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Desktop quick start guide | Substance 3D Modeler

Desktop quick start guide

Cover the basics of Modeler on desktop so you can jump right in.

We recommend reading this guide if you have already used other 3D modelling applications or prefer to learn by exploring. Most of the topics below are covered in more detail elsewhere in the documentation, if you have questions about any topic follow the links to learn more.

Video tutorials about how to use Modeler on desktop are available here.

Start your first sculpt

On opening Modeler, the Welcome screen appears. The Welcome screen holds some useful links, as well as offering the options to open a Modeler file or create a new scene.

Move around the scene

Before you place any clay down it's useful to know how to move around the scene.

There are three ways to move the camera through the scene:




Orbit/RotateChange the direction the camera faces.alt + left click and drag
PanMove the camera up, down, left, and rightalt + middle click and drag
ZoomZoom the camera in and out to focus on smaller or larger areas.alt + right click and drag

The camera always moves relative to the Gizmo, or relative to the mouse cursor.

You can also use the shortcut F to focus the camera on your sculpt or on the gizmo. This is useful if you get lost in the scene.

The interface

When you create a new scene, Modeler should look similar to the image below

Modeler's interface is made up of a few parts:

  1. The scene: this is the 3D space in which you'll place clay and sculpt your models.
  2. The Gizmo: When you create a new scene the Clay tool is automatically selected. The Gizmo is one of the ways you can place clay in your scene with the clay tool.
  3. The Palette: This panel is where you can select tools and modify how your current tool behaves.
    1. Select tools.
    2. Change tool parameters.
    3. Select your placement mode.
  4. The Color Picker: Pick colors for your clay.

There is one more menu called the Actions menu that you can bring up by right clicking anywhere in the scene. The Actions menu holds a number of context sensitive actions that can help organize and modify your scene.

Learn more about Modeler's interface here.

Placement modes

Placement modes determine how you can position and control tools in the scene.

Learn more about placement modes here.

Gizmo placement

By default Modeler starts with the Gizmo placement mode selected.

The Gizmo is the set of handles and controls you can use to precisely position tools.

For example, with the Clay tool selected, position the Gizmo and then use the spacebar to stamp down clay.

You can also hold the spacebar while transforming or moving the Gizmo to apply the tool continuously.

Surface placement

Surface placement is a more freeform way to use tools. Instead of precisely positioning a tool like you would with the Gizmo, the tool is attached to your cursor. Simply click and drag on existing clay to use the tool.


Note that surface placement mode will only work on existing clay. If there isn't already clay in your scene, you will not be able to place new clay while in surface placement mode.

Free placement

Free placement mode is only available while in VR.

Layers and scoping

Layers are what Modeler uses to organize content in a scene. At any time, you can right click to open the Actions Menu, and select New to create a new layer.

When you create a layer Modeler automatically scopes in on the new layer. Focus is how Modeler determines what you're working on in the scene. It is only possible to modify layers that are in focus.

There are two ways to change your focus:

  • Scope in to focus on a smaller set of objects.
    • To scope in, hover your cursor over a layer and tap S.
  • Scope out to focus on a larger set of objects.
    • Scope out with Alt + S.

These two actions allow you to navigate through the hierarchy of your scene.


Switching to the Select tool while you are focused on a single layer will automatically scope you out of that layer.

Switching to the Clay tool while you are not focused on a single layer will create a new layer and scope you into it.

Learn more about layers and scope here.

Common shortcuts

A full list of desktop shortcuts is available here.

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