Lately my favorite application has been Substance Painter. If you don’t know what it is – you should drop whatever you are doing now and go and check it out! Initially created for real time games model texture painting, it is also incredibly useful for rendered imagery – thanks to it’s awesome PBR workflow. It is a very new product, but it is being developed very actively and each new update brings awesome new features and speed improvements. It will not replace Mari for high resolution UDIM texture painting on high poly meshes (for now), but It still does a good job with 4k textures and high poly meshes and the price is much more affordable! Also it is quite easy to learn!
One of its super powerful features is usage of Substance textures. Those are proceduraly generated textures that can be used as regular textures or as different smart masks – like cavity dirt, edge polish, scratch generation etc. Some substances are built in and more can be created in Substance Designer – another awesome product that is about to revolutionize real-time graphics world. There is also built in baking system to bake all the needed textures from high poly objects – normalmaps, curvature maps, AO maps etc.
I must also mention that Substance Painter has awesome high quality physically based viewport rendering that allows you to see your model with material in real time while painting. With PBR based workflow it is super important, because subtle changes in any of the material channels (like height, roughness or metalness) can make a large visual impact that can only be observed when rendering. I can’t imagine working blindly on texture channels like in old times without seeing the result.
But the awesomeness does not end there. SP supports not only different standard PBR channels, but also user made ones. And the best part is that when exporting final textures – SP allows to mix match different channels to different output just the way your engine or shader setup needs. For example, you can assign roughness value to textures R channel and ambient occlusion to G channel, if that’s how you like it.
Here are just some low poly rock models I have painted recently for Unity project. Also couple pics from my work-in-progress high-poly spaceship project. I can say it would be nearly impossible to do it in old way – using Photoshop.