Author Topic: Using Substance Painter for printing  (Read 653 times)

It has been a while since I finished this project, and after cooling down my head about it and wrapping up the methodology I used, I’ll try to explain my experience using Substance Painter with a real life application like traditional printing.

Index of this post
1.- The project.
2.- Why use Substance Painter?
3.- My first approach to problem solving
4.- A terrible realization…
5.- Alternate Solutions.
6.- Iray used for printing.
7.- Iray VS Keyshot???
8.- End of story.
9.- Image Gallery

1.- The project.
The company at which I work tasked us, a group of industrial designers, to come up with ideas for a stand since we were going to participate at an Expo called “ExpoImpresión 2017” around January.
 After brainstorming and having to tackle low cost production and few time for development, we ended up with a very basic stand idea, roughly based on the last stand we assembled last year.
During this reasoning, I determined that this was a good opportunity to make use of Substance Painter to hone my skills and experiment with it to design one part of it, the backdrop.
My given solution for the stand’s backdrop was to align 5 rigid panels (the company’s core assets and reason for existing), one next to another, and print on them some good looking images. Since the exposition was about “printing”, it was important to show the company’s star assets with printed examples.

2.- Why use Substance Painter?
Understanding digital resolution can be quite a mess. PPI (often confused ad DPI) is important, but pixel resolution is way, WAY more important. The more resolution, the more one can attain a good quality printed image, but the physical size for the print plays a very important part.
Each of the panels I was exposing, were sized at 1.2meters x 2.4meters each (4 feet x 8 feet approximately), which led me to some problems:
First, the physical format was very big and I needed an image with a very high pixel density.
Second, the image should be interesting to a certain extent to attract visitors to the stand.
Third, if people entered the stand, they would be able to stare directly at the printing. Unlike highway billboards, for example, which are many meters away from our line of sight, I couldn’t choose any cool looking computer wallpaper I found online. It would be obviously pixilated in a massive scale.
I could have looked for a free or paid high resolution image in the web like I did last year… but after having watched many tutorials from Allegorithmic, and having more or less used the software a bit, I realized that no matter how big the object could be in real life, textures inside Substance could be iterated endlessly, and I thought: “hey, maybe I could use this feature and apply it for printing, because then, I won’t have to worry anymore about resolution and the size of the print”.
At the time I even thought of trying to use Substance Designer to create my own textures but it was too much for such a short time of development, so Substance alone had to do the trick.

3.- My first approach to problem solving.
At the moment, my Substance Painter version supported 4k texture resolution, meaning 4096 x 4096 pixels, which can put up a fight to print at a letter sized document at almost 600DPI, but my task was to print 4 x 8 feet. So my quest began.
My first action was to visit “Substance Share” to search for ready to go textures and after having chosen some and having attained the approval from my boss of which ones to display, I began to work inside Substance Painter to come up with a solution for my printing problem.
I’m uncertain if I checked since the beginning or during late development, but I watched one of Allegorithmic’s tutorials and I know for certain that Substance Painter can have baked lights in a mesh and exported as textures. Since the normal 3D display of Substance’s already looks awesome I concluded I could bake those lights inside a mesh emulating my panels and later exported as images for future printing.

To attain an insane level of printed resolution I thought that maybe I could “cut” the mesh plane emulating the 4 x 8 feet sheet into smaller parts (32 to be precise), assigning each one a 4k resolution texture while at the same time, making consistent the flow of each texture with the whole panel using separate Texture Set Lists and later bake the lights for each Texture Set List.
Using 32 different Texture Set Lists, each one with the same image, I had to rearrange the UVs for all of them. The separate results of the baked lights would be later put together in Photoshop  or Gimp to build the final printing image.
A more detailed explanation of my process can be seen in the following video, it’s a bit tedious but it explains visually in detail what I had to do:

4.- A terrible realization…
It was no longer after I had finished building the third or fourth sheet material file inside Substance Painter that I realized the big drawback of my plan, and if I have made my post clear, maybe you already can imagine what my problem was.
Texture Set Lists can have baked light into them for texture export, BUT… Texture Set Lists are independent from one another and so is the light baked into them. If I baked the light, I would have a mini baked light for each Texture Set List, and not a global baked light as a whole and therefore it would appear like many tessellated images inside my panel, instead of one big image.
Kind of like trying to match continuously a brush stroke between different Textures Set Lists.
 I was overwhelmingly stupefied as to how my “great” plan was crumbling down below my keyboard, because no matter what I did, the baked light would not look as cool as the default PBR visor inside Substance. I was at shock and had to look for alternatives since I had already spent office time working on this and the deadline was getting closer.

5.- Alternate Solutions.
In the end, I had to fully swallow my idea for showing a super resolution printing at 4 x 8 feet at eye level, and it was then that I understood that Allegorithmic target market is digital and not necessarily intended for printing, but what was done was done and I had to solve my shenanigans.
I had spent so much time developing those complicated Subtance Painter files that I tried using what I already had, and the only way left to get an image with a very high resolution inside Substance Painter was to use my last ace in the hole, Iray…

6.- Iray used for printing.
If I had wanted to print my images at 1.2 x 2.4 m / 4 x 8 feet, with a minimum output resolution of 300PPI (DPI if you’re confused), I would have needed to ask Iray to render an image of 14,409 x 28,819 pixels and try my best to match the mesh with the output in the Iray viewport as close as I could.
I’m uncertain as to what is the maximum resolution one can input in Iray’s “width” and “height” “Override viewport resolution”, but I can tell you for sure, my laptop couldn’t handle the 14,409 x 28,819 pixel size. It simply was way too much resolution. It utterly and hopelessly crashed again and again, and by crash I mean that Substance Painter just froze and my laptop got really hot.
So, I decided to input a lower resolution and after a long trial of try and error I managed to get one rendered image at a 5,000 x 10,000 pixel resolution size, which means I would be in a limbo between 100 and 72 PPI of printed resolution for a  4 x 8 feet size.
In the end Iray delivered, and I managed to render all five materials.

7.- Iray VS Keyshot???
One important thing to notice to any of you guys at Allegorithmic, is that Keyshot bested Iray in rendering.
I do know some stuff about computers but, to be real, I’m no genious/expert on the subject, yet I think it is quite noticeable this next story:
My laptop has an “i7” processor, and Iray crashed again and again with my desired resolution. A colleague of mine tried to help me and succeeded in entering rendering phase with the same mesh and input textures I did on Substance Painter, but on Keyshot, and guess what? Keyshot managed and pull the trick in an “i5” processor in another laptop! Keyshot, in theory, could render my image in the resolution I wanted.
Sure, it would have taken a lot of time to render (the main reason why we didn’t render the image completely). Sure, it’s not PBR, but Keyshot could render what Iray couldn’t.
What is going on???
I observed that the main difference is that inside Keyshot you input first all the parameters AND THEN you get to ask it to render. Meanwhile, in Iray you are doing those two instructions at the same time and obviously, the GPU / Processor can’t handle it and crash/freeze. At least that is my conclusion.
In the end I didn’t used the Keyshot render because I preferred Iray’s result, my colleague got very busy in other stuff of the stand and out of a whim, I really wanted to use Substance.

8.- End of story.
There were some other adventures going on with this project, but regarding Substance Painter involvement, that was about it.
In the end, the final result (the printed panels) came better than I expected.
To my surprise, even though the fact that the main texture was only a humble 4k, it appears that as long as Iray does a good rendering, the output can manage to an awesome image, despite the initial low resolution.
Hope you had a good time reading a little sharing of my adventures on how I used Substance Painter in other stuff unrelated to movies, videogames and similar stuff.

9.- Image Gallery

I won't upload more images since it's been a little troublesome, I suppose I over did it with my post. XD
Last Edit: May 03, 2017, 10:33:11 pm

Awesome results :D

Ha, ha. Thank you!

Great results. So, as you say, Substance Painter is really targeted for digital rendering BUT if I wanted to go further and create simple models and make printable textures that could then be applied physically to real world versions of those models do you think there is a way to do that? In your case you had flat panels so one flat texture. In a case where you had a wrapped surface, even a simple one, is there a texture output format that would hold the physical curvature of the textures once printed VS a projection map? I am thinking about those commercial printers that create advertisements that wrap around buses or cars for instance.

Great story! thanks for sharing!