PIPELINE TECHNIQUES: Master advanced V-ray materials
Unwrap UVS and make shaders in our next-level guide
In this tutorial, we will dive a bit deeper into V-ray materials and explore different techniques to achieve cool results. using 3ds Max, V-ray and Photoshop, the aim of this tutorial will be to better understand the potential of materials, and how we can start to elevate our scenes to the next level. Materials are not only the final finish and colour of an object; materials and mapping an object go hand in hand to create beautiful surfaces that seem much more complex to create than what they really are.
We will take a look at the scene created specifically for this tutorial, use it as a case study and break it down into simpler steps to get the same results. i have intentionally used simple objects to make this tutorial an easy one to follow, but what you will learn from it will be applicable to very complex scenes and objects as well. First, we will walk through how the environment and terrain were created using maps, then we will get into best practices of unwrapping an object, and the do’s and don’ts of unwrapping uvs. We will then start to play with displacement and giving our objects different and interesting forms using maps that we will create in Photoshop and illustrator.
Displacement will come up in this tutorial in more than one scenario, and it is good to see how we can use it on a flat surface versus an unwrapped 3D object. Following that, we will start to make two shaders: the reflective silver brushed material, and the carbon fibre material. We will then take those shaders and start to play with the V-ray Blend material, which allows us to combine and blend different materials, and create very interesting masking effects, especially between shiny and matte materials, and solid and refractive materials.
We will also touch base on how to use the composite feature in V-ray to mix different maps together in the same way that it works in Photoshop. Finally, we will add some minor details to our scene and make it feel more dramatic with the right amount of lighting by using hdri Maps.
My intention behind this tutorial is to make it as intuitive and easy to follow as possible. 3ds Max and V-ray have amazing capabilities, and are filled with lots of hidden gems. By learning just a few tools every time, and mixing the techniques together, you will end up with endless possibilities and limitless variations of very cool and exciting designs.
Create the terrain map To start off, create a square plane in your scene with an equal amount of segments in both directions – i usually go with no segments. Apply the Turbosmooth modifier to start controlling how many segments you will have; the higher the value, the more dense your plane will get, and the more detailed results you will have.
Basic displacement Apply the Displace modifier, and in the ‘Map’ slot, put in a black-and-white map of any terrain height map. This is usually the value of how high and low a surface is, black being the lowest and white the highest, and start playing with the ‘strength’ values to see the results taking place. A cool trick to make your own terrain maps is to go into Photoshop>Filters>Render>Differe nce clouds, apply that filter three times, and bump up the contrasts – this will give you a similar results. You can also add more than one displacement map on top of each other and play with different strengths and maps.
Unwrap – create seams in this case, start off with a sphere, select it and apply the uv unwrap modifier. in your uv unwrap settings, select edge under selection, and then start selecting the edges you want by holding cmd/ctrl on your keyboard. These edges will determine how your sphere will be unwrapped and flattened. next, under Peel, select convert edge selection to seams to convert your selection to seams.
Package the UV now, we will choose the quick Peel option, which will cut the object up in the uv editor and give us an idea of if we did a good job cutting it up or not, and how it will look laid out flat. in the top-right corner, you can set the checkered or the Texture checker view to see how a texture map would seamlessly fit on to your model. choose the Pack: custom option under Arrange elements to fit all your pieces into the uv editor view – everything must fit inside that box for you to apply your textures later.
Materials and mapping an object go hand in hand to create beautiful surfaces that seem much more complex
Create textures in Photoshop in the uv editor, go to Tools>Render UVW Template. You can now save that rendered uv and import it into Photoshop. use the green lines as a guide only of where things fall inside of your model, and start to apply your textures and visual graphics. Go back into 3ds Max, and apply your new uv map to the diffuse layer to see how it fits on to your model. The same can be applied for all the maps in your V-ray material.
Displace the mesh Just as we did in the first step, make sure your model has enough subdivisions on it by smoothing it out, and then apply the Displace modifier. You can get really creative here and test out what different maps would give you. Apply a map and start playing with the strength values. Your displacement will probably not look right, therefore you need to make sure you are using the mapping from the uvs, so go ahead and check use existing Mapping. To smooth the displacement out, increase the value on Blur and as a cool effect you can add Decay, which will let your map displacement fade off.
Get creative here and test out what different maps would give you
Metallic brushed material set your Diffuse colour to a light pink, or any colour you desire, and your Reflection colour to white – the brighter the value, the more reflective your material will be. set your Reflection Glossiness to .8 to make your material a bit less glossy. Finally, add a black-and-white image of any painted brush strokes into your Reflection Map – this will make some parts of your model less reflective based on the values of black/ white taken from your image map. untick the Fresnel Reflections option to make the material reflect its surroundings better.
Carbon fibre material For the carbon fibre material, we want to achieve a similar result to how it looks in reality, as if it’s made up of two layers with different reflective properties. so let’s insert a texture of a carbon fibre material into your diffuse map, and make sure that you apply the show material in the scene to get a sense of how big or small your map is being projected. now you should set your Reflect values to white and Reflection Glossiness to .75, making sure that you tick the ‘Fresnel Reflections’ option.
V-Ray Blend Material Blend Materials allow us to use more than one material on an object, and mask different parts of the material to show different results. The same way you would select a V-Raymtl, choose a V-Rayblendmtl. Add your Metallic material to the Base Material slot – this will now make your entire model silver. In the coat Material, add the carbon Fibre Material, and this will now be the layer that coats your model with a different material.
V-Ray Blend Material Masking A trick that i find interesting is to apply the same map i added to my model to displace it to the Blend Amount slot. This way, your materials will follow the same shape of your geometry. You can add up to nine different coats and keep masking them, as well as play with the blend amount by changing the colour from black to white (0% – 100%). You can also apply Blend materials inside of Blend materials to create a hierarchy of different materials inside of each other.
Blend Glass and Solid Materials We will now apply those same learnings to get different results, but using the same technique. Create a new V-Ray Blend Material, and set your base material as a frosted glass material (as taught in issue 111 of 3D Artist), set the coat material as a shiny see-through glass material, and mask it off with an interesting thin lined texture just like in the example. Now, you can put an object inside your sphere – this will create an interesting visual of see-through versus frosted materials to reveal what’s inside.
HDRI lighting To finish off, we will apply the final touches by applying a dramatic light effect to the entire scene using hdri lighting. I will use an hdri map with strong red and blue lights to create a nice contrasting and dramatic look and feel to the scene. To apply an hdri using V-Ray, create a new V-Ray Light source, set the type to Dome, enable the Texture box, and apply your hdri map to that slot. The benefit of using a V-Ray Dome Light as opposed to the standard environment map on Max is the amount of extra features V-Ray offers all in one place.
Apply Blend materials inside Blend materials to create a hierarchy of different materials