3D View

The 3D View helps you view and understand your materials with custom meshes and rendered PBR materials.The 3D View consists of two major areas: the top toolbar, providing a lot of customisation settings, and the main 3D render area. Like with all Substance Designer Windows, it works together with other windows through right-click menu options and drag-and-drop operations. The 3D view also provides two main methods of rendering: fast, realtime OpenGL visualisation, with fluent smooth interaction, and high-quality raytraced renders with IRay

Common Interactions

The section below explains you how to do common actions in short, along with an animated gif to illustrate the process.

Navigate in 3D

Navigating the graph happens in three dimensions, by Orbiting, Panning and Zooming.

You Orbit by dragging anywhere in the 3D view with Left-Mouse Button.

You Pan by dragging anywhere in the 3D View with Middle-Mouse Button.

You Zoom by Scrolling up or down with the Mouse Wheel, or by dragging up and down with Right-Mouse Button.

You Focus the view back on your mesh with Hotkey F

Navigation can also happen by using the Camera menu to jump to predefined viewpoints, see the Toolbar section below.

Change lighting

Substance Designer works with Image-Based lighting by default. A high-dynamic range bitmap is used to render diffuse and specular lighting. You can rotate this light-environment around your 3D object, or you can load either preset, or custom HDR light environments. Please note that your HDR images need to be spherical layout, and ideally are 32-bit .hdr format.

To rotate the lighting in the 3D view, use Ctrl + Right Mouse Button drag from left to right.

To set precise rotation, use Environment > Edit in the top 3D View toolbar and change the Rotation Angle slider in the properties window.

To use a preset HDR light environment, click the HDRI Environments section of the 3D View category in the Library Window, and then drag and drop any of the icons to the 3D view.

To use your own, custom HDR light environment, import an HDR image by dragging and dropping the file into a package in the Explorer Window (Link the file when prompted). Then drag and drop the resource, choose Latitude/Longtitude Panorama as the target.


Substance Designer still has Legacy support for non-image-based lighting. These are disabled by default and are generally not used anymore. The lighting mode () only moves these disabled, old lights.

Either use Alt + (any) Mouse button to control the camera when in Light mode, or switch back to Camera mode  (Hotkey C) to regain viewport control.

View Materials in 3D

You can view entire materials as a complete material in the 3D View. This is the most common way to work, and will match the usage attributes on output nodes, to the relevant texture slots of the 3D view material. That means your outputs need to be set correctly (using Templates ensures this is the case), and that you selected material/viewport shader supports

You view all of a graph's outputs by right clicking an emtpy area in the Graph view, and choosing View Outputs in 3D View

You can also view a graph's outputs without having to open it, by right-clicking a Graph in the Explorer Window and choosing View Outputs in 3D View

As an alternative to right-clicking a graph, you can achieve the same result by dragging the Graph from the Explorer Window, to the 3D View.

Multiple Material Slots

If you use custom meshes with more than one single material, you'll be asked to choose what material slot to assign the material to. With any of the above methods, click a slot to confirm your choice. For more information on Materials an their assignment, read the detailed section below.

View Individual Outputs in 3D

You can view just a single output in any available material channel in the 3D Viewport. This is less commonly used, but good for previewing quick tests or individual nodes with no output.

You can view any node, not just output nodes, by right clicking it in the Graph view, and choosing View in 3D View. You'll be shown a list with available channels to assign the node to. Click any to confirm.

You can also use Right-Mouse Button to drag and drop any node from the Graph view to the 3D View. You'll be shown a list with available channels to assign the node to. Click any to confirm.

You can view any individual Graph Output by unfolding the list of outputs in the Explorer, and using Left-Mouse Button to drag that output to the 3D View. You'll be shown a list with available channels to assign the node to. Click any to confirm.

View (custom) 3D meshes

Substance Designer offers a dozen preset meshes. These meshes have uniform, useable UV coordinates and serve most scenarios for tiling textures. Importing and viewing your own 3D meshes is also possible.

Pick any of the default meshes through the Scene dropdown menu in the top bar.

Import a custom 3D Mesh by dragging and dropping a compatible file to the Explorer. If asked to Link as UDIM mesh, the answer is usually No. Then Double-click its resource entry in the Explorer, or drag it to the 3D View to view it.

Change Material Settings

There are a few different material types available by default in Substance Designer, and each material has options beyond just texture channels. They can be configured individually. Keep in mind the material definitions are different between OpenGL and IRay render modes; settings don't always carry over seamlessly. 

To change the current material definition, go to Materials > Default (or any other slot name for custom meshes) and choose the definition and then technique. For example, to set displacement on a Plane (hi-res): Materials > Default > physically_metallic_roughness > Tesselation. This also opens the settings in the Properties panel.

To access a material's properties, go to Materials > Default (or any other slot) > Edit. Then change properties, such as Height Scale, in the properties panel. Other material settings are described below.

To reset a Material's state go to Materials > Default (or any other slot) > Reset Material. This will require you to view a material in 3D view again, as it clears texture slots.

Export scene

You can export the mesh from the 3D View to a file in the OBJ, FBX or PLY formats. If tessellation displacement is enabled, the subdivision of the geometry is baked into the exported mesh.

However, the vertex normals of the original mesh may not match its new displaced shape, which means the displaced mesh may not render correctly. You can manage this in two ways:

  • Use the mesh normal map which will provide the correct normals
  • Recompute the mesh normals on export using the mesh normal map, which means these normals are baked into the exported mesh and the normal map is no longer necessary

To export the 3D View mesh, go to Scene > Export scene..., set your choice regarding normals recomputation, then select a location, name and file format for the exported mesh.

The duration of the export process and resulting file size depend on the mesh triangle count and tessellation factor. High tessellation factor values can result in instability depending on the GPU's onboard memory pool.

That being said, the vertex count of the tessellated mesh should be in the same range as the pixel count of the height map.

Having a mesh more dense than the height map can make for a slightly smoother mesh when using Phong tessellation, yet you should aim for reliably getting the mesh exported with the required height map detail first, and then refining the exported mesh in other software if needed.

If the original mesh has multiple materials and/or UV sets, these will be merged into one.

TDR (Windows only)

This feature requires that the Timeout Detection and Recovery (TDR) match the recommended values in this page of our documentation, as stated in Substance Designer's Technical requirements.

This feature is not available on macOS.

Scene Browser

The Scene browser is a small extra panel that can be opened in the 3D View. It displays a hierachy of all elements in your scene. Your Custom 3D mesh will be split into different elements based on material assignment. If the entire mesh has one material, it will not be split. Material assignment must be done externally in a 3D application, but once split, material can be reassigned.

Re-assigning materials is done by clicking the dropdown box in the Material column of the Scene Browser. You might have to create some new Materials through the Add option in the Materials menu (see below).

Toolbar menus

The top toolbar provides 7 menus with options related to the 3D View. below is an overview of all options available.


The Scene menu deals with the geometry (3D Resource) shown and with 3D view states. 3D Resource sare just the mesh, Scene states are lights, camera, and related settings, and can also contain the mesh alongside.

  • Edit - Opens Scene Options in the Properties panel. Lets you toggle visibility of the 3D Mesh.
  • Standard Primitives - Shows any of the below simple 3D meshes in the 3D View.
    • Cube
    • Cylinder
    • Hollow Box
    • Inner Box
    • Plane
    • Plane (hi-res)
    • Sphere
  • Extended Primitives - Shows any of the below 3D meshes in the 3D View.
    • Mat Ball
    • Rounded Cube
    • Rounded Cylinder
    • Sphere 2 tiles
    • Torus
  • Display UV's in 2D View - Shows UV's of the current 3D mesh as an overlay in the 2D View.
  • Create 3D Resource from Current Scene... - Creates a new 3D Resource in the current package, from the 3D mesh currently shown.
  • Load State File... - Loads an externally saved .sbsscn file. Does not replace the 3D mesh, only loads lighting and camera settings.
  • Load State File with mesh...  - Loads an externally saved .sbsscn file. Replace the current 3D mesh, along with lighting and camera settings.
  • Save State File... - Save the current state of the 3D view as an external .sbsscn file.
  • Save Current State as Default - Set the current state of the 3D view as default from now on. This state is loaded every time the 3D view is reset or intialised, and can be set in the Project settings.
  • Export Scene - Exports the current mesh to OBJ, FBX or PLY file.
  • Reset Scene - Resets the 3D view to default.

Scene state file issues

Some software updates can change the way Scene state files are saved/loaded.
If the scene is not restored correctly from the file, it is recommended to manually set the desired state of the scene, and reexport the Scene state file.


The Material menu changes based on the 3D mesh loaded and the renderer used. For IRay rendering, see the IRay page.

  • Default / Material list - For default primitives, only one "Default" material will be listed. For custom meshes this list is made up of any unique materials assigned to the mesh. This is configured externally in your 3D application, but can be reorganized in Substance Designer (best is to do it in the mesh file, as this info is not easily lost).
    • Edit - Edit settings of the current material in the Properties window.
      For each material, the following default shaders are available in OpenGL rendering mode:
    • Blinn - "Old - generation", non-PBR correct shader. Uses Diffuse, Specular and Glossiness channels next to standard channels like Opacity, Height and Normal.
      • Parallax Occlusion - does faked height displacement without modifying geometry.
      • Tesselation - tesselates and displaces geometry based on Height channel.
    • Lambert - Very simple lambert lighting shader, only supports Diffuse channel. Uses the old point lights system, does not support HDR image lighting.
    • Mesh Info - Debug shader to preview certain Mesh Info. Does not use any texture channels.
    • physically_metallic_roughness - standard PBR material for the Metallic Roughness model. Uses Basecolor, Metallic and Roughness channels.
      • Parallax Occlusion - does faked height displacement without modifying geometry.
      • Tesselation - tesselates and displaces geometry based on Height channel.
    • physically_metallic_roughness_coated - Coated PBR material for the Metallic Roughness model. Uses Basecolor, Metallic and Roughness channels as well as extra "Coat" channels.
      • Parallax Occlusion - does faked height displacement without modifying geometry.
      • Tesselation - tesselates and displaces geometry based on Height channel.
    • physically_metallic_roughness_sss - Sub-Surface-Scattering PBR material for the Metallic Roughness model. Uses Basecolor, Metallic and Roughness channels as well as extra Scattering channel.
      • Parallax Occlusion - does faked height displacement without modifying geometry.
      • Tesselation - tesselates and displaces geometry based on Height channel.
    • physically_specular_glossiness - standard PBR material for the Specular Glossiness model. Uses Diffuse, Specular and Glossiness channels.
      • Parallax Occlusion - does faked height displacement without modifying geometry.
      • Tesselation - tesselates and displaces geometry based on Height channel.
    • unlit - unlit debug shader to preview texture maps without any lighting. Only uses "color" channel.
    • Load Definition - Lets you load your own custom GLSLFX Shader.
  • Add - Adds a new Material to the list. By default it will be unused, see the Scene Browser information below on how to assign these new materials.
  • Remove All - Removes all materials from the above list, keeps only one Default material.
  • Rebuild All - Rebuilds (recompiles) all GLSLFX shaders. 


The Lights menu only deals with older, legacy ambient and point lights. These lights are not PBR-compliant and do not give the same high-quality results as HDR image based rendering.

  • Edit - edit individual settings for the ambient light and the two point lights.
  • Reset Lights - resets light properties to default state.


The Camera menu lets you change camera settings, go to predefined angles, and load Camera angles stored inside a custom 3D mesh file. It also lets you access the Post Processing settings.

  • Edit - opens Camera settings in the Properties Window. Lets you change global settings like FOV, clip planes and background color. Also contains the Post Processing settings, see dedicated page.
  • Focus (F) - Focuses camera back on 3D mesh. Only changes pan and zoom, not angle.
  • Default Camera, plus any imported Cameras. - Lets you switch between Cameras stored in the mesh file. These camera's have individual settings, but need to be defined externally in your 3D application.
  • Preset Camera angles
    • Back
    • Bottom
    • Front
    • Left
    • Perspective - standard 3/4 view.
    • Right
    • Top
  • Save Viewport Image... (Alt+S) - Saves current view, with actual shown resolution to disk.
  • Copy Viewport Image to Clipboard (Alt+C) - Copies current view to clipboard, for pasting in external editor.
  • Save Render (Alt+R) - Saves current view, but at resolution defined in Camera Settings, to disk. Differs only from Save viewport Image if "Use Window Resolution" is set to False for the current camera.
  • Save Render to Artstation - Saves render and lets you post directly to Artstation.
  • Reset Position (R) - Resets Position of the camera.
  • Reset Selected (Shift+R) - Resets Position of the camera.


The Environment menu lets you modify the settings related to the HDRI environment used to light PBR correct materials.

  • Edit - Gives access to the HDR environment settings, used for lighting in PBR. Specifically you can toggle visiblity, change exposure with a preview, and set rotation with a precise slider..
  • Reset Environment - Resets all environment properties to default.


The display menu lets you toggle assorted extra helper options.

  • Wireframe - toggles display of the mesh wireframe.
  • Axis - toggles display of the 3D axis in the viewport.
  • Bounding Box - toggles display of the mesh' bounding box.
  • Grid - toggles display of the world frid.
  • Light- toggles display of helper lines for the point lights.
  • Resolution - toggles display of a small resolution counter.
  • Scene Stats - toggles display of scene statistics, such as polycount, materials count, static meshes count, etc.


The Renderer menu lets you switch between renderers, as wel as configure render settings.