3D Texturing in Substance Painter: Tips for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Getting started with Substance Painter
  2. How to create a new project
  3. Tips for importing and preparing your 3D model
  4. How to use brushes and layers
  5. Introduction to materials and textures
  6. How to apply and edit textures
  7. Tips for rendering your textured 3D model
  8. Common mistakes and how to avoid them

There's a certain magic in breathing life into a 3D object, turning it from a dull, flat surface into something that looks like it could jump off the screen. Much of that magic comes from texturing—and that's where Substance Painter comes in. If you're looking to get better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter, this is the place to start. From setting up your first project to avoiding common mistakes, we've got you covered. So, let's dive in!

Getting started with Substance Painter

Substance Painter is a 3D painting tool that lets you texture your 3D models in a way that's both intuitive and incredibly detailed. But before you can start painting, there are a few things you need to do.

First, you need to install Substance Painter. It's available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and you can download it directly from the Substance website. Once it's installed, open it up and get ready to create your first project. Here's how:

  1. Open Substance Painter: You'll see a welcome screen with several options.
  2. Create a new project: Click on the "File" menu at the top, then select "New".
  3. Select your 3D model: In the new project dialog box, click the "Select" button next to "File" and find your 3D model file.
  4. Set your document resolution: This determines the level of detail in your textures. A higher resolution means more detail, but it also uses more system resources.
  5. Click "OK": Your new project will open, and you're ready to start texturing!

Remember, getting better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter is all about practice and patience. Don't be afraid to experiment with different settings and techniques—you never know what amazing textures you might create!

Next up, we'll go over some tips for importing and preparing your 3D model, so stay tuned!

How to create a new project

Creating a new project in Substance Painter is as easy as pie. But just like baking, there are a few steps you need to follow to get the best results. So, let's get our aprons on and start creating!

When you first open Substance Painter, you'll be greeted with the welcome screen. Here, you'll find the option to create a new project. Click on "New" and you'll see a dialog box. This box is like your recipe card—it's where you'll specify the ingredients for your project.

  1. Select your 3D model file: Click "Select" next to the "File" option. This will open a browser where you can find and select your 3D model file.
  2. Choose your document resolution: This is like choosing the size of your cake. A larger resolution will give you a bigger, more detailed texture—but it can also make your computer work harder. If you're just starting out, a resolution of 1024x1024 is a good place to start.
  3. Click "OK": And voila! You've just created your new project. Now you're ready to start texturing.

Remember, the key to getting better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter is to take it slow and steady. Don't rush through the setup process. Make sure everything is just right before you start painting. That way, you'll have a solid foundation to build on as you start to explore the wonderful world of 3D texturing.

Up next, we'll take a look at some tips and tricks for importing and preparing your 3D model. Stay tuned!

Tips for importing and preparing your 3D model

Now that you've created your project, it's time to bring in the star of the show—your 3D model. Importing your model into Substance Painter is like inviting a friend over. You want to make sure your house is ready and they feel comfortable. So let's get your Substance Painter house in order!

  1. Check your 3D model: Before you import your 3D model into Substance Painter, it's a good idea to do a quick check. Make sure your model is clean, UV unwrapped, and free of any non-manifold geometry. Think of it like prepping your guest room. You wouldn't want your friend to sleep on a lumpy bed, right?
  2. Import your 3D model: Now, it's time to invite your model in. Go to "File" and select "Import Model." Navigate to where your model is saved, select it, and click "Open." Your model should now be visible in the viewport.
  3. Setup the scene: Just as you'd turn on the lights and adjust the temperature for your guest, you'll want to set up your scene for your model. Check the scale of your model, adjust the camera settings, and ensure the lighting is just right.

Remember, if you want to get better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter, it's all about the details. So, take your time. Make sure your model and scene are set up just right. It'll make the texturing process much smoother—and more enjoyable!

Up next, we'll dive into the nitty-gritty of brushes and layers. Get ready, because this is where the real fun begins!

How to use brushes and layers

Alright, your 3D model is imported and ready, so let's get to work! When getting better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter, understanding brushes and layers is like learning the ABCs—fundamental to your success.

  1. Understanding Brushes: Brushes in Substance Painter are your tools for adding textures and details. It's like painting a picture, but instead of a flat canvas, you're working with a 3D model. You'll find a variety of brushes in the "Shelf" tab. Try them out and see which ones you like best. And remember—you can adjust the size, flow, and opacity of your brush to get just the look you're after.
  2. Working with Layers: Layers in Substance Painter work much like they do in Photoshop—they allow you to work on different parts of your texture without affecting others. To create a new layer, simply click on the "+" button in the "Layers" tab. Each new layer you create can have its own set of materials, which makes it super handy when you're working on complex textures.

Just like learning to ride a bike, getting better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter is all about practicing and getting a feel for your tools. So, don't rush. Take your time to understand how brushes and layers work—they're going to be your best friends in this 3D texturing journey.

Now that we've covered brushes and layers, it's time to tackle materials and textures. Are you excited? You should be—this is where your 3D model really starts to come to life!

Introduction to materials and textures

Hold on to your hats folks, we're diving into the exciting world of materials and textures. When it comes to getting better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter, understanding materials and textures is a game-changer. So, let’s get started!

  1. Exploring Materials: Substance Painter comes with a library of pre-made materials—think of them as pre-packaged textures—that you can use right away. You'll find these in the "Shelf" tab. To apply a material, just drag it onto your model or layer. Keep in mind that materials can be adjusted to suit your needs—like changing the color or how shiny it is.
  2. Understanding Textures: Textures are what give your 3D model its visual appearance. It could be anything from the roughness of a brick wall to the smoothness of a marble surface. In Substance Painter, textures are created by layering materials and using brushes to paint details. Don't be afraid to experiment with different combinations to achieve the look you're going for.

Materials and textures are the heart and soul of 3D texturing in Substance Painter. They allow you to transform a plain 3D model into something that looks and feels real. So, spend some time exploring materials and textures. Trust me, it's time well spent.

So, you've got a grip on materials and textures. What's next, you ask? Well, it's time for the real fun to begin—applying and editing textures. Ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty? Let's go!

How to apply and edit textures

Alright, folks, let's jump straight into the deep end. Applying and editing textures in Substance Painter is where your 3D model really begins to take shape. And, if you're serious about getting better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter, this is a skill you'll want to master. So, let's get cracking!

  1. Applying Textures: To apply a texture, simply drag it onto the layer stack or directly onto your 3D model. This is the part where you'll really get to see your model come to life. But remember, less is often more. It's easy to go overboard with textures, which can make your model look busy or unnatural. So, take a step back once in a while and ask yourself: "Does this texture add to the overall look and feel of my model?"
  2. Editing Textures: After applying a texture, you can fine-tune it using the properties panel. Here, you can change things like color, roughness, and metallic properties to name a few. This is where you can really get creative and make the texture your own. So, don't be afraid to play around and see what you can come up with.

Applying and editing textures might seem a bit overwhelming at first. But, with practice and patience, you'll soon find it's one of the most rewarding parts of 3D texturing in Substance Painter. So, keep at it, and before you know it, you'll be a texture wizard!

So far, we've covered a lot of ground. But there's one more important topic I want to touch on—rendering your textured 3D model. I hear you asking, "What's that?" Well, let's find out in the next section, shall we?

Tips for rendering your textured 3D model

Okay, so you've done the hard part, you've created your 3D model and added textures. But, you're not finished yet. Rendering is the final step in bringing your 3D model to life. It's like the cherry on top of your 3D texturing in Substance Painter sundae. So, let's dive into some tips to get you started.

  1. Lighting Matters: The way your model is lit can make or break your render. The right lighting can highlight the textures you've worked so hard on and make your model really shine. So, take some time to experiment with different light sources and angles.
  2. Choose the Right Renderer: Substance Painter offers multiple rendering options, including Iray and BPR. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so choose the one that best suits your needs. If you're not sure, don't worry. Try them out and see which one you prefer.
  3. Don't Rush the Render: Rendering can take time, especially if you're working with complex textures or large models. It's tempting to rush this step, but patience pays off. A rushed render can result in low-quality images that don't do your work justice. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let the computer do its thing.

Rendering is the final touch in your journey of getting better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter. It's the moment where you get to sit back and appreciate all the hard work you've put in. So, take your time, do it right, and enjoy the results.

Now, we're almost at the end of our journey. But before we wrap up, let's tackle some common mistakes beginners often make, and, more importantly, how you can avoid them.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them

Getting better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter is a journey, and as with any journey, you might hit a few bumps along the way. Let's take a look at some common mistakes that beginners often make, and some tips on how to steer clear of them.

  1. Skipping the basics: It's easy to get excited and jump straight into the deep end. But understanding the basics of Substance Painter is key. So, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the interface, tools, and workflow. It'll save you a lot of headaches down the road.
  2. Ignoring the power of layers: Layers are your friends in Substance Painter. They allow you to work non-destructively, meaning you can make changes without affecting your original model or texture. Make sure to use them!
  3. Overdoing textures: Just because you can add a lot of textures, doesn't mean you should. Remember, sometimes less is more. Aim for balance and harmony in your textures, not chaos.
  4. Not testing your textures: Always test your textures on your model before exporting. What looks good in 2D might not work in 3D. It's better to catch any issues early on, rather than having to redo your work later.
  5. Avoiding feedback: Criticism can be hard to take, but it's an invaluable part of getting better at 3D texturing in Substance Painter. So, don't shy away from asking for feedback. It can provide you with fresh perspectives and improve your skills.

Remember, everyone makes mistakes when they're learning something new. The important thing is to learn from them, and not to let them discourage you. With practice and patience, you'll be a whiz at 3D texturing in Substance Painter before you know it.

If you're just starting out with 3D texturing and found this blog post helpful, be sure to check out the 'Substance Painter Texturing Workshop' by Tabitha Swanson. This workshop will guide you through the process of texturing in Substance Painter and provide you with valuable tips and techniques to enhance your skills as a 3D artist.