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In 3ds Max 2011 Essential Training, author Aaron F. Ross demonstrates how to use this top-tier application for digital content creation, widely used in diverse industries such as architecture, industrial design, motion pictures, games and virtual worlds. This course covers modeling with polygons, curves, and subdivision surfaces, defining surface properties with materials and maps, setting up cameras and lights, animating objects, and final output rendering. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this chapter, we are going to look at the basics of material editing in 3ds Max, and we are going to use this flying logo exercise to learn about the Material Editor. You can see here on the backdrop, we've got a print pattern and on the text itself, we've got reflections using a technique called Ray Tracing, and there's also some detail added here using something called a Bump Map. So this is where we are headed towards. Let's go to our 3ds Max scene here. It's a 01_material_start.
And we are going to open up the Material Editor and take a look at it. So the Material Editor can be opened from the Main Toolbar, or from the keyboard shortcuts. Material Editor icon looks like a big sphere with some abstract thing down there that's supposed to represent a dialog box. So when I click on that, I get a Material Editor launching up. Now, the very first time you launch the Material Editor, you might get the Slate Material Editor instead of this one, which is the Compact Material Editor. I am going to be using the Compact Material Editor, because the Slate Editor is a little bit more trouble than it's worth for us right now at the beginner stage.
You can switch between modes up here. So if you're seeing something that looks like this, this is more for advanced users. It's a node-based material editor, and it's new in Max 2011. But again, I am going to be using the Compact Material Editor, because it's easier for us to learn. So I am going to go up to modes and switch to the Compact Material Editor. Within the Compact Material Editor, you'll see you have got some sample slots up here, and these are staging areas where you can build materials, and it doesn't have any relationship to objects in the scene necessarily.
In the other words, just because I have a material in one of these slots does not mean that it exists on an object in my world, and vice-versa. Another thing I want to mention is that there are only 24 slots here, but there is no limit to the number of materials that you can have in your scene. So you can only work on 24 materials at a time, but you can have an infinite number of materials in your scene. And if you run out of slots, you can just reuse them, and that won't affect the scene. Cool! So that's the Material Editor interface. Let's take a look at some of the stuff here where there's a bunch of options down the side here for displaying things.
Like we can put a background in the current slot and choose another slot here, and choose a background. I've got different options for lighting and so on. I could choose a different sample object up here. So if I want, I could use a cube instead of a sphere. I can also Middle Mouse+Drag in the sample slot here to reorient or rotate the sample object. Most of the time you'll use a sphere as your sample object. The materials all have names. So if we select a sample slot, you will see a name listed here.
So I am going to go ahead and give it a name to start out with. Let's call this one logoMaterial and press Enter. And I do advise putting the word Material in the name of the material so that you'll know that it's a top-level entity. In other words, materials can have fairly complex structure in which you've got different maps that are controlling various surface properties. So a map is an image or some sort of pattern that's applied to a material property, such as the color.
In order to differentiate between maps and materials, I actually preferred to put the word Material in the name. The Material Editor has got a bunch of rollouts down here in this area, and you can scroll down, and you can see that each one of these is going to open up. So, for example, I've got a section here for maps. So if I click on that rollout, it'll expand so that I can see all the available map channels. These are all the different surface properties of this material that could be mapped, or they could be varied using an image or a pattern, either an external file or a pattern generated by 3ds Max.
This panel here, which is the parameters for the material, can change depending upon what you're doing. Right now, we are looking at the top level of this material, and it doesn't have any maps, and it doesn't have anything going on in it. So right now, we're in a very sort of rudimentary stage here. I can do simple things like I can change the color, and so you'll see that there is a swatch here for the diffuse color. So diffuse means what color is it going to reflect back into the environment, and right now it's just this neutral gray.
If I click on that swatch I can then choose a different color. 3ds Max has a great color selector here that lets you choose whether you want to work with you Hue, Saturation, Value, or Red, Green and Blue, or with this color space rectangle here. We can drag around to choose different colors and adjust the saturation and luminance with one slider here. So Value is brightness and Saturation is intensity of a color. And I can actually adjust them both at once with this Whiteness slider.
You'll notice also that the Ambient swatch is also changing at the same time, and that's because by default, they are locked together. Ambient is the color of an object, where it's not directly illuminated. And diffuse the color of the object where it is directly lit, and in most cases those are the same. So I am going to leave that locked as it is. If I want to assign this material to an object, I can do it in multiple ways. One would be to simply drag and drop onto the object and release the mouse.
And I've just assigned that material. I could also select an object and use the Assign Material to Selection button right here, and now I have assigned that material to both of the objects in my scene. Well, I do want to have a separate backdrop material. So I am going to select the other sample slot here, and I am going to rename this to backdropMaterial and just temporarily plug in a color there so we can see that there is a different material here.
So click OK and once again, I'll select the backdrop object. You can see it's got a selection bracket around it, and I can click Assign Material to Selection, and now that material is assigned to that object. You'll also notice that the sample slots are showing up with different borders around their frames here. The solid border indicates the currently active sample slot. So if I select this one, you'll see it's highlighted with a white border. So that's the one I'm currently working on. The little triangles here indicate that this is a so-called "hot" material.
It's a material that is actually present somewhere in the scene that's been applied to some object. And if the triangles are open here, then that means it's assigned to some object that is not currently selected. But if you see a solid triangle here, that indicates that the material is assigned to an object in the scene, and that object is currently selected. So if I deselect the backdrop, you'll see that the little triangles are now open. So those are the basics of how you can navigate the Material Editor and assign simple materials to objects.
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