The graph view

This page presents the Graph view of Substance 3D Designer.

The graph view is the main window of Substance 3D Designer, where you author and edit your graphs. The graph view has two main areas: a toolbar at the top, providing quick access to certain functions, and the actual graph area where nodes are placed.

The graph view is used for all graph types, but differs slightly between Substance graphs, Functions, MDL Materials and FX-Maps, mainly in the toolbar area. 

Node graph 


Navigating the graph happens in two dimensions, by Panning and Zooming.

You Pan by dragging anywhere on the graph with Middle-Mouse Button, or by dragging with Ctrl + Right Mouse Button.

You Zoom by Scrolling up or down with the Mouse Wheel, or by dragging up and down with Alt + Right-Mouse Button.

Zoom direction

Each of the zooming methods is inverted with the other:

  • Mouse wheel up pulls the graph view closer
  • Alt+RMB and drag up pushes the graph view away

You Focus on the selected Node(s), or the whole graph if nothing is selected, with Hotkey F

Navigation can also happen by using Pins and Hotkey F2, see graph Items.

Placing and managing nodes

nodes can be placed in the graph in 5 ways. Each method works for all types of graphs.

  • By clicking or dragging from an icon on the node toolbar (see below). Only Atomic nodes can be placed this way.
  • By right-clicking on an empty area of the graph, and choosing Add node.  Only Atomic nodes can be placed this way.
  • By dragging a thumbnail from the Library View into the graph View. This method works for all types of nodes, including node Instances.
  • By pressing Spacebar to access the quick menu. This menu provides access to all node types, has a search interface and lets your favorite certain nodes so they appear on top of the list.
    This menu filters its results based on the currently selected node's output types, showing only nodes that can be connected without errors.
  • By binding keyboard shortcuts to the creation of specific nodes. See Preferences window.

If a node is placed when another node is selected, Designer will attempt to automatically connect the new node to the old node.
This automatic connection always places the new node after the old one in the flow.

Removing nodes can be done in two ways, depending on how you want a lost link to be treated:

  • Select a node and press Delete, or right-click and choose Delete Selection. This breaks all existing connections, potentially leading to broken functionality.
  • Select a node and press Backspace, or right-click and choose Delete and Relink. This attempts to keep links when possible, preventing broken functionality.

Links in Designer are created either when a node is placed, or by manually dragging a link between two connections. 

Links are removed by either selecting the link and pressing Delete, or by Alt-clicking on any connection that has links. Alt-clicking deletes all links on that connection.

Links can be duplicated by Ctrl-dragging from a connection.

Links can be picked up and moved between connections by Shift-dragging them between connections.

Disabling nodes

nodes can be disabled so they have no effect in the graph but do not need to be disconnected or deleted.

Disabled nodes have the following behaviour:

  • They are displayed with the  Disabled badge, a dashed outline, and an interior rerouting link instead of a thumbnail
  • The nodes will output the data received in their main input
  • Disabled nodes can be chained together
  • Their properties and connections are not modified
  • Their disabled state is saved and persists across sessions
  • When publishing to SBSAR, the resulting file takes into account the disabled state of nodes – i.e. what you see is what you get

You can disable a node or a group of selected nodes by using the Shift+D keystroke, or by right-clicking in the graph and selecting the Disable node/Disable selection item in the contextual menu.

Only nodes which match the following criteria may be disabled:

  • The node has at least one input
  • The node has only one output
  • The types of the main input and of the output must match – i.e. grayscale to grayscale, color to color
  • All selected nodes must have the same state – i.e. all must be enabled, the same rule applies for enabling them

Interacting with 2D and 3D views.

The graph view and its nodes are intended to constantly interact with the 2D and 3D view. In short:

  • To see something in the 2D View, double-click on a node, or right-click and choose View in 2D view.
  • To see something in the 3D view, right click on a node and choose View in 3D View, then choose a channel on the current shader. Alternatively, if your Outputs are set up correctly, you can right-click and empty area of the graph, and choose View Outputs in 3D View.

Graph view toolbar

Main toolbar

The main toolbar can be found in every graph type, and provides general functions, as well as toggles for the visibility of the other toolbars. You can find these functions:

  • Focus (Hotkey F) - Focus view on selection, or whole scene if selection is empty.
  • Reset Zoom (Hotkey Z) - Bring back the current zoom level to it's default state, and centers the view on the middle of the graph. Can mean zooming in or out.
  • Export graph View - Exports the full graph view at a 1 to 1 resolution as an image. Useful for sharing your graph as a screenshot.
  • node Info Settings
    • Display Connector name - Toggles the name display of each individual Connector on a node.
    • Display node Badges  - Toggles node Badges on all nodes.
    • Display node Size - Toggles node resolution display.
    • Display Timings - Toggles display of millisecond timings for each node.
    • Limit text scaling when zooming out - Keeps the text of graph items at a constant screen size past a zoom threshold, which keeps the text clearly visible when zooming out.
  • node Finder Tool - Opens up extra are of the toolbar to search and highlight nodes within your graph.
  • Highlight Flow - Highlight any nodes connected before, or after the currently selected node. Good for tracing a complex path of nodes.
  • node toolbar - shows or hide the node toolbar, see below.
  • Rectangle Links - Switch between rounded or rectangular-shaped links between nodes. Not available for FX-Maps.
  • Align Tools - Toggles display of the Align Tools

Only on Substance compositing graphs:

  • Parent toolbar  - Toggles display of the Parent Resolution control settings.
  • Link Creation Modes - Choose between Standard (Hotkey 1), material (Hotkey 2) and Compact material (Hotkey 3) link creation modes.
  • Timing Control - Lets you Reset all nodes and Reset all Timings.
  • Tools
  • Thumbs toolbar - Toggles display of the Thumbs toolbar.

Node toolbar

The node toolbar differs between Substance compositing graphs, functions and FX-maps.

For Substance compositing graphs, see atomic nodes and graph items for more information on each item.

For functions and MDL materials, see graph items.

For FX-Maps, also see graph items.

Parent toolbar

The Parent toolbar is only available in Substance compositing graphs, and sets the Output Size of the graph's parent, which impacts the graph's Output Size if it uses the Relative to parent inheritance method.

Horizontal and vertical size are linked by default, but can be unlinked for non-square textures. Values can also be reset to default (256*256).

Thumbs toolbar

The Thumbs toolbar is a simple toolbar for Substance compositing graphs that controls the generation of thumbnails on each node. Available options are All, Displayed and None.

All always calculates all thumbnails, Displayed calculates them only for the current node in the 2D view, None disables all thumbnail calculation. Displayed and None can lead to significant performance increases.

Align Tools

The Align tools are a set of simple helpers to align and organize your nodes. They work in all graph types.

  • Align Horizontally - Aligns all selected nodes horizontally.
  • Align Vertically - Aligns all selected nodes vertically.
  • Snap nodes to Grid - Snaps all selected nodes to nearest grid positions.