in this same tutorial, shortly): a map (or "Layout", or "Unwrap", which then means "unstitching") UV is the representation on the 2D plane of the surface of a 3D object; in practice, it consists precisely in breaking up the geometries and arranging them on the plane.

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Why it is important? Because in this way you can associate a point of this 2D image to the 3D surface, so you can draw logos or other graphic elements on the plane and find them correctly applied to the 3D object.

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Note that Substance Painter will NOT import 3D models without UV-unwraps (and will not fail to point out the problem with a message in the LOG tab, which you can activate from Window - Views - Log).

Finally, let's see how to create a new Substance project, import an FBX file and check the model's materials and UV Layout!


Below is the link to the 3D model I'm using, but be careful: you do NOT need this model; you can learn very well by following the tutorial without repeating the operations shown (also because, frankly, in this tutorial we will limit ourselves to importing the model into a new Substance project; we will not define any material and we will not export any Textures, so there really is no need to have this object in particular):



The first thing to do, after starting Substance Painter 2019, is obviously to click on File - New (shortcut CTRL + N).

In the "New Project" window that appears you will find some boxes, but not all of them must be set.

The first item, "Template", asks us which pre-setting to load.

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Depending on the type of workflow we want to follow in Substance, we can choose for example PBR Specular, PBR Metallic, or Unity or, again, use a template created by us (such as the "METP-2019", which I defined); Substance will then load some basic settings, so that we can find the tools we need for a certain purpose.

In our case, we choose PBR - Metallic Roughness (allegorithmic), to use the Workflow Metallic tools, briefly described in a tutorial I published previously.

We must therefore choose the 3D model file to use, of course: click on the Select button and choose, from disk, a 3D model in one of the formats accepted by Substance; in my case, I'm choosing "american_football_ball.fbx".

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At this moment you can leave the other settings of the "New Project" tab as default; I anticipate however that the resolution "Document Resolution" should not be the one with which you will want to export the created Textures, indeed: here you can set a lower resolution, such as 1024 (which should be the default) in order to work using less computing resources, in a more fluid way, then choosing a higher resolution for the materials, such as 2048 or 4096 per side, when exporting. We then set 1024, in this case, then click on OK to create the new project.

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The very first thing to do now is ... save the project: Substance Painter is subject to crashes every now and then, so it's best to save everything first and remember to save periodically; however, Substance should also automatically generate Autosaves, which you will find in the project folder - they are really useful for recovering work, but they take up a lot of disk space, so you also have to remember to delete them every now and then!


Let's take a look at the project:

  • in the 3D window you should see the object framed frontally, in Material display mode (drop-down menu at the top right or "M" shortcut, for "Material", in fact);
  • to rotate the view around the object, press ALT and left mouse button simultaneously, moving the mouse;
  • to zoom in and out, mouse wheel or, in its absence, ALT and right mouse button, simultaneously, moving the mouse;
  • to do the "panning" (the translation of the view), ALT and middle mouse button, simultaneously, moving the mouse.

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In short: to change the point of view, use ALT and the mouse buttons; however, you can edit these and other shortcuts from Edit - Settings - Shortcuts, particularly in "Camera rotate", "Camera translate" and "Camera zoom", especially if you don't have a three-button mouse.

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By pressing F (shortcut for "Frame", literally "frames"), you can put the object to the center of the frame.

In the main window of the program there should be some tabs like Layers, Textures Set List and others, however you can add or remove tabs and bars using the Window menu items; after that, you can arrange the tabs as you prefer, by clicking on their names and moving them to the interface, possibly side by side in the same slot, to save space.


Information on the Materials in the file and associated with the object or objects of the scene can be found in Texture Set List; in fact, a "Texture Set" is a Material and in this sheet, as the name suggests, we find them all listed.

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In our case we have only one Material, which therefore covers the entire surface; in the next tutorials I will show practical examples with various objects that will have, from time to time, one or more 3D objects, or various sub-materials for the same object; for example, here I could have put two different sub-materials for the main body of the object and for the "laces" or "strings", but I preferred to use a single Material, so the various areas will be textured using masks that will apply some materials at certain points and other materials ... in other places!


So let's take a look at the model's UV-unwrap by clicking on the first icon in the group at the top right of the 3D view, which allows us to display the 3D view only, the 2D view only (which shows the UV-unwraps for the selected Texture Set) and the two views side by side; I'm choosing the latter option, "3D | 2D" (hotkey: F1).

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To center the map with the seams in its window, press the F key (for "frame", as already mentioned) while the mouse cursor is on this window.

Here you can see in practice the famous "unwraps" of the model: we can identify the laces and the main body of the 3D object.

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Using a seam like this, where the various objects are grouped following a certain logic, it will be quite easy to create masks to associate Textures and other effects only to certain parts of the object, even using - as in this case - only one 3D object and only one Material (or, better, Texture Set).

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Another small note on UV unwraps: these can be with or without overlaps, in the sense that some parts of the joints may "Overlap" and, therefore, the Textures and the filters applied in those points will be visible in more parts of the object.

Most of the time you will want UV layouts without overlaps (or "non-overlapping"), to avoid the "clone" or "tiled" effect on the surface of the object, but the overlapping (or "overlapping") option is useful, for example, for the leaves of a tree: instead of unwrapping and texturizing each leaf individually (an almost impossible and costly operation from the point of view of hardware resources), you can create Textures for - for example - 4 or 5 different leaves, so as to have a minimum of diversity in appearance, then use that mapping for all the leaves, superimposing the sheaths of the leaves to the 4-5 created, so as to make all the leaves appear (slightly) different, but without losing too much time with Texturing.


To sum up, when you look for a 3D model on the web or are creating one and intend to export it with the intention of texturing it in Substance Painter, keep an eye on these two factors:

  • the file format, possibly of the OBJ and FBX type, since they are almost universal formats and also contain information on the UV unwraps and the Materials and sub-materials associated with the 3D object (or objects) stored in the file;
  • the UV Layouts, which must be present (otherwise Substance Painter will not open the file) and which, depending on your needs, must be overlapping or non-overlapping.

Well, for this tutorial we stop here: as anticipated at the beginning of the tutorial, here we have not seen any practical operation of defining Materials or anything, but starting from the next tutorials I will talk about the various topics through practical examples.

See you soon!