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Dated: Aug. 12, 2004

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3D Studio Max

By Terry Ferra

Okay first things first, this is a tutorial on how to make a silk material out of just procedural maps (well can be just procedural and one bitmap). It's quite basic and will teach you:

1) How to use different shading types in max.
2) The blend material.
3) Falloff maps and output graphs.
4) How to set up some basic lighting.

Now to start making the silk you will want to make some cloth to apply it to and some lights to make it purdy. I suggest getting the simcloth plug-ins if you're lazy like me and don't want to make your own cloth. Just goto and search for simcloth. I use max4 so I'm not sure if it's available for max3 as well.
Anyway to start make a simcloth drapped over a box and a couple spheres like shown here

3D Studio Max: SimCloth

Now that you have the cloth mesh set up you can start on materials. If you do not want to download simcloth and learn to use it (I recommend you do though) you can make a NURBS surface with about 25x25 segments and add a displace or noise modifier to it. Then add UVW mapping to whichever method you choose so that we do not have to do it later.

The modifier stack for the cloth should look something like this now:

3D Studio Max: Modifier Stack

Now that we have that done we can start on texturing things. I would recommend making a simple wood texture for the table. One that comes with max is fine. And the spheres and box that the cloth are draped over can have a simple white texture to simplify things. You'll want to make these textures in the last two slots of the material editor so they're not in your way while making the silk texture. I used the Wood_Cedfence texture for the table thing and just a default texture with diffuse as 100% white for the rest of the objects.

Now lets start the silk texture. (yay)

In the first slot of the material editor rename the material to colour. This will be the base colour of our silk material. The first thing you'll want to do it make the cloth rough because silk is not a flat material, it is made up of small strands of thread. To do this change the shading type to oren-nayar blinn. Notice how the material immediately appears to be rougher?

3D Studio Max: Sphere13D Studio Max: Sphere2

The oren-nayar blinn shading is very useful for cloth, wallpaper, carpet, anything that needs to have a rough look to it. It is the same as a blinn shader (the default max one that render simple circular highlights on an object and smooths adjacent faces - Max 4 Bible) except it has options for roughness and diffuse level. Now the first thing you'll want to do it adjust the diffuse colour. First unlink the diffuse from the ambient colour. Change the ambient colour to a very dark version of the diffuse colour you want to use or pure black. Make the diffuse a very dark version of the colour you want to use. I want mine to be red so I will make it very dark red. (81,0,0) Next change the specular colour to a lighter version of the colour you are using a diffuse. (201,181,181) I like doing this because if you decide to add specular highlights later it will be easier. Next make sure the diffuse level is set to 100 and set the roughness level to 100. Now that's all for the basic colour of the material. Right now you a have a rough red material and you've made it through a lot of my rambling! Congrats!
Next we will add a bump map to the base colour. Go down to the maps rollout and click on bitmap (here you can also use a very fine bricks map set as stack bond with noise in the slots but this way is much easier). Find your maps directory under 3dsmax4 (eg c:\3dsmax4\maps\fabric) this is where I found the map I wanted to use. Mine is called carpgrey.jpg It is a carpet texture but when you tile in very small it will look more like a fine weave. Now how much you tile this will depend on the size of your cloth so for mine I set it to between 10x10 and 15x15. This should make it small enough so it looks nice. Now go back to the maps rollout and set the bump amount to 100. This is so the surface is very rough. Now above the bump slot is the slot for a roughness map. I copied my bump map into it and set it instance and changed the amount to 50 so the roughness would depend on the amount of bump it has.

3D Studio Max: Bump

This is it for the base colour material. So now you have a rough cloth with none of those purdy highlights that silk has.

3D Studio Max: Purdy Highlights

The next step is to create a highlight material in the slot below it. Rename the material in the slot below it to highlight and make change it's shading to oren-nayar blinn too. Now take the colour that you use as the specular colour in the base material (see there was a use for it even though there were no specular highlights on that) and put it into the diffuse slot. Once again unlink the ambient and diffuse and make the ambient almost black or black again. Make the specular the same colour and the diffuse (or a little lighter if you prefer). Now set the roughness to 100 once again. Now use the same bump map for the bump map in this material as you did in the base colour one. To do this click on the bump map slot and this time click on the circle that says material editor on the left and from there you can choose the bump map already used. I left the bump amount at 30 this time so that the highlight will still be smooth. Now to make sure that the edges of this will be bright compared to the rest of the material you need to give them some self-illumination. To do this use the falloff map in the self-illumination slot. Now for the settings for this I left it at perpendicular/parallel and adjusted to output curve.

3D Studio Max: Output Curve

Now your highlight material is done.
But how do you use them together? Right now you can only have one or the other. This is where the blend material comes in.

Make a new material in the second material slot (to the right of the first one you made). Change the material type to blend. Now you can see that we can have two different materials in here. Click and drag the base colour material into the first slot and the highlight material into the second.

3D Studio Max: Highlight

Now in the material editor you can see that the material is just our base colour and the highlight cannot be seen. This is because we have no map telling it where to blend the material together and where to show just the one. In a silk material it is on the edges that you see a lighter spot that is almost white. The rest of the material is just the base colour with the highlight slowly fading off. Can you think of how we do this? Well we're gonna use a falloff map in the mask slot. (The mask slot is where you put a black and white map in that will tell the blend material where to blend between the two materials. It can even be animated). So click on the mask slot and choose the falloff map. Once again leave it set to perpendicular/parallel. Now if you go back up to the blend material you can see that the two materials blend together. The highlight material should be at just the edges. Now this is the effect we are going for but we need to tweak it slightly so that it will look better. Go back into the mask map and goto the mix curve of the falloff map and change it to look something like this

3D Studio Max: Mix Curve

Now apply this material to the cloth mesh that you made and render it. You should have something that looks like this.

3D Studio Max: Apply Cloth

This looks okay but with this material a key part is lighting it and putting in some nice shadows.

Last part (woohoo!) We are going to go over some very basic three point lighting. First create a target spot light that will be facing your object on about a 45 degree angle from your camera and make it shining down on it at about 70 degrees. (I'm just guessing, just make it look right in your eyes). This will be our key light and will be the main shadow caster. Set it's multiplier to be around 0.6-0.8 depending on how bright you want it and set it's colour to be very very slightly yellow. (254,255,247) Turn on cast shadows. Now select the light but not it's target and hold shift and drag it to the left side of the camera (top viewport). This will be our fill light. Set it's multiplier to about 0.15-0.3. It should be white and not cast shadows. Also move it to about 3/4 the vertical height of your main light. Now for the final light click and drag your fill light with shift held to behind the cloth and make it slightly lower than your fill light. Turn on shadow casting and making it's multiplier 0.1-0.2 at most. Now you should have a nice light setup.

3D Studio Max: Fill Light

Render it again and you should come up with something like this.

3D Studio Max: End Result

Isn't that better? Those ugly grey spots are gone and the cloth is much more defined.

Now you are done making your silk material! Hope this tutorial taught you something.

Now that you've gotten free know-how on this topic, try to grow your skills even faster with online video training. Then finally, put these skills to the test and make a name for yourself by offering these skills to others by becoming a freelancer. There are literally 2000+ new projects that are posted every single freakin' day, no lie!

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ACWN's Comment
"The next step is to create a highlight material in the slot below it." ....Below what?
01 Thu Jul 2010
Admin's Reply:

Read the line in question a 1001 times and you will get it.