I have been working with Substance materials for almost a decade now. I have been doing PBR rendering all the way back when Disney released their PBR document that then quickly became industry standard. Substance has been my preferred way so far, although I have tried pretty much everything from the likes of Quixel and more.
Indeed, there are many ways to approach the problem, and it would not be my mission to try to downplay the importance of digital material scanning to the likes of Vizoo and TAC7. These are high quality solutions to the problem that deliver a measured data.
However, I would say that in some cases, especially fabrics for apparel industry, Substance 3D designer might be the way to go. Getting the material tile seamlessly with no issues is one of the ever lasting issues, it is especially true with materials like this:
A hand woven Italian leather.
I have re-created the material here using nothing but nodes, while staring the photo of my friend’s lovely handbag.
Substance materials are created procedurally using graphs like this
The noodle looking network on the top section is what produces the output. Each of the node controls specific detail. From the left we see the building of the main woven pattern with gradients. In the middle are tweaks to those and assignment of the colors to each parts. To the right are the outputs.
This is what is called “procedural workflow”. What this means is that the material is created using mathematical data instead of a digital photograph.
The output of Substance 3D Designer are always pixel perfect maps. The whole workflow from the get-go is designed to produce details that tile seamlessly. What you have here is the exact control to every aspect of the material no need to take scanning data to consideration. Since these are procedural materials they are resolution independent and we can reproduce details to up to 8K and who knows in future, possibly higher.
Finished Substance material looks like this. It has all the typical PBR outputs such as height (as used in displacement), normal map, roughness and of course Basecolor (diffuse)
The huge benefit of Substance materials is also that they are parametric, meaning that for example color values or normal map details can be adjusted afterwards in application like CLO3D or Marvelous Designer. Almost any aspect of the material can be parametrized.
I would say that especially the materials for apparel industry Substance 3D Designer might be a preferable option.
It is counter-intuitive that, re-building the whole material from scratch with tiny building blocks could be a cost performant option. But scanning material takes time as well and it is really hard to get rid of the tiling artifacts. And scanners need maintenance as well and any of the likes of TAC7 are not exactly cheap.
Experienced Substance Designer user can be the ideal solution.
Despite recent development in AI there is no quick workaround to the digital material problem. But the results with Substance are outstanding and indistinguishable from the real material.
We at SonaGraf create professional level Substance materials for fashion and apparel industry. Our clients also include large scale manufacturing companies in Japan.
Learn more here, and get in touch with us.