Substance Designer supports 3 modes of bringing in or creating new resources for use in your graph. These resources can be of many different types, including but not limited to Bitmaps, Vector Graphics, 3D Meshes and Fonts. This page explains the different methods and when each one is best used.
The following table gives a quick overview.
|New Resource||Imported Resource||Linked Resource|
|Substance Graphs, Functions, MDL||Yes||No||No|
|Bitmap or Vector Graphics (SVG)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|3D Mesh or Font||No||No||Yes|
|Resource (copy) created next to .sbs file||Yes||Yes||No|
|Can be edited in Designer||Yes||Yes||No|
|External edits are automatically reloaded||No||No||Yes|
|Embedded into .sbsar when published||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Creating a New Resource means a resource in your package will be created from scratch. All Substance-Designer-only resources can only be created this way, such as Graphs, Function and MDL Graphs.
A special case is when you create a new Bitmap or SVG: these files will show up in your Explorer and behave like an Imported Resource, but without requiring an external file. They can be modified in Designer. New Bitmaps and SVG's created in this way are good if you don't need to rely on an external editor: for example when you just want a quick and simple Vector shape, or a simple painted 2D-bitmap mask.
Importing a Resource means a duplicate of the Resource file will be created next to your .sbs file (in the Graphname.resources folder). It is sometimes also referenced to as "Embedding" a Resource.
An Imported Resource can then be edited inside Substance Designer using the bitmap or SVG editor in the 2D View, once placed in the graph. Imported Resources are no longer linked to their original source files: meaning if you change, remove or update the file originally imported, this has no effect on the Resource in Designer.
In the case of .AXF files, which can only be imported, the process is a bit more complicated; a whole Graph and MDL function, as well as Bitmap Resources are created from the AXF package. All of these can however still be edited in their respective editors (Graph, MDL or 2D Bitmap).
Imported and new Resources are not saved to disk until you save a newly created package for the first time!
Linking a Resource means Substance Designer will reference the source file at its original location on disk, but still present it in the Explorer as if it was part of your package. You will not be able to edit the actual Resource directly inside of Designer, only use it as a component in your graph or as a source for baking maps.
Linking is ideal if you know you will need to use an external editor to update your resource while you simultaneously work in Designer. Baking maps is a prime example: you could have Designer reference bitmaps form an external baking application, which will automatically reload and update your graph as soon as these files are changed. Similarly, 3D meshes can only be linked, so that every time when you export a new .FBX file from your 3D application, Designer automatically updates the mesh used in the 3D view. If your are baking maps from this mesh, you will have to manually start the baking process over (by right-clicking and selecting "Refresh all baked maps" ideally).