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9 Reasons Why Motion Designers NEED Substance Painter

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Whether you're new to motion design or a savvy veteran, you owe it to yourself to learn Substance Painter

Even if you've only been in the Motion Design industry for a minute, you've likely heard about Substance Painter. Maybe you've seen the amazing textures in games such as Uncharted 4, or in movies such as Star Wars. Still, you've put off learning any new software because it was too complicated, or you just didn't have time. Big mistake.


Substance Painter is a game changer. I’m going to break down 9 reasons why you should immediately dive into the world of Substance. And the good news: It’s a lot easier than you think. We even have a tutorial to get you started!

Here are the 9 reasons you should start using Substance Painter:

  • Become a texturing ninja
  • Learn the magic that is Proceduralism
  • It has a familiar Photoshop interface
  • Edge wear and surface imperfections made easy
  • Baking tools for transferring high-poly detail to your normal maps
  • Learn quickly with free high-quality tutorials
  • Quickly add logos to your models
  • Built-in filters for fast physical effects

Before we get started, please note that Substance Painter requires UV unwrapped models. Don't know what UV unwrapping is?  Check out EJ’s video on the new UV tools in Cinema 4D S22! We’ve also prepared a School of Motion model for you to use.

Ready to upgrade your texturing game? Let’s get started!

Texturing made easy

The fastest way to impressive renders is good texturing. And with Substance Painter, it’s a breeze!

SP already comes preloaded with several materials to get you started, and your subscription to Substance grants you 30 credits every month that you can use to download additional materials from Substance Source.

It also comes preloaded with noise generators and dozens of grunge maps, perfect for creating unique surface imperfections.

Subtle details add up and create interesting results. This is only possible with a variety of textures at your disposal.

Plus, you can also download the Substance Designer project file so you can see how that material was built!



Substance works procedurally, which simply means that you can work at 1K and then export at 4K without loss of detail!

This is thanks to the Substance Designer engine, which is a node-based Material Authoring application.

Because all of the nodes work with shapes, noises, and blending modes, upscaling your resolution is a matter of flipping a switch. Substance does all of the math behind the scenes and produces amazing results right on your model.

You could also do up to 8K, but make sure your GPU has the horsepower to handle that. You don't want to freeze your system!

Left: 256 x256 | Right: 4K resolution

Whole lotta materials available

As stated previously, your subscription comes with 30 credits per month. Allegorithmic updates the library constantly, and regularly releases new themed materials packs like clothing, architecture surfaces, and even skin!

Having a massive library available to you guarantees that you have every type of surface you need. And because of how Substance works, you’ll be able to mix and match different materials together, producing a wholly unique result!


Photoshop-esque—brushes, pressure sensitivity, layers, and brush dynamics

If you are familiar with Photoshop, you are already familiar with SP! All of the same shortcuts you’ve memorized will work here as well.

The layer stacks, folders, and even transfer modes are all here. That alone would be great, but you can also use your Photoshop Brushes natively inside of Painter, complete with dynamics and scattering.

So, all of those brushes you have collected over the years from your favorite artists can be used to paint your models. Look for the Ps logo on the bottom right corner of the thumbnail.


Powerful built in tools for edge wear

The secret to nice textures is the subtleties. If you’re not a fan of using brushes and want to flex your procedural muscles, take a look at edge wear.

With built-in Generators like Metal Edge Wear in your Layer Mask, you can easily and quickly add scratches, fingerprints, peeling, fading, and bumps to your materials.

Because this is a layer-based app, you can stack multiple instances of scratch effects with transfer modes and create truly unique, one-of-a-kind details.

To get started with Generators, all you need to do is Bake your model. Don't know what Baking is? Well...

Baking to transfer high-poly detail to normal maps

No, there are no cookies involved, unfortunately. But, what you do get, is every Mesh Map you’ll need to make your model look its best. Generators depend on these mesh maps to create edge effects.

One of the most common uses of baking is to capture all of the high poly details of Zbrush or photoscan models onto models with reduced polygons. It’s a great way to “cheat” the details of these high poly objects without having to deal with the processing power requirements of hyper-dense meshes.

Your model looks great and your software runs smoothly.


Lots of tutorials to get you started

One of the biggest hurdles in learning any software is finding the proper education so you don't bang your head against a wall, or even worse, develop poor habits. This is where SP shines. Not only are there tutorials widely available from numerous artists, Allegorithmic themselves make pretty comprehensive courses on how to use the software, all completely free. (

Decals made easy

Got some logos you want to place on your model? Or maybe you want to add some cool details to your robotic model without modeling them? Well, SP also excels here. It's as simple as importing the images, loading them onto your brush, then a simple click, and boom, you got a decal!

Something to remember, is that SP does not natively support Alpha channels in the brush, so you’ll need to bring in an Alpha Matte image with your logos so the decals look correct.


Detailing with Normal decals is a great way to add additional complexity to your model without any modeling. All you need to do is go to the Hard Surface tab in your Shelf, load any of those preloaded normal decals into the Normal Channel, and you can easily paint surface details.


create abstract or practical effects by simply dropping a layer on top of the layer stack

Substance comes loaded with several Filters. Some are pretty practical, such as converting a Normal to Height so you can add displacement. But there are others that are made for creating really unique artistic effects.

“Rust” is a great filter for adding… well, rust. There’s also “Paint Strokes” for creating a nice painted look, complete with a canvas texture and subtle bumps to simulate paint layering.


Look for “MatFX Detail Wear”, it’ll create edge wear on your Normal decals.

All of these come built in. But if you want to get more, simply log onto Substance Share (different from Source), where anyone can upload their models, materials, and also filters—all completely free!

A Matter of Substance

Hopefully after reading this, you are jazzed to learn more about Substance Painter and how you can incorporate it into your workflow. Thankfully, in the coming weeks, we’ll be here to walk you through the process.

Time to Level Up Your 3D Game

Now you know a bit more about improving the detail and quality of your renders, but there's so much more we can show you. If you're ready to take your 3D skills to the next level, you need to see our newest course: Cinema 4D Ascent!

Cinema 4D Ascent will teach you the fundamentals of some of the most important and marketable 3D concepts. Over the course of 12 weeks, you’ll go from beginner to intermediate level 3D artist that’s fluent in Cinema 4D and familiar with other 3D tools.


Dive into real-time 3D with our Unreal Engine beginner's course by Jonathan Winbush. Master importing assets, world-building, animation, and cinematic sequences to create stunning 3D renders in no time! Perfect for motion designers ready to level up.

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Unlock the secrets of character design in this dynamic course! Explore shape language, anatomy rules, and motifs to craft animation-ready characters. Gain drawing tips, hacks, and Procreate mastery (or any drawing app). Ideal for artists seeking to elevate their craft.

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Elevate your freelance motion design career with our guide to client success. Master a repeatable method for finding, contacting, and landing clients. Learn to identify prospects, nurture leads, and develop a thriving freelance philosophy amidst chaos.

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Rev up your editing skills with After Effects! Learn to use it for everyday needs and craft dynamic templates (Mogrts) for smarter teamwork. You'll master creating animated graphics, removing unwanted elements, tracking graphics, and making customizable templates.

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Stand out with Demo Reel Dash! Learn to spotlight your best work and market your unique brand of magic. By the end, you'll have a brand new demo reel and a custom campaign to showcase yourself to an audience aligned with your career goals.

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Illuminate your 3D skills with Lights, Camera, Render! Dive deep into advanced Cinema 4D techniques with David Ariew. Master core cinematography skills, gain valuable assets, and learn tools and best practices to create stunning work that wows clients.

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Master After Effects at your own pace with Jake Bartlett's beginner course. Perfect for video editors, you'll learn to create stylish animated graphics, remove unwanted elements, and track graphics into shots. By the end, you'll be equipped for everyday AE needs and more.

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Revolutionize your Premiere workflow with customizable AE templates! Master creating dynamic Motion Graphics Templates (Mogrts) in After Effects to speed up your team's work. By the end, you'll craft easily-customizable templates for seamless use in Premiere Pro.

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Not sure where to start?

If you’re a beginner, here are some great courses to help you get started:

After Effects Kickstart

Dive into the fundamentals of motion design with our most popular (and recently updated) After Effects course.


Photoshop + Illustrator Unleashed

Master the basics of Photoshop and Illustrator and gain invaluable insights in this introductory level course.


Design Kickstart

An introduction to the design principles behind all great work.


More Advanced?

If you’re a more advanced student looking to up your game, here are some great options:

Animation Bootcamp

Learn the art and principles of creating beautiful movements in Adobe After Effects.


Design Bootcamp

Learn to design for motion in this intermediate-level, project-based course.


Cinema 4D Basecamp

Learn Cinema 4D from the ground up in this exciting introductory C4D course.


Now is the time to learn the skills you need to advance in your motion design career: