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A Deep Dive Into Adobe's Substance 3D Assets Library

The creators and artists behind Adobe's Substance 3D Assets have shared an enormous overview of the library, explained how its assets are created, discussed its key benefits, and talked about utilizing the assets within the Substance 3D ecosystem.

What Is Adobe Substance 3D Assets?

Nicolas Paulhac, Head of 3D Content: Substance 3D Assets is an expanding library of 3D content that is a part of the Substance ecosystem. The database of 3D content has been created by a team of expert Technical Artists at Adobe, as well as other partners. This allows us to offer ready-to-use high-quality content to build 3D projects.

The Substance 3D Assets Library is the largest library of truly customizable 3D content with more than 18,000 assets. The materials and the lights in the library are parametric, meaning they contain a unique built-in set of parameters that allow users to customise the 3D assets to their needs.

The History of the Library

Nicolas Paulhac: Substance 3D Assets, formerly known as Substance Source, was created in 2016 as a library of parametric materials. This enabled users to achieve photorealistic results from 3D scenes whilst saving time and being very efficient in their workflows.

The library is supported by a multi-skilled team of expert Technical Artists, Substance 3D power users, and designers. They design and build the 3D content for the platform, and this includes the creation techniques (full procedural creation, scanning, etc.), to the fabrication of the 3D content to meet the needs of our growing user base in a variety of industries.

Since the beginning, our ambition is to offer a unified library of 3D content that allows users to work with the assets regardless of their workflow and 3D creation pipeline. Substance 3D Assets initially started by supplying procedural materials to 3D artists from the video game industry with a focus on meeting their technical needs of optimization in game engines. This enabled better performances while enhancing visual quality. Thanks to the parametric nature of the Substance materials, we can offer more flexibility and creative freedom during the conceptualization and look development phases.

Leveraging our experiences in multiple industries, we have diversified the library content to cater to other industries like architecture, product design, and automotive to support their design and visualization needs.

Types of Assets

Nicolas Paulhac: We currently have more than 18,000 assets. The material and lighting assets have different sets of parameters, which are often specific to each asset. Users will note the multiple variations of colors, textures, glosses, and patterns.

There are 3 main types of content in the library to help users build their 3D projects:

  • Materials (13,000 assets), including surfaces (seamless parametric textures), decals, and atlases, allowing users to texture 3D models. These materials are PBR and provide the same look in every renderer, real-time engine, etc. Materials are available in the Substance format (.sbsar) which contains the parameters to generate countless variations. We also provide the native Substance 3D Designer format (.sbs) which is the recipe for how the asset was created. This is super useful to customize the materials even further. Users can also use this as a great learning resource to inspire them to create materials using the best-in-class material graphs.
  • 3D models (5,200 assets) that are ready to texture are provided either as .fbx or .glb. Ready to texture means users simply need to drag and drop materials in Substance 3D Painter or Stager to start texturing. The 3D model’s UVs are unwrapped, the polycount optimized, and the sub-components are organized with pivot points.
  • 3D lights (100 assets) are professional quality high dynamic range (HDR) assets that can light 3D scenes. The 3D lights are provided in the Substance format (.sbsar) and are also parametric. This makes them more flexible than a standard HDRI panorama by allowing users to modify the embedded parameters. Users can modify each source independently in terms of temperature, intensity, etc. 

Accessing the Library

Nicolas Paulhac: The Substance 3D Assets library is seamlessly integrated into the Substance 3D Collection. The content is carefully designed and optimized to work in all Substance applications. There are also Substance integrations in a wider ecosystem of third-party 3D applications. All the assets are accessible from the Substance 3D Assets web portal and only materials can also be accessed via the Creative Cloud desktop.

Users need to have an Adobe account to download free assets. To access the whole 3D assets library, users subscribe to a Substance plan, which gives them download points to access the 3D content. The download points are renewed each month.

Substance 3D Assets' Benefits

Nicolas Paulhac: The key benefits of using the library are as follows:

  • Saves time when working on a project.
  • Inspirational and a great starting point without starting from scratch.
  • Enhanced creative freedom and flexibility.
  • Achieve better quality results faster.

Substance 3D assets is a constantly expanding library with a diverse range of high-quality 3D content, backed by a team of 3D experts. However, we are very keen on receiving feedback from the community to help guide the type of content they would like to see added to the library. We are happy to add user requests to our growing list.

Who Creates Substance 3D Assets?

Nicolas Paulhac: The internal team of artists controls every step of the process from definition, design, production, quality testing, and all the way to release. To guarantee the highest level of quality, all our internally created parametric content is also reviewed by a network of partners who analyze and feedback on their results. This helps to ensure the highest production quality with our content.

Production Workflows Behind the High-Quality 3D Scanning for Assets Library

Frédéric De Marrez, Technical Artist and Scanned Material Processing Expert: My name is Frédéric De Marrez, and I’ve been working as a Technical Artist at Adobe for the past two years. As part of the Adobe Substance 3D Assets team, my focus is on scanning materials. I’m a self-taught artist and worked mainly as a freelancer before joining Adobe.

Quality and consistency are very important, but it is also the parametric aspect of our materials combined with ease of use. We have almost 13,000 materials available, so there is plenty of choice. However, with the parametric aspect of the materials and you can end up with near-infinite possibilities. And it’s fun to use.

We start with a preproduction phase, where we define the visual and technical specifications of our next scan production. An important factor is that we rely on a team of partners to provide us with datasets from all over the world. It gives us plenty of freedom to choose which surface to scan.

In the beginning, the scan initiative was focused on diversity and quantity. We offered a wide variety of different biomes and locations. With almost 3000 scans, we now need to alter our approach to be more collection specific to complete each biome with its complementary surfaces.

There are many factors that can influence what we decide to produce. There could be a specific requirement internally or externally or perhaps a useful surface is missing, like snow, for example. On the technical side, maintaining consistency and quality is challenging because we are working with so many different sources. This is why we acquire only raw data and process everything in-house.

Our scan workflow is photogrammetry-based. We use ftrack for asset management and the rest of the pipeline is based on custom tools, scripts, and the Substance 3D tool suite. On the capture side, the photogrammetry is straightforward. Photos are shot with cross-polarization alongside a color checker and markers for color and physical size reference. We usually receive around 200 photos for each captured surface patch. That’s a lot of data, so we have automated most of the processing tasks through our pipeline, from ingest to final delivery. Unless specified, everything is automated or one click away from it.

In the beginning, the datasets are uploaded and a quick 3D reconstruction alongside useful information is generated. 

We use these previews to do a first validation pass. We sort out any dataset that has technical issues or does not fit our specifications.

After validation, the raw photos of the datasets are developed, color corrected, and a high-resolution 3D mesh is generated.

The next step is using one of our custom tools to manually define the area of the 3D mesh we want to use for the scanned material.

At this point, the 8K base color, height, and normal maps are extracted and baked.

The following steps are where most of the manual work is done.

Making the scan tileable is an important part and can be challenging and time-consuming. However, we have developed a flexible and optimized tool for this task. We can cover any tiling scenario with it and go quickly through a lot of scans in a short amount of time. 

Finally, using Substance 3D Designer and custom templates, we add parametric controls to the scan. This is important, as it differentiates our scans from any other scan material.

You can easily change the color and surface properties of the scanned material. There are a lot of artistic possibilities and everyone is encouraged to experiment with this feature.

Each scan material is packaged in a .sbsar file, which includes 3 presets showcasing this functionality.

Adobe's Technical Artists on Creating High-Quality Collections for Substance 3D Assets Library

Jean-Bastien Juneau-Rouleau, Technical Artist: I'm Jean-Bastien Juneau-Rouleau and I'm a Technical Artist at Adobe. Along with my colleagues, I create 3D content for the Adobe Substance 3D Assets library.

I'm originally from Quebec in Canada. I grew up in a town called Chicoutimi and I studied 3D at NAD, a school of digital art, animation, and design in Montreal. This is actually my first job in the industry. I was lucky enough to be hired at Adobe straight out of university. I flew across the world to grab that opportunity.

Since joining the content team, I have helped create various collections of materials in the library. I am particularly proud of the food collection that I worked on with Maximilien Vert. I helped produce the materials and the visuals that were published in the Substance Magazine article.

I joined Adobe in 2019. I fell in love with the Substance 3DDesigner midway through my studies and spent as much time as I could creating materials with it. When I saw a job opening to create materials for the Adobe Substance 3D Assets library, it felt like a perfect fit. I was lucky enough to be selected, and I left my country to pursue my dream job. Fun fact, I had never even flown before coming to France!

The procedural nature of a lot of our assets makes them powerful tools in the hands of creatives. There is a lot of precision that can be achieved thanks to the parameters we offer on our materials. This means achieving specific visual results and tweaking them in non-destructive ways is a huge timesaver for artists..

We now have a direct integration of the library into the Substance 3D ecosystem via the Creative Cloud. Assets downloaded from the platform can also be integrated and tweaked in real-time in third-party software such as Blender with the Adobe Substance 3D add-on. 
The .sbsar format means that materials are no longer simple 2D bitmaps, but real-time 3D assets that can be tweaked in-engine to suit the needs of artists and developers.

Our library features an impressive amount of assets, but their procedural nature of them allows for infinite possibilities. Any procedural material that you see on the platform can be tweaked to fit an immense number of use cases. Visit our platform and use our web player to see for yourself!

As many of your readers know, creating digital 3D art is a complex process that features many steps. Our assets allow artists to skip a lot of those steps, by making their workflow smarter and allowing them to streamline the more menial tasks. With our materials, artists can sculpt 3D objects via displacements and add grunges via simple sliders.

Ludovic Petiot, Technical/Material Artist: I’m Ludovic Petiot, a Technical/Material Artist for Adobe Substance 3D Assets. I studied in France at YNOV Bordeaux, where I did a MASTERE in 3D. I started working as an intern at Allegorithmic for 6 months as a Quality Assistant on Substance 3D Painter. After that, I worked at Ubisoft Bordeaux for 4 previous years as a Material Artist. I had the chance to work on Ghost Recon: Breakpoint (main game & DLC), Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Wrath of The Druids, and Assassin’s Creed Mirage. I joined the Adobe 3D team last July.

Substance 3D Assets is a library of 3D resources, both procedural and scanned. You can find materials that are procedurally made or scanned, Meshes, and IBL (Image Based Lighting). Due to the variety of content available on the platform, every artist can find whatever they need to easily create their content. Even if it does not fit their needs perfectly, they can at minimum use them as a solid base to work on. In addition to that, most of the materials can be adjusted as they are parametric. This allows a user to create an infinity of variations.

I also use Substance 3D Assets as a tool to learn new techniques and workflows. Looking at how the content was created allows me to improve my technical and artistic skills. It’s always great to see how everyone is using Substance 3D Designer differently to create materials, and this is one of the best ways to learn material creation with Substance 3D Designer.

Substance 3D Assets is not only a platform to simply apply materials to your surfaces but also an incredible library of knowledge and techniques to learn how to create materials on Substance 3D Designer.

I think that the purpose of the library is to use its assets however you want. You can apply them directly without modifications, tweak them to change the global aspect of it, use them as a base, or combine them. It will in one way or another speed up your creation process.

Maximilien Vert, Senior Technical Artist: My name is Maximilien Vert and I am a Senior Technical Artist for Substance 3D Assets. I studied at a Fine Art school in Le Mans, France. This is my first job in the 3D industry. However, I did learn Substance 3D Designer in my spare time before joining. This allowed me to build a portfolio with a variety of different procedural materials.

As a personal project, I made a Substance leaf generator 4 years ago that made a bit of noise in the material creation community. As for Adobe projects, I have created all kinds of procedural materials. I really enjoyed working on the food collection project. The last notable project was the procedural leaves material. I'm also the main person responsible for creating the visual communication imagery for Substance 3D Assets.

I joined the team 4 years ago, a few weeks after releasing the Leaf Generator project. At that time, the team contacted me regarding this project, and they gave me a job offer.

The key benefits of Substance 3D Assets are that they are a big time-saver to start working quickly, incredibly flexible, thanks to the procedural nature of the materials and to the fact that there is now so much diverse 3D content on the platform with lots of choice.

As for the materials, you can use the CC Desktop app to directly send assets to the other Substance application, such as Substance 3D Painter. Regarding materials, 3D models, and lights in the library, you need to download the 3D content from the Substance 3D Assets web portal.

We don’t only supply material for texturing. We also give you access to the Substance Graph (.sbs). This allows the source data to be opened in Substance 3D Designer and you can learn how it is made and how the material graphs work.

Simon Le Paih, Technical Artist: My name is Simon Le Paih and I am currently a Technical Artist for 3D Content. I studied at Lisaa Paris and graduated in 2013 in 3D production and design for Video Games.

Before joining Adobe, I worked as a freelancer mainly for Architects. 
I acquired lots of experience in 3D projects and knowledge about architecture and interior design. I also worked in retail and store management, where I learned a lot about team and resource management.

Since joining Adobe 4 years ago, my noteworthy contribution has been to Architecture, Stylized assets (Bell Island Project), the Ancient Egypt project, Sci-Fi, and recently, Medical. I also focused on the pattern’s creation process for some time.

The key benefit of Substance 3D Assets, in my opinion, is to have access to a large asset library and a complete ecosystem of software that communicates with each other. This enables artists to explore, experiment and improve various workflows.

Basically, you can go from 2D to 3D and 3D to 2D, texturing, lighting, rendering, and so on, in a matter of minutes. Plus, there is the benefit of the large user community, tutorials, and so on. It’s a good place to start, learn and flourish, whether you are a beginner or an expert 3D Artist.

There are multiple ways of utilizing 3D assets. If you want to learn about creating procedural material, you can download one of our .sbs files, open it in Designer, and explore the graph to learn any tips and tricks. If you are a Texture Artist, you can just take a .sbsar, send it to Painter and use it as a base for your own Smart Material. Do you need to create quick renders for packaging? Use one of our 3D models, environment stage, and make a quick render in Stager. You can also generate a .psd file to post-process your render in Photoshop.

Substance 3D Assets ease access to 3D for a lot of content creators in any industry. This allows creators to focus on their design concepts more than wasting time on technical issues and a very long learning curve.

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