Adobe's new Substance 3D creative suite revamps its tools in one package

The subscription-based collection aims to be a 3D creation and capture do-it-all.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read

Adobe Substance Painter, one of four 3D apps in the software suite.


Adobe sees the future of creation being increasingly 3D. Its newest Adobe Substance 3D apps are aiming to be a complete destination for 3D art, sampling and even virtual photography, with uses that could range from video game assets to e-commerce to content for a possible world of VR and AR-compatible 3D assets. But these apps are PC, Mac and Linux based, though, not mobile.

The new suite is an evolution of previous Adobe 3D creative apps and apps from recently acquired companies (including Mixamo, and Allegorithmic's Substance), with expanded features. The four apps (Adobe Substance Painter, Designer, Sampler and Stager) include a library of 3D assets and textures, and also hooks into the rest of Adobe's Creative Cloud tools.

"It's a separate ecosystem, but connected as much as possible, because we also know that most 3D designers in the world also use tools like Photoshop, Illustrator or After Effects," Sebastien Deguy, Adobe's VP of 3D and Immersive, said in a video chat.

Of all the features in the Substance 3D package, the ones that stood out the most for me were the texture-generating 3D Sampler and the virtual photography studio in 3D Stager. The texture capture in Sampler can convert a photograph of a brick wall into a 3D brick texture, or sample other photo-based textures for quick 3D conversion. Adobe Capture has already been able to do this for a while, but now it's integrated into the Substance package. It's a different idea than Apple's recently announced Object Capture, which turns a series of photos into a high-res 3D object, but Apple's Object Capture should be compatible with the Substance 3D suite, Deguy says.


The Stager app has virtual lighting and locations for virtual photo shoots.


The virtual photo studio in Stager, which is an evolved version of Adobe Dimension, can place 3D renders alongside a collection of Adobe assets (premade backgrounds, objects or virtual lighting) to take shots that could be used for presentations, or ads. It'll be interesting to see how versatile Adobe's virtual photo studio could be at importing and staging other 3D captures.

The 3D content can flow into Adobe's Aero AR app if needed, but these 3D tools haven't yet been created with VR in mind. Adobe already owns Medium, a VR-based sculpting tool that the company acquired from Facebook, and Deguy says Adobe is working on a new version of that app called Modeler that will work both in and out of VR. 

Even though the recent iPad Pro has an M1 chip just like many new Macs, these 3D tools are currently for Mac, PC and Linux only. DeGuy acknowledges the possibilities of mobile 3D apps, especially for AR, but the mobile 3D creative apps aren't here yet. DeGuy says these new 3D apps are just the beginning for Adobe, though, so it might be that mobile tools as well as VR apps are next on deck.