Learn about the commonly used terms within Substance 3D Painter.

Substance 3D Painter is a 3D software that relies on many techniques and technical keywords which can be a bit hard to understand on a first encounter. This page lists the most common keywords used by the application alongside a short explanation of the concept behind it.

Keyword Definition
Alignment The alignment is how a brush is oriented toward the 3D mesh when painting. 
Alpha An alpha is a mask that can be used to paint details or complex shapes, for example a barcode or a logo. 
Ambient Occlusion (AO) 
AO refers to how much ambient light is able to reach surfaces in a 3D scene. AO helps create a sense of depth by using shadows, and can be achieved through real time techniques like SSAO, or by baking AO maps.
Anti-aliasing is a method of decreasing aliasing in images. Aliasing is a term used to describe to visual artifacts that can occur during rasterization, most often in the form of jagged edges on straight lines and curves.
ASM, Adobe Standard Material 
ASM, or Adobe Standard Material is a material specification that has a common set of parameters. Parameters included with ASM allow for a wide range of materials to be created and parameterized. The common set of parameters also means that ASMs can easily be used across multiple applications for consistent results.
Bake A bake (or baking) refer to the action of computing information from a 3D mesh and saving it into a Texture based on the UV information of a mesh. 
Base Color
Base color is one of the channels used to create a material. Base color stores surface color information, without any lighting or depth information.
Bit Depth The bit depth is the amount of information that can be stored per pixel of a texture. The higher the bit depth, the more accurate the color. Images with high bit depth are sometimes referred to as having high dynamic range. 
Brush A brush is a tool to paint on a mesh. A brush is defined by multiple parameters that control its behavior (such as the size and the opacity). 
Camera Cameras allow you to control the position and the direction of where you're looking in the 3D and 2D viewports. 
Channel Refers to a component from a set of image data. In the case of an RGBA image, it refers to either the Red, Green, Blue, or Alpha component. In the case of a material, it can refer to components such as base color, normal, or roughness. 
Clone Use the Clone tool to replicate part of a layer at another location. 
Content / Mask The content and the mask refer to the two main parts of a layer. The layer's material channels are the content. The mask can be used to display/hide the content. Where the mask is black the content is hidden, where the mask is white the content is displayed. 
Depth of Field
Depth of field describes how far from the focal point an image will be in focus. A shallow depth of field means that an image has a small range around the focal point that is in focus while deep depth of field means the opposite. In practice a shallow depth of field often means only the subject is in focus, while a deep depth of field means the entire image is in focus. 
Diffusion Diffusion is a method of generating information outside the UV island of a mesh. It works by bleeding the last pixels near the border of an UV island, creating blurred colors. This helps avoid issues with pixels rendering incorrectly near the edge of UV islands. 
Dilation / Padding Similar to diffusion, dilation is a way of generating information outside UV islands. Dilation extrudes the colors at the edge of UV islands outwards to avoid artifacts. 
Displacement is an effect where the surface of a model is offset from its original position based on a 2D texture called a height map. 
Effect An effect is an element that can be added on a layer, either on the content or the mask. Substance Painter support various types of effects such as filters and generators. 
Environment An environment is an image that is used to compute the lighting of a scene. Environments are usually a high dynamic range image.
Export You can use the export function to start using your Painter creations in other applications.
FOV / Field of View The FOV is the extent of the world that a camera can see. Field of view is usually represented by a number in degrees.  
Fill Fill refers to the fill layer or fill effect that can load a color, a texture, or even a material. Use fill layers and fill effects with masks and other effects to help build up your material. 
Filter A filter is a Substance effect that can modify information below itself in the layer stack. For example, a blur filter will soften the layers below it. 
Filtering Filtering refers to the way textures are displayed inside a 3D viewport. The most common filtering techniques are nearest (pixels are read as-is, making an image appear blocky up-close) and bilinear (pixels are interpolated, making an image appear blurry up close). 
GPU A GPU or "Graphical Processing Unit" is a chip that is designed to be very efficient at performing operations commonly used in 2D and 3D graphics. GPUs are commonly found on graphics cards. 
Generator A Generator is a Substance that generates new images or textures usually based on additional textures. Many generators use baked textures to create complex masks. 
Height is one of the channels used to create a material. A height map is a texture that stores the vertical offset of each pixel relative to the surface. Height maps can be used to generate normal maps, or can be used with displacement techniques to add additional detail to models. 
Histogram A histogram is a graphical representation of color distribution in an image. It is used to visualize how colors are balanced inside an image between shadows, midtones and highlights. 
IRay IRay is a path-tracer renderer created by NVIDIA. It creates more advanced realistic lighting than the standard 3D viewport, but is slower. You best use iRay to create high-quality images without leaving the application.
Jitter Jitter is a property that can be used with brushes to produce random behavior when painting. 
Layer Layers are what make up the final material. Layers can contain multiple channels with additional properties such as a blending mode and opacity that allow you to adjust how layers interact with the rest of the layer stack. Each layer consists of content and a mask, and both content and mask can have additional effects like filters and generators applied to them. 
Layer stack The layer stack is place where layers can be managed and organized. Layers are organized from bottom to top. The bottom layer will be drawn first and then each layer above will be added one by one on top of each other. 
Lazy Mouse Lazy Mouse is a property of the brush tool. It slows down the brush path to assist in creating smooth strokes. Lazy mouse creates a delay/offset between the mouse cursor and the actual stroke applied to the texture. 
Levels Levels is an effect that allows you to control range and color/grayscale information via a histogram. It can be used to invert colors or darken/brighten color for example. 
Log A log is a text file that records important information from the software as it runs. This information includes data about errors and tasks that the application is working on. 
Low / High poly mesh Low and a high poly meshes are both 3D meshes. Low poly meshes have a lower polygon density, or poly count, while high poly meshes have much higher poly counts (often 100 times higher). This is usually done to bake detail from the high poly mesh onto the low poly mesh. This is known as the high to low poly workflow and results in a performant, good looking mesh. 
Material A material is a collection of information that helps define the properties of whatever surface the material is applied to. Often this information is related to how light interacts with a surface, but it can also be used to achieve other effects, such as displacement or masking. 
Mesh A mesh is a 3D object. In most applications meshes are defined by vertices, edges, and polygons. Meshes can be created in 3D modeling applications. 
Mesh map A mesh map is a texture baked from a mesh that contains information related to that mesh. Examples of mesh maps could be normal maps, position maps, or ambient occlusion maps baked from a mesh. 
Metallic or metalness is one of the channels used to create a material. The metallic channel defines what parts of a texture behave like a metal. A white metallic value means that an area is completely metallic, while black metallic means an area is not metallic at all. Avoid using grey values in metallic maps as they are rarely physically accurate. Metallic values should usually be either white or black. 
Mip-Map A mip-map is a pre-computed texture, usually a sequence of images with each subsequent image at half the resolution of the previous image. Mip-maps help improve performance by using lower resolution textures when a model is further away. 
Mode Mode refers to Painter's interface layout. Painter has two modes, rendering mode and painting mode. 
Noise A noise is a procedural and random image. Noise can be useful for creating organic shapes or breaking up flat textures. 
Normal A normal is a vector that points perpendicularly away from a 3D element. Normals show the direction that an element is facing. For example the normal of a flat floor plane will point straight up, while the normal of a flat ceiling plane will point straight down. Vertices, edges, and planes all have normals.  
Normal Map 
Normal maps make up one of the channels used to create a material. A normal map is a special texture that adds detail by changing how light bounces off the surface of a mesh. Each pixel of a normal map holds a vector that tells the renderer which direction that pixel is facing. The renderer can use this information to adjust how much light hits that pixel. 
Opacity is the opposite of transparency. Opacity maps are black and white textures that determine how opaque a surface is at each pixel. A white opacity value means that the pixel will be completely opaque, while a black opacity value means the pixel will be completely transparent. 
OpenGL / DirectX OpenGL and DirectX are Application Programming Interfaces (API) that allow programs to directly access the functionality of GPUs. 
The origin is the center of a 3D space and is usually represented by the coordinates 0, 0, 0. 
Orthographic An Orthographic projection is a means of representing three-dimensional objects in two dimensions. With orthographic projection, all the projection lines are orthogonal to the projection plane. In orthographic view, the size of a 3D object will appear the same no matter how far it is from the camera. 
Packing is the action of storing multiple images inside one texture. Because textures are composed of separated Red, Green, and Blue channels, each channel can store different information which can be read independently in other applications. 
Parallax Occlusion Mapping (POM) 
Parallax occlusion mapping is a technique that can be used to simulate depth on a 2D surface based on a height map. POM achieves this by allowing higher parts of a surface to occlude lower parts of a surface based on the angle of the viewer.  
A control that allows you to adjust a setting for a filter or material.  
Particle Brush 
Particles are a kind of tool that generate brush strokes based on physical properties such as gravity or other complex behaviors. 
PBR / PBS Physically based Rendering (PBR) or Physically Based Shading (PBS) is a model in computer graphics that seeks to render graphics in a way that accurately models the properties of light in the real world. 
Packing Packing is the action of storing multiple images inside a single texture. Because textures are composed of separated Red, Green, and Blue channels, they can store different information in each channel. How this is used depends on the application.
Particles Particles work like a very advanced spray-gun or airbrush. Small particles are fired at your Mesh and will interact with it according to predefined rules.
Perspective Perspective projection or perspective view is a method of rendering 3D information so that objects far from the camera are smaller than nearby objects. This helps create a sense of depth in a scene. A common alternative to perspective is orthographic view. 
Pixel Pixels are the building blocks of images. Each pixel contains color information so that a group of pixels will form a picture. A pixel is the smallest unit of an image that can be displayed. 
Plugin Plugins are packages of extra functionality that can be added to software, extending the capabilities of an application.  
Post-Process A post-process is a visual effect applied to a 3D image after the image has been rendered. Examples of post-processing effects are color correction, bloom, and blur. 
Procedural Procedural is a term to describe a set of instructions, or procedure, that a program can follow to create a consistent result. Procedural tools often have input parameters that allow you to control their output. 
Projection A projection is the action of applying  an image/object from a specific point of view (such as the Camera) onto the surface of a 3D Mesh. 
Random Seed 
A number that defines the result of a Procedural or random operation. The same seed number will always give the same sequence of random numbers. Change the seed, and the sequence will change as well. 
Raster Image 
A raster image is an image formed by pixels laid out on a 2D grid. Rasterization is the process of converting other forms of data into a raster image. For example, renderers create renders, or raster images, by rasterizing polygonal geometry data. 
A render is an image created using a renderer. 
A renderer is a program built to process 3D information, such as lights, meshes, and materials, to create 2D images. 
Resolution defines the size of a texture on its X and Y axis (or width and height). In 3D applications, resolution is often a power of 2 (2, 4, 8, 16... 512, 1024, 2048...) because these values are optimized for computations on a GPU. 
Roughness is one of the channels used to create a material. Roughness values change how reflective a surface is due to the microstructure of the surface. A white roughness value means that a surface diffuses light, while a black roughness value means a surface reflects light strongly. For example, frosted glass would be represented with a high roughness value, while a mirror would be represented with a low roughness value. 
Scripting Scripting is the act of using specific commands via a text based file format to execute specific behaviors. 
Shader Shaders define the behavior of a material when it receives lighting information. Some shaders can be simple (like toon shading) or more advanced (like skin shading that simulates light absorption in a surface). 
Shelf In Painter, the shelf holds the assets that you can use in the layer stack to create textures and materials. 
Smart Material A smart material is a group of layers saved as one file. Smart materials can adapt to each project in Substance Painter based on mesh maps. This way you can create materials to reuse across multiple texture sets or projects. 
Smart Mask Smart masks behave like smart materials, but instead of being layers, they are effects used to generate a mask based on the current 3D Mesh. 
Smudge Use the Smudge tool to bleed, spread or mix colors. It is often used to soften pixels. 
Specular maps can be used as one of the channels to make up a material. Specular maps are used to define how light reflects from a surface. Specular maps are used in some non-PBR workflows such as Blinn/Phong shading. 
Stencil A stencil is an image aligned to the camera and used with a camera projection to paint on the 3D Mesh. 
SBSAR is a file format that can hold materials. SBSAR materials can generate textures procedurally based on a set of parameters. These parameters can be modified to create variations. You can use Adobe Substance 3D Designer to create SBSAR materials. 
Substance Engine 
The Substance Engine is used to process SBSAR files wherever they are used. The Substance Engine is integrated in many other applications so that your creations will look the same even outside the Adobe Substance 3D suite of applications. 
Substance Material 
Substance materials are procedural materials made using the Substance Suite of tools. Most Substance materials have unique parameters that you can modify to customize the final result. 
Symmetry Many tools have an option to turn on symmetry. By turning on symmetry, any strokes applied to one side of a model will be reflected on the opposite side of the model. 
Template A template is a set of predefined options used when creating a new project. Templates are useful for setting up your project for various applications. 
Tessellation is a technique that is able to add geometry to a mesh to help the mesh appear smooth. Tessellation works by adding vertices and edges to a mesh by using various subdivision algorithms. Tessellation is often used to improve the visual results of displacement since displacement works best with higher geometry resolution. 
Texel A texel is a single unit of a texture space. Texels are helpful to translate surfaces between 3D and 2D and the size of a texel depends on the project. For example, if you are measuring your 3D assets with centimeters, you might define a texel as being 1 cm x 1 cm in size. You can then decide how many pixels you want to store per texel. The number of pixels per texel is known as texel density. 
Texel Density
Texel density is the number of pixels per texel in a texture. For example if each texel is 10 pixels tall and 10 pixels wide, then it has a texel density of 10. It is often best to aim for consistent texel density across all models in a scene to avoid differing levels of texture detail. In other words, consistent texel density means that if two surfaces in 3D space have the same area, then they will also have the same number of pixels. 
Texture A texture is a 2D image made for use in 3D. Textures can be grayscale, meaning only one channel is being used, or colored, meaning multiple channels are being used. Materials are generally made from a collection of textures with each texture having a specific role, such as color, roughness, and metalness textures. 
Texture Filtering 
Texture filtering refers to how textures are rendered when displayed at higher or lower resolution than the original texture. Most common are nearest (pixels are read as-is, making an image appear blocky up-close) and bilinear (pixels are interpolated, making an image appear blurry up close). 
Texture Set A texture set represents a part of a mesh that has separate UVs. Meshes can be broken up into multiple texture sets. For example: a human mesh may have one texture set for the head, and another for the body. 
Tilling Tiling is the repetition of a texture so that seams are not visible at the borders of the UV space. Tiling textures are often used for surfaces that don't have a definite size, such as floors and walls. 
Tool A tool is something that lets you interact with the 3D Mesh or environment. 
Toolbar The toolbar holds commonly used tools. 
UDIM UDIM is a method of splitting the UVs of a 3D mesh across a wider range to increase the general texture resolution. 
UV UVs are a representation of a 3D model in 2D space. They are used to map 2D images from 2D space onto the surface of the model in 3D space. The process of creating UVs is often described as cutting seams into the model to unfold and flatten it. 
VRAM VRAM is the memory of the GPU, used to store information and textures when doing computations. 
Viewport Painter has two viewports, the 2D viewport shows your mesh's UVs, and the 3D viewport shows the mesh. You can use tools like the Brush tool in the viewport to make changes to your materials. 

What's Next?

You now know all about the commonly used terms of Substance 3D Painter. Next, you can learn about using the layer stack.

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