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Check out the new layer masking and referencing system that comes with Substance Painter 2017.2 - anchor points. They can be referenced by other layers, effects and generators.
Basic use of the anchor system
Let's assume you want to add a detail to the surface - you create a new paintable layer, select brush and paint in Normal channel only with some kind of Normal decal. If you will use some smart mask or mask generator to create wearing effects, they will not take into account your detail and it will look unrealistic. At least, that was the scenario till today. With anchor points you can avoid this trouble. You can create anchor point from your layer by right clicking on it and selecting "Add anchor point". you can also with the layer selected click "Effect" button on the top of the layers list and select "Add anchor point". After creating anchor point you can change it name if you wish.
Important: anchor point layer should be BELOW layers that are referencing it. The best practice would be to put it at the bottom of layer stack. If layers are placed in correct order, you can select your layer with wear effect, unfold Image Inputs list and select your anchor point layer from "Anchor points" tab in image list. The next step is choosing "Normal" channel from "referenced channel" list of imported image. Then you enable Micro details for Normal in Micro Details panel of your mask generator. So basically referencing anchor point is three step process: 1. you choose anchor point 2. you choose channel that you want to reference 3. you enable use of this channel in generator.
You can also link anchor point channels for masking multiple layers.
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