Join Steve Nelle for an in-depth discussion in this video Diffuse, part of 3ds Max: Textures and Materials.
When building a material, you'll have many different ways to change and control its appearance. One of those ways is to add a picture into its skin. Now that built-in image, which is many times more commonly referred to as a map, can be used to simulate a wide variety of the surface characteristics that you'd typically see in a realistic material. It can control the body color, level of texture, amount of reflection, all kinds of different surface elements can be derived from that built-in image. Now what's important to understand is it's going to be how that map is added or loaded into the material, that will directly determine how it affects the overall look and feel of the sink.
A material's build is very much laid out like a tree with a series of branches. With each branch of that tree being able to accept a map, but using that map in a different way. So, one branch might control an object's main body color, while another would control whether or not the object appeared smooth or bumpy. Does that make sense? So in our material tree analogy, each branch would be responsible for controlling a different aspect, a different surface characteristic, to the overall look of the skin. So as you begin building your materials, keep that branch configuration in mind.
The more complicated the skins look, the more branches of the tree you'll be using, and the more maps you'll be loading on those branches. Now what we're going to be doing over the course of this chapter is breaking things down and discussing the primary map channels, or branches, that 3ds Max's materials offer. To demonstrate how each branch works, or how and why it's used in other words, I'll be using a file named Map Channels. Why don't we start by first activating Max's ActiveShade renderer? That way we'll be able to see automatic updates to our skin as we make our changes.
Now to do that, we'll go to the Render icon on the upper right-hand side of the toolbar. We'll hold down the icon, drop to the bottom of a list, choosing that instead. Why don't we start with the most often used map channel, and that's the one that's going to control the main body color on a material. It's referred to as the Diffuse or more formally the Diffuse Color branch. The Diffuse branch controls the main body color on a surface in the areas of the scene that are lit, and it's usually controlled by the color swatch next to it's name in the Basic Parameters section on the Material Editor.
To change that name body color, we'll simply want to click directly on the color swatch, and from here using a variety of different controls, we can then change that color. Now it's going to be that swatch that'll determine the object's overall color unless you decide to instead use a map. Now to load a map, you've got a couple of different ways to go. To the right side of the color swatch, you have a small empty gray box, officially referred to as a map box. Now the other way to go, the technique we'll use here, is to drop a little further down in the Material Editor, clicking on the Maps rollout.
Now here are the map branches of our tree. With the main body color being controlled by the Diffuse Color branch, we'll now click on the None button to the right of that name. Once doing so, we can then choose a map that we will use to replace or cover over that color swatch. This is done through this extra window that just opened, called the Material/Map Browser. Let's go to the top of the list and choose Bitmap. Once we're in the list, why don't we choose the file named Checkerboard? Now to get a good picture of it, we'll click in the View button in the lower left-hand corner of that dialog. So this is the map we're going to use to replace the Diffuse Color swatch.
Now as the map is loaded, you'll notice the controls in the Material Editor now looking quite a bit different. The reason being is we're no longer at the beginning or base of our material tree. Now at this point, we're on the Diffuse Color branch, having chosen a bitmap to replace that color swatch. To return the controls to their original layout, basically getting back to the base of our material, we'll click on the Go To Parent button on the right-hand side of the horizontal icons. Now we're back to the base of our tree, basically looking up at our branches. The button for the Diffuse Color, which originally read None, now reads the Checkerboard map that we've loaded in that slot.
If you look to the left of that, you see the Amount. This controls just exactly what percentage of that map is being used to replace the color swatch. At 100%, we're seeing only the map in place. Now watch instead if we change that Amount of 50. What's happening is we're now getting a gradual blending between the Diffuse Color swatch, that being light blue, and the Checkerboard map. We can go even further to relying on the color swatch by lowering the Amount even further. Let's take it to 20. Or we can turn the Checkerboard map's influence off altogether, taking the main body color of the object surface back to being controlled only by the color swatch.
Let's turn that back on and take the Amount back to 100. So that's the Diffuse Color branch. The map branch you'll use to control the main body color for material.
- Creating surfaces and textures with maps
- Making 3D object surfaces look believable
- Mapping sub-object materials
- Layering images with composite maps
- Creating realistic glass and reflections
- Using mental ray Arch & Design and ProMaterials
- Exploring the Material Library