Learn about the commonly used terms within Adobe Substance 3D Sampler.

You might encounter some unfamiliar terms within the Sampler help pages. The list below explains commonly used terms.




Alpha refers to the alpha channel of an image. The alpha channel is used to store transparency information.

Ambient Occlusion (AO)

Ambient occlusion refers to the idea that not all surfaces in a 3D scene will receive the same amount of ambient light. For example, a keyhole or folds in cloth are not easily lit by ambient light. Ambient occlusion can be simulated with real-time methods like horizon-based ambient occlusion (HBAO).


In Sampler, assets are the components you use to create content. Materials and filters are the two main types of asset.

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.


A brush is a tool to paint on a mesh or material. Some filters allow you to use a brush to determine which areas are affected by the filter.


The camera allows you to control the position and the direction of where you're looking in the 3D and 2D viewports.


Refers to a component from a set of image data. RGBA images have Red, Green, Blue, and alpha channels. In the case of a material, it can refer to components such as base color, normal, or roughness.


Use the Clone tool to quickly add a clone filter to the top of the layer stack. The Clone filter lets you replicate part of a layer at another location.


Collections are user-defined groups of materials saved inside a Sampler project.


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.

Double Sided

Polygons can be set to be double-sided so that they are rendered whether the camera is in front of or behind the polygon.

Environment Light

An environment light is an image that is used to compute the lighting of a scene. Environment lights are usually created from high dynamic range (HDR) images. Non-HDR images are not physically accurate when used as environment lights.


You can use the export function to start using your Sampler creations in other applications. For more information, look at the Export article.


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.

FOV / Field of View

The FOV is the extent of the world that a camera can see. Field of view is represented by a number in degrees that is the horizontal angle component of the FOV.


A GPU or "Graphical Processing Unit" is a chip that is designed to be efficient at performing operations commonly used in 2D and 3D graphics. GPUs are commonly found on video adapters.


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 detail to models.

Image to Material

Image to Material is a feature of Sampler that allows you to convert an image or photograph into a material. Sampler's Image to Material functions help speed up this process compared to manual methods.


Layers are what make up the final result of your Sampler project. Layers can be filters, images, or materials.

Layer stack

The layer stack is where you can manage and organize layers. Layers are processed from the lowest layer upwards. The bottom layer is drawn first and then each layer above is added above.


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.


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, like displacement or masking.


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. 


 A set of data that describes and gives information about other data. In sampler, you can use the Metadata panel to add metadata to the assets you create. This metadata can include information like tags, a description, and the authors name.


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 that an area is not metallic at all. Avoid using gray values in metallic maps as they are rarely physically accurate. Metallic values should usually be either white or black.


A noise is a procedural, random image. Noise can be useful for creating organic shapes or breaking up flat textures.


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 that the pixel will be completely transparent.

OpenGL / DirectX

OpenGL and DirectX are Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that allow programs to directly access the functionality of GPUs.


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 individually in other applications.


Panels are part of Sampler's user interface. Each panel is focused on a specific topic or part of the creation process. Panels can be rearranged to customize your workspace. To reset Sampler's panel layout, use Window > Reset to default layout.

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.

Physically Based Rendering (PBR)

Physically based Rendering 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. PBR is sometimes referred to as PBS or Physically Based Shading.


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.

Perspective Correction

Perspective correction is a tool that you can use to quickly add a Perspective Correction filter to the top of the layer stack. Perspective Correction lets you drag the corners of your layer to adjust the perspective and is useful for ensuring that materials tile.


Pixels are the building blocks of images. Each pixel contains color information so that a group of pixels forms a picture. A pixel is the smallest unit of an image that can be displayed.


A set of saved parameters for a Substance material.


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 change how the procedure works.


Projects act as a container for your assets. Use projects to organize and group assets together.

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.


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 (512, 1024, 2048, and so on) because these values are optimized for computations on a GPU.


Resources are the filters and materials you can use to create assets in Sampler. Resources and assets are similar terms. In general, assets are things you've created, while resources are things you've used to create your assets. The flexibility of the Substance system means you can often use your assets as resources or resources as assets.


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 that a surface reflects light strongly. For example, frosted glass could be represented with a white roughness value, while a mirror would be represented with a black roughness value.


Shaders determine how to render all the elements that make up your material. When you make maps for your material, shaders process the maps to render your mesh and material. Substance applications include advanced shaders that can render high-quality industry standard effects.


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.

Substance Archive (SBSAR)

SBSAR is a file format that can hold materials. SBSAR materials generate textures procedurally based on a set of parameters. These parameters can be modified to create variations. 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.


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 with various subdivision algorithms. Tessellation is often used to improve the visual results of displacement since displacement works best with higher geometry resolution.


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.


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 made from a collection of textures. Each texture has a specific role, such as representing base color, roughness, or metallic values.

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).


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.


Designer's tools are quick methods to add filters to the layer stack.


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.

Video Adapter

A video adapter is an expansion card that is added to a computer to enhance the computer's ability to display images or perform GPU operations.


The viewport is where the 3D and 2D views are displayed on the screen.


VRAM is the memory of the GPU, used to store information and textures when doing computations.


What's next?

Learn how to navigate Sampler's interface so you can get started creating awesome assets.

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If you have a question or an idea to share, join other Sampler users in the Substance 3D Sampler Community. Get help, make suggestions, or show off your work and techniques.

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