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2020 Substance Painter Free Version: Does It Exist?

Andreas Iliopoulos
Jan 7, 2020

Substance Painter is one of the best programs for texturing and rendering 3D models. Keep reading to find out if you can use this tool for free, and how!

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Is Substance Painter Free?

Want to Fling Some Digital Mud?

Substance Painter's main page
Substance Painter's main page (Source: Adobe)

Substance Painter is part of the Substance Suite, which is a collection of software dedicated to professional post-processing steps after 3D modeling, such as painting, texturing, landscaping, and rigging. Originally developed by the French company Allegorithmic, it now belongs to Adobe.

Substance Painter has more or less become the gold standard for texturing jobs due to its rich features, simplicity of learning, quality results, and huge community knowledge base.

Normally, Substance Painter is only available by subscription licensing, but one can potentially use some special cases to try it out free of charge, depending on your situation. Read on to find out how!

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Is Substance Painter Free?

Versions & Licensing

The license activation screen
The license activation screen (Source: Andreas Iliopoulos via All3DP)

Originally released in 2014, Substance Painter has gone through several revisions ever since, both major and minor. In fact, Allegorithmic has been continually issuing a new release every two to three months!

Paid Licenses

Currently in version 2019.2.3, Substance Painter follows a licensing model, depending on the type of user. It has three levels of paid licenses:

  • Indie (for independent developers)
  • Pro (for professional users)
  • Enterprise (for enterprises)

The differences between the two first categories are a bit vague on a linguistic basis, but fortunately, there is a clean numerical difference between them: Parties with an income of less than $100K per year qualify for the (cheaper) Indie license. Enterprises have to earn more than $100M, and everyone else should go for the Pro version.

Discounted and Free Licenses

There are some special cases though, where the software is offered on more favorable terms:

  • Universities & Schools: For educational institutes, the software is discounted (after communicating with Adobe).
  • Students: The software comes free for students.
  • Teachers: The software comes free for teachers.

For the last two categories, there are some conditions that have to be met. The free license will last for a year (but is renewable), and it has to be used on a personal computer for personal use (for which teaching doesn’t count).

For all categories of user, there’s also a trial option. It lets anyone use the software free of charge for 30 days from activation.

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Is Substance Painter Free?

Features

The
The "Features" section in the official documentation (Source: Adobe)

Although we’ve previously covered Substance Painter’s features in depth, it’s worth summarizing the main aspects, especially for the purpose of showing why the software is popular in the first place. Here’s what users (and industry reviewers) like:

  • Large variety of tools and functions
  • Large repository of usable textures, plug-ins, etc.
  • Many export options
  • Logical learning curve
  • Large and knowledge-rich community
  • Easy interaction with other software packages of the Substance Suite
  • Sleek, friendly, and adaptable UI
  • Speed
  • Integration with popular game engines (e.g. Unreal, Unity)
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Is Substance Painter Free?

Alternatives

Some of the main alternatives to Substance Painter
Some of the main alternatives to Substance Painter (Source: Andreas Iliopoulos via All3DP)

If you can’t afford the cost of a full license or don’t qualify for the above “free license” categories, we have the answer! Just make friends with someone that has the license!

Realistically, though, it is quite difficult for any similar software to offer the combination and quality of features contained within Substance Painter. A combination of two or three other software packages could possibly balance the scale, however the convenience would be lacking.

All of that said, here are some programs one could explore:

  • Blender: While it’s free and has a lot of features, especially for 3D modeling, Blender’s main focus isn’t texturing, thus making it hard to do some simple jobs.
  • ZBrush: An intuitive software, ZBrush is good for hi-poly jobs and sculpting, but not very good with PBR rendering. Also, it’s rather costly.
  • Mudbox: Mudbox is good for sculpting, adequate in texturing, and not so good in 3D model manipulation, with limited export capabilities.
  • Sculptris: Sculptris is also free, but it’s better for sculpting, as it offers fewer features and limited textures.

Given the total number of features on offer, there seems to be a reason for Substance Painter to be considered the “king of its category”. Also helping sway popularity is the name Adobe, which provides an assurance that it will continue to evolve and stay at the top. In the end, though, it’s up to you to decide which platform best suits your needs.

(Lead image source: gnomon.edu)

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License: The text of "2020 Substance Painter Free Version: Does It Exist?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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