Following the release of direct USDZ file export in Substance Painter, we met up with the team at Shopify and asked them how it improves their workflow of creating 3D content for AR shopping experiences.

Hi Byron, thanks for your time.

Could you introduce yourself to the community?

My name is Byron Delgado, I’m a creative designer, illustrator and 3D artist working in the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) space.

Prior to joining Shopify, I worked in the concept design space for commercials and future products. I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to work on incredibly interesting projects spanning from in-car HUD UI designs for large car manufactures to giant touch- and gesture-based digital signage that really felt like something out of Minority Report. More recently, I had been working on some 3D concepts for a personal VR game which eventually led to my current role at Shopify.

At Shopify, I head up the design efforts on the Augmented and Virtual Reality team. We experiment with AR and VR retail experiences towards the goal of becoming the best 3D enabled commerce platform.

Shopify AR

Can you tell us more about Shopify AR?

At Shopify, we’re committed to unlocking the incredible business potential of making augmented reality more accessible for small businesses.

Shopify AR provides an accessible toolkit for businesses to create their own AR experiences through our services marketplace of 3D modeling partners, the 3D Warehouse App to store your models, and an easy way to add AR Quick Look support to your store.


How do you think AR is impacting online shopping experiences?

AR technology helps merchants create better online shopping experiences by increasing customer confidence in the products they see online. When shoppers are able to see products in the context of their own homes and inspect them from all angles, zooming in and out on details, it gives them a much better sense of what they’re buying. AR is helping us bridge the online and offline shopping experiences by assuaging any worries that develop when shopping online.

Moreover, with Shopify AR’s Quick Look support, these experiences are available to hundreds of millions of people using mobile devices.

Substance and AR shopping

How does Substance improve the development of AR shopping experiences?

Shopify’s Services Marketplace enables merchants to connect with partners to create extremely realistic 3D models of their products. Substance has improved the time it takes for a partner to create previews, renders and AR-ready 3D models to be tested on a merchant’s online store.

USDZ export

Tell us more about the USDZ export in Substance Painter. How does it speed up your workflow compared to before?

With the USDZ export feature, Substance has helped optimize Shopify’s modeling workflow, saving us countless hours so that we can spend more time focusing on the problems that really matter to our merchants.

Previously, a 3D modeler would have to use multiple programs to paint and preview a 3D product. Combined with the added friction of needing to use the command line to export a USDZ file, this meant for a very clunky creation process. By working with Substance to identify pain points partners and merchants currently face with 3D model development, the USDZ export feature was created and is now a one-click process. Partners and merchants not only have the option to preview a USDZ file and upload it straight to the 3D warehouse, but USDZ export also optimizes the 3D model (e.g., textures) for mobile AR viewing.

Texturing workflow

Could you tell us more about the texturing workflow on the Horne desktop lamp, showcasing the USDZ export in Substance Painter?

The Horne desktop lamp is a perfect example of how Substance Painter helped decrease the overall time for development. Three products with 50 variants needed to be painted and created into USDZ files to be uploaded to a merchant’s store. With Substance, Shopify was able to create a reusable material that took in a color value to exactly match a product’s look. Each variant was then tested in AR for details and color accuracy. This workflow helped increase shopper confidence when making a purchase that they previewed in AR.

Pure Cycles bike

Tell us more about the work on the Pure Cycles bike.

Pure Cycles is a well known and trusted brand. When it came to creating their commuter bike, Shopify really needed to focus on all of the little intricate pieces that made them so popular.

The process starts with a list of dimensions that then correlate to different angled photos of the product. Pure Cycles provided high-quality photos that allowed for a level of detail and precision down to the millimeter. With all of these dimensions, the product then gets 3D modeled in Maya and saved out in a format that can be painted. Using Substance Painter, each piece could then be isolated and painted individually to make for an overall more realistic 3D product. The Pure Cycles bike wasn’t only used to preview in AR. 3D renders were also generated from the same asset and used in marketing collateral to show off the feature.

What are your next projects and how will you take AR a step further with Substance?

Shopify is focused on getting more shops AR-enabled. Substance helps with these goals by ensuring partners are creating best-in-class assets for our merchants who are interested in the technology.

Open the link using a mobile device running iOS12 and click on the ARQL icon to see the product in 3D and AR: