Color Management




This page explains the Color Management features and settings in Substance Designer.

Substance Designer can be configured to use OpenColorIO (OCIO) or Adobe Color Engine (ACE) for Color Management. This allows you to have consistent color transforms and image display across multiple applications.

In this mode, Substance Designer will work internally with linear RGB colors. Since 8-bit depth is usually not enough to represent linear colors, it is recommended to use  at least 16-bit depth for color textures in the graph.

An effective Color Management workflow relies on working with a correctly calibrated display, Third party solutions exist to correctly calibrate your monitor for your work environment using specialised hardware.

OpenColorIO users should use matching OpenColorIO color spaces for their monitors.
Adobe ACE users should make sure the ICC profiles selected in the OS matches their monitors.



Configuration

Color Management settings can be configured in Projects tab of the Preferences dialog. You can set the following settings:

Color Management Mode

Color Management

This setting lets you select the Legacy ,OpenColorIO or Adobe ACE modes for Color Management in Substance Designer.

Default: Legacy

OpenColorIO

OpenColorIO Configuration

When using the OpenColorIO mode for Color Management, Substance Designer will use the information stored in a configuration file (*.config) to perform color transforms, identify color spaces and set defaults.

Substance Designer ships with the following configurations:

  • Substance: a simple configuration which includes common color spaces
  • ACES 1.0.3: the full-featured Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) configuration, an industry standard for Color Management workflows

You can find these configuration files in the resources > ocio folder of Substance Designer's installation files.

OpenColorIO Configuration

This setting lets you select the OpenColorIO configuration file to use throughout Substance Designer.


You can set the OpenColorIO configuration file using the OCIO environment variable.
When it exists, the configuration file will be locked in Substance Designer. It is still possible to change default color spaces and displays transforms (see settings below).

Default: Substance

Custom Configuration File

If the Custom option is set in OpenColorIO Configuration, you can select the specific *.config file to use as a configuration file in this field.

Default: set by OpenColorIO configuration file or OCIO environment variable

Bitmap Color Space Defaults

8 bit images

Sets the default color space for 8-bit bitmaps.

Default: Set by OpenColorIO configuration file

16 bit images

Sets the default color space for 16-bit bitmaps.

Default: Set by OpenColorIO configuration file

Floating point images

Sets the default color space for floating point precision bitmaps, such as HDR images in the *.exr or *.hdr formats.

Default: Set by OpenColorIO configuration file

Use file name to detect color space

Lets Substance Designer assign a color space automatically if the suffix of a bitmap filename matches exactly the the lowercase name of a color space included in the current OpenColorIO configuration.

Example: a bitmap resource mybitmap_aces_acescg.png would be automatically set to the ACES - ACEScg color space, and the appropriate transform will be applied to the working color space.

Default: Checked

2D and 3D View Display Default

2D and 3D View Display Default

Sets the default display color space for the 2D View and 3D View viewports.

Default: Set by OpenColor IO configuration file

Color manage thumbnails

Lets Substance Designer automatically transform the node thumbnails to the working color space in the graph.

Default: Checked

Adobe ACE

Color Settings

When using the Adobe ACE mode for Color Management, Substance Designer will use the information stored in  ICC Profiles (*.icc / *.icm) to perform color transforms and identify color spaces.

Substance Designer ships with a number of ICC Profiles. You can find the files for these profiles in the resources > icc folder of Substance Designer's installation files.
You can add your own ICC Profiles by placing these files in the Allegorithmic/Substance Designer/icc location in the Documents folder for the current system user.

Working Space

This setting lets you select the working color space to perform color operations throughout Substance Designer.

Default: sRGB IEC61966-2.1

Rendering Intent

This option lets you control how colors should be transformed when they are outside the gamut of the working colour space.

Default: Relative Colorimetric

Bitmap Color Space Defaults

8 bit images

Sets the default ICC profile to use for 8-bit bitmaps.

Default: sRGB IEC61966-2.1

16 bit images

Sets the default ICC profile to use 16-bit bitmaps.

Default: sRGB IEC61966-2.1

Floating point images

Sets the default ICC profile to use for floating point precision bitmaps, such as HDR images in the *.exr or *.hdr formats.

Default: Raw (i.e. no profile applied)

Use embedded ICC profiles when available

Lets Substance Designer use the ICC profile embedded in a bitmap instead of the defaults listed above.

Default: Checked

2D and 3D View Display Default Space

2D and 3D View Display Default

Sets the default display color space for the 2D View and 3D View viewports.

Default: ICC Profile for the main screen, retrieved from the OS

Graph Display

Color manage thumbnails

When checked, Substance Designer will transform the node thumbnails to the current working color space.

Default: Unchecked

Legacy Mode

When using  Legacy  mode, Color Management is disabled in Substance Designer-

In this mode, graphs and images behave exactly in the same way as in previous versions. This means your workflow from previous versions is entirely unaffected if this setting is left untouched. There are however some useful additions:

You can choose to use ACES sRGB tonemapping in the 3D View to match the output of other software, such as Unreal Engine.

You can set a colour space for exported bitmaps as described in the Exporting Outputs section in this page. The available color spaces are the following:

  • sRGB
  • Linear
  • Raw

In Legacy mode, Substance Designer uses the sRGB working color space, which can be reproduced by most displays.

Considering the 'Raw' option writes the image data as-is from the graph – i.e. using the graph working color space – this means the Raw and sRGB options result in the same color output.

By default, the 'sRGB' option will be set for outputs which contain color information (e.g. Base Color, Emissive), and the 'Raw' option is set for outputs which  hold pure data (e.g. Roughness, Metallic, Height, Normal). As explained above, these defaults effectively result in the same colors, and are set only to differentiate the end usage of their outputs.

The Linear option is the only one which results in a color transform being applied to the image, and may be only used for High Dynamic Range (HDR) images, which commonly use floating point precision (i.e. 16F or 32F bit depth) in linear color space. This allows these images to be used in a wide array of color spaces and production environments.

For more information about image exports, you can refer to the Exporting Bitmaps page of the documentation.




Importing Bitmaps

You can assign a color space (OCIO) or ICC profile (Adobe ACE) to imported and linked bitmaps.

When importing or linking bitmaps, a color space or ICC profile will be set by default to the bitmap resource using the options set in the Bitmap Color Space Default section of the Color Management tab in the Project Settings.

You can change the color space of a bitmap at any time, the option is located in the bitmap resource's Properties.

OpenColorIO only

In particular, the file name can be used to set the appropriate color space automatically. Please note the color space name in the file name must match the name in the OpenColorIO configuration file (e.g. myImage_utility - linear -srgb.png will be set to the Utility - Linear - sRGB color space).




Exporting Outputs

When using the Export Outputs dialog, it is possible to assign a color space (OCIO) or attach an ICC profile (Adobe ACE) for each output.
Substance Designer will convert images to the specified color spaces before saving the image files.



You can also assign a color space (OCIO) or attach an ICC profile (Adobe ACE) to images saved from the 2D View.





2D & 3D Views

Display Toolbar

You can toggle Color Management on/off and change the display transform for the view at any time using the drop down menu in the display toolbar.



Library HDRI environments

The HDRI environments shipped with Designer are in the Linear sRGB color space.
When using an OpenColorIO configuration where the scene linear color space is not Linear sRGB – such as the ACES configuration – the environment will display incorrect colors.

In that case, the color space for library HDRI environments should be set manually in the environment properties, available in the 3D View panel Environment menu.





Color Conversion Nodes

The Library includes the following nodes for performing conversions to and from the ACEScg color space:

Compositing Graph

  • ACEScg to Linear sRGB
  • Linear sRGB to ACEScg
  • ACEScg to sRGB
  • sRGB to ACEScg

Function Graph

  • ACEScg to Linear sRGB
  • Linear sRGB to ACEScg

These are useful when working with graphs created without Color Management or Substance Source materials.





Known Limitations

The current implementation of color management in Substance Designer has the following limitations: