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5 pieces of software to check out in 2019

Aref Razavi takes a look at 5 software options for the CG artist that could easily have been missed – but are not ones to miss!

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Introduction

Today I’d like to show you that the likes of 3ds Max, Maya, Houdini, and so on, aren't the only tools for the perfect CG work. There are many smaller apps and software with great capabilities. Let’s take a look at a few you may not have tried yet.

Quixel Mixer

quixel mixer floor materials

My first program is Quixel Mixer tools. We can say that the unique capabilities of this program were first introduced in the 3D world. This program can combine textures together. But the story does not end here! This program can also mix shaders together not just a texture! It means you can combine (the numbers are an example) 5 different diffuse texture, 3 different displacement, 4 different normal bump, all together in one shader!

quixel mixer mossy floor

After that you can play with the parameters and you will be surprised!  You can add beautiful water! You can add dirt, metal oxide, scratch, foliage, grass, cracks, and a thousand other effects.

sphere materials

With a license you can access nine thousand different objects, effects, and textures. For real! Nine thousand perfect assets. The assets are light and have great detail.

rocky ground texture details

This program has great viewport settings. It’s not limited to two-meters squared! You can create a plan with 100 x 100 m (very heavy) with 8k texture details. Also, this program can bridge with any 3D software like 3ds Max, Unreal Engine, Unity… so what are you waiting for? There is some ability to create realistic shaders for Unreal Engine and Unity, as my opinion of this program is really great.

Substance Alchemist

snowy floor substance alchemist

My second program is Substance Alchemist. It’s the new project by Substance. It works like Quixel Mixer, but there are some positive and negative points to this program. The interface is very simple and you can learn this program just in an hour. You don’t need an online library to use it. You can use any texture from your archive. There are some tools that can make any texture into a seamless texture. This program can give you any texture channel (normal, bump, height, AO) from a regular texture. And you don’t need different channels for a texture.

grassy floor substance alchemist

But with PBR textures the story is totally different! As you know in GPU applications the normal bump is better than 3ds Max. When you turn on Normal and Height map, the shader is very different than a shader with just a diffuse. Layer in this program is very simple and you can combine layers and effects together.

tiled roof

The weathering effects is better than Quixel Mixer. But it’s not complete yet and this program status is in beta version. For example, the layers have not got the mask ability! And this can be ugly! But one of best abilities of this program is a complete pairing with a Substance Designer file as SRSAR files.

materials substance designer

So, when you buy an enterprise license you can create most complex shaders without knowledge of Substance Designer. As you know Substance Designer is not an easy program to master. I say if you want to work with Substance Designer as a professional, you don’t need learn any other shader program, because it takes all your time. The viewport needs to better. And exporting is not really great.

Substance Painter

metal character substance painter

My third choice is Substance Painter. It’s the most powerful tool for creating shaders, because it's not just a shader program. We can paint every inch of our object. The viewport is very similar to Photoshop. There are layers and texture tabs. Just we need to create a good unwrap of the objects. Also, we can use the Rizom lab. It's very easy to learn.

metal character substance painter

In Substance Painter, we don’t need a perfect unwrap. Just be careful about the faces to not overlap together. Some of its abilities are unique. For example, your UVW pieces do not need to be the same size or stitched together. Of course, it's best to be as accommodating as possible.

metal texture material

In many situations you don’t need to paint on object. The program gives you many automatic filters and you just need the right topology. There are some particle systems like rain, cracks, and broken glass… and these effects help you create the perfect shader.

construction vehicle metal material

In substance painter you can create many shaders like metals, and non-metal shaders; transparency and translucency shaders. Also, we can use all SBSAR files and we can get them from source.substance.com. And finally, you can export your shaders to all render engines (V-Ray, Corona, Unreal Engine, and so on.)

Rizom lab

desert buggy race care

My fourth choice is Rizom lab. This stand-alone program can create perfect unwraps for your 3D models with any property. A clean object with quad mesh or a scan object with millions of triangles. Just import your object and unwrap it with the Rizom Lab program.

rizom lab material design

Of course, better you import objects part by part. It means not importing a whole car in one instance! Break the elements down to ten main parts (body, interior, wheels, engine, and so on). Fortunately we have some bridges to link the Rizom to other 3D software like 3ds Max and Maya.

material shading horse effects

Another good feature of Rizom is its speed. It’s very fast and can manage big projects. But as mentioned, it’s better to work in parts from an object.

material textures and shading

Some of the main feature of Rizom:

  • Full auto seams + unfold + pack
  • Auto Seams PELT with symmetry
  • Full Auto mosaic for scan objects
  • Full Auto BOX. In one click you can unwrap a building…
  • Advance Packing system. It can make groups  island licking and stacking
  • Multi Tiles (UDIMS)
  • Massive mesh Unfolding like a scanmodels

HDR Light Studio

cg sports car

My fifth choice is HDR Light Studio. When you give a product render you certainly need this great program. It looks simple but is deep. For better outputs it’s better to install the bridge in your CG software choice, and then run the bridge connection together in real-time mode.

light effects headphones

There are some key features. With the LightPaint ability you can control your reflection and light effect places exactly as you need. It means you click or drag on your part of model and a light is created in the scene!

light effects headphones

HDR Light Studio includes a library of light sources: over 200 high-quality HDR photographs of soft boxes, spot lights, windows, and even clouds! This program can handle huge scenes, like 20-million polygons!

material effects headphones

With Matching Photography you can match you scene with a real background photograph and create a photorealistic render! HDR Light Studio has procedural sky with any light! Also, you can combine it with a real sky or mix two HDRI files together. You can even convert LDR assets to HDRI file! Do you need more?!

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