3D product design & modelling with Substance 3D.

Product design banner

Today, analogue design tools are a nostalgic rarity. Almost everything made these days was created using digital design software.


And yet realistic texturing and digital visualisation have long been a weak link in the process. Visualising design concepts in a photorealistic way is, even today, a challenging and time-consuming task for industrial designers.


Why use 3D software for product design


Notably, accurate visualisation improves the fidelity of any design features when reproduced at later stages in the production process. All too often, design elements created high up the chain fail to cascade down to digital designers and 3D artists, who frequently have to re-create these elements from scratch. Overall quality, then and adherence to the initial vision of the product design benefit greatly from accurate digital visualisation.


In addition, a 3D-centred workflow can drastically reduce the costs associated with design iteration and prototyping, while allowing these steps to be done more quickly. Using rich materials and high-end 3D rendering, designers can accurately visualise how products will look and see them in context, much earlier in the process — and iterate more freely. 


 When all stakeholders can review a design project in 3D, it’s possible to avoid many of the costs and delays conventionally associated with creating a succession of prototypes and delivering those prototypes to a range of territories. And when physical prototyping is required, leveraging a combination of virtual photography and 3D printing can bring the virtual and physical worlds almost in sync. As a result, creative iteration loops become easy and fast.


Improved internal communication can act as a driving force during the design process. During critical phases of the process, the lack of simple and powerful tools to express a concept can put the entire project at risk. The more accurately and realistically a design concept can be illustrated, the more easily partners on the project will appropriate the product, whether they are in engineering or marketing or sales.


The speed and cost effectiveness of a 3D-focused workflow extends beyond the design phase. Such a process is ideal for creating ultrarealistic marketing visuals, immediately after the final product design is approved and in parallel with the launch of production tools. It’s no longer necessary to wait for physical prototypes, potentially letting you advance your product’s time to market by weeks or months. 


The applications of 3D models are not limited to creating marketing images. Ecommerce platforms increasingly require a large number of visuals — sometimes before a product has even entered the manufacturing stage. Fortunately, a 3D-centred workflow typically results in multiuse assets. The same models used to iterate on product design, for instance, can be used to generate 360-degree views or interactive augmented reality experiences.


The Adobe Substance 3D toolset allows product designers across all disciplines and industries to streamline design workflows and to raise product visualisation to new levels of realism and detail.

The first steps on your digital material journey.

first step

“We’ve been waiting for a solution like [Substance 3D Sampler] for a long time.…With tools like [Substance 3D Sampler] and Material Exchange, suppliers will have the resources they need to begin their digital revolution.”


Whatever your texturing needs might be, the Substance 3D toolset has you covered. You can create high-quality materials wholly from scratch in Substance 3D Designer. You have the option to create tileable materials of up to 8K resolution, create presets as required and export to Painter or any major 3D tool.


Alternatively, use Substance 3D Sampler to reproduce any real-life material in 3D. Simply input reference photos into Sampler and it will create a corresponding 3D material within seconds. You may leave these results exactly as they are or continue to modify the material created — you might change the material’s colour or reflectiveness, for instance or add entirely new characteristics such as patterns or logos.


In addition, it’s a simple matter to import your 2D assets created in applications such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop into the Substance 3D toolset, allowing you to leverage your 2D creations as components of 3D designs.


Or if you prefer to work with existing resources, you can import 3D materials as needed, whether from third-party sources or from the Substance 3D asset library. The Substance library contains thousands of ready-made 3D models, high-quality customisable materials, lights, atlases and decals. We regularly curate content to highlight some of the most inspirational assets.

Blending the edges of texturing and 3D modelling.

Blending the edges

The truth is in the details. That is why photorealistic visualisation matters so much to industrial designers. For instance, leather that doesn’t really look like leather won’t evoke the emotions you want the client to feel about the craftsmanship of the product. It just won’t be convincing.


This is true regarding every detail of the object. The smallest details — such as an icon’s position or whether it is printed, recessed or embossed — are enormously important in the world of product design. They carry the same weight as fundamental design points such as, say, whether the choice of a grip pattern will encourage the user to pick something up and hold it. 

“Substance has helped optimise Shopify’s modelling workflow, saving us countless hours so that we can spend more time focusing on the problems that really matter to our merchants.”


This is an area where the Substance 3D toolset shines, thanks to its ability to bridge the divide between 2D and 3D workflows. You can sketch your designs in 2D, in applications such as Illustrator and Photoshop and then quickly sculpt a prototype of your creations in VR — this will be made possible with Substance 3D Modeler. You can also import patterns, logos, text or any other visual components created in 2D into your Substance 3D workflow. Adding these 2D creations to your overall product design is simple in Substance 3D Painter. You can create effects, emboss designs, raise logos and much more when texturing your assets. And the real-time viewport in Painter lets you view each change as you make it, allowing a fast, fluid style of working.

Streamline 3D product proposals, reviews and approvals.

Streamline proposals

A 3D-focused workflow essentially allows unlimited flexibility to test design options.


Compared with more conventional design methodologies, it’s extremely fast and easy to propose an entire product range. Products can be textured with parametric materials that, with some simple tweaking, allow the creation of as many CMF variations as required. Substance 3D Stager allows high-quality visualisation and easy scene creation, letting designers see precisely how their proposed products will look in context. Designers can then iterate further on their colour choices and designs with Stager, as well as with Photoshop or Illustrator. 

“I wasn’t a big fan of texturing before, but since Substance that has changed. You can make variations very quickly. It’s all interactive — it's easy to manage projects.”


Product proposals can be shared for review with all key stakeholders of a project, without engaging any additional resources for prototyping and without waiting on the delays associated with physical delivery. With accurate, high-quality visualisation, iteration and validation can take place much more quickly than with conventional design practices. 


And a range of possibilities exist to aid in this validation process. Any files created can be exported in a wide variety of formats and stakeholders can view product proposals as interactive online content, interactive experiences or immersive design reviews. Proposals can even be 3D printed for “real life” review or viewed in context with augmented reality tools such as Adobe Aero

Ease of use in your product design workflow.

product design workflow

The Substance 3D toolset features easy interoperability between its various applications, as well as integration with all major 3D tools. Substance 3D plugins let you import, edit and visualise Substance materials directly within modelling tools such as 3ds Max, Maya, Rhino, Cinema 4D and Modo. Similarly, you can directly visualise these materials in any 3D rendering engine, such as V-Ray or Corona. You can even use the Substance 3D materials within major game engines, such as Unreal Engine or Unity. 


Interested in getting your company to use Substance 3D? Learn more