Author Topic: Substance designer running slow Macbook Pro Retina  (Read 10184 times)


I've got a late 2012 macbook pro retina, 16gb ram, 2.6ghz i7, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 1024 MB, Yosemite 10.10.2.

Everything is running fine with substance, just really slow when rotating in the 3d viewport, I've tried switching engines and no improvement. What drivers should I check are up to date etc? Or anything else to speed it up?



Hey danwnewlands,

this can happen when using OS X, unfortunately. The Mac is not quite good for 3D stuff.
You can turn off the post effects in the 3d viewport settings. Then it should move much smoother.

Best Regards
Environment Artist - Twitter

Hi there,

I have the same problem. But I found the explanation that os X is not good for 3D a bit too simple. When I connect the macbook to an external HD-screen substance runs smooth; same hardware same OS. When using the internal Hi-res Retina display everything slows down to almost unworkable speed. To mee it seems more an issue of substance not supporting the retina display than an OS problem. I am not a technician, but my other 3D-software runs just fine. Is substance looking into supporting retina displays in the near future?


Hey andre_2,

if your mac is running smooth on an external Display but not on the 'internal' Retina Display then it is definitely an issue with your Macs performance. The Substance Software needs some memory. The value depends whether you are using Substance Designer or Painter and if you are working in 4k or 2k or even lower.
If you've got an 13 inch Macbook without an dedicated graphics card the memory will shrink even more, because you've got no VRAM at all.

Autodesk Maya, for instance, will run more smooth than Substance Painter in most cases, because it doesn't reserve that much VRAM until you are rendering or calculating stuff. Modeling is quite cheap for computers nowadays.

Best Regards
Environment Artist - Twitter

I am also having the same problem of very slow, practically unworkable performance on my mid 2010 iMac.
System stats:

Model Name:   iMac
  Model Identifier:   iMac11,3
  Processor Name:   Intel Core i7
  Processor Speed:   2.93 GHz
  Number of Processors:   1
  Total Number of Cores:   4
  L2 Cache (per Core):   256 KB
  L3 Cache:   8 MB
  Memory:   8 GB
  Processor Interconnect Speed:   4.8 GT/s
  Boot ROM Version:   IM112.0057.B01
  SMC Version (system):   1.59f2

To be honest, while my iMac is getting a little long in the tooth, I still think there is now way Substance Designer should be practically unusable... while I agree that Macs are not the best systems for graphic performance, they're not completely terrible either. Many other applications (including Substance Painter) run at an acceptable frame rate on my system.
Perhaps it's the nature of how Designer is designed, but I'm sure there are multiple solutions to really help speed things from a software design standpoint. I've turned off post effects like the lens flare and switched engines and still no luck.

In this day and age, when building for multiple platforms, one would assume tests being done on non-dev machines without maxed out ram or state of the art video cards, observe the results and when obvious performance issues show up, have some sort of software solutions imbedded that can really help speed things up (this assumes the software is even fully optimized to begin with - something tells me if someone like John Carmack wrote the Designer software, it would be much faster than it currently is...but I digress).

I'm sure people who are much smarter than I am could come up with better solutions aside from any software optimization performance issues.

At the end of the day, while my system isn't exactly new anymore, it's not so old as to be unusable. As a legal paying user, I do have the right to be upset with almost unusable software (especially while this software's counterpart [Substance Painter] actually runs fast enough on the same hardware - I understand that these two pieces of software are two different animals build for entirely different purposes, but still.. dealing with extraordinarily slow running software is disheartening to say the least).

In this day and age, when building for multiple platforms, one would assume tests being done on non-dev machines without maxed out ram or state of the art video cards, observe the results and when obvious performance issues show up, have some sort of software solutions imbedded that can really help speed things up

That's what we do. However we can't possibly test on all possible combination of hardware/OS/drivers out there. And it would not be feasible to fine tune our software for every single one of those moving targets.

To directly address your problem, we would need a bit more information :
  • your OSX version
  • your GPU brand and model, as well as its amount of VRAM
  • which part of the UI are sluggish ? The overall UI (graph, menu, etc) ? The bakers ? The texture renduring ? If the texture, at which resolution ? The 3D view ? If it's the 3D view, with which shader ?
Last Edit: June 24, 2015, 05:40:55 pm

I wanted to evaluate the demo, and I thought it was really fun to play around with. But i also found the 3D viewport way too sluggish for my Macbook Pro Retina as well, which is a much newer model then the previous posters:

MacBook Pro Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013, running on latest Yosemite.
2.3 GHz Intel Core i7
16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2048 MB

(The demo also crashed for me at several times, i unfortunately did not log the crashes but I remember the reason for crashing was different every time)

I was just running default 3D view ,with the rounded box. PBR shading with metalness/glossiness. Now if it this was a hi-poly model it would have made sense but just a box? :)
OSX is struggling with its old Open GL version, but it does feel like there could be a lot of optimisations done here. I run for an example Unreal 4 engine, and Marmorset toolbag 2, at very acceptable frame rates with much more advanced hi-poly models, lighting, PBR shading and so on.
It's a shame since I think Substance Designer could be a very valuable tool. Perhaps I just have to run it in Bootcamp Windows to get it running fine.
Last Edit: June 24, 2015, 05:52:48 pm

@binkarr : can you try to switch off the 3D view post effects and tell us if you notice an improvement ? Also, are the other shaders also slow, or just the PBR shaders ?

Hi Cyrille,

Sorry about the lack of info.. upon seeing your post, I realized the lack of additional info on my part..
As for the Substance Designer version.. 5.1.1 Build 16082
My OS X version: Yosimite 10.10.3
Video Card data: ATI Radeon HD 5750 graphics with 1 GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory (vram)

The part that is most sluggish is the graph window. Now the weird thing is that just a few days ago, the software was utterly unusable on the whole. Everything chugged. When I just fired it up to fetch the version number a few moments ago, I loaded what I have done so far following along in Allegorithmic's procedural rock tutorial found here:

This time around, the graph is still sluggish (but not as bad as a few days ago - it's workable, but not the most pleasant experience). The 3d and 2d views are better as well (2d is more sluggish than the 3d view however -  the 3d view is best performer of all the main windows).. so perhaps I had other applications running in the background eating up ram the last time. Overall though, its still somewhat slow (but workable this time around).

Perhaps this is one of these apps where I really need to shut down ALL others for it to be somewhat usable (perhaps even the need to reboot the system?). I still think performance is an issue though.

Going back to what I was saying about testing in my earlier post, I understand that you can't test and account for every possible hardware configuration out there (this is obviously absurd and not practical at all). That's not what I was suggesting.. what I am saying is that if you are testing computers a few years old (especially macs) that don't have maxed out ram or high end video cards, the performance issues would surely be visible. And with that, I was suggesting that something in the software could be used to help things out. You guys are smarter than me at figuring those kind of things out, as you guys wrote the software.

Please don't get me wrong... I think the Substance products are overall really good (otherwise I would not have purchased them). But when I fire up Designer and it's sluggish beyond usability, It's certainly calls for concern (especially when other software doesn't exhibit this kind of problem).

I was looking through other posts on the forum about mac sluggishness, and came across a post where someone with a mac pro was able to run Designer smoothly, but this was an older version of Designer (version 4.x). Once this user upgraded to version 5, it was sluggish.. so information like this highlights performance discrepancies (not sure though if it's an overall software problem or new nodes that are much heavier in processing). But something tells me that on the whole, there's room for better optimizations (if for example the entire system is always calculating and updating the entire substance package in all views, is this needed? When there is no actual node selections/attaching in progress, no sliders being adjusted, wouldn't the rendering of panning the graph or 2d view be rock solid?) Again, I don't know the inner workings of these sort of things.. you guys know better than I do.. just expressing from my vantage point and wonder what can be done to speed the software's performance...

Sorry again for the lack on info in my earlier post.


I uninstalled, and reinstalled substance designer, and opened up my scene again, and suddenly the performance was much much better. That is a bit weird. When I used the program in the beginning a similar thing happened, it was going really slow in the 3D viewport, and then suddenly something happened and it started going smooth. After some usage the program crashed, and i restarted it, and again the 3D viewport was slow again.

Could this have to do anything with the automatic graphics switching in OS X? Most of the top of the line Macbook Pro Retinas have 2 graphics card, one built in Intel and one external Nvidia GPU, usually the OS changes to the Nvidia card when needing more heavy calculations, but I guess this depends on the program. Unreal 4 for OS X, has a menu setting where you can define which video card to always use, and to shut of the automatic graphic card switching.

Yes turning off post processing does help to get a bit more FPS.
If the problem comes back i am going to try to disable the automatic graphics switching inside OS X and see if that will solve it.

I recently downloaded the trial for version 5, own 4, and I too was caught off guard by poor viewport performance. It seemed incredibly sluggish just with the default cube and settings. Later it seemed to perform better, but then slow again later. I need to try again to give a concise report.

The only thing is, I didn't expect any hiccups, especially with the cube, on the following specs:

2013 Mac Pro
6-Core Xeon
64gigs of Ram
AMD D700s
OSX Yosemite

Software like Substance Painter and Marmoset Toolbag that use similar viewport run as expected, even considering Mac OpenGL performance in general.

Overall, I thought what I experienced was a random issue and I would restart my machine and test the software again with nothing else open soon, but maybe it is something bigger after hearing similar experiences here.

@nolsen : We are testing on older, less powerfull machines as well. Unfortunately, it does not guarantee we will catch all performances issue before release as some are only visible on specific configurations. Differences between Designer 4 and 5 may be explained by the fact that the UI was drawn by the CPU in Designer 4 and it is now drawn on the GPU in Designer 5. In most configurations this should be an improvement, but in your case it seems the GPU is already very busy rendering something else. I would guess it is rendering all the library thumbnails in the background and this is preventing the user interface to render smoothly. It may take a while before Designer has rendered all the thumbnails, especially since your machine is a bit on the lower end. Fortunately, this only has to be done once.  In your case, I would also suggest to try not running any other application that may be using the GPU while running Designer (e.g. watching videos might be a problem).

@binkarr: Yes, we highly recommand to ensure the application is using the dedicated GPU and not the integrated Intel chipset. In case the 3D view is still struggling, switching off the post effects should improve things, as well as reducing the number of samples used to compute the image-based lighting (the option is in the Tools->Preference->3D view panel).

@Brian123: We are currently not supporting the Nvidia Quadro and AMD Firepro series of cards. Do you know if you can setup the OS to only use one GPU with Designer instead of two ? Using SLI/Crossfire also causes huge performance problems with Designer and Painter.

As far as I know,  Crossfire (SLI) is disabled on OSX for the D700s, it's not even an option.  So it should only be using one card for OpenGL. If I restart the Mac Pro and boot into Windows 8.1, then it might be an option, but the cards won't even be detected as Firepros at that point.

It's possible Substance Designer was also generating thumbnails. That day I may have tested both 4 and 5 at one point. I recall waiting and waiting for the those thumbnails to build, and if I got too far ahead of myself, trying to scroll through them or search, the software would crash.

So I'll do some additional testing today and maybe wait for all the thumbnails to build, then restart the software.

Also, is there a reason both Nvidia and AMD professional line of cards are not supported? When will they be? Also, I don't think the D700s are a traditional Firepro, but a consumer gaming card rebranded with a few modifications.
Last Edit: June 25, 2015, 07:00:18 pm

The problem came back, 3D port was slow. I shut off Substance, went into System Preferences - Energy Saver- and removed the check on "Automatic Graphics Switching", restarted Substance, and now the 3D port seems to be running well again. I would recommend anyone on a OS X system with dual graphics card to try this out if they are having problems.

It would be nice if the program itself told the system to switch over to the faster GPU card, or like in Unreal 4, you can in a options menu choose which graphics card to use.

Hi there,
I have been reading through some threads, because I'm having the same problem as other users have reported.
The 3d viewport is extremely laggy/slow on my macbook Pro. Basically unusable. If I switch the viewer setting Mode from "Material" to "Solo" the viewport works good (rotate objects, paint etc.) otherwise Substance Painter is not usable. Not only does Substance Painter seem to take very long to respond to mouse interaction, but the whole computer slows down extremely (f.ex switching between programs takes several seconds, as long as i switch between SP and any other window/program)

Here my specs:
MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014)
Processor: 2,5 GHz Intel Core i7
Memory: 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
Graphic Card: NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2048 MB
OSX Yosemite (10.10.5)

I've also turned off "Automatic Graphics Switching" as suggested by binkarr, but that doesn't help on my machine.
Would be great if this would get solved. I'm happy to help if you need additional information.