Scene Management

Scope and groups are the foundation of working with Substance 3D Modeler's hierarchy, but more advanced tools exist for managing your scene. Learn about tools like Instancing, Symmetry, and Stamps.

Layers and groups are great for building a scene, and you may not need anything more than them in many of your scenes. However, Modeler also has some more advanced scene assembly tools that can accelerate your workflow:

  • Modeler allows you to make instances of layers and groups. Every instance of an object is linked to the other instances of that object. When you change one instance, all the connected instances are also changed in the same way.
  • Symmetry and Repetition are options that let you work across a mirror plane or around a radial axis, duplicating your strokes. 
  • Boolean operations let you use layers to add, subtract, or intersect with other layers.


Instancing is a powerful tool in Modelers scene assembly toolbox. Instancing allows you to make duplicates of an object that are all linked. Because they are linked, any change made to one instance affects all linked instances. Instances are useful when shapes appear commonly in a scene such as buildings in a city, or scales on a dragon.


While Modeler has strong support for instances, not all 3D applications do. You may need to change your export settings based on which software you intend to use next in your pipeline. You can learn more about export settings here.

The Action menu holds the controls for instancing. To create an instance of an object:

  1. Select the object.

  2. Open the Action Menu.

  3. Use Make Link to toggle on instantiation. While Make Link is selected, any duplicates of this object will be linked to each other.

  4. Duplicate the object to create instances.

If you edit either the instances or the original object after following the steps above, all other instances will be modified in the same way.

With the Select tool equipped, when you hover over an object that has linked instances, the instances are outlined in green. 

A screenshot showing how an instance is highlighted in green when another instance is hovered over.
The instance on the left is highlighted in green when the cursor is held over the instance it's linked to on the right.

Sometimes you need to edit an instance to make it unique from objects linked to it. In this case you can break the link:

  1. Select the object.

  2. Open the Action menu.

  3. Click Unlink.

Once an object has been unlinked, it is no longer an instance, and it isn't possible to relink it later.

Instances of groups

You can create instances of groups through the Action menu in the same way as with layers.

When you create an instance of a group, the contents of the group are instanced and linked to their counterparts in the original group. This includes transform information. If you move a layer inside a group instance, the same layer will also move in any other linked groups.

It is still possible to change the transform data for instances of the group as a whole.

For example, if you have a group of wall layers and a door layer to make a building:

  • You can create an instance of the group, then move, scale, and rotate the instance as usual.
  • If you move the door layer in one instance, all the other instances will also have their door layer moved in the same way.

Symmetry and Repetition

Symmetry and Repetition are similar functions that allow you duplicate strokes and objects. The primary difference is that Symmetry works within a layer, while Repetition works on scene objects.

Symmetry and Repetition controls are available in the Action menu. From the Action menu you can:

  • Toggle Symmetry and Repetition.
  • Adjust the number of duplicated strokes or objects with Radial Symmetry or Radial Repetition turned on.
  • Toggle Mirror or Radial Locking. Mirror and Radial Lock constrain the movement of layers that have Repetition or Symmetry toggled on. Locking helps to avoid breaking the alignment of groups or layers that are using Symmetry or Repetition.


Symmetry works exclusively within a layer:

  • With Mirror Symmetry turned on, any strokes you make within a layer will be mirrored across a plane. Mirror Symmetry is useful for creatures and other symmetric objects.
  • With Radial Symmetry turned on, any strokes you make within a layer will be repeated radially around an axis. Radial Symmetry is useful for creating patterns on circular objects, such as carving away the tread of a tire.


Repetition options work with scene objects like layers or groups:

  • With Mirror Repetition turned on for an object, the object will be duplicated and mirrored across a mirror plane. Mirror Repetition is useful for symmetric but detached objects, such as a creature's arms, or the wheels of a car.
  • With Radial Repetition turned on for an object, the object will be duplicated around a central axis. Radial Repetition is useful for detached repeated objects such as petals on a flower, or patterns like a Celtic knot.


Boolean operations let you use one object to modify another object.

The following Boolean operations are available:

  • Addition allows you to add clay from the selected object to another target object. The Clay tool acts similarly to a boolean addition.
  • Subtraction allows you to remove clay from a target object. Any intersecting clay between the boolean object and the target object is removed.
  • Intersection behaves like the inverse of Subtraction. With Intersection any non-intersecting clay between the boolean object and the target object is removed.


Modeler's brushes are useful for creating a wide variety of shapes, but sometimes it's easier to use a tailor-made shape. Stamps make it possible to import meshes to use as a brush. With Stamps, you can build a library of meshes to use in your scenes.

A screenshot of Modeler with the clay tool equipped and the stamps tab open.
Clay in this scene was created with Clay tool Stamps.

Stamps are available in the Clay tool and Erase tool. With either tool equipped, open the Stamps tab in the Palette to see your Stamp library.

To add a Stamp to Modeler:

  • Use the Add Stamp button in the Stamps tab. The Add Stamp button opens a file selection dialog where you can choose an FBX or OBJ file to import.
  • Select a layer in your scene, then use the Make Stamp button from the Action menu. This adds a Stamp in the shape of the layer to the Stamps tab.

Stamps persist across Modeler projects, so you can build your library of Stamps over time.

Related resources

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Adobe MAX 2024

Adobe MAX
The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online

Adobe MAX

The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online