Monday, 27 February 2012


Materials are a way of applying a 2D texture or design to a 3D model. By the nature of modelling in 3D everything is made of flat surfaces enclosing a space, and, by default, models can end up looking a little flat and lifeless. Adding a texture to your model can help break things up. It also can help disguise the "3D-ness" of the model, making it blend more seamlessly with other elements in your animation. In particular, using your own drawn marks to texture the model can really help mark it out as yours.

Materials are controlled using the Material Editor, which can be called up by pressing M.

the Material Editor
 The top part of the material editor shows your selection of "Material Slots", each of which can be customised with individual settings. Once you've made your materials in here, you can then apply them to objects in the scene simply by dragging the Material Slot to the object.

Once you've done this, you can still change the material within the Material Editor window and the object in the scene will automatically update. The slot and the object are now "linked".

Within each Material Slot there are a bunch of different options to change.


This needs to be pressed in order for your "map" (the material) to be visible in 3DS max's viewports. If this isn't clicked, the object will just look textureless and grey (this is presumably for saving memory).


This returns the window back to the main Material Slot when you're editing the diffuse properties or any other property within the material. Basically, whenever the Material Editor doesn't look like the one shown above, click this button to return to normal.


Makes the faces of the object invisible - only the edges will show up. A sort of "wireframe" mode.

4. 2-SIDED

Polygons (flat shapes). in 3DS Max default to one-sided - they are invisible from one direction. This makes them visible from both.


Removes all "smooth shading" from an object, making it look faceted.


Ambient colour is the colour of an object in shade. THIS WILL ONLY WORK IF YOU GO TO RENDERING > ENVIRONMENT AND CHANGE THE AMBIENT COLOUR TO GREY. Change the colour of these options by clicking the grey rectangle next to the name.


Diffuse is the colour an object is when it's in full light, so this is the main way of changing the colour of an object. Click the little square button to the right of this to add an image to the material - this will bring up the following list:

This is just a list of "premade" textures and patterns that 3DS has. Not all of them will become immediately visible on your object, as some are there for specific rendering effects that aren't immediately obvious.

A good one to be aware of here is the "Checker" pattern, which is (as you'd guess) a black and white checkered grid. This is quite good as a default texture to see if your mapping results in much deformation.

The main option here is "Bitmap", which allows you to pick your own 2D image which will be applied to your object. Double click on Bitmap to choose an image.

Remember that if you try to put a Bitmap on an object, it won't show up in the viewport unless you press the "Show Standard Map in Viewport" button.

An object's specular colour is the colour it takes in very bright light. For objects with smooth surfaces this can be used to give the object a shiny look.

Once you've set the Specular colour, increase "Specular Level" to make it visible. Then, use a combination of "Glossiness" & "Soften" to get the right level you're after. The graph that appears might help to visualise this.

Self-illuminated objects are sources of light (they don't need light to shine on them, they just are lit constantly). The main reasons we might use this are to make an object constantly visible (making reference photos Self-illuminated means they'll always be visible even if they're in shadow) and to achieve a sort of "toon shading" look, because the lack of shadows makes an object look flat and cartoony.

This controls the opacity of an object - 100 is fully opaque, 0 is completely invisible. Opacity in  3DS max is a little funny for a couple of reasons, so it's best to render everything out at 100% opacity and then change it in the comping stage (in something like after effects).

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