Join Steve Nelle for an in-depth discussion in this video Material Editor overview, part of 3ds Max: Textures and Materials.
As a brief refresher to the essential areas and materials out here that we will be using, how about a quick overview to get us revved up. Opened by using the icon located the upper right-hand portion of the toolbar or by simply tapping the M key on your keyboard, the Material Editor is the place to be when wanting to build, edit and apply material to a scene. Its layout consists of six gray balls at the top of the dialog, most commonly referred to as sample slots. Now you can only work in one slot at a time, that active slot being identified by its white border.
Any of the three mouse buttons can be used to change which sample slot is currently active. The number of material balls starts with six, although that number can be changed, most easily by simply right clicking in one of the slots and choosing one of the three layout configurations at the bottom of the list. The sample slots can also be navigated through by either using the hand icon or by one of scrollbars located at either the bottom or the right-hand side of the display.
If you'd like a larger, resizable viewing window for your map or material, you can simply double-click inside any of the slots. The shape inside the sample slot can even be changed. Something you'll sometimes to do, all depending on the pattern or design you're building into the skin. The icon at the top right corner of the dialog will do just that. It's saying Sample Type. Here we have a cylinder and here's a box. Now what's pretty cool is you can even choose a custom shape to take over that sample slot.
To do that we'll stay down the right- hand side icons going down to the Options command. Close to the bottom you have a category called Custom Sample Object. Let's click on the button directly below that. Now, we'll simply navigate to where that custom shape would be. In our case that will be in the Chapter 2 folder in the Exercise Files. From the list we'll choose Teapot for Sample Slot. We can now close the box up and then go back to that top right cornered icon. Now we'll change that to the very last one and there's our Teapot.
Irrespective of the shape you're using in the sample slot, the object can be rotated, you can do that by right- clicking in the slot and changing to Drag/Rotate. Now we can simply hold the left mouse down inside the slot, moving our mouse as we do. When you want to return to the original orientation, you'll right-click again and choose Reset Rotation. Let's go ahead and change that shape back to a sphere. Another useful feature with the sample slots is the ability to render out any specific map that might be built into a material.
You'll see that I've navigated over to the Diffuse Color channel on the wood ball. Now I'll right-click on the ball, choosing Render Map. Now this is going to specifically render a flat image of the map we have loaded on the Diffuse Color channel. Notice about halfway down, we can change the dimensions of that map if we need to. For this example, we'll simply click the Render button in the lower right corner. So there's the map that's controlling the main body color for our material. Now you can do this with any map on any branch.
Let's close the picture and navigate to the Bump branch. Here again, we can identify where we are over on the left-hand side below the horizontal icons. There is a Bump channel this time loaded with the noise map. Again, let's right-click on the ball and choose Render Map. This time we'll change our dimensions out to a width of 500 and a height of 500. You'll also notice below that is where you'd save the map out. For now, we'll simply click Render. Now as just mentioned a moment ago, to the sides of the sample slot you have two rows of icons, one to the right and one below.
These controls provide a handful of various commands that we will be using throughout the title as we work on both our maps and materials. Now the name of each icon and its associated command can be accessed by simply holding the mouse on top of that particular button. So here on the bottom left we have Get Material, here is Show Map in Viewport and over on the right our Material Map Navigator. Naming a material can be accomplished by going directly below the horizontal row of icons and just to the right of the eyedropper. You want to click in that area then enter your new name.
After doing so, you'll notice that new name now appearing at the top of the dialog. To the left of where you name the material is your eyedropper. This is used to retrieve materials out of your scene. To the right of the material name, the standard button is used when wanted to choose a different type of material. Now this is something we're going to be getting into in a later chapter. For now we can simply click on a couple of the different names. Below that and to the left under the word Blinn, you'll find your various shading types.
These are used to specifically control how the light in your scene will affect the material you're creating. Whether, for example, the skin looks more shiny or dull or whether the surface comes across looking more like plastic or more like metal. This'll be a subject we will be dedicating an entire chapter to a little later on in the title, so stay tuned. Under the Basic Parameters section you've got your settings for creating solid colored surfaces, Diffuse controlling the main body color in areas that are lit while the Ambient controlling the main body color in areas that aren't lit, in the area of shadow in other words.
If we want to change our particular color swatch, we can simply click on it, then manipulate the controls in the Color Selector dialog. Now, the color you choose for the Ambient component will usually be determined by the lighting in your scene. When using moderate intensity lighting, like you normally get indoors, the ambient color should typically be simply a darker shade of the Diffuse. Now to do that we'll first unlock the colors, select the Ambient, then lower the value. In contrast, when the scene is more brightly lit, the ambient color will normally be set to the complement of the scene's primary light source, so with let's say a light yellow lighting, we'd want to take the Ambient to a light blue.
To the right of the color swatches you'll find Self-Illumination. This is the control for stimulating surfaces that give off light. The higher the number, the more it appears to be self-illuminated. Let's try value of 80, and we'll take that back to zero by right-clicking on one of the spinners. Below that you have your control when some level of transparency is needed. If we change the Opacity to let's say 50, we'll see our object getting more see-through. Now to better see that we can go to the right-hand side icons, activating a checkerboard rainbow pattern.
Let's take the Opacity back to 100. You've also got your controls for Shine, more commonly referred to as specular highlights. The Specular Level controls the strength of the shine while the Glossiness controls the size. Let's take the Specular Level to 70, then we'll adjust the Glossiness, using the spinner going both high and low. Under the Extended Parameters rollout you've got some advanced settings for controlling the finer details on your levels of transparency and reflection and the area we'll undoubtedly be spending the most time in will be the Map section.
This will be the location we'll go when wanting to build a specific design or pattern into our skin. We'll be looking at many of these options a little later on. So there is a whirlwind tour that should brush off some of the cobwebs if it's been awhile. Now let's go see what we can do.
- 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