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I've been learning Substance Designer for a short while. The thing which I noticed is that all those impressive materials we see on ArtStation are based on SD's height system, which uses tessellation and translates it into grayscale height maps. So, the question is how can I use height maps exported from SD in order to achieve the same "depth" effect in Blender? I understand that Blender refers to this effect as displacement. However, displacement modifier produces new geometry, attaching height maps to displacement node does not work, blending height and normals in one map in SD does not help either. Is this even possible?

UPD. Below is a render from SD which shows the material on a plane. The plane is clearly displaced in accordance with the height map. Now in Blender, I managed to produce the same result only by using the Displace modifier and by Displacement node together with experimental Cycles options and adaptive subsurf modifier. Blend file is attached. May be these are the only viable options. Grateful if someone could confirm.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ I only fiddled with that stuff once, but switching to cycles made the displacement node work $\endgroup$ – WhatAMesh Mar 3 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatAMesh thanks. Just tried it, did not work for me. I fed the height map (as image texture) in height input of displacement node. I previewed the displacement node through node wrangler, and it is clear that the displacement node did not produce any data. The plane mesh obviously remains completely flat. $\endgroup$ – seethesky Mar 3 at 6:54
  • $\begingroup$ Displacement node takes some time to process, but please upload your .blend (to blend-exchange.giantcowfilms.com) and add it to your question be editing it, else it will be a guessing game $\endgroup$ – WhatAMesh Mar 3 at 7:06
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatAMesh thanks for following up on this. I posted an update above. The displacement node actually works, but with quite a bit of fiddling with experimental cycles options. $\endgroup$ – seethesky Mar 3 at 7:25
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After further research it appears that the only reasonable way to make height maps work in Blender is as set out below. The displacement support is still experimental in the latest 2.8 builds. Hope the development team will procure full support in the stable release of 2.8. I'm not sure how all this affects vertex count and render time. Hope this will be helpful to someone.

  • choose Cycles as render engine;
  • choose "Experimental" feature set in render settings;
  • add Subsurf modifier to your mesh, switch it to "simple" and tick "adaptive" on;
  • create a new material for the mesh;
  • in Material tab scroll down to "Settings", find "Displacement method" and choose "Displacement and bump";
  • plug in your height map into Displacement Node.

This video illustrates the above (it is in French though): Video

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